So come midday yesterday I had my first scheduled appointment with the force FMO or as others call it Occupational Health. Now it is not the first time I have ever visited the FMO as the last time I fell off my perch I also had visits to him, but last time I covered my tracks regarding the depression and focused on my back problems! The Doctor I saw then, a man, was really none the wiser as the depression diagnosis and my acceptance of it came fairly late into a lengthy period of sick leave. I was back at work and out of his systems before I had to declare it to him. Back then I was not as comfortable with admitting the black dog lives within. I was still somewhat in denial. What you don't talk about and don't acknowledge doesn't exist...Right?!
When I fell off my perch three weeks ago I admitted to work and my boss straight away what the issues were, low mood and swollen joints. So I went along yesterday in a different place and within three weeks of having reported sick. Until recently FMO appointments came later into periods of sickness but apparently mention depression, anxiety or low mood and you can now expect an immediate referral to the FMO.
This time I did not see a Doctor but a nurse and a female nurse. Mature, matronly and of a generation that are not generally as accepting of mental illness in my personal experiences. I was taken aback that she was not a doctor I have to admit maybe because of the man I had seen last time. She kept making generalised comments about my symptoms, maybe its Fibromyalgia or PTSD or Rheumatoid Arthritis , followed up by saying 'of course I don't really know as I'm not a doctor' which wound me up a treat I can tell you!
The other wholly disconcerting thing she did early on was tell me she had all my personal emails to and from my boss regarding my sick leave which I found very unnerving in itself before she went on to tell me that everything we discussed was also disclosable to my boss? Well I clammed up at that point, my medical information passed lock stock and barrel to my line manager? No Thank You ;-(
So instead of talking too much I cried, and cried and cried a bit more so she gave me a paper hand towel, stiff and scrapey to blow my nose on....
Matron as I will henceforth refer to her, then commented 'well you can't be that depressed my love as you've put make up on today' Talk about light the blue touch paper?! I can and will acknowledge that I understand her thought process, i.e. about me and if I had turned up dishevelled and dirty it would better demonstrate a character out of control, however not all depressed people present thus surely? As it is I had actually stopped that morning to consider whether or not to wear make up and deduced medics wouldn't possibly be that shallow...would they? Oh the irony!
As it is most days I haven't been washing or changing my food stained clothes as I cannot be arsed but that's here, at home and safe. Going out into the dark, cold, person infested world I need some form of armour, some control, some protection. Is it too much to ask that at least a medic understand mental health issues? I don't think so but dear lord she tested me yesterday.
Then she told me that I 'must get back to work and earn the pennies for my baby mustn't I?' Condescending woman, do you know I have never thought about that have I?! Then as if to rub salt in the wound she continued, that I must be prepared for a meeting at headquarters with HR and the Welfare Dept. to discuss my return to work in the future! Great heap on the pressure and anxiety why don't you?
Next on her list direct from my boss was that he had asked her to agree a return to work/recuperative duties schedule? Eh?! I was sobbing too much and too fuzzy headed to really construct a pertinent answer but as she looked at me for a while expecting a response I just shrugged before she then echoed my shrug and said 'maybe its too soon just yet'
No shit Sherlock give the woman a bed pan!
Then came the normal leaflets for counselling before she tried to get me to childish swear an oath and promise her faithfully that I would contact them. I kind of agreed but I did have my legs crossed ... or something somewhere was definitely crossed so it dm oesn't really count does it?! ;-P
Finally she asked me if I considered the Equality Act applied to me and my illness? Well by this point I looked like feckin Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer crossed with a beetroot who had been chopping onions!! Red, blotchy and tear stained not to mention snotty with the most monumental headache. If you'd asked me my name I may have struggled to recall it lets put it that way. She then proceeded to mumble on for a while presumably about that, but realistically she could have been reading a recipe for all I remember or cared by this point now 50 minutes in to my cry fest!
She finished up by saying I was not fit for work, that I do remember and so come back in six weeks. She did read out a date and time...I think but it was not retained. Hopefully a letter will be sent with the date/time!
All in all it exhausted me on so many levels... in retrospect I should have taken someone with me but I hate making a plonker or idiot of myself and I still struggle with being vulnerable in public. But I need someone to think for me in these situations as I felt manipulated, I felt harassed, I felt like a trapped bug under a glass being poked, prodded and observed for sport.
The admission that everything was to be disclosed to my boss I would like to question the legality of this because surely medical discussions about my heath to a medic should not then be passed to a third party? In general terms yes but she rooted around in my mind, asked about what I thought caused my depression and fiddled with my emotions. At a minimum it was a block to communication at worst a breach of my human rights.
It had nothing to do with my health and everything to do with work presence and therefore my worth to them. It felt like my boss was sat on her shoulder. I will feel humiliated if she shares everything she saw and heard with him. It's left me untrusting and realising that people actually knowing how to deal with and talk to us mental health sufferers is such a long way from being acceptable, yet. I'm hearing a lot on social media about what is being done in regards of mental health mattering but talking the talk, creating policies for Politian's and so on, is such a very, very long way away from walking the walk.
This crusade for improvement in how people walking the thin blue line with their black dogs is such along way from reaching the front line. It's being talked about by bosses, its being acknowledged by the enlightened but it has to move further, deeper to actually make a difference.
I am there right now, on that front line and honestly it is still a desolate, cold, unwelcome place where stigma thrives and unhealthy minds roam.