Self care day

My sister’s work is highly emotional. It would take a toll. And it involves travelling. Her employer gives the workers a self-care day after every case concludes.

That got me thinking.

I don’t normally blog about my work. But here sort of goes.

I work in a high pressure, highly relational, job with constant decision-making and no down time in the working day. There’s one client who has unreasonable and unachievable expectations. She is often aggressive and rude and shouty and down right mean. And my employer gives me no back up.

Last week I had a bad night’s sleep, woke with a disturbed stomach and dreaded going to work. I am sure my blood pressure was up. I was tense and my back and neck were like rock. I knew I had to give news to that client that would probably see her respond like a rabid dog, adding to her probable Human Rights Commission claim that I can see happening in a few years.

Fuck it!

In that same week, I had several reports of suicide ideation or attempts that I had to deal with and support other staff through, including calling an ambulance and debriefs and return plans. And one family where a mother did actually commit suicide and I have to support her kids. And I had to make a report to Family Services. And deal with a faulty nationwide computer glitch that affected mandatory standardised testing. And find staff.

Those incidents didn’t actually disturb my equilibrium. That may surprise some readers but dealing with crises and taking logical steps to move forward is something I take in my stride.

Solving the unsolvable, while being politically correct, with little, actually no, support from my employer, when I think we are doing an amazing job and few could do better in the context we are in, which has been acknowledged by experts but not my employer who just ducks and weaves. And to be abused by this one woman. Repeatedly. Now that pisses me off. And affects my health. One day I might tell the story of why I didn’t blog last year.

I take very few days off for illness. Not unless I am really really ill in a physically obvious way.

But my mental health and my bodily wellbeing is important.

So I took a self care day. Some may say it is a sickie, the days Aussies allegedly take when they are not sick.

But it isn’t.

I needed to still my mind. And every time I feel sick from this woman, I will take a day and be honest, as so many of my colleagues are not, and report it as stress.

People in my position hate being seen as weak. And being stressed is seen as weak.

Well, fuck it. Then I’m weak.

13 thoughts on “Self care day

  1. Really appreciate your honesty here. A few years ago I was in a higher-stress job with a lot of ongoing staffing issues. I would wake in the middle of the night and think, “I have to deal with that F*ing situation with that F*ing (name)” and it just didn’t end. It took me about a year to get a transfer but I did it. The old place has gone through 2 managers since then. In the meanwhile, the system got a new HR manager and is now hiring FOUR HR specialists to support managers and staff. So I am feeling hopeful that more of these situations will be addressed (or better yet, nipped in the bud.)

    • Good you got out of the situation. I think we all deal with things in our jobs that make up wake up at night at some time or other. When the situation doesn’t seem solvable and won’t end some time soon, it’s just too wearing.

  2. Good on you for taking a self care day. I believe they are just as valid as a “physically” sick day but we are still made to feel it’s “not the done thing.” The stigma has definitely lessened over the last few years about taking mental health breaks, but we still tend to second guess ourselves. I encourage friends and colleagues to take a day off when they’re stressed but don’t usually listen to my own advice.

  3. Stress is a killer. So taking a mental health day when the circuits are ready to pop makes a great deal of sense. The month after I retired my blood pressure dropped by more than 30 points and has stayed that way. You have to take care of yourself because nobody else will–especially employers who mostly don’t care if you run yourself into the ground. They will simply step over your dead body and move on without a blink. Cynical? Yes. Accurate? Sadly, yes.

    • Yes. I always say our employer and our colleagues won’t be holding and patting our hand when we’re very ill or at the end of our life. That’s a big blood pressure drop! Mine was temporarily up when I was in the midst of dealing with this, last year. Amazing how stress affects us in unseen ways.

  4. No one should have to put up with that bullying. It sounds like you are able to do so many confronting things, like suicide counselling with compassion; bullying is beyond the pale. As you know it is often the anticipation of confrontation with the person that is most stressful. I hope you find peace and support, so that you can continue to do your amazing work.

    • Thanks. And you’re right – anticipation is the worst part. My colleagues, both people who report to me and those in the same position elsewhere, are amazingly supportive.

      Newspapers and TV have recently been full of reports of the abuse people in my position are coping. I think it is part of the general lack of civility and growth of entitlement. People in so many front line occupations are coping it from people.

  5. Lucinda, I’m so sorry but this only just came onto my feed now (It sometimes has weird delays on my phone app.) I am so glad you are blogging about this. Not enough recognition is given to the stress of people in upper-level management and the sheer complexity of issues that arise. I have infinite respect for what you do in your role and sorry that it seems to be getting harder all the time. So important to take self-care days.

    As for that particular client…you know what words I am thinking in my head!! Intriguing to see recent legal cases by people in your field where the clients had to actually pay damages. One “client” went bankrupt and lost a house as a result. With the level of abuse out there, it may be a necessary level of legal precedent to make people think.

    • Don’t be sorry. You don’t have to comment the moment a post appears and anyway, I get the way the app is in delay.

      I wonder at the increasing complexity and behaviour changes in society and poor parenting, parenting that comes from love and wanting to avoid pain but actually increases negative outcomes.

  6. Pingback: What Do You Owe Your Employer? | An Exacting Life

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