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!
- Visit St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Catch up on films at the Prince Charles cinema
- Go to the Fan Museum
- Finally visit the Horniman
- Check out the Kyoto Garden in Holland Park
- Walk from from St James’s Park to Kensington Gardens
- Have a day out at Hampton Court
- And Brighton
- Go to the London Transport Museum
- 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?