Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Twenty thirteen; the year I got well

Twenty thirteen was a roller coaster of a year, for both myself and Australia. If you had to sum up 2013 for me up in one sentence it would be "I went mad and Australia selected Tony Abbott as Prime Minister" (1).

The year started off with an insane work stress load that only increased as the days ticked on as my owning segment of the organisation started fraying or even calving apart, with great chunks of talent and capability lost. This stress reflected in me by shrieking pain and spasms shooting through my body. So it was only a matter of time before I broke and I lasted until mid-March before my collapse actually happened. And by collapse I don't mean a fainting away or falling in a heap like a marionette with the strings cut, I mean collapse as in a psychotic break from reality over 10 days—a period of long crying jags on my shed floor or standing for hours at a time, twitching, staring at the back wall because I was unable to comprehend what was happening to me and my colleagues—that only ended when theWife took me to the mental health wing of the hospital with a packed bag with my being ready for a long stay.

Fortunately during my interview with the attending psychologist we realised that I was still mentally sound it was just that my environment had driven me insane and that immediate separation from my toxic workplace was the first and best step to take. 

I got sent home and the next day I saw my GP to assist in my US Embassy rooftop style evacuation from my now former job, a doubling of my brain meds, and a rigorous mental health plan of therapy and regular medical consultation to determine how I was travelling. 

I was out of the workplace for five months. It wasn't until mid-August that I commenced a return to work process and far away from oldwork and the toxicity and utter abrogation of public service values that I had experienced in the last few months. It took until November until I was back full time. 

I still don't have a permanent role in my organisation, however the project work I got to do on my return was valuable and useful. And in the aftermath of my separation from my old job the broader organisation provided me excellent care and consideration with a pair of experienced case managers to assist my journey to wellness and sanity. Indeed it was their care and their support, along with my broader organisation returning all the long service leave I used to take that period off, that helped me reach the decision to not seek compensation (2). I got looked after and when I returned to work I discovered great strides had taken place in encouraging workplace wellness. For example, supervisors now needed supervisor training. They didn't before my collapse.

But, best of all, with my collapse it meant my journey to wellness could begin. And not only did I get well but I got super well. I shed 30 years of self-loathing at having a body that didn't work quite right and was somewhat unappealing. Because without my shitty body and without my depression I could not have done the job I did and I job that I knew in every fibre of my being was important and that I was the best person to do it. My depression and sadness made me a better public servant. It made me give a shit about what I did and my understanding of suffering meant I understood the pressures and impact upon that segment of the Australian public for which our organisation had a duty of care. 

Of course this journey to wellness was not without pain and suffering. In addition to my own inner torments theWife bore the burden of a sick man and the household and she had to be my advocate for several months as I recovered. The first few weeks then months were a hazy blur of sleep and pain combined with exceptional hurt and anger over what had happened. And my nerves were ragged raw, with my having to run up the street with hands over my ears if my son cried—and he is six so that happens a lot—because his distress fired up my anxiety. I lived for weeks in a post fight/flight environment where my anxiety would quickly spike if something triggered it such as yet another shitty thing oldwork did to me during the process of my disengagement from them. Even now, some nine months on, admin arrangements regarding oldwork have still not been undertaken and I suspect it is because oldwork wish to cause me pain.

I know, those are the sort of people I worked for. Actual villainous people doing villainy.

But here it is at the end of 2013 and I am well. I still endure pain from my old ladies—my fibromyalgia—as well as roiling guts from IBS but the frequency and severity of pain is far less. And, most importantly, in my head I am well. I have all the benefits of depression—caring about my environment and assuming the burden of trying to fix things—and barely any of the downsides like being lethargic and morose. 

Thanks to therapy, meds, family support and distance from my old job, I got to realise that because of my shitty body and my saddened mind I created beautiful art as I helped people. And as a public servant if you get to actually help people and have fun doing it then it does not get any better than that. 

Wellness for the win. 

(1) I know that sentence seems to imply my madness somehow infected the body politic and Australia in a bizarre act decided Tony Abbott should be PM. It is not the case. Indeed my going mad at the start of the year helped me recover in time to deal with the mental anguish as caused by the incoming schlock-fest that is the Coalition government. A government that coasted into power thanks to the Murdoch press and a government ill-equipped to look after ordinary Australians. A government already breaking and destroying things and restoring the primacy of business as a cultural driver.
(2) The potential pain and angst that could be caused by revisiting the distress of what happened to me is not worth the price of that compensation.