4 years

6th March, 2018

Well I had other ideas for today’s blog, but Facebook reminded me that today 4 years ago I was recovering at home, supervised by my hubby working from home, after a VERY long afternoon/night in the emergency department having finally come to the crunch point of my nervous breakdown.

It was the first day of many days off work: 6th March 2014 to 22nd July 2015.

It felt long!

It felt like it would never to over, that life would just trickle by forever. Me at home, on my own, barely able to fill the hours of the day, just dragging along until the next…what? Hour, day, week, year?

After 18 years of full time school; 4 years of full time study plus part time work; an intern year of full time work and study; and 4 years working full time (apart from a period of 9 day fortnights during 2013 for health/stress reasons, and a brave if futile attempt to get back to work and save my job by dragging myself 2 days a week to work in the outpatient dispensary at the Alfred in the month before my contract expired late 2014) it was a shock!

I didn’t know what to do with myself physically, let alone mentally. So came a long list of attempted hobbies to try to fill up my time, more or less successfully. 4 years on, some have stuck, some haven’t, but it’s a different problem now: finding time for those hobbies! Time for bird watching, for photography, for blogging, and my re-discovered love of gardening. I’m back at work, currently 4 to 5 days a week! Who would have ever thought?! And it’s cramping my style! How’s that for ironic? For months, years in fact I’m dying to get back to work, really back to working full time or close to it, and 5 minutes later I’m missing my me time!!

It could be worse. If anyone can say that it’s me. I was worse, I’ve been worse; so I really know that it could be worse. I do. But it’s the perspective you have at the time that frames how you see things. And my perspective now is mental wellness and relatively good physical health, so the smaller things weigh more, like doing my hobbies! It’s not a bad place to be, hey? Four years on.

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Job update

Hello? Is anybody out there? Is anyone still listening?

Apologies for the radio silence over the last few months. It wasn’t for lack of ideas and thoughts to share, but more for lack of motivation and follow through. It’s been a long, cold winter for me! How about you?

The run-down of this winter is coming in instalments, because a lot has happened despite the long cold. First off, and the main event, an update on work.

I quit my old job in August, yep the same one that I started in April, and moved on to another job. I’ve never “given up” so soon! But it was a good move, probably the best career move I’ve ever made despite quitting being seen generally as a negative thing. Four months in community pharmacy, and I’m done! It wasn’t the community, it was the pharmacy, more specifically the management of the pharmacy, and more especially the owner/manager/slacker/ingrate/greedy pig/jerk. I’ve done that fight in a job once, and it changed the course of my mental health for life! This time, I knew enough not to stay, and I’m proud of that! It shows that I learnt something that first time around, and that’s a victory. As soon as I realised that the situation wasn’t going to change (another thing I’m proud of recognising this time around) and that my initiative was unappreciated, I started planning my departure.

And karma smiled. Well I don’t believe in karma, or the universe, or fate. But everything fell into place like it would if you did believe in one or the other of those things. I monitored the regular SEEK pharmacist job alerts that I’d signed up to receive before this job, as well as the Society of Hospital Pharmacists job register. I was still searching for my escape route (you know, never leave a job until you’ve got another job), when I got a call from Slade Pharmacy at Epworth Private Hospital in Richmond asking if I would like to interview for a casual position! Ah yes! I would definitely like to interview for a job with flexible hours in a hospital, albeit the dispensary! Especially since you called me; is this a dream come true? So why did they call me? Turns out that when I interviewed for them last year and didn’t get the job, they said “can we keep your resume on file?” and meant it! How about that? I thought it was just a line that everyone says when you don’t get a job as a consolation that maybe in the future there’ll be something there for you. But this time there’s an actual consolation prize in form of a job! Amazing.

So, interview, check. Job offer, check. Give notice that I’m leaving, check. Get obnoxious response from boss, check. Leave job feeling even better about my decision to leave, check. His response when I said I was leaving? “That’s a relief. Return the keys. Retail is not for you”! Sorry. You’re wrong. Retail pharmacy is for me, in fact during uni days I worked in retail pharmacy for 3 years and had a great time. But you’re right, the way you mis-manage it, it’s not for me. Ciao!

