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My employer said I'm not fit for work because of OCD!


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Hi there,

I have never posted anything like this ever but need some help!

I am a 47 year old female and have been a primary school teacher for 20+ years. I have been suffering from contamination OCD all of my life...it's me...I guess I've just learned to get on with it, thinking that my ever increasing, vast amount of compulsions I carried out continuously would keep me and my family (hopefully) safe and I believed I was in control!!! What a waste of 40 years I reckon!

A couple of weeks ago my line manager and head teacher asked me to see them in their office and explained how they were concerned about me and said that I was unfit for work due to my OCD and sent me home. I'm devastated. I'm terrified this is the end of my job and I'm not in a financial position to loose it! OCD has taken over my life! I'm terrified to leave the house . I get my groceries delivered but it takes me over 2 hours to sanatise them and put some in quarantine. I'm stockpiling as it feels like I'm in control but in reality, I have enough stuff to open a supermarket of my own! This makes me feel bad for those who are struggling to eat but I can't help it. I feel like I have two brains but sadly the OCD is winning by a mile.

My OCD is off the scale. I've spent over £400 on various PPE (I can't afford this at all!) and am obsessed with buying more. In school I was wearing a clinical face shield, surgical face mask plus additional 5 ply carbon filter - p2.5. I was wearing surgical nirile gloves (sometimes 2 pairs at a time) which I continually sanitised with the WHO standard alcohol gel - 80 per cent of course - which I had attached to my work ID lanyard around my neck, along with my antibacterial hand wash, a pen so I didn't touch anyone's other than mine, and a special device to open doors and touch things like the photocopier without using my hands. I had Dettol wipes in my drawer and bag which I would use frequently too. Blimey - what's happened to me!!??

I visited my doctor after this happened (very traumatic going into a germ laden place like that) who is keeping in touch with me (thankfully by phone) and has asked me to look at SSRi's - I hate the idea of medication but I know may have no choice. I have had my initial assessment with Talking Therapies and am on the urgent waiting list but I'm still just on level one. I guess I need this officially diagnosed or do I - the primary level say they can't do this. I certainly need help! I know CBT can help....but how can I stop washing/cleaning with Covid!!??

I am now spending all of my days researching OCD and am finding the book 'Break Free form OCD' both enlightening and terrifying. How on earth have I lived all of my life thinking my obsessions and compulsions were sort of normal!!?? 

I'm also worried for my family and the impact it has on them. I am letting my children attend school as it's so important but if I could - I'd keep them safe at home. They are great as they remove uniforms and get washed as soon as they come in so they don't contaminate the house....but this feels awful to put them through...but I can't help it. I'm nagging my husband constantly but am relived he is having to work from home (although earning a lot less money) and nearly exploded when I found out that my 77 year old mother had gone into a shop for A STAMP.....I was furious.....I feel like I'm going mad!

I guess I'm not really sure what help I'm actually asking from you! I'm so overwhelmed. Just to have contact with someone who can understand this nightmare would be great and I think some suggestions of threads maybe useful. I've just ordered a book today called, 'The Man Who Couldn't Stop - The Truth About OCD' as feel finding out about others will help me as much as the technical reading, and watching of YouTube, will. I'm obsessed with OCD (LOL - Sob!)

Thanks so much for reading this.

Stay Safe (and that slogan is not helping me one bit LOL)

Edited by Tealight
Grammatical error
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Hi Tealight

It is a difficult situation for us with OCD in the context of COVID. To decide what is a reasonable response to the virus and what is an exaggerated response to the virus.

I visited my dentist last Thursday to have a crown re - cemented and your precautions were greater than that which existed at the dentist. They were wearing surgical masks and at times face visors. They had hand sanitisers and gloves as did the patients. And cleaned the surgery after each patient.
 

Stockpiling/hoarding can also be part of OCD and it something in the COVID context that has spread to many people. There was some reporting of food and toilet roll stockpiling at the beginning of the second English lockdown but not as bad as the first lockdown. But as you say it can cause financial problems as well as storage problems. So I think you need to think carefully about future purchases.

