I’ve been back at work just over 2 months now. I’ve almost returned to the ‘normal’ workload; days are now the original format and I’m up to doing 5 sessions (half day units) per week. Soon, I will be back to the full 6 sessions/week (3 full days in real terms) and adding the on-call duties back in too.
It’s going well on the whole. I am shattered, but I think that just goes with the territory of the job and small children at home. It does feel reminiscent of pre-September in some ways; grabbing moments of time to get things done again and seemingly never getting on top of everything despite plodding through stuff nearly every waking moment (one of the reasons the blogs have slowed down!!).
Having Thursdays off work and child-free is absolutely amazing; the benefits of this are far-reaching in many ways, both in terms of having a bit of peace and time for me to recharge and also simply having a chance to get essential tasks done that were previously getting pushed out and causing huge amounts of stress. Unfortunately, there is now an additional stress of struggling to fund this financially. (I am no way complaining and am grateful for a good wage and being able to do this at all but childcare costs are extortionate!) But…hopefully we can hang in there until September when our eldest child goes to school which will help; I really can’t face the idea of going back to how things were before.
However, the half-day of Annual Leave I am currently having each week is already getting swallowed up by work; I simply can’t fit everything in to the official hours. The worry therefore, is that once I am back to my full days, I’ll end up working into the evenings more (and possibly working from home a lot again though I am keen to avoid this) and still end up behind on the workload…like before. I hated it. Things have only got like this in the last few years. One of my massive frustrations is that patients tend to vent their frustrations at us as if the failings in the system are something we are responsible for at practice and individual level. But, this is not the case (and a topic for another blog on it’s own!) – even over these last few years, I have gone from mostly running on time, having time to have a break during a working day and completing all my tasks by the end of each session and finishing on time….to increasing workload (as we all are to try and meet the exponentially increasing demand), seeing more patients and more complex patients, running late regularly, generating huge amounts of work which I then struggle to get through even though I’m working 2-3 hours daily more than I was 4 years ago. I know I am less efficient than I was before I had my children as I’m simply more tired and have more to get through altogether and I also know that I am pretty slow after working 11-12 hours continuously – this is when I find I tend to stop for the day even if I haven’t finished – I find I just can’t think straight anymore and am not achieving much by then.
I was last out of the building again today. I am sure I don’t help myself. I get so passionate about doing my absolute best for my patients and don’t like to let them down so I will read up, put queries up on GP discussion forums and have a really good brainstorm to try and come up with other solutions. I am already finding myself once again ‘adopting’ complex patients that need sorting out! I am also not good at delegating for some reason; I just don’t like to put on people I suppose and it often doesn’t even occur to me that delegating might be an option! The trouble is some of these things that could be seen as attributes in some ways aren’t good for my own self-care and self-preservation. I have quite a few unpublished blogs; I still write a little as and when for myself but aren’t always ready to put them ‘out there.’ There is one around the difficult balance between empathy etc and self-preservation. I have learnt a lot from my GP Health doctor and from my CBT therapist; but putting their useful learning points into action is actually really hard.
There is still a lot to learn and a lot of change to put into practice, especially about ‘protecting’ myself from the emotional load that both my home and work lives carry. I am also worried about how things will feel as the seasons change back ‘the wrong way’ (to me!).
Something that has made a massive difference to my wellbeing at this point is the longer daylight hours and being able to get outside more (especially to potter in the garden). We have passed what I expect to find the most intense phase of parenting (I know older children have different challenges!) – I now don’t have to watch the boys every single second of every single day and can actually get other tasks done whilst looking after them. I have managed to do a couple of music things recently which have been much appreciated time ‘out’ from the humdrum daily life and a chance to be ‘me’ again. We have also moved into a new building at work and I have my own room; the benefits of this for me are beyond anything I can easily describe and is already massively helping how work feels.
As long as I manage to keep my Thursdays as they are, that will be the other main factor that will prevent me declining back to my previous state.
The other thing to mention is that, without this experience and ‘accidentally’ starting this blog, more than likely nothing would have changed for the better. It has made me re-evaluate life and look at ways to make things sustainable and more positive for the future. I am also grateful for new contacts and friends that I have made and the potential for new openings in my career in the future.
So, I can feel hints of what I struggled with before and there is a fear of falling back to that to a degree although I am sure it would never get back to that extreme. But pretty much everything is, and will remain, better than before September.