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Coping when unable to work (Part 2). Thursday January 9, 2014

Acceptance and adjustment to life, when poor health renders us unable to work, is no easy feat. Here are four practical "dos" and one "don't" that may be of benefit. (If reading this during a bad depression, please disregard. Take the principles by all means, but these are not rules or intended to provoke pressure, they are merely suggestions for those who feel up to the task of implementing them.)

DO reduce stress. Stress exacerbates the physical symptoms of any illness, while stress reduction can make symptoms bearable. It's true, we can't erase stress in this life but we can be aware of our reaction to stressful situations. We may have to remind ourselves continually to be calm; our life, our health is at stake.

DO get dressed. No matter how tempting it maybe to remain in your dressing gown and pyjamas, get showered and dressed. For me, getting dressed miraculously changes my whole mindset. Once dressed, I feel more in control and can go about my daily tasks in a more organised and constructive manner. (It also means the added bonus of not needing to fling myself behind the sofa if the postman or a visitor should knock.)

DO establish a daily routine. Obviously, it's a given that flexibility and adjustment will always be necessary according to what kind of day you are enduring. The very fact you are unable to work proves that pressure or rigidity will not enhance how you feel. However, attempting to get up at the same time, to go to bed at the same time, to eat healthily and not skip meals or, continuing to keep a diary for appointments and arrangements - things like these will go a fair old way in preserving our self-esteem.

DO set reasonable and attainable goals. Setting goals keeps us looking forward instead of gazing at what we were once able to do. Even if the goal is seemingly small - write it down. It maybe to "simply" get dressed this week. Reaching a goal gives us a feeling of accomplishment and motivates us to look forward. This builds our often floundering confidence.

DON'T compare yourself (or your goals) to anyone else, even someone with the same illness. Your emotional, physical and mental makeup differs from every other individual. We couldn't expect our little toe to stand in for our nose, or visa versa, for the day and yet both body parts are important. To compare ourselves is futile and often disheartening. Resist the urge to compare yourself.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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Diana Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 8:16am

I've sent it on to Facebook...

Caroline Ashcroft Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 8:17am

Thanks Diana.

Mary Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 8:46am

I've just read yesterday's post and today's in one sitting. I salute you Suzy, for your honesty and determination to look forward and not back and for the very solid advice (memo to self: change out of scruffy sweatpants and into nice clothes and makeup just as soon as you've hit publish on this). The toughest part (with the exception of the financials, obviously) is dealing with the guilt. So many of us are intelligent, educated, qualified academically - but yet not fit enough to work. So we feel that all that intelligence and education is being wasted. I don't have an answer to this, just the knowledge that feeling guilty doesn't help anything and actually gets in the way of us accomplishing what we can, even if that's not all we think we should be able to accomplish.

Julia Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 8:49am

I think the main problem with those of us who have had to give up work because of a mental health issue is convincing those around us that somehow we cannot work. If we had cancer or a visible physical illness, others would understand, sympathise and would accept the doctor's advice. After all, most people respect doctors decisions about physical illness and its prognosis but most people think they know what's best for someone with a mental health problem. This makes it so much more difficult to cope when you have stopped working. Even being on sick leave, well meaning friends and family will offer advice as to how to "get better", such as "perhaps go back to work, you will feel much better!", or " get out more, meet up with friends!", "come on smile, laugh, you will feel much better and soon be back to normal!" None of this advice would be given to us if we were physically ill with a well known illness. So when I was off sick, as well as wanting to get rid of the anxiety, depression etc and knowing what was good for me, I had to fend off peoples' advice which was strictly opposite to what I knew was going to be good for me. It was no good saying that the Dr had given me a sick note (that could be ignored!). My children also wanted a mum who worked! (So much for the dreadful guilt I felt when leaving them in a nursery when I first started and their tearful pleading for me to stay at home!). Anyway Suzy, I am sorry you are going through this. I did too but had to be strong and eventually I had to cut myself off from those doubters and my work colleagues. Your two blogs have been great and I know will help so many people.

Deragonflyz Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 8:50am

Ahhh yes, I got dressed today. Sat for a good hour. Then did what I needed to do. For a little while anyway. I set up a facebook group a couple of years ago called My Daily Goal. Mainly for myself to keep accountable. But I've managed to develop a really strong core group of supportive people who all share our goals and encourage each other to move forward. We don't compare. We are all there for completely different reasons. Some are there for business, some just to get jobs done around the house. But each time someone makes a post, it's a little reminder. I agree...make those goals!

randomangel Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 10:06am

What a strong and wise post. This can only come from a positive place. I think that when we intellectualise problems they just create a great tangle of chaos, guilt and depression. However, as Suzy rightly says we can control parts of our lives and when we start to do this we feel better (and it doesn't matter why!!!)
Thank you Suzy for this comfort :>)

denisthemenace Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 10:19am

A really helpful post. And I agree with the comments, especially the ones about feeling guilty. I have been away from work now for nearly a year, and through most of that time I have felt guilty for not being there. Especially if I was having a good day! I used not to go into town or go out for walks when I was feeling able, just in case I bumped into anyone I knew who might think "she looks ok, what's she doing off work". And I recently had the roof replaced on my house, and felt it necessary to come up with elaborate excuses to tell the builders in case they wondered why I was at home! It seems so silly as I read this back, but the feelings were strong. It's only now that I am feeling a lot better that I look back and realise how ill I have been, and what a shame it is that I couldn't allow myself to feel this guilt-free. A prescription for self-compassion needed I think.