A GP can give a diagnosis and in the context of your job it is important to get one. There is some legal protection if you have a diagnosis. If you are a member of a trade union you need to contact your rep about your exclusion from the workplace. The employment situation has become fragmented in the educational sector where you might be an employee of a local authority or employed by a syndicate of schools. So it is difficult to know whether your employment has an occupational health department. You or your rep might want to contact them.
 

Your Headteacher would presumably followed laid down personnel procedures for your exclusion. Do you know which procedure was used? Do you have a copy of it?

So get a diagnosis and get professional advice from a therapist and your union rep.

Hope things go well for you.

 

 

 

 

Edited by Angst
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Hi Tealight,

Sorry that you are having such a hard time at the moment.

You can't stop washing and cleaning (to a reasonable degree) but you can learn to stop your OCD from ruining your life.

I have put a few links below from this website that relate to OCD and Coronavirus in case you haven't already seen them.

My fiancée was a Primary school teacher for 14 years, so I understand how hard you work and I know from having OCD myself how hard that is, so I think you have done amazingly to cope with both for so long, but now it's time to say goodbye to the OCD!

https://www.ocduk.org/ocd-and-coronavirus-survival-tips/

https://www.ocduk.org/april-compulsive-reading/

Stay strong!

Symps

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Hi Angst and Symps07,

Thanks for getting back to me - it means a lot. 

Angst, I'm going to try to rein in my ASDA order due next Monday - just been putting the non-fridge items away which have been in quarantine since Mondays delivery! Have more cleaning stuff coming today from Amazon!!

Thanks for suggesting union rep. I'm in the NUT and had been thinking about it so will do this now ASAP. I don't know what procedure head teacher used but I'm worried because after our chat I was told to get myself home....I was told not to finish the school day which I'm worried about. I guess if I know more about it it might stop me worrying so much about it - it's making me feel physically sick that I'm now seen as incompetent due to OCD!

Symps07, I really hope I can say goodbye to OCD. It's all I've known since I was around seven. I've now had time to read so much about OCD and I'm shocked with how it has controlled my life for so long and I'm amazed I have achieved what I have. I'm just scared I won't be able to teach again - my brain seems like total mush and I can't think straight. I will have a look at the links you sent -thanks.

I have a telephone counselling session today so hopefully a chat about things will make me feel a bit better. 

Thank you

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Hi,

Just a quick update...

I have no idea what procedure was followed....we just had a chat and I was told to go home and see a doctor. I have spoken to my union who have said as my head told me I wasn't in any trouble then this sounds like a medical suspension so should be off on full pay as this was not my choice. However, as I visited my doctor, the doctor gave me a sick note so I'm now on sick pay as this overrides medical suspension and it's too late to change it. I wish I'd contacted my union straight away but was too shocked and upset at the time.

I have telephoned my doctor's surgery who have checked and I have only been referred to primary care although there is a note on the system to say I may need referral to secondary. Primary care (talking therapies) are not able to diagnose and so will inevitably send me back to my doctors for a referral to secondary as need diagnosis and lots of help! I have been unable to speak to my doctor about this so will do so during my telephone appointment with her on Wednesday, as my sick note states awaiting OCD diagnosis!

I've checked out the links, Thank you.

Just a question.....what does the + quote button do on these posts? Am I meant to click on it to reply?

 

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Hi Tealight

It’s good that you have been in contact with the NUT and that your Headteacher said that you were not in trouble. Being a teacher you should be entitled to sick pay from your employer and your employment contract should specify how many weeks/months that this should be paid. You will know at the end of the month when your salary enters your bank account how much money you are receiving if you decide not to ring the Headteacher and ask. Could you get a friend at work to act as an intermediary? I am not sure what the difference is between a medical suspension and taking time off sick. I think that the people in the union should be able to clarify this.

 I don’t think having a doctor signing you off work will invalidate any medical suspension. My instinct is that signing off sick is a better option. Again you could check this with the NUT. If you have the cash, you could take the private route and have a paid for consultation with a specialist psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist. You could ring OCD UK to see whether both have equal status in conferring a diagnosis.

Edited by Angst
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Hi Angst,

Thanks for getting back in touch.

