Citalopram day 1

So… I bit the bullet, or more precisely the pill, and took my first dose last night. I had trouble sleeping but otherwise felt OK until this afternoon when I started feeling headachy and nauseous, but it’s not too bad, and, let’s be honest, it could just be anxiety. I’m not sure if the sleep problems were the tablet specifically or just the fact I was worried about finding out what the side effects were. I woke up at about 2:00 and I knew I was supposed to be worried about something, but I couldn’t remember what for a while.

But…

I’ve had second thoughts. All my problems are work. Work is an unhealthy environment. I felt wonderful when I had a week off. I felt just like myself again. The answer isn’t to take medicine, it’s to remove myself from the unhealthy environment. Medicine is a decent second option if you can’t do that… but I can.

The fact is that I’m lucky. I can take a few months being unemployed with no significant effect on my finances. Most people don’t have that luxury. I’m panicking because I feel trapped, but I’m not trapped.

I don’t have to do anything right now, but if I do find myself needing to do something, I can quit. I’m not trapped. It’s OK.

Now… if I get another job, in a new environment, and find I still can’t cope, then that’s a different story. But I think for now, it’s worth entertaining the hypothesis that the environment is a bigger problem than me.

Citalopram day zero

Trigger warning: suicide, down at the bottom.

LIFE updates!

Phone call with IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapy) was fine and I’m on the CBT waiting list, which is going to be a few months.

Gastroenterology appointment was OK. He was concerned my haemoglobin levels had dipped at my last blood test (March) and had me do another one today. He mentioned the possibility of long term iron supplementation, dependent upon the results. I think they’ll be OK. In the words of David Lee Roth, I don’t feel anaemic.

He (the doctor, not David Lee Roth) is drawing a blank on the cause of the bleeding but suggested that if/when I next have active bleeding I could go to A+E and they might be able to do some kind of immediate test. He called it a ‘scan’, which sounds a lot less mechanically intrusive than jamming a camera down my throat.

I asked him about the SSRIs and he said it would likely be fine.

So I’ve decided to start taking them… tonight. On the way back from the appointment I was coming up with excuses why I shouldn’t, but the fact is that I’m not OK and I need to admit this. For the past couple of weeks I’ve felt dreadful. At the moment I feel light headed, spaced out, my stomach is very unhappy and I had so much nausea this morning when minor things at work stressed me. I feel like I’m actually physically ill when at work, and magically better over the weekends. I’m still worried about side effects, but let’s just rephrase that a moment – I am anxious about side effects. That comes with the territory, doesn’t it?

The hospital itself was a strange experience. Firstly, my mum met me from work and we went over there on the bus, but before getting on the bus I took her on a tour of the graffiti near my workplace. The graffiti is of the extremely talented street-art variety, not just random tags. That was fine. What wasn’t fine was running into Becky. I felt like… I’d left work for the day, I was with my mother, it was personal time. Why you are here, Becky? Your presence is intrusive to my personal life. That’s how I felt when I saw her face on my phone when it notified me she was looking at my social media. Why does it always have to be you? Why is it never James or any other random colleague? It’s always you.

So that was uncomfortable. We just ignored each other, because why would you say hello to someone when you can just stalk their LinkedIn profile instead.

And the hospital itself…

The last time I was at that particular hospital was December. I felt dreadful at the time. I was anaemic, work seemed to be imploding around me, and I had the other issue in the background. I felt absolutely awful that day, everything was getting too much, and the day after, I decided to kill myself (and suddenly felt a lot happier). Obviously, I didn’t do that, but this was how I felt during that period of my life. I remember after the appointment going through the car park feeling that life as I knew it just seemed to be drifting away from me. Wandering through the car park today was a bit of a surreal experience. I didn’t remember it until I was there.

Not a great Monday

I went into work this morning feeling fine. It took about half an hour before my stomach had mysteriously become upset again, and 3 hours before I had to leave the office and take a walk just to get out of there.

I learnt today that there was a company social event over the weekend, which I knew nothing about. Who was in charge of organising that? Oh right… Becky. It’s just school-girl bullying. Exclude, isolate…

Perhaps unsurprisingly, HR lady didn’t speak to me after all. I don’t know how to interpret this. Doesn’t exactly make me feel included or non-isolated though.

If the gastroenterologist advises against taking SSRIs on Wednesday then I’m not really sure what’s going to happen. I don’t feel that I’m functioning very well at work at the moment and I don’t have a plan for changing that. Currently I think it is likely I will leave before I find another job.

