Sunday, September 26, 2010

Resignation...and letting go

One of my readers recently sent me a lovely e-mail sharing her story about her experience with thyroid disease. She asked me about how I managed my work situation back in May (being too unwell to work & consequently resignation). Blog posts from around this time in April and May can be found at Inner Beam; however at the time I didn’t write specifically about how I managed the experience of resigning from my job. I may not have even used the word resignation in the entire blog. Perhaps because it was quite a traumatic experience and at the time I was just trying to cope with what was happening and how unwell I felt. At the time I resigned I felt like the job was taken from me; not by the organisation, but by a higher power or something. I felt as if I’d had the rug pulled out from under my feet with my health and life up in the air. I had been crashing slowly over many months; but when I finally could not go on anymore; when I could barely get out of bed, that was when I stopped going to work.
Here's some background of what was going on in the months leading up to my resignation: I had been in the job, a management role, for only three months. However I had been with the organisation for just over two years. In January I moved house and began a new job in a new location within the space of 4 days.
In hindsight that is NEVER a good idea. Both are stressful experiences, even if they might be enjoyable or positive, change places stress on our system for some time as we adapt. My new drive to work was an hour in heavy traffic; disgusting. I absolutely hated the drive and couldn’t believe what I’d done, yet I didn’t regret moving house or the new job, I just wished the two were closer together.
So there I was, in a new role, with a big job ahead of me, it was a development role with a not for profit organisation and there weren’t great resources. I was also the only one doing my particular role, I was to employ others to help in time. Every night when I got home I thought about work, I had trouble getting to sleep because I was thinking about work. Even when I spent time with friends or my partner I would either be talking about work or thinking about it. I felt overwhelmed by what was expected of me, the faith that others put in me scared me even more- funny that, but it did. I had never really done much of what was required of me in the role; I had experience as a social worker with people or communities presenting their issues to you and then working with them to try to resolve them; but I did not know where to start when there were no ‘clients’ in front of me.
I began to dread each day, I also felt some dread at the thought of the national and international travel that would be integral to my role. Every day I got to work feeling weak and tired, sometimes anxious. I recall telling my boss that I found I wasn’t feeling truly awake until after 10am, I didn’t feel like my usual friendly self. I recalled that in my previous job I had only 10 minutes to travel to work and I would usually arrive ready for the day and feeling friendly. In hindsight I had some very real clues that something wasn’t right. I decided that it was all in my head and that I had to keep on pushing. I think that the more I denied the reality that this job just wasn’t working for me and that my body was really struggling the more anxious I got.
Just over two months had passed and I returned home from a work trip to Sydney feeling awful, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I felt weak, fatigued, had lost my appetite and was experiencing high anxiety as well as dizziness. I tried to just lay low for the weekend. Come Monday I called in sick. I think it was during this week that I saw a GP. Many tests were run and no answers were found. Yes, my TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) was checked. No clues there. I have since found out that thyroid imbalance symptoms often exist well before it will be indicated in the blood. Two weeks later I still felt awfully weak and unwell, so I headed off to the country to stay with my sister for the weekend and to see a holistic health practitioner who uses a bio-feedback machine. I struggled to sit on the chair during my appointment because I was feeling so weak and depleted.
In the two weeks I'd been really unwell I actually managed to work from home in the second week; so I technically only had one week off sick. During that second week that I pushed through and worked I rested a lot on the couch. I really struggled to get through, and could definitely not have made it in to the office. I guess it was my determination that got me through, because as I look back now I think I was crazy to be trying to work and I can recall just how awful I felt.

On the Sunday afternoon that I was due to return to Melbourne (in order to be back in the office the next day) I felt awful and tired and could not cope with the thought of the trip back, let alone the reality that I would have to go into the office the next morning. The thought of my workmates expecting me to return in good health was horrifying, my state of health was so poor, I felt so weak and fatigued. I knew that as desperate as i was for things to be ok, returning to work was not going to happen. I was far from well, I was barely able to go into the supermarket with my sister because I felt so awful and out of it. The thought of returning to work had me in tears; it was around this time that I think I became consciously aware that my job stress was impacting significantly on my health. I also realised that it was unlikely that I would get well if I was only doing it to get back to my job. I could feel my entire being screaming to leave the job, to be free of it, it had been for some time, but I just couldn’t hear because I did not want to know.

On the Monday morning I called my boss and told him where I was and that I was still sick, I explained that I thought I needed a month off to get well and I still wasn’t sure what was going on with me; the only thing I could liken the feeling to was Glandular Fever (I had GF when I was 18). I stayed with my sister for four days until I missed my boyfriend so much that I just had to get back. Before I departed my sister's I warned him that I needed my dinner cooked for me and just needed a lot of rest. He accepted that and I made the 5 hour train trip to get back to him. He greeted me with gluten free spaghetti bolognese, as requested by moi, it was so good to be back to him.

 I stayed in regular contact with my boss, who I had and still have a great relationship with. He requested to meet with me only a week and a half into my ‘month off’ for my 3 month review. I knew that he wanted some answers and I made the really tough decision to resign from the position, because I knew that I could not promise him I would be returning full of energy at the end of the month. He needed this guarantee to grant me the continued leave. Resigning at that point was the best thing I could have done. It was a huge huge weight off my shoulders. That afternoon I felt revived and more energetic than I had in weeks. I met my friend at the local and we shared a bowl of wedges; life felt good.

That energy and sense of relief was to be short lived. The next day I went to stay with my parents and in those first few days with them the reality of what had happened hit me like a tonne of bricks . I think that in the first couple of days after I resigned I was in shock, because now I barely recall what happened. Soon enough the tears came and I started to feel the significance of what had occurred in the recent past. The pain was massive, it was something like heart break. I felt as if the job had been taken from me because of my health failing; I felt I'd had no real say in things, I felt like a victim of circumstance. I no longer see what happened in the same light, I am now grateful that I didn’t live that miserable stressed life, which was a lie, for another minute.
The next few weeks were tough, I came to many confronting realisations and worked to find acceptance of what had happened. I felt incredibly vulnerable and out of control. My health was still very poor, anxiety was high and energy was low. However it wasn't long before I was confident that the resignation was the right choice for me and gratitude crept in for the freedom and relief that leaving my job brought.
I’ve barely spoken about these few weeks of my life, I don’t think I've fully recounted the story to anyone; those who do know it were there for every step. To be very honest, the experience was heart breaking, to lose your health and job concurrently is really tough, but to walk away from an organisation you are passionate about and thought you’d be with for a very long time, that can break your heart.

I believe in the old adage that a problem shared is a problem halved; and that feeling like you're not alone is important for all of us; particularly during hard times. Therefore it is my intention that in visiting this blog you may feel a part of a community and that you are not alone. I hope that those of you who have experienced something similar, or are facing the challenge of walking away from something that is not conducive to your well-being, will draw strength from my story.
Here are my thoughts from earlier in the year, the many questions I asked of myself as I lay sick in bed which were the weeks prior to my decision to resign.

Wishing you the greatest strength to make choices that serve you, that support your health and vitality and bring greater peace and harmony to your life.

If you have a question for me or would like to share your own experience, please leave a comment or send an e-mail to

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