After months of planning, preparation and emotional turmoil, I made the decision to return to the workplace that I left over a year ago on stress leave. Last Monday, I worked my first shift as a program support assistant (AKA Secretary) with the same mental health vocational program where I had worked as a counselor for 7 years.
My second shift was on Wednesday and included a 3 hour staff meeting. By the end of that shift, I was ready to give up on life. That was the fastest crash and burn that I’ve ever experienced.
Today, I returned to the workplace with a note from my doctor who recommended that I go back on stress leave. This has not been an easy day for me. This entire situation has felt very embarrassing.
First of all I have worked as an employment counselor for a lot of years, specializing in helping people with stress related problems return to work. I should have the ability to develop a suitable back to work plan – or so I thought.
And I am intuitive and have been following my inner guidance which steered me in the direction of returning to work with my former employer. My guidance was very clear, I was to return.
So what the #@*& went wrong? And so fast that I am still reeling from the shock of it all. My first thought was that I had made a very bad mistake.
I am so grateful to have an amazing doctor who is a very wise soul, a kind of Jedi master in disguise. We had a chat last Friday after my meltdown and he very gently reminded me of a common saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Yes, that is what I was trying to do.
And he reminded me of the experiences of many Vietnam war veterans who were so traumatized by their work as soldiers that anything that even reminded them of the war would trigger the same feelings of fear and despair that they experienced on the job. And, he quoted the very high suicide rate among these soldiers who never did get over the impact that the trauma created. For me, going back to the same workplace was like going back into the war zone where I was exposed to situations that led to the burnout in the first place.
And he reminded me of all of the amazing accomplishments that I have had over the past 20 years in spite of dealing with chronic depression. Part of this was recalling for me the dreams that I have always shared about the type of work I really want to do that did not fit in with a workplace that put so many limits on what I was allowed to do.
From his perspective, not being able to tolerate my old workplace was a pretty healthy response to an unhealthy situation. And, being away from there would free me up to move into work where I could really shine. What a wise man.
But, I did not take my emotional melt down very well. I had my own agenda and plan that was not working out. This led me to do a lot of soul searching over the past few days, trying to understand what was going on.
I checked in with the Lady of the Sun today and this is what she had to say:
“I am so happy today that you are making progress towards being the real you. It may look like a failure to have left the workplace, but it is really a great move forward. You have learned once and for all who you are not. You do not at all resonate with that workplace which is why you found it so intolerable to be there.
The meltdown as you call it was a wake up call. If it had not been so dramatic, you would not have paid any attention to this occurrence and would have just kept going like the walking wounded in so many workplaces at this time.
We honor your ability to so quickly get the message that this is not where you are meant to be. If we just told you this, you would not have accepted this guidance. We know how you operate. Drama gets your attention when something subtle does not.
You are back on track in a great way and you have freed your mind up to begin our work together. The door needed to be closed before another could be opened. Everything you have done as of late has been perfect. No mistake, just exactly the way it was meant to be. And, remember, you set this up as a wake up call should you forget who you really are and what you are here to do.”
My identity as drama queen has been exposed, and the message was so right on. I do often need to be hit over the head with a brick sometimes before I’ll pay attention. I have heard the wake up call and am ready to move onward to the next great adventure… whatever that will be.