Suzy Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 11:40am

Ah hey folks, it may trite but I have tears in my eyes reading your comments. It's so, so true what's been said about the guilt. It really makes me realise just how much I live my life according to what I feel other people's perception of "success" is. Thank you all for helping me get to grips with this!
Truly, oodles of thanks,
Suzy x x x

Anonymous Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 11:46am


Excellent post.

GetAGrip Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 12:56pm

The posts are so helpful and SO true - when I read them it just makes certain things fall into place in what is happening with me and how I feel. I am not off work due to any illness, but all the posts have helped me get my anxiety and stress problems into perspective, and make positive changes to help get me through the sticky times. Thank you!

annie Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 1:06pm

I need to embrace these emails! I am off work today, typing this in my pyjamas and wrapped in a snuggie watching tv. Feel I should get up but just lacking energy today! Am worried this will become more permanent as struggling at work with ongoing health problems. Maybe just set a goal of getting up and making more tea!

Tere Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 1:39pm

Every single day, my guilt card is the highest possible. Not just because of my ill health; there are other reasons. I know this is why I didn't do so well last semester. As I stated yesterday, there is a professor that is everything I was. Watching her made me spiral downwards. Even with therapy (I've been going since my injury) I simply could not drag myself out of the downward spiral. I know, intellectually, that this is what I need to do. I also know, emotionally, easier said than done. Additionally, I have a husband who simply is beyond reasoning with. I have severe memory problems. He said today: you used to repeat yourself all the time. Now you can't remember what you were saying. So, he finishes ALL my sentences for me. Even when I remember what I'm saying, he finishes them and usually incorrectly. He is not happy with me going to school, especially with the trouble I had with that one professor (and I even tried to talk to her about it and she was absolutely NO HELP with helping me overcome the issue).

Anonymous Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 2:18pm

Its the shame of not working that kills me. I have young children - what kind of an example am I setting? I want to work and do something. I used to fill the day with drugs, but not anymore. I reallly cant find any meaning to anything these days. At least when off meds I could get manic and see a future. without that I am nothing.

Julia Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 3:22pm

Why can't you see a future now you are on meds? Does it dull your senses? But maybe the children are happier if you don't have manic phases any more?
I think your young children are far happier to see a mother who is off drugs and not working than manic and doing illegal drugs all day. I know you must feel life is boring in comparison but I doubt you were really happier then? I think you should take time to get used to being on drugs and without the mania. You have your life ahead of you and just as, perhaps even more, important your young childrens' lives to consider long term. I think objectively you are in a much better place right now.

Anonymous Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 7:05pm

Thank you, this was really helpful. I am recovering from an injury and the recuperation period seems to be going on for a long time (though the doctor says I'm getting on better than expected.) It is hard to get up and dressed when there is so little I can actually do, but I will make the effort today, and perhaps feel more human!

David Jarvis Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 10:40pm

Excellent couple of blogs delivered in a helpful, friendly and non-pushy way. Thanks Suzy.

Caroline Ashcroft Thu, Jan 9th 2014 @ 11:07pm

So pleased we've been able to help you.

Lostinspace Fri, Jan 10th 2014 @ 12:21am

Guilt is not my problem. On Moodscope as a matter of (personal) principle I have decided that I don't "do" guilt and shame - probably because I have done too much analysis. Comparision is my problem - I make a list and as soon as I have done something start feeling bad because I seem so slow at everything "compared" to other people. What people? Well when I start to think about others who get loads done quickly I usually don't actually want to "be" them so why am I worried about what they do? So, Suzy I really appreciate your last paragraph even though I do not consider myself to be unwell. Recently I thought if I ever had to have a nickname I would be quite happy to be called Tortoise, everybody knows I get there in the end, just don't hold your breath waiting for me to arrive!

Anonymous Sat, Jan 11th 2014 @ 10:15am

I have been very impressed with the blogs published the last three days.I have been trying to accept self .Difficult due to mixed state of Anxiety/depression plus unreality.I have tried voluntary and paid word without success.I feel bad about not working but try to keep going. Rob

michelle Sun, Jan 19th 2014 @ 11:13am

I do agree with what Suzy says "GET DRESSED" If I'm not dressed before I do my daily cleaning I feel like I'm on another planet alienated from life. Like a zombie and a lazy piece of nothing. But when I get dressed first "BOOM" my whole personality changes, up for anything. It's amazing what a little change in your routine can do to you. Whatever makes you feel good do it. Also I agree with what Suzy says about comparing yourselves with others. Yes we are all different intellectually, emotionally and physically so on that note there's definitely no point in comparing or keeping up with the next person because it probably won't work. So what if you can't spell very well or you can't drive or you can't do your times tables without using your fingers. It doesn't matter, it's your heart that makes the person . Each individual is unique and is special no matter how little you contribute to life, always remember that

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