How to cope with going back to work after another anxiety absence?

Any ideas, mental techniques, advice would me marvellous. I have been off 2 weeks, was off in Sept/oct and last year went back in January after several months when my dad also died. I am not on any sanctions but am expecting it this time.

I was previously referred to OccupationalHealth who advised me not to tell my manager that I have bipolar disorder as apparently you do not have to divulge your reason for absence from work. It always goes on the line as non-work related anxiety/stress/depression. This time my head just went mad on the morning I called in. I had been performing very well for a while (not like me) then it dipped and my manager was all over me. She kept saying the standard management question 'how can I support you'. I don't think I can say 'leave me alone' I find it very hard to see the good in her and find her very blunt and brash at times, colleagues also mutter about things she says and does.

This is my first blog ever, anywhere but I have been reading these pages quite a while now. I sometimes get upset by people's stories and tend to scan for the good advice.

Symptom wise I get burning sensations in my arms and legs, feel really weak and nervous, struggle with everyday life and am on 4 different drugs which have just been reviewed as they are every 3 months. I am back for 6 cbt sessions on nhs which

I had in 2005, am constantly using hypnosis apps just now to stay calm, have had hypnosis through anxiety uk, done Alexander technique. I have lots of library books on cbt. Nothing is enduring. I will have the odd cup of camomile tea but taking lithium you are advised not to use anything herbal. There is loads of other stuff I would like to write, but today's big worry is my constant rumination on going back to work next week and about my uncaring, or at best erratically caring boss. Any ideas/coping strategies?

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  • well try and remember this anxiety never last very long the same can be said for depression to i found cbt to be very effective try and set up a appointment with the doc to get you some counciling.

    you may also befit from a lifestyle change as far as work is concerned just stay true to yourself and go about your work bit at a time things do get better in time

  • Thanks so much for this common sense I find it hard to construct myself. I have 2nd cbt appointment tomorrow and hope to work on all the stress work has been causing me. I like the thought of going about work bit by bit and if I can get it into my head that anxiety doesn't last long then your words will have been most wise! Thanks

  • I'm going back tomorrow after about a month, went back Monday but got told my sicknote didn't included weekends so couldn't come back till Thursday. So now I have to do it all over again and everyone will think I couldn't manage and was sick again. That's my moan over but I understand just how you feel. I have a little bit of card whith things written on it like, just do today, take your time, it's ok to be anxious and don't overthink things. My manager is the HR manager and you would think she would understand but most days I never see her and when I do she never asks how are you. With all her training and qualifications I think people still don't know what to say to you in case they can deal with you getting upset.

    I was told not to get upset on Monday but I really felt like saying 'do you have any idea how hard it was for me to even walk through the door'.

    It doesn't sound like you are the only person who finds this manager difficult so try not to take it personally. Some people are oblivious of how others see them. Are there any leaflets about bp that you could get that would explain it to your manager so that you don't have to talk to her direct.

    Be proud of your acheivement in going back and concentrate on the thing you did manage to do. Let me know how you get on.

  • Thanks so much for this. I hope your return tomorrow goes well, what a nightmare having to do it twice. My manager has been trying to get me to go in to collect a Christmas hamper which arrived for me which took several emails to get her to leave it at reception for my boyfriend to collect. She just doesn't think that I would have difficulty going in when ill. About the bp I reckon she will know that's what I've got as I have in the past told people she knows. Occupational Health last year advised me not to disclose and I think it's a reflection of their opinion of our managers' ability to deal with it properly. She knows I have a chronic condition. Anyway I love the idea of the card which I might try for break time as it's an open plan office and I feel self conscious at the best of times. Had a cbt session today and therapist agreed going back and not delaying it further is best to prevent further 'catastrophising'. She gave me useful literature on anxiety and stress at work so I have that to keep me occupied. All the best for tomorrow.

  • In 2008 I left my job due to anxiety and only went back to work last October. From my experience I found that just accepting that you will feel a little bit anxious on your first day but to remember that it's perfectly natural and that other people who don't suffer from anxiety problems would feel just as nervous. You have to remember that you aren't trapped at work - you are choosing to be there and can just leave whenever you want. Try to see it as a form of therapy and every day you go in is another step towards recovery. Plus if you ever have a day where you really can't cope you can always tell your boss you feel unwell and go home.

    On a more practical level if I do feel a bit anxious at work I try to really concentrate on the work I am doing and normally find after 10 - 15mins the anxiety has really calmed down or disappeared. If that doesn't work I tend to head to the restroom, get a drink of water, eat some fruit or anything that's not too high in sugar and just try to relax. I find breathing exercises and trying to relax my shoulder and neck muscles really help too. If you can try and load some favourite (but relaxing) music onto your phone or ipod, then you can plug that in and close your eyes. I also carry smelling salts, if you feel a bit heady or weak a quick sniff really clears your airways and wakes you up - just don't use it too often just in emergencies. Also reading a book or magazine is shown to help with relaxation so possibly consider doing that during a break or lunch.

    I also try to make sure I give myself a 15 minute break in the morning and afternoon just to make a drink or get away from my desk (it's become a bit of a destressing ritual). I also always used to eat at my desk which wasn't good, so now I make sure I do get a proper lunch break. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself, like other people have said just take your time and if something doesn't get done then so be it.

    Have you spoken to your doctor or workplace about doing a phased return? Some people find it really useful to gradually build up the days or hours they work until they are able to work full time again.

    Sorry if it's a bit of a rambling list of different things to do, but I've found they've all helped me out. I'm sure you'll be able to cope, I was petrified before going back to work but like most things the expectation was much worse than actually doing it. Just give it a go and see how you feel. If you really really can't do it then maybe you just need a bit more time, or if you're not really attached to the job it might be a really good time to think about a different career.

    Best of luck and let us know how you get on!

  • Thanks for your useful tips. I'll let you know how I get on. The thought of a career change really stresses me out whether to declare bp or not when I need to go for quarterly appointments which the current employer know about plus my cv is on a broken laptop!

  • This was a very helpful and good answers. Thank you.

  • Yeah the declaring part worried me. In the end I always decided to declare it, mainly because would you really want to work for someone who might discriminate against people with mental health issues? Plus in the future if you do need a bit of time off or need to go to appointments they might be more supportive. However I'm pretty sure I didn't get invited to some interviews because I declared it, it's a bit catch 22.

  • As an update I was in too much of a state to go back and got another line. This worked out well as on my regular GP visit he agreed that burning sensations I have been suffering from could be nerve pain and not anxiety. He said it sounded like fibromyalgia and prescribed relevant painkillers. Hopefully I can go back to work with fewer physical symptoms which will be a help - do I tell my boss though? If I haven't disclosed one condition why disclose another?

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