Unfit for work

“Unfit for work…” those words sting, they really do.  They’re the words used to explain why I won’t be able to work for the next 12 days.  They’re part of the standard form that the doctor fills in, so it’s nothing personal, but it means failure to some of us.  We know that our functioning at work has been so poor that there was no other choice, but it still cuts us to the core of what many of us perceive as our self-worth.  M in particular, is struggling with being put off work, yet she was the one who made the appointment and mentioned the problems we were having, knowing full well that enforced sick leave was the likely outcome.  M couldn’t hand the medical certificate over in person – it would be like admitting failure and having to face the disappointment of those around us; so we left it on the team leaders desk with an email message apologising for the inconvenience we were causing.  Some of us consider this the wimps way out… failing to face up to our responsibilities and the repercussions of our actions.

This morning we got a text message from our cynical work friend asking how we were.  I wasn’t sure how to respond, I know that in some ways I’m trying to protect her – she’s got enough on her plate without hearing my sob story.  So I sugar-coated what was happening.  No one at work was expecting us to have this time off, so it probably came as a shock.  I suppose this is one example of how we can appear so high functioning, but really be a total and utter mess.  What I fear the most is the reaction when we get back to work… will people alienate us, want to hug us, avoid talking about it?  At their core, the people that I work with are good and kind people, but they don’t understand mental health issues.  This means that I will odds are lie about what has happened when I get back to work, I’ll find some acceptable lie that doesn’t make them squirm.

This week we’ve also seen Jo and Liz…

Jo became quite worried about our safety after we did a collage with her.  It can be quite amusing on one level to see Jo’s art work which is all about love and happiness, while ours is dark and full of violence.  We both had mindless woman’s magazines to use as base material for the collage.  I had words like key, disappear, invisible… Jo had love and rainbow.  I had a picture of a puppet running through a door… Jo had a smiling woman on the beach.  She was concerned about our safety to the point of contacting Liz.  Poor Liz also now realises how much we were testing her when we first started seeing her – with Jo we go with the flow, but with Liz we resisted and argued at the beginning.  This wasn’t deliberate, but rather an unconscious way to see whether Liz was going to be able to help us heal and put up with what we could throw at her.

When we saw Liz, it was what I would consider a disaster.  Little Michelle came forward and made it almost impossible for us to speak.  She has such a problem with words and forming them that it’s like she is stuttering, but I don’t think it’s a true stutter, I think it’s more about not wanting to tell the secrets.  At one point, we were stuck on one sentence, and in particular one word… “I’m not special“.  We were so incapable of saying the word special, that we ended up having to write it down.  Little Michelle stuttered through explaining that she wasn’t “that word” to anyone, because if you were “that word” you then got hurt.  She wanted to runaway so that the pain would stop.  Liz offered to runaway with her, but Little Michelle said that no one else was allowed to come.  All the time this was going on, there were ones in the background yelling that she was telling lies and it’s all rubbish.  This was the first time the messages about it all being lies were so closely tied to someone saying anything.  Little Michelle shared no abusive events, but her presence alone was enough to stir-up the denial and nay-sayers.  That probably means something in psychology land, but to us it just felt crazy.

So we have 11 more days before we are allowed back to work…  We’re meant to relax and unwind…  This is terrifying!  Work is our structure, our safety.  Suddenly we’re meant to do this thing called relaxation and rest.  We’ve actively avoided doing either of those things for about 20 years…  Today we survived by going down to the gardens and taking pictures with the new lens’ we got the other day.  Not sure how we’re going to cope with another 11 days of this.

Here’s a random photo we took today…


Cherry blossom

Now playing: Shihad – Pacifier
via FoxyTunes


10 thoughts on “Unfit for work

  1. I understand you so well. When we couldn’t work any more, our thera has given us a very difficult homework: we should look, search and try for things which are good for each part. Yes, for every part. You can’t imagine, how difficult such a homework is. This task still employ us till today. Perhaps you can work on something similar during this time? This is real hard work for survivors like us. Maybe the next 11 days aren’t so terrifying by working on this task?
    Please be careful with yourself. Permit yourself this break. Safe hugs (((()))) if ok.

