Returning to work after a BPD crisis by Sharon

Posted: July 13, 2011 in Mental Health

Returning to work after a BPD crisis by Sharon
This is a guest post written by fellow blogger and BPD sufferer Sharon, you can read more about Sharon’s experiences of BPD (plus other articles on her blog Day in the Life of a Busy Gal

After having 2 months off work due to my latest ‘crisis’ I finally made the difficult step of returning to work. I’m on a slow ‘phased’ return starting with just 3 days a week at 3.5 hours per day.

Just even thinking about going back to work was horrific, I was terrified of not being able to cope, what people would think of me (I know many of the people I work with know why I was off, my BPD is ‘out-of’-the-bag’ so to speak) and just the whole process of ‘working’ in general. But, I had to do it, I knew this since I first handed in my sick note. I also knew that I had to do it sooner rather than waiting (as I had intended) until I started to get some ‘help’ for my condition – after all I still have no idea ‘if’ or ‘when’ any therapy/help for my BPD will actually materialise… The longer I left it the harder it would be to go back, and not only that but the less likely I would be to actually return.

I’ve been here before you see, although back then I didn’t know it was BPD… let me explain before I tell you more about now…

Back then…

After spending 8 years as a carer I got my first job in 2001 as a casework assistant at the Forensic Science Service. It was one of the first jobs I had ever applied for and at the time I was offered three jobs at the same time! Choosing which to take was hard enough never having had a proper job before, and to be successful in being offered three was shocking. So many people apply for many jobs and never get anywhere, either I was very lucky or I don’t even know what it is, but I do have a very high hit-rate in getting accepted for jobs – maybe its just about what I choose to apply for? Who knows…

Anyway, I started working in the Serious Crime department, nothing too difficult; mainly administrative duties and a bit of laboratory support. Within a matter of weeks life at home was becoming difficult; my husband (whom I cared for) was not keen on me working – my duty was to be at home as carer for himself (he had a brain tumour) and our two children (who both had medical problems). Despite him having encouraged me to find work, now that I had a job he seemed ‘old-fashioned’ in his attitude, expecting the housework and cooking still to be done by me. So, I was working full-time; leaving the home at 0730 having made sure both children were up, fed, dressed and ready for school; home at 1830-1900 (travel time was horrible using public transport into the city-centre) then doing the evening meal, housework, and getting the kids to bed. Not surprisingly it wasn’t long before the strain started to show in me. I began going out drinking every weekend with my best friend, delaying my return home in the evenings by working over, stopping off at the pub…

Looking back on this now I see my own typical ‘BPD’ crisis forming – I started looking ‘elsewhere’ for physical affection as I no-longer felt ‘loved’ or ‘wanted’ at home. I began cutting. I was ‘acting-out’. Eventually the overdoses started and I threw my husband out, went to the GP, got referred for a mental health assessment and stopped going to work. By the time I went for my appointment I had been off work for 2 months, had taken my husband back and was planning to move house. I was ‘feeling’ better and I was so ‘blunt’ with the doctor I don’t think they even believed I had been ‘ill’ – rather I had been self-harming and overdosing as a cry-for-help due to a bout of depression which had now passed… Oh, dear I was so good at convincing people I was ‘fine’ with my ‘Me against the World’ chip on my shoulder I had blown my chance to get some help…

I handed in my notice after 6 months off ‘sick’ with ‘stress and depression’. Work tried so hard to get me to stay, offering flexible working patterns, within school-hours only, so I could fulfill my roles as housewife, carer and mother whilst still being able to work. But, I couldn’t bear to go back. I was so scared of people looking at me, knowing about me; so scared of losing my family. I thought I was doing what was best for them – being where I belonged. So I left, for good…

Fast Forward…

It was another 8 years before I was ‘ready’ to look for work again. I landed a part-time Office Manager position with a local IT company immediately, but again almost straight away the problems at home began again. This time however, despite struggling and falling into the same pattern of ‘acting out’ I refused to stop working. But, this just meant the problems at home got worse and in the end I ran away from my own home, returning the next day only to send my husband to stay with his brother. This time I was going to be strong – stay in work and not back down at home. Even the kids (now teenagers) had been telling their own dad daily to “stop being horrible to mom”, the fact they recognised it was his behaviour making me ill was what gave me the strength to stick with it. I wouldn’t have him back this time, his illness was not an excuse to be horrible to me anymore. I wouldn’t leave work this time, not even have a day off ‘sick’ – after all I was only working 8 hours a week – I could handle it!!

I managed it somehow, but my ‘crisis’ continued, exacerbated when my now ‘ex’ husband then died of his brain tumour (It was my fault, I had taken away the one thing he loved – me). I was made redundant from the Office Manager job in January 2010 a year after starting. Further increasing my BPD crisis yet somehow a determination to stay in work remained, I took a few months playing with the idea of setting up my own business, before looking for a ‘proper’ job again. Yet, again I was offered the first job I applied for and a few others. In October 2010 I started working (part-time again) as Medical Laboratory Assistant at the local hospital. By now I had my diagnosis of BPD (which you can read about here) but whilst I was not ‘better’ I was determined to work, and keep working. My crisis was in fact getting worse, but I did not recognise the signs or realise what was happening. I was still applying for other jobs, in the hope of getting something that would ‘help’ me get a place at Medical School – to fulfill my ambition of becoming a Doctor. In April 2011, I moved from the lab into the X-Ray department. But by now I was reaching breaking point and this was a full-time job…


I had only been working in X-ray for 3 weeks when my ‘crisis’ turned into a complete breakdown (which you can also read about in my earlier guest blog). After 2 months of ‘sorting’ myself out, I’m coping but still not receiving any ‘help’ despite having had a private psychiatric assessment. In my last visit to Occupational health the doctor was suggesting I shouldn’t return to work, but I knew this would be a huge mistake. Firstly, leaving now would make it harder to get another job later; secondly, I knew I needed an ‘anchor’ – something positive to occupy me and keep me from slipping back. There was of course the problem that while I have good days where working will be fine, but I’m still having bad days where I will struggle – Occupational health tried to use this to further encourage me to leave, under the suggestion that should I struggle and end up having more time off ‘sick’ I may end up falling foul of disciplinary procedures and end up being forced to leave. Well, I’d rather that and know I tried than give up without a fight!

Another thing was the knowledge that my ‘not’ wanting to go back to work was actually another symptom of my BPD – I was looking for another ‘career change’, do anything rather than face my fears. So, challenging myself not to let the BPD win and prove I can do this was another motivator to just ‘get on with it’ and return to work, ready or not…

So, I’m back at work. My first day went well. I felt very awkward but no-one was condescending or treated me with kid gloves. No-one said anything about my time off, they just seemed genuinely pleased for me that I had returned. Of course, as I was new to the job anyway, it’s like starting again – I hadn’t really learned my role before I went off. I have a long way to go and I’m still scared about whether I can really handle this, but I will keep on trying – what else can I do? I’m not really a ‘quitter’. I’ll keep you updated how I get on if you’d like?

Hopefully this will help inspire others with BPD that it is possible to get back to work, even if you are still waiting for help to manage your condition like me! 🙂

  1. showard76 says:

    Thanks for sharing this Steve 😀

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