Is it time to give in?

Slosh Member Posts: 3,194
edited 7. May 2017, 16:09 in Living with Arthritis archive
For the first time since I returned to work post surgery, initially full-time in my old role as an Inclusion Manager and then part-time as a reading specialist (second year of this), I find myself considering giving up work and retiring. I'm 56 so only have 4 more years to go.

I love my job, the school, the pupils and most of the staff but although my sickness record is still quite good, this is because I know I go in when others would take time off, and although I only work three days by the Friday I am aware I am not giving the children the quality of teaching they deserve. This year my teaching commitment has been upped with three lessons with large groups of 20+ pupils and less non-contact time.

To add to this my very supportive headteacher leaves at the end of term, the new one has not got a good reputation in this respect, and the school has to save £300,000 just to break even, and that would leave no money for supply cover etc.

Headwise I am being sensible, talking to pensions expert from my union this afternoon and then with my GP tomorrow, but emotionally it's much, much harder. It just feels like giving in, giving up the fight to keep going. I just don't know what to do, but I am afraid of being pushed further by a new head, out of a role built around me and to suit me.

It just feels like giving up to even be thinking this way.


  • palo
    palo Member Posts: 240
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Trying to keep working whilst dealing with a chronic condition is spreading yourself so thinly you can end up feeling paper thin and incredibly fragile.

    No one can know what you are going through better than yourself and to keep trying takes an enormous amount of strength, energy and focus. How long can any of us keep running a marathon every day? Very few. However we do all realise what our limits are and how important quality of life is - that is not giving in - that is realising that you have to adapt, which we all have to do throughout life.

    When I had to give up my career at 39 it was gut-wrenching, but I had fought so hard to keep going that the relief of all that pressure being off was tremendous, plus it had a positive effect on my physical health. I regret the income loss but not the improvement in my health and well-being. Life is always a challenge, but it is better than the alternative..

    Good luck, you deserve some time for yourself. We all have a finite time here, and should enjoy each day as our last...
  • dreamdaisy
    dreamdaisy Member Posts: 31,520
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I've long admired the way you have continued to work despite all the health setbacks you have encountered but I think it true to say that things are getting harder rather than easier, yes? I reached the point where the stress of work was adversely affecting my health, where it was becoming a chore, a dread and far from enjoyable. I was fortunate in that I could stop and I still thank my lucky stars that was possible. I didn't view it as giving in, I had worked for years whilst continuing the gentle decline and realised it was time for me to put myself first.

    You are wise to take advice and I hope that it is a financially viable option for you to take. I can assure you that the weight that will be lifted will make a positive difference to your everyday experience, it will remove a source of stress and tension which can only be beneficial. DD
  • dibdab
    dibdab Member Posts: 1,498
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Slosh, only you know when the time is right. I taught 3-6 year olds for 30 years but retired at 55 when it just got so hard that I was permanently exhausted and went home in tears by the end of my week, the last 2 years I worked part time, but even that became so hard I knew it was no longer right for me or the children.

    I would say by way of encouragement that I have felt so much better, and had far fewer infections in the 4 years since I retired, I can pace myself, spread the chores, and have some me time every day to do crafts, read a book or have a snooze if that's what feels right.

    I spent months pondering on the decision, but a nasty chest infection followed by pleurisy led me to being away for a month, and then I knew it was no longer manageable for me.....when I finally made the decision it felt like a weight had been lifted, and my family and colleagues were pleased for me.

    Don't feel like you're letting anyone down or failing in some way, it takes enormous courage to make the decision, if that's what feels right for you. Post retirement there are many things to enjoy, maybe some voluntary work, or a little supply teaching if that's what you feel like..... don't rush into anything, but follow your heart.

    Take really good care of yourself.

    Deb xxx
  • daffy2
    daffy2 Member Posts: 1,636
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    As Sharon says it isn't giving up. The fact that your profession means(I assume) you are not facing waiting until your late 60's for a pension makes the financial side of things a little easier - there is a smaller gap to bridge. It does sound as if there are rather too many unknowns ahead for you to be confident about coping in future, and I can't help feeling that the added stress would be deeply unhelpful for both your physical and emotional health. Perhaps better to 'quit while you're ahead', ie on the satisfaction of a job well done under difficult circumstances?
  • Slosh
    Slosh Member Posts: 3,194
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you all so much. I had a very useful chat with my union's pension expert today which helped a lot and tomorrow I will have an initial chat eith my GP.
    I think it is a case of when, not if now. Because so much has already been put in place to support me although I will have to go off sick, I don't have to wait six months before putting in my application. One main issue is that since November last year when without notice my daughter's ESA was withdrawn ( severe endometritus and ME), I have been supporting her to the tune of about £300 a month. Hopefully this should finally be sorted this week.

