Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Not Your Normal Programming

On January 19th 2011, I suffered an acute anxiety attack whilst at work.  I believe such incidents used to be referred to as a 'nervous breakdown', which sounds terribly 'One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest', but there you have it.

It had been a long time coming, and it wasn't my first one - although I love what I do, the conditions I'd been working under had been less than ideal for nearly a year.  It then worsened considerably from November 2010 - staff reshuffling/shortages, inadequate training of new staff, secondments from other areas instead of hiring external skilled professionals, lack of management expertise, etc.

After much deliberation and anguish, I have put in a worker's compensation claim.  It's been extraordinarily gruelling, and the claims review process is not conducive to one's mental health.  HR advisors, insurance claim managers, investigators, my GP, my clinical psychologist and the WorkSafe accredited psychiatrist are people whom I had to interact with on a regular/semi-regular basis whilst the claim is being examined.
As another client of my psychologist has said, "They make it a lot worse before you can get better".

All people involved seem well-meaning, but when your poor noggin has snapped all you want is a chance to get better (I have been diagnosed with 'panic disorder with major depression').  You don't want to be carrying around paperwork in thick grey file, scheduling and re-scheduling appointments, carefully collecting receipts and making copies of everything.

It is hopeful that once the claim review process is over, I can concentrate on getting better and being well again.  I have been as proactive as I can be, doing a lot of research in at my local library and dragging home books such as Norman Doidge's 'The Brain That Changes Itself', Mireille Guiliano's 'Women, Work and the Art of Savoire Faire: Business Sense and Sensibility' and anything by Malcolm Gladwell
Due to my training in journalism and sheer bull-headedness, I am convinced that research will be the saviour, as well as a damn hard re-examination of oneself. 
This quagmire is not going to rule me, and as my psychologist says, "This too shall pass".  Even if I have to build a Rube Goldberg machine to do it.

The most difficult part has been a shift in identity.  Like many of us, I had broken the promise I made to myself as a teenager - "Stay awesome and don't be defined by your job!" 
So, who am I when I'm not Death's PA?

I don't know.

~ Useful ~

Wow... I just looked at my RSS feed and there's a ton of relevant posts and articles.


  1. I'm sorry to hear that things have gotten so bad. Dealing with work while suffering from mental illness is awful, and I've been in a similar situation before. It really sucks, and you keep feeling you should be able to "suck it up" and keep going. So you do, until the time you can't do it anymore, and everything falls to pieces.

    Dealing with bureaucracies is at best a tedious grind, and often a horrible experience. Add mental illness to the mix and it can become a real hell.

    This might sound very trivial, but something that helped me keep a grip when I was at my worst was lists. It sounds like you have a huge amount of things to do, and if you have a list to follow it will probably lesson the burden or the chance of forgetting things. When we are in the fog of depression our memory is awful, so a crutch like a list can be really helpful.

  2. List are indeed brilliant, you are absolutely correct. My current routine involves making 2 or 3 lists a day to get by and keep me on track. Lists are not at all trivial and are an important tool to assist when one is in a confused state.
    As for bureaucracies - they consist of human beings making decisions, but the results they come up with can be totally inhumane.

    Bureaucracies - where it's everybody's fault but no-one's responsible!

  3. That is a nice line about bureaucracies. You could also call them bearocracies, because their decisions are hard to bear..