Medical suspension is good (apparently) as it does not count towards your sick record and you are paid as normal...although I don't like the sound of suspension! The NUT have said a doctor's sick note over-rides this so that ship has sailed - I've got to let it go! I know that I have 6 months full pay on the sick so that's a temporary relief - as is the fact I don't think I'm in any trouble!

Unfortunately I was off work ill two years ago. (I'd hardly had a day off in the previous 20 years!) My head teacher suddenly changed my job drastically at the end of the summer term and expected me to take on the new role with no training or support at all! Over the summer holidays I was so worried and became very ill with a bowel condition....I'll not give you details!! Anyway, after investigations, luckily I didn't have anything sinister (Microscopic Colitis - which is still not good) but cutting a long story short it seemed that my physical body was trying to tell me that it was my mental health that was the problem and was diagnosed with General Anxiety Disorder. I had talking therapies and embraced CBT which did work a bit. I explained to the therapist that I had OCD problems but they said one thing at a time! I really wish the therapist had taking this seriously as contamination OCD is my main lifelong problem...and this was before Covid-19!

After returning to work, I had been coping fine with this role up until Lockdown in March. After that I continued to teach from home, write reports etc and all was fine. 

Then....just as I was settled into this new role my head pulled the rug from under my feet and changed my job AGAIN! Nursery is so different in too many ways to think about - especially in regards to contamination!! It's just too much with a stressful home life too!

I am going to explain to my doctor on Wednesday that I need to be on the secondary level and referred to a psychologist/psychiatrist for official diagnosis - this is apparently on my medical notes as a possibility anyway. Then I will have protection as I have read that OCD is a disability and will be able to access the skilled help I need (fingers crossed!)

Thanks for getting back to me...I've never done anything like this before but knowing people are out there to help is comforting!

Have a super weekend!

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Goodness me. I am a nurse working on the "front line" and the precautions you are taking are way more excessive than what we have to do. I'm so sorry you're going through all of this. It sounds like you're taking all of the right steps with everything. I would definitely consider medication in your case as that could really help.

It may seem like rock bottom at the moment but it's only onwards and upwards from here as you begin your recovery. Good luck 😊

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Hi Linz,

Thanks for getting back to me.

I've just had a look at my PPE/cleaning/sanitising  collection...it's crazy especially as I am now too scared to leave the house! It was being in nursery for the first time properly with germs EVERYWHERE! Far too many bodily fluids and I had to constantly touch things. It sent me over the edge and PPE and related products were the way I thought I could control it...but of course I now know how much OCD was/is controlling me! 

I am sure that I can be much better than I am now but know can't get as better as I'd like when I'm constantly bombarded with Covid!

I'm going to have a chat with my doctor on Wednesday about meds as I don't think I have a choice anymore!!

Well done you for what to are doing to help everyone else....you are a star!

 

 

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On 14/11/2020 at 17:16, Tealight said:

I am sure that I can be much better than I am now but know can't get as better as I'd like when I'm constantly bombarded with Covid!

Unfortunately if it is not Covid, it would be something else. That's how OCD works 😔

It can seem overwhelming and the best thing to do is to take it a step at a time.

My first CBT therapist told me to list all my different obsessions and grade them from the ones that cause me the least amount of problems up to the ones that caused me the most amount of problems. That way I could work on my OCD and put into practice the techniques my therapist was giving me without being overwhelmed by it (it's like walking up a flight of stairs, if you conquer one issue and move onto the next, then by the time you reach you biggest obsession it's just another step.) 😉 

 

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Hi Symps07,

Thanks for your message. 

That's a good idea listing obsessions in order from those least troubling to those most crippling...I'm going to do that. Like the idea of one step at a time - think I might actually draw a staircase to fill in!

Covid is of course scaring me (and millions of others now) and it's making us worse due to being told to wear masks and wash hands but your're right----it's the OCD contamination thing of the moment! I remember as a teenager being terrified of AIDS! Bird flu, BSE (Mad Cow Disease) were 'biggies' and EBOLA...blimey! Nuclear contamination was a big thing for me as as teen....remember collecting over 200 signatures to ban weapons and testing and sent to 10 Downing Street...and watching the animation 'When the Wind Blows' over and over about Nuclear contamination! Oh and food....was terrified of food poisoning.....hardly are anything! 

