I was trying to return to work in a phased approach. I started this process at the end of January 2016 and had to take all of my owed annual leave, as well as planning how I would like to return to work; 25% one month then increasing this to 50%, 75% and then hopefully 100% of contracted hours. My psychiatrist warned me to take it slowly. Recovery in the early stages is precarious and you do feel delicate. Risk of relapse is high and being vigilant of symptoms, stress and fatigue is essential. Ideally you would like to be supported by someone who understands and cares about your well being. The trouble I had was that I was experiencing mixed messages from a variety of directions. My boss didn't speak to me for about 4 weeks. I think he'd been warned not to upset me, so in his wisdom, he avoided me like the plague. The verger wanted to know every detail of my life like a mother hen, and the Cathedral canon who was allocated to oversee me in a "Confidential support" role spoke to me on the phone infrequently but when I saw her face to face was a total God send.
To be honest, I don't think they had any idea of how to handle me. And I tried really hard to do everything right. Thing is you cannot legislate for other peoples unseen agendas, game playing and generally misogyny. I made the mistake of thinking that my fellow colleagues were all on the same page, both with me and each other. I was so far off the mark it's ridiculous. I am no good at living within chaos and under currents. It reminds me of living with my parents when I was 9. I know some people are really solid and can surf the waves and get their head above water. I am not that person and being mentally ill within all of that is a recipe for disaster.
I requested a meeting with my boss and some members of the parochial church council (PCC) to discuss my ideas and concerns about the job. I'd talked this through with wiser counsel, and they supported the idea. I called my boss to get some time slots arranged. This was the Thursday. The following Tuesday my boss told me he'd been to the arch deacon to discuss me and that they felt my meeting was a terrible idea, and that as I was "Failing" he felt that I should have a meeting with the PCC and my boss every week to discuss my work plan, outcomes, forward planning and issues. So me, 5 members of the Church, every Wednesday for 2 hours, had to meet. So there I am, working hard to get back to work slowly on medical recommendation, unsupported, and dealing with my fragile mental health and now I was to be subjected to weekly interrogations.
Light bulb moments. Chrystal clarity. Emancipation. In that first meeting, and what transpires as the only meeting we had, everything made sense. I was allowed to speak first. There is a God. What followed was both shocking and a relief. Turns out my boss had been manipulating the information of the PCC and telling me half truths and lies, and ignoring diocesan policy on supervision practice. Bless the PCC representative that day. He looked genuinely appalled. People can be naive and this includes me. Just because a person is ordained doesn't mean he is compassionate or Honest. Turns out he was self serving, deceitful, power hungry, willing to sacrifice everyone else in order to get his way and a chauvinist. He was also very good at presenting the face of pious submission to those higher up the ladder. I remember thinking if Jesus were to turn up, I wonder what he's make of it all. Now as a caveat, this is only my experience of this person. He may be amazing with other people, but with me he was a class A shitbag.
I prayed. I spoke with wise people. They talked at me! I went to my GP who signed me back off work. I reflected. I resigned. I had spent 4 precious months embattled and pretty much degraded. Enough was enough. The feeling of joyous relief when I popped my resignation note and keys in the post was sublime.
I am fully aware that the world does not have to bend to my will and my illness. The world does not have to constantly pander to my whims and needs or suffer as a result of my inability to show up to work. However, just because I have a mental illness doesn't mean that I am not capable. It doesn't mean I am stupid. It doesn't mean you can treat me unspeakably poorly. I do not have to expose myself to the abuse of others. I have learned so much from this experience. Mostly that my mental health is more important than ever. I cannot be a parent, wife, friend, daughter or sister in Christ if I am permanently ill. Also, that there are lots of people in the world who do not understand mental ill health, or even want to understand mental ill health. This probably won't change, and when I am around that I need to be really selective about my approach. I have to protect myself. I also have to remind myself that I have something to offer the world. That I am acceptable. That I am enough.