So…

I don’t have a plan for changing anything but there are events that can change things and I’m holding on for these.

1. If gastro says the SSRIs should be OK then I’ll be starting them Wednesday evening most likely. Maybe they’ll help, maybe they won’t. I don’t know.

2. Otherwise, the only thing that could change anything is the last counselling session the company will pay for, which will happen next Tuesday. My counsellor will inform the company at which point they really really really should speak to me and let me know whether or not they intend to extend it.

Personally though I want to tail off the counselling. It was helpful when I was going through a lot, but I’m not sure anymore. I’m not learning to cope with things. I’m getting overwhelmed and switching into apathetic depression. I think I need CBT now, but the CBT waiting list is going to be 3-4 months on the NHS. I have a phone call about this tomorrow…

The problem is at the moment any HR meeting is going to go like this:

HR: “Hello eevee, how are-”
EV: “Why haven’t you spoken to me in the last six weeks?”
HR: “Er well-”
EV: “I asked you for a meeting six weeks ago. How do you think this makes me feel?”
HR: “Well, I, err-”
EV: “You know there’s a problem, you know I’ve been struggling. You should be checking up on me”
HR: “Well I’ve been quite busy”
EV: “OK, I’ll tell you how it makes me feel, it makes me feel that this company doesn’t care whether or not I keep coming to work”
HR: “Oh we do care, I promi-”
EV: “I shouldn’t have to be proactive here. That’s stress for me and it makes me feel that you’re not taking me seriously. It should you being proactive. Don’t you care what kind of environment you’re providing?”

And so on.

It’s Sunday evening again

Tomorrow is Monday (obviously) which means HR lady will probably be in the office. She still hasn’t spoken to me about the ‘late-June’ meeting we were supposed to have, and it’s very much mid-July now. She has a reason to speak to me soon though, because the company is actually paying for my counselling at the moment.

The subject of counselling was raised when I complained about Becky, and I said I was already seeing someone. They offered me 12 sessions, on the condition that it was with a counsellor chosen by my boss, which I politely declined. The company came back and offered to pay for 5 sessions with my current counsellor, which they’d then ‘review’. I accepted, but I didn’t feel grateful because the whole thing irritated me. Asking me to break off my established and trusting relationship with my counsellor was extremely insensitive; asking me to see a counsellor chosen by my boss was clearly inappropriate, and knocking it down to 5 sessions after I declined this is just a bit… I don’t know… I was very underwhelmed.

Anyway I had number 4 last week and my counsellor has kept the company updated on this, so it would be appropriate for HR lady to speak to me this week.

I’ve lost faith in HR lady, so I don’t know what will happen. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if nothing at all happens, but I find it quite draining to be mentally prepared for this meeting all the time. My current feelings are that the situation has not improved much and I will leave because of it, as soon as I have something better lined up or maybe before. I don’t really know how much to say to HR. I think it’s right to make it clear I’m uncomfortable here, but I’ve done that before and it hasn’t yielded any improvement, so…

The other big thing this week is I have a gastro appointment. At the moment I feel that I can’t start taking SSRIs because they come with a warning about stomach bleeding, which of course I have experienced before. I need to discuss this with the gastroenterologist. I keep going hot and cold on whether or not I want to start taking them, but if there’s a significant risk of heavier or more frequent bleeds then they’re not worth it.

Mixed signals

Well, I was planning to start my anti-depressants this weekend but today wasn’t such a bad day and I’ve decided to re-assess next week.

The main thing is that I have a voicemail from the recruiter who set me up with the two phone interviews asking me to phone him back as he has ‘good news’. This will have to wait until Monday morning now, but I expect it means I have at least one in-person interview available to me.

Work wasn’t so bad today. Becky was working from home as she had to ‘go out’ this morning (interview?!?!) and I felt a lot calmer. What a coincidence.

My watch agrees. Look at the stress graph for yesterday vs today:

Today

Today was pretty awful. I woke up far too early feeling sick, which has lasted all day along with a very unhappy stomach. My overall digestive system is what I’d call a bit oversensitive at the best of times, but today has been ridiculous. I didn’t eat anything unusual yesterday; I’m pretty sure it’s just anxiety. I felt weird and spaced out at work. It’s a complete contrast to working from home yesterday, when I felt quite calm and content.

