Reintegration is a finely tuned event that requires planning, bravery and a desire to be as normal as possible. I find people hostile, dishonest or scary at best of times, so having a massive chunk of time off work and then going back into "The lions den" creates apprehension in copious amounts. Just before my return I yet again have to visit occupational health (more like occupational hazard) and discuss my recovery.
The doctor reminds me of a small, hunched over mouse. I cannot recall if I've told you about this man yet or not, but he covers his computer mouse with a tissue, and places his briefcase between us on the desk so he has to peer over it. I think he has a phobia about germs and people, to the extent that he has to have a physical barrier to protect him from the great unwashed. He's odd to say the least and always looks like he's ended up in this crappy job by accident. I'm sure he had high hopes for a career in Harley Street, but he's ended up being a second rate note taker at a local council. He sighs a lot and oozes disappointment throughout our discussion.
Half way through our chat I have to remind him that I'm not actually back at work as he hasn't realised.He flails a bit and gets all tetchy and then finds his thread again. The service really is ridiculous.
Anyway, in February I try my second phased return to work, following my bi-polar mental health sabbatical. My desk is dusty, my orchid is dead and there are stray papers, food crumbs and a large amounts of other peoples stuff scattered all over my workstation. I have no stationery and I feel utterly despondent. I think my work station has become the communal bin. When I try to turn my computer on its so slow I might have to come back the following day to give it time to boot up. I feel a bit giddy too and its very bright, very noisy and disconcertingly normal.
Everyone seems to be an over sized caricature of themselves and I can sense the energy floating about. Its a bit surreal after being cosseted in the safety of my living room for so long. I jump at everything, drop things and feel disorientated. I do what comes naturally, which is clean my desk and drink lots of coffee. Smiling makes my face hurt and by lunchtime I'm am more than exhausted and go home. Its going to take a while to get back in the swing of it. My colleagues are actually lovely and want me to be well. No one wants a psycho team mate, so they treat me gently at first whilst they judge whether or not I might have a total breakdown at any moment. I think everyone's a bit nervous. Bless them all. The genuinely don't quite know what to say, so I tend to make it more comfortable for them by making quips about being bonkers and laughing about my OCD. It gives people permission to relax a bit and takes the fear away from putting your foot in it. I should make up light bulb jokes. How many Bi-polar depressed people does it take to change a light bulb? 1, but they have to keep going and down...Ha ha!Or Violets are blue, and roses are red, mania's a nightmare so I'll kill myself instead! Its not the best topic for humour and poetry now eh! But seriously I really have to make it less uncomfortable for everyone. Its not an easy topic to broach, and some people are intensely private about it. I'd rather be honest and open about it. Mental illness isn't something to be afraid of. Its not contagious and most of us are actually ok.
So I'll try to get back to work, and build up to the hours I did before. I'll try to be ok and do what is asked of me. I'll try not to freak out if things start to go wrong. Yeah right!