Saturday, 13 September 2014

PND Letter - Back to Work

Dear Caroline,

It's September, the month of new beginnings for many parents - school years still seem more important than the actual year, don't they, even 11 years after leaving the education system. 

You start back at work tomorrow, for what will hopefully be the rest of your career, without any more long-term sickness absence. Let's be realistic, things will happen, children get ill and those little germ factories bring those bugs home with them. 

Roughly 12 weeks of being signed off sick with Post Natal Depression (GP has actually written Recurrent Depressive Disorder, but the day to day reality is the same).  Started with nagging guilt, that you should have been at work, didn't need time to get better, that being at work would help. In your case, at that time, you needed a break from everything but the one thing that you could pause was work. People said, 'get yourself better' but it was just words until a chance Mental Health Monday twitter chat revealed that the guilt needed to be forgotten, and the need for a break put into perspective. 

You have got better, you are getting better. It's slow, sometimes there isn't much change but there is something: my mood tracking app shows that bad days aren't 'terrible', merely 'bad'.  The PMDD seems to have settled, night settling when flying solo isn't the huge angry-catastrophe it used to feel like. 

You're scared: scared of interacting with colleagues, scared what people think, scared about the social anxiety and the feelings of self-loathing that bubble under the surface when you sit in the staff room for lunch. 

Stop. Don't be scared, it's normal to worry about a return to work. Even after a week's holiday it's normal to feel that 'back to work' dread. It's ok to be scared if all of those things. You're catastrophising, mind reading and making predictions. 

You're starting really slowly, 2 hours. Those 2 hours will hold very little pressure, very little responsibility and hopefully entail some of the lovely things I value so much in my line of work. Patient contact, thinking, and basically doing things that don't involve the boys, feeling sorry for myself or housework (or my guilt for being too lazy to do said housework). 

Yes, I'll be anxious, people are entitled to think what they wish and what people think (or don't think) is none of my business. 

I love my job, and I have beaten one episode of depression while I stayed in work. I had about 3 years when I was finishing my recovery process and fully better where I called in sick, perhaps twice. This is hope. This is a fact. Work has helped you to beat depression before and it will help now, starting now. 

Remember the grinding and stifling sense of anxiety? That's not anywhere near as awful as it was, you can handle anxiety thanks to sertraline. 

You are going to be great, work is going to be great, and if it isn't...? If all your worst fears come true and it's the worst day at work you have ever had... Well, it's only 2 hours. Easy peasy. 

The one thing you need to do is, look out for yourself. Plan some self-care techniques. Come up with a new plan, as CBT isn't going to last forever so you need a robust plan for helping to weed out those negative automatic thoughts and those unhelpful thinking styles

So practise what you preach, all the kind words you give out on Twitter and to friends... Extend them to yourself. That's what this letter is for.

Everything is going to be ok. 

Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but little by little, week by week. 

Caroline: mum, wife, friend, therapy radiographer. 

This is inspired and written for the #pndletters series - if you haven't seen the blog of the Nervous PND Sufferer, please check it out. 


  1. A very honest post, very well written. I too suffer (like to think it's suffered, but I'd be kidding myself) with PND and it's possibly the hardest thing to try to overcome. I freaked at the thought of going back to work after 10 months off. I think the longer the period, the worse the anxiety becomes. I found my start back at work to be hard at first, but I loved being back in the company with colleagues (grown-ups!) and having some meaning to my life other than being a mum. I wish you the best on your return to work xx

    I have nominated you and your amazing blog for a One Lovely Blog Award over on my blog. I'd love it if you would take part and I look forward to reading your post xx

  2. Thank you for such a lovely comment xx my return has been worthwhile and, as you say, contact with adults is amazing!!
    I'll follow your link too x


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