@RelapseRover’s #MadCovidDiaries 29.01.2021
Working and being Mad in Covid times
Early 2020 I was admitted to hospital for the 8th time in 3 years. I was discharged a week before Covid hit.
I was off work for 5 months but my return went well. My lovely colleagues had decorated my desk and bought me gifts and an orchid. Of course, everything was different due to Covid. Remote working, team split in half on home working rotations to enable social distancing, masks, tape everywhere, danger signs all over the place, Covid risk assessments, quarantining materials before and after use, Covid welfare checks, accommodating for all the closed services, people very sick or isolating or shielding, fogging the office whenever there was a thought that there had been a close contact, scrubs, special coats, gloves, aprons, wipes and gel EVERYWHERE. Work had changed a lot.
I think I managed the transition pretty well considering how ill I had been. You just get on really don’t you. No-one knew what to do. It was a pandemic and so you just do, get on.
I am very lucky with my now treating team. I was allocated a new care coordinator when I left hospital and she is great. I’ve only met her face to face once but remote is fine really, I suppose, and better than not having her. My GP had decided to monitor me more closely and I speak to her every couple of weeks. Then I got the great news that I was top of the psychology waiting list and started the trauma therapy I had needed for years. I am still seeing her face-to-face which amazes me, despite two more lockdowns.
Even with all this support, things were not running as smoothly outside of work. I was falling apart at the weekend without all the routine, structure, distraction and satisfaction that work affords me. When I was on leave it was even worse. Covid had impacted, in that many of the things I would usually do to maintain my mental health were not available due to all the restrictions. Realistically, I was also still recovering from having been quite ill and some of the basic self-care tasks like eating well/sleeping well/exercise that mental health professionals tell you to do were still quite absent.
Then there was the medication. I had been switched onto/off/titrated up/titrated down 11 different medications over the previous 3 years and I made the decision to begin reducing (with my psychiatrists advice) the last anti-psychotic I was on. In the middle of the summer, I reduced and stopped, relatively quickly. We agree now it was too quick, but I was following the psychiatrists regime of titration.
So, I think the combination of recovering from illness, adjusting to a new way of working, not taking care of myself and reducing my medication too quickly made for a very BAD few weeks. I was placed under police 136 section a couple of times, there were several emergency trips to A&E and a short week’s MH admission.
I have always been very insightful about my illness and have always been off sick when I need to be. I have never worked when I have been ill. My treating team recognised that I was having a succession of very short crises that resolved quickly and as long as emergency services didn’t get involved, we were managing my mental health quite well considering. During this time, I had weekly/twice weekly/sometime three times weekly contact to manage the mentals.
Things started improving. I am finally in the right treatment with a very competent psychologist. I’ve been reassessed by the psychiatrist and they are going to take the Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder of my record as he is clear that I don’t meet criterion. He did make an additional diagnosis of bipolar disorder without telling me but that is another story.
Just as stability was returning, I was emailed by my regulatory body to tell me that I had been reported by one of the AMHP’s who assessed me during the summer as unfit to do my job because of my mental health. An AMHP who had met me once. When none of my treating team had any concerns about my ability to do my job. I contacted my insurers straight away and identified a solicitor to represent me. My manager, GP and psychologist all wrote letters of support. The body were given all my occupational health records, wellness plans, CPD records, supervision records – anything I could give them really. I even sent them the certificate I was awarded in November for a challenging qualification I had completed during this time.
If I lose my registration, I lose my job. I would struggle to pay my mortgage. I would lose my identity and a big part of my motivation to battle against the mentals. I am in a privileged position though. I have resources available to me that many don’t. I had a previous career that I could go back to. I don’t want to though. There was a reason I changed career. I told my care-coordinator and psychologist that I would take my life if I lost my registration. I couldn’t see any other way forward.
The investigation lasted 5 months and I got the outcome today. They are closing the case. They see no evidence to question my fitness to practice. I keep the job and career that I love and have worked so hard to achieve.
The orchid my colleagues bought me on my return to work has just started to bud again. The world is still awful. Covid continues with all the awfulness it has brought and I continue to battle the mentals as we work on the hardest bits of my trauma. There is light though. I’m taking the budding orchid as a sign that things might start to get better.
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