Usually when someone is looking for work, changing jobs, planning a career or whatnot, they consult their own needs and maybe that of a partner or family member. It comes down to what you want from a job, where you want to work, what you want to do in your job and that’s it. That’s true for me too, but in my case, there are a few other factors that contribute as well.

Number one: how will this job affect my health? That’s always the first consideration nowadays. Do you ever even think about this when considering a job? I certainly never did before I got sick. Could I work fulltime, could I manage the stress, how would I manage my workload? I never even thought about these as issues, I never thought about it period. I just knew inside myself that I would manage whatever came to me. I never doubted being able to do whatever job I got. I didn’t understand there being any option but doing the job well and going home to rest before going back the next day. Until the last year of my first job led to my physical health falling apart, and my mental health beginning to deteriorate. My second job was endlessly fulfilling but my mental health was already on the way out and too far gone for me to hold my head together, so I had to bow out. Ever since then I’ve been returning to work and thinking about what I can physically and mentally manage in a job.

Number two: what do my doctors think? Their opinion isn’t the end of the matter, but it has a lot of weight and sometimes it does decide the issue. My psychiatrist for instance has an old-school understanding of what hospital pharmacists do, but a very up-to-date understanding of how my previous jobs have affected my mental health. His current stipulation has been no hospitals, which of course I’ve found very challenging to accept! Hospitals are my place, I’m sure of it, but the politics of my first and third hospital jobs have been tough on my health for different reasons. So, I did what he suggested and tried retail pharmacy. I wasn’t very enthusiastic at first, but I tried to see it as a challenge, as a chance to update and broaden my drug knowledge and expand my mind with a different type of practice. But unfortunately, I found a great job in a terrible environment. I tried hard to make it work, but it began to drag me down after a couple of months and my psychiatrist could see that clearly, once referring to my ex-boss as Frankenstein’s brother, and another time as a peasant which amused me greatly! But still, when I broached my new job at Slade Pharmacy with him, I went cautiously and emphasised the words dispensary, retail, community pharmacy, and minimised the word hospital. But as it turns out, that first job as a casual dispensary pharmacist starting in September was easy to sell. Meanwhile my GP is supportive of anything that I want to put my hand to, even recommending I just not work for a while longer if it suited me. But getting back to work has always been a driving force with me, for better or for worse.

A week into my casual dispensary role, I heard someone dropping the words job and emergency department!! Wait!! What?? My favourite ever job so far! On offer right here? Where I already have a job? Ears pricked, senses heightened, on full alert I went into action finding out as much as I could. As soon as possible I interviewed for and was then offered later that week a role in the emergency department, 2 weeks into my casual dispensary position. I was more hesitant in telling my psychiatrist about that. I used words like part time, structured, working with another pharmacist, dedicated time, no involvement with the main hospital. But it went over easily. He saw how the community pharmacy thing went; we tried that. So now this is a new thing that I wanna try, and we’ll watch and wait this time.

The third and last factor is a third party checking in on the progress of my work. I’m receiving income protection payments from an insurer, and they check in on me every month. There’s a lot of filling in of forms by myself and my GP, supplying payslips when I’m working, and periodic check ins with a “rehabilitation consultant” who keeps tabs on my work and my health, and a case manager who keeps tabs generally. They do keep the pressure on to remain in paid work, of course, and they aim to get me back to full time work, something that I’m by no means convinced is possible. When I wasn’t happy in that retail job, I did experience some pressure from them to keep going rather than quit, but I was sure I was doing the right thing, and now in hindsight they agree. It’s just another little something in the mix that complicates my plans for what work I want to do and how I want to do it.

Success

It’s been a big week. I’ve been at opposite ends of the emotional scale and I’m a bit frazzled. A bit frayed, a bit stretched too far, a bit edgy and nervous. But I’m here, I’m overall doing okay so we press on. And let’s bear a thought for the people that have been there with me. Who’ve felt for me, who I’ve felt for; they’ve been all over the place and back again, some much more than me.

