04-12-2019 04:31 AM
I suppose I should put a trigger warning here as this discusses suicide and trauma.
i was diagnosed with PTSD early in the year after an incident at work. I used to be a recovery support worker for a not for profit mental health association. I was working with people with schizophrenia, bipolar, schizo-affective disorder, PTSD, ADHD, OCD and borderline personality disorder. I had completed my degree in psychology & addiction about 18 months prior to the incident. I started working in an area where the clients were living independently and just needed that little push while I walked along side them within their recovery. I loved the work and my team but it was nearly an hours drive to just get to work so I decided to move to a team closer to home in January 2018. That was a big mistake. I was still having to travel to places that were about an hour+ away from home (the catchment area was a whole lot broader compared to my first team) and the clients ranged from living independently to being in hostels that were in awful condition. There were never any formal introductions as there were so many clients, I was thrown in the deep end and it was chaos. I was driving more, seeing more and more clients, and working with clients who had more complex mental health issues compared to my previous team. This was the first time I encountered people talking to their voices. It was very much more a disability demographic rather than a mental health demographic, as there were people so severely unwell mentally that they did not know how to function. There was no manager when I started, I didn't know the team at all, I had no induction with this team and on my first day I had a client scream at me cos I simply did not understand what it was they wanted, I didn't understand (or had been told) what was the system with this particular client.
I had some good times but some awful times, one time I found a client in the middle of a psychosis from not taking her medications, I was instructed to take her to emergency. This was hard as they were engaging with their voices a whole lot, and once I got to the hospital they told me I had to take her to the mental health clinic. It was so hard. She kept on pulling her pants down and pulling her jumper up. When we got to the clinic she started running down the street. Luckily a staff member at the clinic helped me but I was not coping. I ended up crying at the end after the psychologist interviewed her. They wanted me to take her back to the hospital but I said I had no more spoons left. I had a debrief with my manager afterwards (who had no experience managing such a busy team) and I went home and smoked so much cannabis. That was the only thing that got me through that time.
A month or so later I decided to give up the cannabis (I had only been smoking it for a couple of months, it's an on and off thing, tend to do it in the winter months) and I went to see a psychologist because I was not coping at work, I had been experiencing diarrhoea for 2 months and needed help. That first session my psychologist said I had been experiencing vicarious trauma. This was from listening to my clients stories and having my own sort of flashbacks to what happened to my clients. My psych informed me that this was not good and I needed to tell my manager.
so I told my manager what my psychologist said and that something needs to happen. The manager said they would organise some one on one training with someone in the company who does training on all sorts of things.
this never happened.
about 2 weeks later I decided to take a week off to spend time with my partners family and go to a family wedding down south. I came back refreshed, feeling I could do my work again.
I think it was not even 2 weeks later and the incident that was the breaking point occurred.
One of my favourite clients attempted suicide, and I was the one who found them (alongside their best friend who was also a client and lived close by). They did not pass away, but they were very unwell. I called emergency and the paramedics came and took them to the hospital. This was so upsetting for me, for obvious reasons. I can't even go into detail like the incident above because it just hurts my heart and I get flashbacks still, and it's been 14 months since this happened.
well I let my work know, and the intake team (they do all the scheduling for the clients and support workers) instructed me to support the best friend straight after this incident. I tend to be very agreeable in situations I don't have control over so I agreeed. I was not a support worker with this client, I was just me, and she understood that (such an amazing human) and I think she ended up supporting me that day. She requested that I take her to the shops to buy cigarettes (not supposed to do that but her best friend just attempted suicide) and asked me to drop her home. I called my manager for the debrief and was instructed to go to the office straight away to fill out a report. I was not right. My jaw was clenching on the way over, I was shaking. Filling out the report with my manager was such a blur. There was no counselling arranged for me, I also had to write notes twice about the incident cos of the stupid way the work system was, this was on top of the incident report.
I drove home and stopped by the supermarket on the way. It took me literally 20 minutes to figure out which type of meat I like to have on pizza (my favourite food) which is not me, I am a very good cook and love shopping for ingredients. My jaw was clenching and I was in a daze.
I didn't go back to work for a week, I started seeing my clients face all the time. I barely slept at night and then slept all day, my dreams were distressing. I go back to work a week after the incident and after seeing 1 client my manager asks me to go to the office. Once there she says I need to get clearance from my doctor to go back and that I should call the EAP. I had not thought of these things. I had seen my psych 2 days after the incident and they were apaulled that I did not receive emergency counselling the day of the incident. My mother and my partner thought the same thing and so did a friend who works in HR for the government.
so I ended up filing for worker's compensation, got diagnosed with PTSD. I started a return to work program in June, with the same company but in a different role. It has been a slow progression but I have come very far, from doing 3 hours 2 days a week to 4.5 hours 4 days a week. But, things have gone downhill the last month or so. The entire HR department changed and my new manger left without a goodbye or handover. So my new manager and the new hr department think I am working towards going back to support work, which has brought on all the triggers. Then I went into work one day and I didn't have a desk anymore and there were no desks available, so that has resulted in my stumble. I have been working in quality, compliance & risk and absolutely loving it, but the organisation's disorganisation has ruined this for me. My psychiatrist gave me 2 weeks off cos I just cracked last week at work (and got a severe flu). I have been having stress dreams about returning to work next Tuesday but I am keen to get back into my routine.
anyway, this is a long one, thank you for reading, I appreciate it and it feels good to get this story off my chest and into words. Much love and light
04-12-2019 02:54 PM
Hi @Fluttershyy ,
Thanks for your post. I hope you feel a little better in sharing and maybe getting a few things out. I must say I admire your courage for trying to get back into the workforce, disapointing to hear how things have gone for you lately. I have found it diffucult myself, probably returned to work to early after basically having a nervous breakdown. I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 last year and was in psyc hospits for a month or so.
I would encourage you to try and keep reaching out for help support through your EAP if you can. I use one through work and have to get approved for extra support every 6 months. Not sure what state you live in, but, your GP should be able to put on a mental health plan and then you can access other free services as well.
Take care and thanks again for sharing everything that you have been through.
If you need urgent assistance, see Need help now
For mental health information, guidance and referrals, see the SANE Help Centre
SANE Forums is published by SANE Australia with funding from the Australian Government Department of Health
SANE Australia ABN 92006533606
PO Box 226 South Melbourne 3205 Australia