“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…