The Other Side of the World & Back
Written by: Carole Randell Chrysalis Effect Specialist in Training
I am a little bit nervous about reaching out to you but here goes.
My coaching buddy sessions have had a profound effect on me and given me some much needed confidence in reaching out to people. It has been my experience to date that every time I have reached out the lack of response or negative response has chipped away at my self esteem and devastated my confidence. Chipping away until I became frozen emotionally and physically.
You may or may not be aware that my career has been in the NHS. Particularly in Primary Care as a Practice/business manager for some 28 years in the UK and more recently in New Zealand as a General manager for a corporate company ,but still managing GP practices so I understand two very different models of healthcare. Although vey similar in lots of ways, the ethos being that the patient is at the heart of healthcare and the home of healthcare is the GP practice.
I have also been on the receiving end of less than optimal care from the NHS, both the system – how it is set up for care, from my work environment, from individual practitioners who were treating me – GP’s through to specialist consultants.
My recovery has been long and arduous and my first crash was in 2007. Previously to this I had somehow managed to continue working full time in spite of chronic headaches, gastro problems, I just self medicated to get me through the day, relying on prescribed medication for sleep issues, Depression, headaches and suspected IBS, through to over the counter medications such as stress relievers, vitamins, chocolate and coffee. Before collapsing in a heap at home falling into a stupor chronically exhausted , literally dragging myself around looking after my family and my home
I was diagnosed with many health issues, thyroid, had a full hysterectomy at 30 as I had pre cancerous cells, removal of my gall bladder, biopsy taken for pre cancerous breast cells, polyps removed from my colon and emotionally supported through counselling.
Believe it or not I considered this normal!
My first experience of a less than supportive employer was in 2005 –I was working as a General Manager in a large GP practice in Woking – the job was highly pressurised, the hours long and the journey from home to work adding another 3 hours per day. Work started at 7:00 in the morning and finished at 7:00 at night. I literally worked from the moment I walked in through the door to the moment we closed the doors at night, no breaks, no lunch and relied on chocolate, caffeine to get me through.
I asked to reduce my hours but they declined preferring to find another manager to replace me – apparently my influence and management style was not what they were looking for. I left and for some reason decided that I wanted to move to New Zealand for a new start; crazy but true! I had become interested in alternatives ways to support staff that included relaxation/hypnotherapy/stress management . I trained to become a Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner whilst holding down my full time post in the GP practice and was hopeful that I could do this as a new career.
Both my husband and I moved to New Zealand in 2007 – I had no job and neither did he but he very soon managed to get a role as an Electrician and I as a manager for a Chiropractor which linked nicely into the non medical model of patient health.
I liked the holistic approach.
However, I started to feel exhausted and often didn’t have the energy to go food shopping even after only working for a ½ day. Emotionally I got lower and lower as did my physical ability to sustain any sort of commitment to work, or friends.
I had blood tests and at first they thought I may have Lupus. Further investigations continued and eventually I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t afford the healthcare costs in New Zealand. My employer was not happy and said some very cruel cutting things – he couldn’t see the person that I was and assumed that I was just another English person who was unreliable so he let me go.
I made a decision to move back to the UK and arrived home in 2010.
I went back to the only role I knew as Practice Manager for another GP practice and although a struggle I managed to work 3 x days per week and look after my much loved granddaughter who had been born in the June before we came back in the August.
I was still having health issues so went to my GP and he wanted to prescribe anti depressants although I told him I didn’t feel depressed. I knew what depression felt like and this was different. He took blood tests for my thyroid to ensure I was taking the right dosage and as a last minute decided to take some markers for rheumatology as I had told him about the LUPUS diagnosis and provided the test results I had for this from New Zealand.
The test came back with high markers and he referred me to a top consultant in Rheumatology. I was also referred to a sleep study clinic, given amitriptyline and ibuprofen for pain.