I’ve been higher than I’ve been for a long time. And not a high-due-to-mania high but a regular this-is-how-normal-people-react-to-good-things way, which is the awesome part! I had something good happen and I reacted and behaved just like a normal people-person. In a something-good-has-happened-to-me way, and in an I-want-to-jump-up-and-down-about-it way. Not with depression, not with mania, not with anxiety. Well not much anxiety anyway. Gotta have a little; its a big deal

So what happened? I got the job! I GOT THE JOB! I GOT THE JOB!!!!!! I GOT THE PERFECT JOB!!!!!!!!!!

The job that is 4 minutes walk from my house. The job that is part time; two days one week and three days the next. The job that is everything I’ve done before in my career. The job that has lovely people who are already very supportive and willing to give me a go. Cos it is a big deal for them to take me on. I haven’t worked full time since March 3, 2014 and I haven’t worked part time since October 14, 2014. They don’t know how I’ll go getting back to work but they’re prepared to take the chance which is just amazing.

I can’t tell you how much my confidence has increased in the last couple of weeks from rewriting my resume and looking at what I’ve accomplished so far; going to an interview and establishing a rapport with the interviewers, being able to sell my strengths and nailing the clinical question despite so long away from the hospital wards; hearing back that I was the best applicant and that I’ve been offered the job.

I lost so much confidence, trust and faith in myself after I went off work sick. Sitting at home not exercising my brain, not using any of my knowledge and skills, not able to keep up my practice was brutal on my self worth and identity. And has been brutal over a long time, to the point where I sometimes felt that I would never practice as a pharmacist again. I’d never proved that I could retain knowledge and skills over a period of non use.

But now I have, and it’s been an enormous relief to me! I’ve still got it! I can still do it. I’m not useless, I can go out and make a difference and earn a wage and contribute something to the universe. Pheeewwww!!

And then there was the darkness. A dear special friend in very real danger reached out to me. I was honoured they came to me. But the task given to me to save the day was a very difficult one and I experienced such fear and worry and helplessness. Nothing compared to what they felt, but still real to me. It made me return to some of my difficult days and use the pain and suffering I remembered and try to give the antidotes that I’d found. But ultimately the day was saved, by a combined effort of concerned family and friends. The success which gave me a whole other sense of relief and alleviated fear and even achievement.

Which got me thinking about success. Again. I’ve been thinking about it on and off for a while now. What is success? How to we measure success? How do we know when we have achieved success?

In my job interview I was asked a question that caused me to be a bit flummoxed. At the end of your work day, how do you measure success? What needs to happen in the day for you to feel that you have been successful at your job?

In every other job that I’ve had the number of patients seen in the day has mostly been the measure of success. You have this many patients and you need to provide this level of pharmaceutical care to each of them. Not meeting this demand was a stressful event!

But an unexpected thing happened. My new boss has a much different and very refreshing philosophy. Accepting that there is insufficient funding to provide the ideal pharmacy service that we all dream of, management have taken the view that seeing every one of your allocated patients probably isn’t possible.

So instead they want pharmacists to find satisfaction in the good work that they do for each patient that they see. They want pharmacists to do there best work for patients one by one instead of rushing yourself to show on paper that you’ve seen each patient, when in fact you’ve probably skimmed each one. By prioritising patients and doing your best work for each patient that you can see in the day, management hope that there is higher job satisfaction. And I believe that there will be! Which is a success.

That’s success on the high side. Me, back in a job, helping patients and providing a clinical service. Or anyone doing that, really. It’s not all about me. Holding a job, earning a wage, paying a mortgage, being financially independent, completing study and I’m sure you can think of more. Being a friend, achieving personal goals.

