First off, I've decided to take a “time out” sick leave from work which is not an easy decision. The one front that makes that a hard decision is, of course, the financial front. While it's true that I have a very good job that can afford me some time away, financially it's hard to be away.
I don't have short-term disability insurance and so that means I've had to use up whatever sick leave, holidays or overtime owed to me first. Having done that, my pay cheque last week was only $216.
I'm putting this out there because the numbers will mean more to some than others and it's to show that yes this is hard, but not impossible. Honestly, I think it's worth doing.
By way of updating, I've resumed seeing my Employee Assistance Program (EAP) therapist and we were in session on Monday. It was nice to hear that she is familiar with the hospital program that I attended and she said it raised a brow with her that I was trying it. We agreed it is an excellent program but it's more suited for someone who is newly out of hospital and is in need of support to cope with re-integration.
I raised a question with my therapist that I've been pushing down and away for awhile now. I've been afraid to say it out loud but since I did, I admit to feeling some relief. I feel a bit lighter.
I raised the question, “What if this is actually burnout and not depression?” We discussed this for awhile because the two can look a lot alike and we've committed to finding my answer.
Since my breakdown in 2010, I can't say I've felt comfortably back in my chair. It has felt like waiting to get my groove back, which has come in small bursts, but I've felt like my skin doesn't fit quite right anymore.
I find in trying to understand depression in my life, I've periodically experienced therapies or therapists that made me feel like I was squinting in the bright light. And while it usually felt better for a time after the spotlight, I find I wonder now if I've really done enough from the inside out, instead of from the outside in.
I feel like I've sat with several doctors who seem to me to be understandably under the pressures of time, overwhelming workload and a health care system that seems to want to assign a code to things so it can fit into a referral system. I think our system is often set up for a clinical approach to fixing a patient and maybe that only lends to short-term remedies rather than engaging the patient into healing herself.
What's hard when approaching my depression is that I don't think there is one single catalyst that brought me here. And in general my struggle is that I don't think depression goes with my personality! I see myself as a loving, caring, giving, optimistic person with a fun sense of humour. I'm also free-spirited and fearless. And with all of that, I have a lot of trouble trying to justify why it is I've hit a wall in my life that I just cannot seem to climb.
As I navigate the internet looking to define burnout, which is not featured in the bible of mental illness disorders (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)), it is repeatedly defined as being disillusioned about the job one is doing.
According to the Burnout Self-Test by Mind Tools, “Burnout occurs when passionate, committed people become deeply disillusioned with a job or career from which they have previously derived much of their identity and meaning. It comes as the things that inspire passion and enthusiasm are stripped away, and tedious or unpleasant things crowd in.”
The American Psychological Association’s David Ballard, PsyD, describes job burnout as “an extended period of time where someone experiences exhaustion and a lack of interest in things, resulting in a decline in their job performance.
“A lot of burnout really has to do with experiencing chronic stress,” says Dr. Ballard, who is the head of the APA’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program. “In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors.”
I'm not making a slight against my profession here, because I do love being an officer. The reality though is that it's not the same job I joined and it is getting harder all the time for a variety of reasons. Because of that, I am beginning to wonder out loud if maybe 20 years is enough policing for me.
I also brought the idea of burnout up with my medical doctor when I saw her on Tuesday and we decided to refer me to the Royal Ottawa Hospital for a diagnosis. When I was in the hospital in 2010, the doctors certainly called it clinical depression but had also called it episodic. That meant that it was an acute reaction to particular events.
So what's going on now? I think I should try to figure that out.
Also on Tuesday, I attended an intake meeting with Ottawa Institute for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. I had had a mandatory telephone interview prior and Tuesday's meeting was 1.5 hours at a cost of $85.
There was some questionnaire paperwork to complete and a meeting with a PhD intern with a view toward deciding which of their programming would be most beneficial for me. I'll meet with them again on Tuesday this week for a 15-minute feedback session, at a cost of $65.
I'm including the prices because as soon as you step away from psychiatry, which is covered by the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) when referred by a family doctor or is follow-up treatment after being hospitalized, help costs money. (There is also user-pay private psychiatry of course).
In the policing world, I've often heard people tell me there is no help, or that the wait lists are very long. And I think I got a bit of a sneak preview when, on Wednesday night, I went to the first session of a four-week program called, “Family of Origin” put on by Serenity Renewal for Families (SRF), at a cost of $125.
SRF is a registered charitable organization founded by Sister Louise Dunn and her associate Alexa Smith in 1983 and “provides education and counselling services to individuals, directly or indirectly, affected by addictions or mental health issue(s).” SRF started with private funding by the Congregation of Notre Dame (CND) until 2010 when it began to rely solely on fundraising, sponsorship and grants.
When I opened the SRF webpage I saw pictures of Max Keeping and Dave Smith, two of Ottawa's most famous community and charity leaders, who have lent their support in SRF's fundraising efforts. SRF boasts not turning anyone away for financial reasons and I read that nearly 70 percent of their clientele either cannot pay or pay on a sliding fee schedule.
I wasn't entirely sure about SRF at first glance because it appears to me to be largely aimed at addictions recovery but I went anyway and I'm glad I did. (For the record regarding personal addiction, I can certainly indulge in drinking wine. I can even self-medicate and drink too often at times but I tend to catch myself and generally spend more time on the wagon than off of it.)
SRF has a grassroots approach to helping people and it felt very welcoming as soon as I walked through the door. I was also very impressed with the class given by Father Harry McNeil for the14 of us who were registered.
Having celebrated its 30th year in 2013, SRF includes a peak history of having served up to 4,000 people annually and as I said earlier, SRF doesn't turn anyone away just because they can't pay. I'm finding an irony that I attended there and it's holding out as an example of what policing clients have said to me for a long time about help being not available. I read that as of February 2015 SRF is struggling to continue and the concern is that SRF may have to cease operations by July 2015.
Until next time.... be well.