It took 24 weeks to get the appointment for the Rheumatologist consultant. I arrived at the hospital to a very busy clinic and told that as I had been ‘fitted in’ I would have to be prepared to wait as the consultant was an extremely busy man. 4.5 hours later I was ushered into a small side room and told to get undressed down to my underwear. There was no curtain around the bed, the room was freezing and no modesty blanket available or paper on the bed. The room was dirty and the lights didn’t work. I waited for approx. 48 minutes when a nurse came into the room to tell me the consultant had gone home and that I would need to come back to another appointment. She couldn’t give me an appointment time as these were sent out by the administrators. I refused to move – it has taken a massive effort to get there and I burst into tears. Only to be told, that this really wouldn’t do that tears were not an answer to getting my own way – the nurse would go and see what could be done. I asked for a blanket and non was forthcoming so I put my clothes back on.
By a miracle the consultant appeared – his approach was to tell me that he had had a very busy day looking after patients who had severe issues and were in considerably more need of care than me. He saw from my notes that I was a 45 year old women, who had four grown up children and asked me if I was in menopause. I explained that I had a hysterectomy at 30 and been on HRT for 10 years so didn’t think menopause was the issue. He said I had all the classic symptoms fair, fat and over 40 for menopause which might account for my symptoms. He asked me to hop up on the bed , pressed several points in my body and then asked the nurse to give me a leaflet on Fibromyalgia. He walked out the door and left me with the nurse.
I returned home completely devastated. I had a GP saying I was depressed, a Consultant thinking I was attention seeking and I felt terrible. I wrote to the consultant and expressed my concerns. He did write back and apologise and offered me the opportunity to ring him or come back for another appointment should I deem it necessary – needless to say I didn’t.
Somehow, my diagnosis reached the ears of my employer and I was summarily dismissed – they said that having Fibromyalgia would impact on my ability to work at optimum and although we went through an HR process including lawyers we came to an agreement as by then our relation ship had broken down to such a degree that we wouldn’t be able to come back from it.
I am lucky to have the most amazing friends and the lovely ‘Jo’ offered me some casual work in her HR department. Jo has known me forever so she knew that I was struggling to find a solution to my health issues and felt that the role would suit me as it was part time and would work with what I was able to do.
The role lasted a little over 2 weeks. I sat at work one day with tears streaming down my face, in front of the computer surrounded by piles of paperwork – I was drowning. A lovely lady in the department came over to see me and asked if there was anything she could do to help and started to help me with the filing. I had forgotten how to file – she had to direct me. Go and find a clear see through plastic folder with the holes down the side, put this piece of paper into it and then go and find the paper folder under the name to file it. I couldn’t even do that so they sent me home.
How I got home on that day I can’t remember, I arrived in the street outside my home, sat in my car with the tears running down my face – I didn’t know how to put the car in reverse to park it, move forward or even raise my arms. There was complete chaos going on outside the car of which I was unaware. Someone, I don’t know who to this day, got me inside, into bed and parked my car up and got hold of my husband on the phone. I spent the next several months in bed .
I was completely physically depleted and emotionally spent, I had no idea how much my work defined who I was and what my place was in the world as everything had been stripped away.
Not working had a huge impact on my finances and my relationship with my husband.
I remember it being a long dark time and once I started to feel a little better I started to google the symptoms and diagnosis. My doctor referred me to a programme at Epsom and St Helier hospital that focused on recovery from M.E – Remembering that I couldn’t drive, spent much of my day still either in bed or on the sofa it seemed like a mountain to climb. The criteria was that if you missed an appointment you were off the programme – considering the severity of people’s symptoms and the ability to be at a certain place at a certain time with lots of travel involved for me was counter productive – Needless to say I didn’t last the course and was discharged.
That is when I came across the Chrysalis effect and began my start to recovery.
The other part of the story that I feel is important to tell is my experience with my claim for work and disability allowance. I had been doing some retraining to become a Psychotherapist/counsellor and felt that I should try to get some part time work – to be honest I was also getting pressure from my husband and as I had always been the main bread winner not only had my health been a big shock to him but the financial issues that it created were even greater.