I just can't believe I have suffered from OCD my entire life...I just thought it was me...who I am. Can't wait to at least have a little freedom! Thinking I might need medication even though I really don't want to take any but I am at the stage that I' m scared to leave the house!!!

You stay strong and any more tips much appreciated!

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Hi @Tealight, so sorry to hear about the difficult times you are going through.  OCD alone is a real struggle, and adding COVID on top of that?  Its absolutely understandable you are struggling right now, so many are!
 

On 12/11/2020 at 03:42, Tealight said:

and has asked me to look at SSRi's - I hate the idea of medication but I know may have no choice.

Its normal to be reluctant about taking medication.  I know I was when my own therapist first suggested it.  Now, some 27 years later though?  I am so grateful they did!  It has made a huge difference in my life and helped me be me.  Its not perfect, and CBT is also vital, but I can't imagine what things might have been like for me without that help.  Not everyone uses or needs to use medication to deal with their OCD, and thats great for them.  Some people only need to use it temporarily to get a stable foundation going before they continue to tackle OCD through therapy alone.  Maybe that will be you.  But once you find a good medication and dosage level, you might be surprised at how it can help.  And it doesn't have to be forever.  You can stop if it has difficult side effects, or if you have gotten to a point you feel comfortable handling it through CBT alone.  Its not a life long commitment to try it.  Good luck and hang in there.

 

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6 hours ago, dksea said:

 But once you find a good medication and dosage level, you might be surprised at how it can help.  And it doesn't have to be forever.

Hi dksea,

Thanks for your message. It's great to hear from someone who has used medication and it worked. My doctor is calling me tomorrow so think I will discuss it with her as she had sent me some information to read about it.

I am still waiting for CBT to begin and it may be a while yet! I am reading some good books and doing my own CBT activities in the meantime but I am worried about my job. I guess while I am off sick is the best time to try medication incase it doesn't agree with me. I need to be mentally sound if I'm to go back to teaching! I'm just scared it's going to make me feel numb?

How did it make you feel? Do you still take a maintenance dose?

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51 minutes ago, Hdigtts said:

If it helps I teach whilst on medication :) happy to talk through anything anytime.

Hi Hdiggts,

 

Thanks for getting back to me.

Every day that goes by my contamination OCD is spiralling out of control. Since being sent home from work as deemed 'unfit for work' due to it - it is destroying me. I'm usually quite up beat (despite the terrible worry!) but now I feel I'm a failure and can't see how I will ever set foot in my school again. I've always (so I thought)  managed my OCD but being put in Nursery plus Covid has blown my mind! I now can't even go to my local shop and spend hours washing my food delivery! I wash my hands over 100 time a day - they are sore!  I  don't really leave the house and wish I could keep my own children off school as think they are going to bring it home! Have so many cleaning rituals now for their school stuff as they need to go to school (and I really want them too) but it's a struggle - feel like they are walking germs! Thank God my husband is working from home but dreading that ending too! OCD is taking up every minute of the day in so many ways. Do you think medication will help (I'm awaiting CBT).

How does it make you feel? Does it cloud your thinking or judgement? To be honest, my thinking couldn't really be more clouded than it is now! Are you primary/secondary? Is your med for contamination OCD? Which one has worked for you....I'm assuming an SSRI?

Any help appreciated!!

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I do think medication will help. It won’t be a golden ticket but it may help to take the edge of it a little and allow for the therapies to have more of an impact. 
 

I have been on them for so long now that it’s difficult to really know if it clouds my judgement. I teach primary and I take clomipramine but have taken both citalopram and Sertraline in the past. It’s mainly for other types of OCD but as is the nature of OCD at times it has been contamination. 

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19 minutes ago, Hdigtts said:

I do think medication will help. It won’t be a golden ticket but it may help to take the edge of it

Thank you. I'm going to read more about medication now in preparation for speaking with my doctor tomorrow. Good that yours is helping keep things controlled. I have read coming off medication with OCD not good as can relapse. Take care and thanks. 