Success on the low side is totally different. It’s not about ideals and doing your best work and demands and expectations. It’s about survival. Surviving the night, the day, the hour, the next five minutes. It’s about accepting whatever help is necessary to get by, taking whoever’s hand you are able to grasp to pull you back up, using the little strength and will you have to just hold on. It’s a whole different picture and the contrast to success on the high side is enormous.

So whatever your success is, well done! You worked hard for it and you deserve to be acknowledged for all that work and for the courage that it took to start and finish that work. Whether it was getting a promotion or putting down the poison or making great strides in your fitness or deciding to keep on going. You have done a great job and I’m proud of you!

To my dear who kept living, my darl who keeps facing it alone, and each one of you who has had success in any part of your life: you are amazing and an inspiration to me every day!

UTTER ELATION!

YIPPEE! WOO HOO! YAY! HUZZAH! *JUMPING UP AND DOWN* *SCREAMING, SHOUTING, TWISTING, PUNCHING THE AIR*

And if you think that excessive, there’s more to come!

Am I manic? Have I gone properly insane instead of just hanging in the balance? Am I high on petrol fumes? Or sugar?

No.

This just happened: I applied for a job!!!!!!!

This is so epic it’s just hard to describe!

A job. Me. Now. Application. Resume. Cover letter. Apply online. Talk to actual working people from that workplace. Interview. Qualifications. Selection criteria.

A job. Me. Do you know when I last worked full time? March 3rd 2014. More than a year ago. I can’t forget that date because it was also the date I caught a cab to the emergency department and all that has followed on from then. Do you know when I last worked, part time? October 13th 2014, the end of a six week stint.

Either way it’s been a long, long time.

There have absolutely been points along the way when I did not think I would ever return to work. I thought I might remain at home in some kind of invalid-ish way waiting for life to pass by.

Then I thought I’d change career paths altogether. My official back up plan has always been hairdresser. When my previous job sucked so hard, I told everyone that would listen that I was going to be a hairdresser. While I was off work I dreamed up a few other options: teacher of something, photographer, professional Ebayer, consultant of something or other. None of them really ever seriously looked like getting off the ground. Oh, and professional blogger…well, you be the judge of that as an idea!

Then the plan was the change over from hospital pharmacy to community pharmacy. It doesn’t seem like a big deal, and in terms of the scripts you would dispense maybe its not. But I last sold cold and flu tablets in 2010! I vaguely remember the details but I’d need some serious refreshing before that got off the ground.

Then I thought I’d do my usual job but in a diminished way, part time. Except there were no jobs. Literally no jobs for part time work; nearly all hospital jobs are full time. Then there was one, in Dandenong. Now I didn’t mind travelling to Prahran from Box Hill because the public transport connections were good, but Dandenong would just be a painful, disconnected way to go every day. Then there was two, in Footscray! Same problem. So I let that slide.

Then this. Box Hill, the suburb where I live, fed me the perfect-est job for me right now! 3 days a week, 7 minute walk from my bed, Grade 2 which I am, backfill to various positions rather than a permanent ward position which will help me in getting my knowledge and skills up to date!! Perfect!

I don’t know if I’ll get it, of course. But I’m in the process. That’s pretty, really, quite a very lot exciting! I dug out my resume, found the last cover letter I wrote, got the position description and sat up in bed to survey the state of it all.

Updated my resume, still not sure what to do about that there big gap from October 2014 but oh well, fiddled around to re-phrase the cover letter, matched up the criteria as much as possible, confirmed the requirements, put it all into the required format and online job application engine, and clicked GO!

So here we are. My resume, cover letter and application are out there in the universe, wending there way to the friendly, very helpful deputy which I hope means they will be well received.

And I’m so stoked! We got here! Finally, finally, we got here! To where I’m interested, motivated, enthusiastic about the idea of employment. To where I’m jumping up and down inside about this revelation, this achievement, this goalpost reached! How long has it taken, but we got here!

We got here! Elation abounds, excitement rules, I”m so happy to have gotten here. The outcome almost doesn’t matter right now, I’m just stoked to be part of the process! And that makes me very happy!

*Written on 27th April, 2015