I went to my first interview fully intending to sign on as a job seeker. I was fortunate to be interviewed by a lovely lady who took one look at me, heard some of my story and was shocked that I was even considering doing such a thing. She suggested that I apply for disability living allowance. As lovely as this idea was the reality is that the system for this is having to attend medicals at certain times usually miles away and having to attend a fortnightly interview puts you under too much pressure and this actually caused me to relapse.
At this time my Dad stepped in. took me to the medicals – had a strong but kindly word with the attending medical physician and also accompanied me to the fortnightly return to work interviews. At no point was I able to claim any money but what it did do was pay for my national insurance contribution. My Dad also took me to the citizen’s advice bureau who were extremely supportive in helping me out to complete forms, put a case together to get the diagnosis of ME and Fibromyalgia recognised. My case went to tribunal – again a huge emotional and physical challenge.
Several months and several appearances at the court the diagnosis was found in my favour.
By now we were in 2013 – a couple of months into 2013 my father was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, my wonderful Dad, who believed in me, and supported me through recovery passed away in the October of that year. Within a few short weeks my mother in law passed away too. As devastating as this was it brought me and my estranged brother really close and we put together a round the world trip using the money that Dad had left to us. I suggested to him that perhaps as it would be over several months it would be good if I could get some work in New Zealand as we moved around to help out financially.
Surprise, surprise I ended up being offered a 3 year contract for doctor’s surgeries here in New Zealand. I guess the reason I accepted this position was because that it was something I knew, it gave me the opportunity to prove to myself that I could return to full time work, and it would also give me and my husband a much needed opportunity to rekindle our relationship and start to get some much needed financial stability.
Needless to say a few months into it I realised this was not the right thing for me to do. It started off with two frozen shoulders – I couldn’t move and was once again reliant on someone helping me to dress, wash and cook/clean for me. Because I had no choice but to work as I was the only one that had a job I continued, doped up on medication, full of steroid injections. The role was not what I came to do – the 2 practices that I had come to manage had been purchased by a corporate and they were expecting me to manage a 3rd surgery. I continued to work for them but started to rethink my purpose – why am I doing this? what are my options?
I stumbled across Elaine again as I went back to basics of looking at physical and emotional health and saw that there was also an opportunity to do the foundation course for Wellbeing Coaching. I had no formal coaching qualifications although I had coached people for many years and also as a qualified Psychotherapist/counsellor and Hypnotherapist. I had many tools in my tool box that I have accessed over the years but knew that somehow I still wasn’t on my life path and didn’t understand my life purpose.
So, I put it off again and decided to get a formal coaching qualification first through ICF and achieved that late last year ( 2016). I also continued to have health issues having more polyps removed of which two were discovered to be pre cancerous. You will be pleased to know that this time I have listened – the message is in the relapse. My current role is just the shadow self of who I am – I want to be in healthcare but involved in a different way.
So, I guess what I am saying is that if my story can help in anyway anyone who is going through the stressors and challenges within the NHS or with the Work and Disability then don’t feel you are alone, there was point that I contemplated ending it all after my Dad has passed away. I didn’t listen to what my gut was telling me and I realise that the message was in my relapse. I am now well on my way to becoming a wellness practitioner and more importantly the best is yet to come when I start my CEPT training. I will be an extremely proud member of The Chrysalis Effect team.
All the challenges that I have faced and overcome have got me to this point in my life. I have made another life changing decision only recently after going through my Wellbeing and buddy coach training.
I will complete my Wellbeing coach training , by mid June of this year before going onto the CEPT training, to be able to support other people in there recovery, and hopefully use my recovery story to let others know that anything is possible.
I have also made the decision to return to the UK in September to live and set up my own business. My husband has decided that he wishes to remain in New Zealand; although unusual we feel that we can make this work. I know I will need to find a role that supports my true self and that this won’t be easy. As I said I am lucky to have a wonderful friend who is going to put me up until I can get back on my feet. I now feel it deep in myself that I am heading in the right direction.
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