In our last blog, we shared the story of Henry, who experienced a decline in his mental health functioning after being diagnosed with a chronic health condition. His doctor was puzzled why Henry wasn’t responding better to treatment, and suggested that mental health might be at play. You can catch up on Henry’s story here. Otherwise, read on to learn what happened after Henry agreed to see a psychologist.
“Turns out it wasn’t so bad.”
My first appointment with the clinical psychologist, I was nervous. I barely slept the night before. The day of the appointment, I remember sitting in the waiting room — picking up a magazine, not being able to concentrate, putting it down. Then, two minutes later, picking it up again. If it weren’t for Megan, I probably would have left. But I promised her I would go.
Turns out, it wasn’t so bad. Dr M just wanted to learn about me, my health (terrible, but improving?), my relationship (tanking), my sleep patterns (erratic), my exercise routine (sporadic), that kind of thing.
He asked questions to determine whether I experienced low mood, a loss of interest/motivation, feelings of guilt, indecisiveness. Yes, to all of the above. I suspected where it was heading, and I was right. Dr M diagnosed me with a Major Depressive Episode, and resulting occupational and interpersonal problems.
“Great,” I said dryly. “So what do we do about it?”
“A return to work began to look possible.”
It turned out that a large part of the solution wasn’t changing things in the outside world, but changing my thoughts and feelings about them. Like not dwelling on the fact that I had ‘lost’ four years of my life but feeling good about the fact that I was beginning to respond to treatment and improve. Like understanding that my problems with Megan weren’t my weakness or failure, and that the fault didn’t lie entirely with me. Dr M and I worked on balancing my thoughts, shifting perspective and reframing how I thought about things.
After a few sessions, it became clear that I was getting stronger, both physically and emotionally. A return to work began to look possible. The idea of getting back to who I was before – to someone with purpose and passion, who never watched daytime television – was exciting. And terrifying.
Would I still perform as well as I used to? What would my colleagues say? What have they been thinking and saying about me all these years? Was I strong enough?
There was only way to find out – by trying, slowly. I started with one day a week, then two, and as of a couple months ago I’m back at work full-time. It isn’t like before, but it isn’t better or worse. It’s just different, because I’m different. And thanks to my work with Dr M I have new techniques for approaching things differently.
I haven’t continued to see Dr M since returning to work, but I have begun using Starling. It’s proven to be a good way to practice the techniques that I learned in therapy. It also allows me to do assessments to keep on top of how I’m functioning.
And things with Megan? Getting better, slowly but surely.
Please note: the case study of Henry was created to illustrate a wide range of issues that are faced by educators. Henry’s name and all of his personal details have been changed to protect his confidentiality/privacy.