    • I really don’t know how you do it LostShadowChild. I need work to distract from what is going on in my head. You really are so courageous for doing this hard work every day.

      As you saw I took some photos Thursday and Friday I ended up sleeping for 12 hours almost straight – only waking up about 3 times, which is a major achievement for us. But now it’s 5am in the morning and I can’t sleep, I’m so anxious and triggered. I’ve just had a warm milk drink and will hopefully be able to get some sleep soon.

      Thank you so much for your words of encouragement 🙂

      Take care,

  2. Actually, I think your responsibility in this is making sure you have the means to get and stay healthy. That is the responsible way out. Your family depends on you for that.

    I am so sorry that this is creating even more stress – having to lie to co workers. I know how that goes. Today, Navy bonked a co worker on the head with papers and told her she needs to see how we do things. Darn. But you are right, I bet you feel like a failure – you aren’t tho. Have fun taking pictures!

    • Thank you Ivory 🙂

      I’m trying not to see it all as a failure, but it’s difficult not to. I went out to the shops today and felt so guilty and worried about someone from work seeing me. I read the staff meeting minutes and they have all assumed that I am off for work related stress, as this is partially true, it will be an easy to go with this assumption when I return.

      We have moments of calm though, so I know we needed this time away from the often toxic work environment… But yes, I still can’t stop feeling like a total failure. It’s also really scary, I have no idea how people have the strength to do healing as a full-time job…

      Take care and try not to bonk too many of your co-workers on the head, even if they deserve it 🙂

  3. (((Castorgirl))) You are most certainly not a failure. You are incredibly strong and I tip my hat to you for recognising when things were spiralling and you needed some time out. Well done!

    Please try to relax, as hard as it is. Take time away from healing if you need to as well. Photos are good, I can see this time has already helped you add to your collection! 🙂

    Take care.

    • Thanks Kerro… I’m really trying to do this whole relaxing thing. But I really do stink at it.

      We went to the local arboretum and got swarmed by feral chickens 🙂 So, of course had to take photos of them… The little chicks were too fast though and I had the wrong lens on the camera to get a half descent shot of them 😦 But the calf was majoryly cute… It looked really young and snuck under the electric fence while the mum cow freaked cos we were walking close-by. She was giving us the evil eye…

      (((Warm safe hugs)))

  4. I can understand your feelings about work. I really rail against the word “disabled.” But, I don’t know what else to do. I will probably never work again. The last job I had (waitress) I actually got fired! I started working outside the “home” at age 11 and had never been fired in my life! But, now that some of the walls are coming down and things aren’t so compartmentalized, I’ve got parts that come out and freak people out.

    Oh well. The walls coming down will eventually be a good and healthy thing. Try to do what you can for some self-care during this time. I think the photography is a good idea. Thanks for sharing the beauty of this photo.

    • Hi Marj,

      It’s the increased level of dysfunctioning that I’m really struggling with. I also started work when I was young – unpaid from age 5 and then paid since 14, so this sudden lack of work is a bit scary and I’m unprepared for it. But I also know it was the only option available to me.

      I agree the wall coming down is good and healing…

      One day at a time… 🙂

      Take care,

  5. Castorgirl,

    You will undoubtedly have a lot of feelings when you do go back. This will be hard. The experience for me is like I feel as though I’m in a glass bottle and everyone’s looking at me and making judgements. I always think that everyone knows everything and/or that people will think I’m crazy.

    It’s always important to think through what you want to say to people and how you will answer the obvious questions. This takes a little bit of the pressure off.

    Take care.


    • Hi Paul,

      I think everyone will studiously avoid talking about it when I get back, which will increase my discomfort and the glass bottle effect you describe. I’m lucky in the work-place stress has been documented previously by others in the current environment, so I’m sure that they will pass it off as that. I’ll also encourage that line of thinking as it is partially correct.

      I’ll see how it goes on Monday.

      Take care,

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