I thought maybe I was nervous about phoning up for various appointments so I got that out of the way this morning, but it didn’t help. I hoped I’d feel better for taking a bit more control of my life, but no.

I have a phone assessment appointment for the psychiatric service for Tuesday, and a hospital appointment (gastro) for Wednesday.

So it’ll be a busy week of medical appointments next week. I’m going to have to work from home Tuesday to take that call, and I’ll have to leave work early on Wednesday. So with Becky stalking my LinkedIn profile, she’s going to be convinced I’m having interviews.

The LinkedIn stalking thing was stressing me, so I logged into LinkedIn as soon as I got to work and blocked her. I thought that would make me feel better, but no.

Drugs

I saw the GP today about my bleeding and she basically just told me to phone the consultant and badger them for my next appointment, which is… ok I suppose.

But she also asked me about the anti-depressants I was prescribed a couple of months ago (which I haven’t started taking). I gave her the full story of where things are for me, and she said that using them now as a means to get myself into another job would be entirely appropriate. She was enthusiastic about it actually; she was completely convinced they will significantly help my current situation. She’s also referred me for CBT, but that’ll be a few months on a waiting list.

I need to think more about this really, because at the moment I think I’ve lost my optimism that anything will improve. I’ve had things to hang on to up until now.

This will get better because….

Because the big issues will go away. They did, but the effects don’t just disappear overnight.
Because I will find a new job. I will, but when?
Because I will learn to handle things better. That’s not happening on its own.
Because time heals wounds. Even when they’re being poked and prodded every day?

I feel like I’ve run out of options, and the SSRIs give me another route forward.

One thing that concerns me is the “you’ll feel worse before you feel better” standard warning. That’s a can of worms right there, and, really, I should say something to my employer I think, just in case there are any Becky incidents.

But I am doing better. Am I being premature? Should I just wait a bit longer?

It’s all a feedback loop. If I felt better, I would handle things better and things would improve. Equally, if I feel bad, I am likely to handle things badly and make things harder for myself.

Anger

I saw my counsellor today and went through the way I’d been feeling lately. Her opinion is that I don’t express anger; I keep it inside and it becomes intense anxiety because it gets too much and I don’t know how to cope with it. She is right in as much as I do feel anger and I generally don’t express it, so I need to think more about how I can express it healthily.

She also reminds me that I’ve been through a lot and I shouldn’t feel bad about having a slight set back.

In related news… Becky viewed my LinkedIn profile again today! We have a fairly bizarre history and an extremely unhealthy current relationship, so I’m unsettled she’s taking an interest in my social media. Nobody else I work with is repeatedly looking at my profile. It’s just… weird. She’s doing it in work hours too while sat at her desk, which is very odd. My counsellor suggested that maybe my boss, knowing I’m not happy, has asked her to do some digging (she’s his PA) and see if I’m at risk of leaving. I had thought of too but I’m not sure it’s likely.

If I could do it without visiting her profile, I would block her.

I’m going to give her the wrong impression tomorrow because I have a doctor’s appointment. It’s not an interview, really.

WORK

I expected work today to be terrible because I had some kind of anxiety attack on Friday and I basically spent all weekend expecting to get another one today. That’s the problem here. When you wobble once, you start feeling on edge about it happening again. You’re essentially anxious about being anxious.

I found my thoughts were so negative.

I expected HR lady to be in (she was).
I expected her to go out for lunch with Becky (she didn’t).
I expected her to email me this afternoon and ask for a ‘chat’ at 4:00PM, because this is what she does when she needs to speak to me (she didn’t).

I got myself quite worked up about it, because I decided that I wasn’t going to stay late to speak to her (I leave just after 4), so I’d have to ask her to schedule it within work hours, which is a bit standoffish (why are you putting me in this position), and I’d also have to figure out how to navigate the conflicting feelings between the distrust I feel towards her for lunching with Becky and the desire to express all the weird things that have happened and ask if she really thinks they’re acceptable in a professional workplace (hint: they’re not if you want to keep employing me).

The reality was much more boring – nothing happened. Has she forgotten she’s supposed to be speaking to me?! I feel incapacitated by not knowing what to do, so I’m not going to advance the situation myself, but I definitely resent feeling that she’s lost interest.

