The Occupational Therapist sketched out a quick diagram. “This,” she said, “is a stress curve. Most people’s stress levels move between these two points on the left. Normal levels of stress. We need stress, otherwise we’d be dead. Sometimes the stress moves up towards the top of peak and it’s not pleasant, but so long as it moves back down again they’re fine. Once someone goes over the top into the right hand side, that’s when they become ill.”

She looked over at me.

“You are at the top of the peak and you’ve been there for some time, I think. I’d say you’re teetering on the brink, though I’ll find a better way of putting it in the report. You’re right, you definitely need some time off work and you need to take it soon, otherwise you’re going to go over the edge.”


I known for a month or so that I’ve been heading towards illville again. I can’t really go into too much detail about why for risk of getting Dooced, but in a nutshell: my company might be really good at taking us on fancy trips but not that brilliant at getting adequate resourcing… when I started my job there were three people doing what I do; for about the last two years there’s been just me and the job has been getting bigger. It’s not really a surprise then, that recently the brain fog came down and my concentration went to pieces – it was all eerily reminscent of five years ago before the big breakdown.

So I started planning to take some time off, which caused a few raised eyebrows at work among the less enlightened. I could see a few of them thinking ‘what? You’re planning your breakdown? Wtf?’ (Apparently it’s becoming more common, as people who’ve had mental health problems in the past recognise the possibility of something similar and take steps to head it off. According to my HR department.) You might ask why I didn’t just clear off work then and there: because I had three massive deadlines coming up and the nature of the problem – ie, that there’s only me – is the nub of it. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. You might ask, as Occupational Therapy did: why are you doing favours for them? Why don’t you just dump them in it? Answer: Northern working class guilt.

That was the theory anyway. My deadlines were 1 July but, of course, El Mog got sick just before then and, as you know, I went to pieces. Brain shutdown actually. Classic breakdown symptoms. So I walked early.

I’ve been off for over a week now and I feel a bit of a fraud. I’m not “ill”, but I need to be off work to prevent myself becoming ill, give myself time to chill the fuck out and give Megacorp Inc. some time to go “ohhh, right. Should we do something?” so it’s not the same situation when I go back. I know, and my GP and Occupational Health agree, that it’s real but when the only symptom is excessive tiredness it’s hard to justify it… Northern working class guilt again.

I’m not sitting around with my feet up though. No. For that leads to six hours staring at the wall and a descent into introspection and self-loathing. I have a plan. Every day (so long as it isn’t pissing down, like today), I will do one thing that gets me out of the house, even if it’s just to go swimming or meet someone for lunch. I live in the best city in the world ferchrissakes and I’ve barely scratched its surface! I have my Harden’s London for Free, a guide to City churches and a newly purchased Rough Guide to London. Here are the top 10 things I plan to do and I’m looking for suggestions, so comments please!

  1. Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral
  2. Catch up on films at the Prince Charles cinema
  3. Go to the Fan Museum
  4. Finally visit the Horniman
  5. Check out the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
  6. Walk from from St James’s Park to Kensington Gardens
  7. Have a day out at Hampton Court
  8. And Brighton
  9. Go to the London Transport Museum
  10. Nose around a load of City churches

I’ve been to the Tower of London fairly recently and went to Westminster Abbey some time ago but will probably find my way back… does anyone have ideas of things they think I should do?


7 responses to “*creak*

  1. Will July 9, 2008 at 7:42 pm

    How about look for another job?
    Flippantness aside I would recommend stupid blockbusters at the cinema – there’s a time and a place for arty bollocks at the Prince Charles but doesn’t really sound like this is it.
    I’ve always found wandering around graveyards gives good perspective. You could hunt down William Blake in Bunhill Fields.
    I’d say go to London Zoo but it’s actually quite depressing. How about the Aquarium instead? Fish don’t get depressed, because they don’t have any feelings.
    Also I’ve always wanted to get an open top bus around London. Just to see what tourists see.
    To be honest though, I’d recommend getting out of London. Go to the country for a few days or something like that. Sounds like you need some chill time.

  2. Will July 9, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    Sorry, I just noticed that you put down the Fan Museum. A museum of fans? Are you serious?
    Sounds about as exciting as the V&A.

  3. Rachel July 9, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    Well, leaving town isn’t an option at the moment, unless I feel like paying a catsitter to come in twice a day for injections. Meh.
    The Prince Charles does the odd blockbuster though… open top bus sounds like fun!
    Fan Museum’s one of those places that always comes up. It’s nearby – I just want to know why people always talk about it.
    The problem with looking for another job is that two months off for various mentalness makes you kind of unemployable…

  4. Will July 11, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Why on earth would you tell them?
    As I always say to Jamie – quit self-handicapping!

  5. Rachel July 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Obviously it’s not something you volunteer; however if you lie in an interview (say, in response to a direct question on an application form like “number of days absent in last year”) it gives them an excuse to fire you at will. Thankfully, these days most decent jobs come via agency and those kinds of questions come up post-offer (when you also have to tell the truth, but disability legislation prevents them withdrawing an offer on mental health grounds) but it’s just easier to leave it a year and go in with a cleaner slate.
    Trust me, you get wise to this stuff once it’s happened before…

  6. Jamie July 12, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Sorry to digress but a few years back, Will read some article or some crap about old people and computers. Or something like that. It said in it that they “self handicap”.
    Now let me get this straight. Will has NEVER said “stop self handicapping” to me once other than in the context of me asking for his help with my numerous botched wireless routers. Maybe he ONCE said it as I wanted him to put Windows 2000 on my PC (yes that long ago).
    Basically, this phrase is just thrown about by Will when he can’t be arsed leaving his house to help you with a computer matter, even if he has promised for months on end.
    He’s has absolutely never used this phrase to me in reference to me going out, getting jobs, earning money, having relationships, playing guitar, forming bands, working out, learning to drive, gaining or losing weight, going on holiday, increasing self confidence, learning Italian, reading books, seeing mates, drinking, saving money, getting a mortgage, having a pension, being adventurous, going to gigs, listening to more music, being sociable or any other facet of a human beings life.
    Although I suspect, because of this note, he may start saying it all the time.

  7. Kate July 14, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    How about starting to learn Japanese, as you’ve been meaning to do for ages?
    As well as the job hunting of course.

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