So the lithium starts in November 2015 and by the 1st week in January 2016 I actually feel relatively normal. However, what I do not realise at this juncture is that I am precariously balanced on the edge of the recovery cliff. I have tested myself out in close quarters, with loving people and in a very gentle manner. It has felt positive, I have not had any meltdowns, hysterical outpourings or flailing moments of despair.
With hope and bravado I decide that maybe I could try and "Phase" back to work. I arrange to have a chat with some people from the church where I work with representatives from the diocese HR team. I am familiar with return to work antics. Where have you been, what has it been like, how are you now, do you think you are ready, can we support you, what is the plan. However this time it feels a little hostile. I am getting the distinct impression that the HR person isn't happy, and maybe even thinks that I am not genuine. What becomes patently clear is that my boss has not communicated with HR anything that has happened. Poor HR man is totally in the dark and pretty much thinks I have been on some kind of holiday for 9 months. I wonder why it is that someone would deliberately withhold relevant information from a key member of the diocesan team.
So when he asks me if I can explain in more detail what has been happening, I give it to him both barrels. After 15 minutes, summarising in particular my suicidal period, respite and medication chaos, I ask if there is anything else he might like to ask. I can feel my rage bubbling under my skin and my boss has been making all kinds of eye contact with the ceiling/floor/pigeons outside etc. but not with me. HR man, God bless him, is totally appalled and with genuine concern, apologises for not realising how ill I had been and tells me he is glad I chose the land of the living.
In that moment I have clarity. My boss is not on my side, and he has been caught out. What doesn't bode well for me is that I am about to put myself in the snake pit. What I cannot fathom is why someone would want to do that. People are odd creatures. I have struggled since my diagnosis to be a fully functioning work colleague, and have worked incredibly hard to maintain any kind of career. The amount of times I hear, "Emma this is not about your capability, but you need to be here in the team in order to do the job." Mental illness is inconvenient to the corporate world. I am not stupid, not even remotely. But my brain has a plan of its own which doesn't include my plans for work. I had a chat with my GP recently and explained that if you look at my CV but then looked at me in this moment, you would genuinely think we are talking about two totally different people.
It is beyond frustrating. As with any disability you need to have certain things. Firstly, to be visible and accepted for who you are. Secondly, to be supported within your disability to flourish and do everything that you are capable of. Thirdly, to not be treated like a low grade citizen, ignored, patronised or discriminated against. Being treated unfairly feels like a travesty. It debases your humanity and can makes you feel worthless. You need to have solid self esteem to suffer that kind of onslaught. My self esteem is living on an island somewhere in the pacific and very rarely checks in. This is not a good situation. Far from it.