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I have been taking them for around 8 years now. I have a little bit fearful of coming off them so just kept them ticking over. Occasionally the dose gets dropped a bit but it’s almost like a safety net for me now. 
 

please keep us informed about how it goes :)

Edited by Hdigtts
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Hello Tealight

I have severe ocd as well and can assure you that medication can help allot, and certainly in taking the edge off

I take an (SSRI) antidepressant, and don't be alarmed we are not psychotic but I am on an antipsychotic for ocd as well as it helps for anxiety and have found it a big help, so maybe you can talk to your doctor about an antipsychotic along with an antidepressant (SSRI)

I know you don't want to take medication but it really could help you if you can find the right tablets to help, as we all respond differently to medication so you may need to try a few different ones 🙂

Thanks

Gary

 

 

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1 hour ago, SnookerTable said:

I know you don't want to take medication but it really could help you

Hi Gary,

Thanks for your message. I noticed you said 'severe' OCD.......from my continued reading of OCD books today, I have only just realised that I do have it severe which is pretty alarming....as is the fact it's getting worse rapidly! I have also been reading about delusional thoughts and OCD so I think I can see how antipsycotic meds could be a possibility too. I also sufferer from Generalised Anxiety Disorder so could benefit that also. 

My doctor is calling me today so will start with an SSRI first. I am learning as much as I can about CBT but can't see how on earth I can do the behaviour experiments/ERP with Covid as I really am putting myself and others in danger if I let any of my washing/cleaning stop.Also can't see how I can return to teaching in nursery as I just see it as a germ hell!  Hopefully some meds may help with this thinking!

I had a call earlier and my talking therapy is due to start next week.

Take care and thank you for your advice. I'll update soon.

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On 17/11/2020 at 23:56, Tealight said:

I guess while I am off sick is the best time to try medication incase it doesn't agree with me. I need to be mentally sound if I'm to go back to teaching! I'm just scared it's going to make me feel numb?

How did it make you feel? Do you still take a maintenance dose?


Speaking from my own experience only, it has never made me feel numb that I’m aware of. I started at 13 years old and just turned 40 this year. Over 2/3 of my life has been on the meds, so in a way it’s just “normal” for me. I would say the only side effect I’ve noticed over the years is mild drowsiness at times, but then I also don’t have the best sleep habits so it’s probably not 100% the medications fault either 😆

I’ve tried different doses over the years, and there have also been some times where I’ve gotten sloppy about taking my medication (usually when things are going well) and I’ve also gone through some rough patches with the OCD spiking for other reasons. Basically from that I can say that, for me, the meds basically help me shrug off the intrusive thoughts. They become less sticky and I’m able to respond to them like a non-OCD person would. They just don’t seem to bother me the way they do when my meds are lower and/or the OCD is more intense. 
 

The other insight I have is from my parents. They said that after I started taking the medicine, it was like I was back to my old self, before the OCD started bothering me. 
 

I’ve tried going down on the dosage a few times over the years, to see if I could stop taking it and every time the OCD came roaring back with a vengeance, and I went back up to a known good dosage level (for me) again. Maybe if I was willing I could try and tough it out using just CBT, but since I don’t seem to have any significant side effects it seems like a small price to pay for being able to live my life. 
 

Of course everyone’s situation is different, so doing exactly what I have done might not be the best path for you. But I think medication is at least worth considering when fighting OCD. There’s a lot of potential upside, and very little downside. But it’s not for everyone and that’s ok too. You have to find the path that helps you the most, but I will close with saying that overcoming OCD involves taking on fear and doubt, and that can include the fear and doubt of medication. Good luck with your decision, I hope this helps!

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On 18/11/2020 at 20:07, dksea said:

since I don’t seem to have any significant side effects it seems like a small price to pay for being able to live my life. 

I spoke to my doctor who has prescribed me some SSRIs but I still haven't the courage to leave to house to collect them from the chemist as it's a germ riddled place! 😷I'm not sure which ones they are but I've decided to give them a go.I can't continue like this anymore.

It's great that they work for you so hopefully they will for me too. I start CBT on Tuesday too so 🤞

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