…and I was just thinking what I would be doing today if things were different . By this time I would be up and dressed ready to leave for work. I may be finishing off my bowl of Rice Krispies whilst reading any late emails on my work phone. I would then kiss Colin good bye and leave slightly envious of him being able to stay at home and enjoy the good weather, even though he worked hard to keep the house and me going. Arriving at the office early meant I usually missed the worse traffic and would allow me some quiet time before every one else came in. Allison was usually in early too and we would probably exchange stories about our weekend whilst preparing our first cup of tea of the day. I would then start my day by making a to do list and looking at what was left over from the week before. I would probably look at the waiting list numbers and think creativity at how the time waiting could be reduced. I was very lucky as my job was always filled with variety. Before my illness I would co-ordinate and take the majority of the un-named calls. These are calls from other professionals such as teachers, health visitors, school nurses, GP’s and social workers. They phoned seeking the advice from a mental health specialist about a particular mental health or more often than not behavioural issue. The problem could range from a two year old with fussy eating to a sixteen year old with suicidal thoughts. Sometimes the caller wanted to know if a referral to our service or a more specialist mental health service was appropriate. I enjoyed taking these calls as it often provided an opportunity to educate the caller and share a variety of strategies to try. As it is a Tuesday I would then perhaps chair or just attend a staff meeting. Depending on which Tuesday of the month it was would dictate the type of meeting we had. Once a month was a business meeting which the whole team attended. This provided an opportunity to feed information down from the exec team, discuss any areas of risk, share news with one another, and look at the data provided by admin as to see how we were doing and areas for improvement and possible change. Following the business side of things the clinical staff may then have some group supervision and discuss any difficult or rewarding cases that may require help or share ideas that had worked with each other. Cases from the waiting list would then be discussed and handed out to the members of the team with the time to take on more cases. The most important thing for me as the clinical lead and service manager was that the team always took responsibility for their own health especially their mental health first and ensured they kept well. It was therefore important for them not to overload themselves and then become stressed resulting in them having to take time off work. Nobody wants a clinician, coming to see their child , who is stressed out and mentally unwell themselves. This is why I must now practice what I preach!
Following the business meeting, the team manager and I may take a short break before then coming together to look through the weeks referrals and decide how best the young person being referred could be supported. This is a lengthy process that requires time and a clear head, hence the break in between the meetings. Each case referred is considered carefully for it’s appropriateness for support from an early intervention mental health service. Often we have very little information to go on which can be very frustrating and time consuming, but we get there in the end. Any time left on a typical Tuesday would be spent responding to emails. The day would be busy and long but very rewarding. I tended to leave the office usually on good time, around 5pm as I would have had an early start and be feeling tired by then. The drive home allowed more thinking time (about work) and could take anything from 20 to 40 minutes to get home depending on traffic. It was then, I am ashamed to say, a quick hello and catch up with Colin before getting back on my work phone and computer and continuing to work before he bought in my supper. On a good day I would then put my work to one side, but more often than not I would continue to work until I was too tired, then off to bed.
Looking back I can see how damaging this was. Nobody asked me to work that hard and neglect the ones I love but I can guarantee I am not the only NHS worker doing so. That doesn’t however make it right. The amount of times I lecture on what is needed to ensure good mental well being you would think I would know and be able to role model just that!
When and how I return to work I am still unsure, but I have definitely learnt my lesson and know now how precious time is.
Please remember to look after yourself and family first today like I said yesterday you never know what is just around the corner.
I feel exhausted now just having written about what I would have been doing if I hadn’t got Cancer. I think I will just turn over and have another nap before getting up for a long soak in the bath and then moving to a chair in the sunshine and finishing the book I’m reading.