Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Magnetic Poetry - November

Ever since I started my Magnetic Poetry strand back in January (the majority of posts on my Bad Poetry label), I've been debating fiercely with myself whether I would actually post today's entry. For the vast majority of my life I've been a most optimistic and happy soul and that's what usually gets portrayed here too. However, it wasn't that way on the 2nd November 2003. The signs were already there in my poems for September and October, but on that fateful day, I got absolutely no sleep at all - none for the rest of the week in fact. I was so full of adrenaline from stress at work, it was like I was completely wired open. I was shaking, my heart went haywire, it felt like I had fur being stroked on top of my head. It also felt like I was communicating with everyone from the other side of a misted glass partition. Naturally I couldn't have gone to work like that, so I called in sick. In time I recovered, slowly. But I never worked full time ever again.

I'd given my boss plenty of warning that the workload was too much. A well-liked colleague joined the team as a result over the summer. The workload doubled because the business area we supported was rapidly expanding. We examined the roles that were needed for the team. There were twelve (not necessarily full time, but each one very different) - I was doing eleven of them. We got in a project manager to lighten the load - he was no good so was asked to leave after a month. We had someone on loan from our call centre to help with the administration - he needed more supervision than was needed to do the work. In the end three consultants joined the team on the same day and I was expected to induct them all and still do my own work (which had also increased again). That was on the first of November. Then on the second things went really pear-shaped...

That's all I'm going to say on the situation, except I now think of the whole experience in a positive light: something that was actually worthwhile living through. I know a lot more about myself and I've learnt to say no. I was able to be honest at work about what was going on which I think is enlightened for a mental health situation and I found a most wonderful set of colleagues as a support network on my return to work. It also made me re-evaluate my life. Being a successful business analyst, the one who copes really well in a crisis and exceeding everyone's expectations year on year is no longer where I want to be. It's here, at home, exploring what else life has to offer that's most important. I'm happy and so very lucky.

12 comments:

  1. Oh Gosh, reading your story is so similar to what happened to me.

    Did we work for the same company? hmmm..

    I was born with mitral valve problems that had done okay until my work stress (at 51), combined with a repiratory infection (lasted 5 months) sent me to the hospital. I cut back to part-time at the same company, but got out of management.

    My health just got worse because the meds (atenolol) slowed my metabolism. No energy at all, weight gain.

    My mom died at 51; dad at 65; So, my husband told me to retire early. So, at 52, I retired to garden and enjoy life. It probably saved my life, too. My health is better (off those nasty meds) and I can now hike and bike for miles where I couldn't walk up one flight of steps before. I lost 20 of the 30 lbs gained from the meds.

    Now...the economy is creating havoc. My husband is also retired. Our 401k retirement is suddenly down 40% and we're living off of savings. I don't want to go back to an office job again, so I'm seeing what I can do with my writing. I'm trying to stay positive and write about the good things that others (gardeners, artists, etc.) are doing...since my garden provides limited material! :-)

    Take care, be happy! Peace of mind is all I want.

    Cameron

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  2. VP .. Yes, I understand what you have gone through. And Cameron as well. I also have crashed and burned under enormous stress and health issues that became permanent because of the stress .. my husband had an even worse time of it and it all fell apart at the same time.
    When you are able to move on, and you are lucky enough to have some sanity and healthy enough to function, even just with normal home routines. You do appreciate things aren't worse than they are, and you do look for any small happiness that comes your way or you create (aka garden : )
    I'm so glad you are doing this well now. I'm glad you are here : )
    Joy

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  3. I've experienced that in a smaller way myself, too - finding myself sacked for not coping, in my case! Appalling, but it happens. I can't quite get my head around the fact that bosses will happily do this to their staff and then appear to be surprised when we fall apart. I'm watching it happen to two of my friends right now, and one has just given up and resigned. She'll be going back part time too, once she finds something.

    I'm glad you're able to look back on your ordeal in a positive way, and also that you've been able to be honest about it. You're perhaps just as strong as you thought you were, but now you know where your personal breaking point is. We all have one, you know. ;)

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  4. We hear you VP and your story resonates with many of us! Thank you for sharing....stress is a destructive demon that attacks our souls and bodies. Often times the only way to health is to travel through the pain. Warmest thoughts, Gail

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  5. I really believe everything in life happens for a reason even if it isnt obvious at the time. By stopping work full time even though you were forced to you have discovered a whole other world.

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  6. VP, Your story is so familiar to me. I have had two boughts of accute anxiety that caused me to make major changes in our lives. The last one was brought on by a sister's very high risk pregnancy and my absolutely crazy boss. I quit a job I loved because I could not handle it. Looking back, I know I made the right decision. Life is much sweeter now. Thanks for sharing. I am happy to know you in a better place and time.

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  7. Ooo I came to a similar epiphany at the end of 1996. I'd been working in London, mostly instockbroking, for nearly 12 years. Long, long hours- 12 hour days sometimes, unpaid overtime, pressure pressure pressure, high mortgage rate (10.5% when I took it out, and it never dropped!) bills bills bills, never seeing my home in daylight, always tired, health slipping, depression etc etc etc.... then BUMPF! I was in hospital with a blood clot on my lung.

    Hmmm. I didn't know how serious that was till the nurse came over and said, "Erhmmm... we forgot to ask you what religion you are-?"

    WHAT the?

    Luckily I was OK. I have asthma now and have to watch it if I get a chest infection. But that's OK. But I never went back to work in London.

    It dawned on me that what you are is not what you do. It didn't matter. It's what's in you that counts. And it's who you are and how you are that people will remember, not how many hours you worked or whether you had some great "respectable" job. Big deal!

    I lay in that bed at age 29 and thought, eeek! It's true! You DO only live once! Is this it?

    I get ribbed for 'underachieving' and my stepmother cals me lazy for not going back to a 'hugh end job'. Well, up yer bum! I'm happy watching birdies and breathing fresh air and getting joy from the little things. We get by. We'll never be rich, but there's wolf at the door.

    I love that saying from Julian of Norwich:
    "All is well, and all is well, and all manner of things shall be well."

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  8. oops I meant there's NO wolf at the door. LOL!!!!

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  9. I nearly had a nervous breakdown before I finally learned to say "no" to people. It's getting easier with time. I don't deal with stress well (it makes me physically ill) and have had to accept that my own boundaries of what I can handle are different from other people. Like you, looking back, I'm actually thankful for what I went through. I learned alot about myself and think I am a happier person because of it.

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  10. Thanks for sharing what must have been a most painful and traumatic time in your life VP. I would imagine that it was difficult writing about it. It amazes me, but does not surprise me that you had voiced your concerns to your boss, but still your work escalated. I saw this happening at my former workplace which ironically was about supporting young people with often complex emotional and social needs. I am glad that you are now where you want to be ((((())))

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  11. Sometimes we all need a wakeup call. Too bad yours had to be so dramatic. It's good that you can view it from such a positive perspective.

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  12. Hi everyone,

    Thanks so much for all your lovely and supportive comments. You've confirmed it was right to post this - it shows there is sunshine and life after stress, as so many of you are also showing most admirably.

    A special thanks goes to Helena, who's picked up on my story over at her place.

    Hugs to you all.

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