Then on the train home I checked my LinkedIn. Two people have viewed my profile today. LinkedIn is quite fuzzy with how it tells you who viewed your profile. Some people it tells you straight up, others get hidden behind a description like “One person works at …”. So anyway. One person works at a local university, which is strange, because this is the second time this has popped up now and I didn’t go there or know anyone who is currently there and universities don’t tend to recruit software developers. But HR lady is doing a PhD there… has she put it as work instead of education?

And the other person is Becky. Of course it is. Because when I’m on the train what I really want to see is Becky’s face on my phone. She viewed my profile at around 1PM today. So she probably knows I’m looking to leave now. She is only the second colleague to look at my profile – I suspect because none of my other colleagues log into LinkedIn very often, because they’re not looking for other jobs

Summary

Health

Parkrun today wasn’t great. I’ve been pushing against my Personal Best (PB) for the last few weeks and now that the weather was a bit cooler, I should have been breaking it. Especially considering that I hadn’t run since Tuesday and should therefore be very well rested. But no. I was nowhere near my PB – over a minute off, which over 5k is an eternity. Unfortunately this is probably because of the blood loss earlier this week. Can’t run as fast with less blood. That’s science.

I feel a bit unsettled by the bleeding, which sounds dumb because it seems like it should be obvious, but the last time this happened it seemed unimportant compared to everything else. When you’re suicidal, the idea of your body dumping blood into your digestive tract is something you think of as helpful more than scary.

Life

I’ve had two phone interviews which may or may not go anywhere. If I get offered either of them I’m going to have no idea whether or not to accept. Although I have mixed feelings, one of them is offering up to £60k, and I’m currently earning only slightly more than half of that. But… money isn’t everything, especially after HMRC get involved.

Mike

Mike and I haven’t really spoken to each other since he upset me. He invited me out for a walk one day at lunch but I declined because I wanted to go further (well, it was both true and a convenient excuse). I go for a walk every day because exercise helps, but Mike is morbidly obese, so we have different ideas of what exercise is. I feel mildly disappointed with Mike. I feel annoyed he ruined a relationship that I used to value, but it’s important I don’t find myself trying to repair damage that he caused, because only he can do that. I feel disappointed that he hasn’t tried to do the grown up thing and address the problem. I think it shows he doesn’t really value the relationship.

Becky

The plants thing is weird. Here’s what’s happened: About three months ago Mike commented to me that plans were afoot (between Boss and Becky) to get some plastic plants in the office. I said that I couldn’t see the point of plastic plants, why not real plants? He said Becky didn’t want to look after them, so I said, in a completely unofficial and off-handed way that certainly was not a commitment, that I would probably end up looking after them (because I keep A LOT of plants at home). A week or so later Mike informed me that Becky had told Boss that I had said I wanted to look after real plants and used that to argue for real over plastic. I was surprised by this, but I didn’t react because nobody actually spoke to me about it. I didn’t mind so much that Mike had told her I’d said that, but she needs to actually discuss it with me before making promises on my behalf.

A few weeks after that, Becky spoke to me (which doesn’t happen often now) and we had a very awkward conversation which she didn’t seem to want to be having. She tried to get me to agree to look after plants. She didn’t mention that she’d already discussed this with Boss. I was unimpressed and I was also in the middle of an extremely stressful life event and had barely had any sleep, so I just resisted a little bit and then stopped talking. We looked at each other awkwardly for a while. She wasn’t taking the hint and said “you can think about it”. I said “ok, I’ll think about it”. This was probably two months ago.

Then last week, Boss called me into his office immediately after speaking to her, and said “Becky said that you told her you want to look after some plants”. I immediately just said “I did not say that”, but I still ended up agreeing to “partial responsibility” because I was put on the spot, which I’m not sure I’m happy with. The stupid thing is that I love plants and if someone had just asked me, I would have said yes. But going to my boss and telling him that I’ve promised something I haven’t is definitely not OK and it puts me off having any involvement. If I end up having a meeting with HR lady soon I will be discussing this with her.

HR Lady

HR lady hasn’t been in the office all week and hasn’t contacted me. I asked for a meeting about 5-6 weeks ago and she brushed me off until “late June”. She’s been back from her holiday for two weeks now, and it’s July. I’m underwhelmed. It doesn’t make me feel like a valued employee whose concerns are important. It makes me reluctant to speak to her at all, because part of me thinks I’m being obstructed purposefully. What does she gain though? If I end up leaving because she’s mismanaged the situation then my boss will not be impressed with her.