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Not Coping with a return to work...help!

I haven't been around for a bit, hoping you are all in an ok place.

I'd hoped that I was stabilizing from my post operative anxiety. ( Had major surgery in July followed by viral meningitis) I developed GERD 6 weeks ago which was a big setback and it was so bad I was referred to a consultant. He reckons it's caused by stress, not the surgery, NSAIDs, meningitis or my endo, and was a bit dismissive.

I started my return to work this week and I've been restructured and my role has totally changed and been split in two, everyone else has been there the past 4 months and seem to know what's going on. I've had two borderline panic attacks where my chest just closed up, one at home when my hubby raised moving to the opposite end of the country for a new job he wants to apply for and we rowed. The second one yesterday in the car outside work . I've not had a panic attack since being a teenager 35 years ago I don't think. I broke down briefly with my boss in my 121 yesterday over it all. I've been doing half days, am sleeping all afternoon as shattered, in part due to lack of sleep with GERD and not functioning at all in the office, pretty much hiding in my chair doing nothing staring at my screen struggling to take stuff in.. I have performance anxiety at the best of times, and I certainly am not evenr functioning let alone performing.

I'm really scared I am going to have a full nervous breakdown over everything, I've had to leave jobs before due to stress and depression ten years ago. I've started to take kalms even though they are hard on your tummy as I have to get a grip. I'm trying meditation but breathing pain is hampering me.

Any advice for coping mechanisms and getting this new panic attack level of stress back under control massively appreciated!

4 Replies

Hi Starry

Just noticed that you didn’t get a reply to this post. So sorry to hear that you’ve been having such a difficult return to work. Has it been any better the last few days?

The only advice I can give is to pace yourself. The panic sounds like it comes from feeling overwhelmed. Can you slow down your return to work? Maybe go in every other day, or something? Sounds like you still need plenty of time to rest.

Take care.

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Thank you Fabbird. I've coped a bit better this week, at least no outright panic attacks, though GERD still agonising and preventing sleep. Just 3 days to survive till a holiday in Tenerife, but I'm worrying if I am well enough to cope with it when the last 2 prior trips have been written off due to my illness.


Hey there Starry,

I hope you're feeling a bit lighter today.

I agree with what Fabbird said: would it be helpful to slow your return to work, to give you more time to recoup? Would your boss be sympathetic towards this, especially since they've seen how much stress this is causing you?

Beyond that, the next step is to figure out what is causing you so much stress? Is it your own self questioning your ability to perform now that you've been away? (I've had that voice in my head a lot.) Or is it more of an anxiety over wondering when the pain might next stop you in your tracks? (Again, I've had anxiety over that.)

It doesn't matter why you've got an anxiety driven voice in your head, but what does matter is figuring out why it's there. Once you know what it is you're feeling so nervous about, then you can try to begin to talk yourself through it. Also, you mention your husband wanting to move for a new job opportunity again.... would it be possible to think of this as a brand new opportunity, to start over on a clean slate, as opposed to looking at it as being uprooted? Personally, I love a good move to shake things up and wipe the slate clean, but I also understand how intimidating that can be to have to start over.

I guess, if it were me, I'd consider what the job opportunity meant to my husband - will it really be a career change worth the sacrifice? Would it make him happier and more fulfilled? Would it provide a better salary to cover us for when I can't work? And, perhaps most importantly, am I so set in my current job that I couldn't find something equivalent to it in another town?

Right now, since I'm so unstable, my husband's job is the focus for us as it's keeping us afloat when I can't work. I wouldn't want him to feel trapped in something that wasn't giving him any sense of fulfilment, especially when I can't pull my own weight the way I want to. And, as I already said, I love the thrill of a new home, a new place. It's a chance to begin again and, in this day and age, there's no need to lose your friends when you move as technology keeps us all in touch.

Only you and your husband know what's right for your life together. That's just how I would try and think about it.

Try and sit with your thoughts so you can really figure out what it is that is the root of your current anxiety. We have to know what the problem is before we can address it - but please know that, given everything you've been through recently, you are more than excused for being anxious. I think anxiety is something that kind of flies below the radar with this illness, but is present for most everyone. How could we not feel anxious when we're essentially being forced to be less capable and less in control of our own lives?

Through it all, just keep breathing, even when it physically hurts (I so know those times). I know it may sound a bit silly, but music is a huge help for me - one of the things I do when I'm stuck home alone and am feeling stressed is put on a playlist of girl power vocals, turn it up, and sing along. Celine Dion is great for melodramatic sing alongs (channel your inner Bridget Jones singing along to All By Myself 😉).

Also, I keep an upbeat, motivational playlist to hand for when I'm out in public. No one else needs to know what I'm listening to, but I'll be rockin' some uplifting songs to help perk me up when I'm getting anxious being out in the world.

It may sound silly, but music can hugely affect how we feel - if we purposefully listen to things that perk us up, it can help us pull out of the skid when anxiety takes hold. If you're at all interested, I have a number of playlists on Spotify that you'd be welcome to listen to. Of course, I'm American, so my song choices may include some artists you're not familiar with, but I have a great Women Only sing along playlist and a 2017 motivational playlist. Of course, you know what songs you like best. You can always make a playlist that suits your taste.

I hope this helps a bit, honey. Sending you giant hugs!!! ❤️


Hi Jackie. Thank you for such a detailed empathetic reply. It is performance anxiety as the restructuring means I feel can't really be effective in role and the stakeholders are too difficult for me, i was unhappy in the role before i went sick due to that but if anything the restructure has made its worse as all the power went their way.

About the move it's because it's the third time I've had to do it. Me ex forced me to move to Oxfordshire then we got divorced. I bought my own place fell in love with it and swore I would not move for a job again. But then after I met John ( hubby 2) he was made redundant and persuaded me to relocate to his supposed dream job thinking fresh start type thoughts which then when we got here wasn't and I couldn't find work was homesick and had a miserable time and until 18 months ago.

The biggest fear is I am working 4 days a week in a well paid professional job in a relatively supportive not all that cutthroat company. they let me reduce hours when I became ill and developed chronic fatigue. I couldn't get that elsewhere and meanwhile I have put down roots finally here in rural Norfolk. I'm not a city lover but a rural bumpkin and don't cope well with lots of people..

My Health anxiety is about the GERD worsening and causing yet another condition like gallbladder failure as my symptoms are not under control and have evolved. I'm just deeply afraid of never getting better and being free of pain and deep down that's what I believe is gonna happen. I didn't suffer perpetual pain with Endo so in some ways I am in a worse position than I was before I had the surgery.

We did have a conversation about location and hubby has committed to only looking for flexible options to give me more time to see where I end up.

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