It was still June 2013. My whole life had changed, but hardly any time had passed. I had an appointment at the GP’s to try and find out what was happening to me. I had become very quiet and withdrawn into myself and felt a pervasive numbness. My mum came with me to the appointment. Partly out of support and partly because she suspected (rightly) that I might struggle to find words to describe what was going on. I did. I didn’t know what happened. I didn’t know when it started. I didn’t seem anxious, and I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel very much actually. I was there physically, but mentally I was somewhere else.
My GP signed me off work for 4 weeks with a diagnosis of “suspected OCD.” But it wasn’t their area of expertise and they referred me to a psychiatrist for a psychiatric evaluation. To this day, I have so much gratitude for that referral. My mum took me to the psych evaluation in my zombie state, but waited outside while I filled in questionnaires and answered questions about my life, my emotional state, my feelings and thoughts. The questionnaires were about anxiety and depression. I read the questions as I worked methodically through them. I wasn’t depressed. I wasn’t even that anxious. What was wrong with me?
During the evaluation with the psychiatrist, I still felt quite numb. I told him about what an “average week” looked like in my life. It was dominated by work. He wanted to know if I spent time with friends and I told him not really. Did I have any hobbies? I didn’t think so. I didn’t have time. What did I do to relax? Sat on the sofa, watched TV. The usual things. Did online shopping count? We talked about other things that had happened. I told him about the Ofsted Inspection 14 months earlier. I struggled to catch my breath. My heart felt like it was pounding in my throat. I told him that the Inspector had started the inspection with the words “I think you’re Inadequate, you’ve got 3 days to prove me wrong.” I was shaking as I told him about it and my body felt hot. I was trying to push down the tears that always came up when I talked about this. He asked how that had felt. I told him it was horrible. That the word inadequate felt like it was seared onto the inside of my brain and every time I heard it, or even thought about it, I couldn’t breathe. He nodded and wrote on his pad. Then he changed the subject, and my body gradually receded back towards its customary numbness.
After the interview had finished, he invited my mum to join us and told us that he had reached a diagnosis and that the report would follow in a few days. The diagnosis was “Trauma Reaction” and it related to the Ofsted Inspection. He recommended that I was referred for trauma-therapy and would add me to the waiting list.
After the appointment, my mum rang David. He was the CEO of a mental health charity and had a lot of knowledge about mental health treatments and local counsellors and therapists. She asked if he had any recommendations, and he compiled a list of professionals in the area. Either mum or David contacted the Board of Directors who agreed that work would pay for the initial treatment to ensure I could start straight away.
Mum sent me the list of professionals and asked me who I would like to go with. I read the names, the locations and checked out some websites. I chose a local therapist based in Harrogate and sent a text to the mobile number on the spreadsheet. I introduced myself, typed out the diagnosis for the first time: “trauma reaction” and asked about availability. Julie came back quickly with further questions and suggested a date the following week for an initial appointment. I didn’t need to check my diary. There was nothing in it.
This period was probably one of the most difficult of my life. I was in a liminal space where life as I knew it had ended, but I had no idea what my future life would look like. I felt profoundly alone in my flat and in my head, though looking back now I can see that there were a lot of people in my corner. I now have tremendous gratitude for everything that everyone was doing behind the scenes. At the time I didn’t have a tremendous amount of anything. Other than time. Suddenly, after 5 years of feeling completely overstretched and worried about how I would possibly meet the next deadline, I now had a tremendous amount of time.