    I'm waiting to get my quote, and feeling lucky in terms of my pension, and will then think it all through, chat it over and think it through before deciding when to put in my application. The earliest will be around June as I will need a letter of support from my consultant who I see in May.

    It is hard though.
  • Slosh
    Slosh Member Posts: 3,194
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Saw my GP this morning. He is happy to write a letter in support going through my medical history and says there is plenty of medical evidence to support my application if I go ahead. He said it is usually the borough's OH doctor who usually fills in the forms and that a lot of applications get refused.

    He will sign me off if needed and also said that if I go off sick the borough will be quick to push me to OH and try and push for redundancy.

    Very confused as some of what he said went against my union's specialist.

    On a more positive note I heard today that my application to sell my jewellery on Am**on Handmade has been successful.

    I'm not due to return to work until 27th April so still time to think it through.
  • mig
    mig Member Posts: 7,152
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Im sure you will make the right choice for you. X
  • TrishaW
    TrishaW Member Posts: 109
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    I really feel for you with this difficult decision.

    I was a nurse for 36 years, and the last few years I really struggled despite having a fairly non-physical role (as an HIV specialist and tutor) and flexible hours, adapted equipment etc.

    In the end it was the result of unsuccessful surgery with complications (CRPS) that led a very supportive OH Consultant to recommend I took ill health retirement at 54 (I'm 56 now)

    I was so worried I would lose my 'identity' as I'd been a nurse since I was 18 and loved my job, and also would miss my patients and colleagues.

    However, it was definately the right move for me.

    Healthwise I can pace myself, eat better (cook better), exercise more (I try and walk each day), I get less infections and I fight off viruses faster. If I can't sleep I no longer panic about having to go to work the next day...the same if I feel unwell..I can just rest the next day and I'm not 'letting people down'.

    In retrospect my patients got 100% from me, but there was nothing left for my family or for me. I often came home and sobbed with fatigue, then would be at work smiling the next day....It took the OH Doctor to point out this was not 'normal'.

    Although I still do a small amount of teaching for student nurses (only 8 sessions per year) I have discovered a whole new wonderful world since leaving work.

    I took myself to adult education watercolour classes and found I can paint and love it. I've even sold a few paintings and am currently facilitating an Art Group for a local stroke charity once a month.

    I have also joined a choir, something I'd always wanted to do but been too tired to do after work.

    I've been to sewing classes to learn how to make basic items with a sewing machine and have made various things including basic clothes for my grandaughter. As I love vintage clothes I've altered some dresses I've found in charity shops to fit me.

    I've made cushions, lampshades and upcycled furniture.

    I find I can still use a sewing machine and use a paintbrush even when my hands are swollen.

    I've also joined other Art groups, visit galleries and so on, and am currently doing a History of Art course purely for pleasure.

    Most of the courses I've been on are subsidised if you are not earning money.

    I've also had the time to sort out my house, cupboards, clothes etc to make everything easier for me to manage, and made some money selling things on ebay too.

    I don't know how I managed to work for the last couple of years, but at the time I was so caught up with it I couldn't see how it was affecting me.

    My quality of life is so much better now.

    I do sometimes feel sad when strangers ask me "what do you do?" but I'm a much calmer, less stressed person now. I sleep better and eat 'proper' healthy meals.

    I've realised I am not defined by my old job, and there is a whole new world out there that you may not discover until you actually stop working.

    I hope you make the right decision for you, but just wanted to share my own experience with you

    Much love and good luck

  • Slosh
    Slosh Member Posts: 3,194
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you for your reply, it's really well timed as it confirms the decision I've reluctantly come to is the right one for me.

    I went back to work last Wednesday after the Easter school holidays, and then had to take the next day off as I had a horrendous night due to pain. I pushed myself in on Friday and when teaching my bottom set maths lessom, 22 pupils I just didn't have the energy to teach them properly and ended up being a short tempered, ratty teacher which is not me, and not what they deserve.

    I met with my Head last week to discuss it with him as he has been so supportive of me and he confirmed what I had already worked out which is that the Assistant headteachers, which includes me, will be the next level to be restructured with fewer posts, which once job descriptions are written will mean my post would go.

    So much of what you wrote at the start of your message rings true, although I live alone. I get home and just collapse into bed for an hour, grt up, eat, and usually lie down again. I don't eat properly as I'm too tired, and don't even have the energy for a shower or bath, and spend most of my days off recovering in order to get through the next week.

    I've talked it through with my daughter and good friends, as well as my GP and my Union pensions expert and to be honest I'd rather choose when I go, will get a better deal this way (as long as the DfE agree) and take some control.

    So it looks like today will be my last day, I have my favourite teaching day today, so will be able to finish having delivered some good lessons, and can then quietly collect up some of my personal bits and go home at the end of the day as usual without saying anything.

    I have got other interests, and my jewellery business to build up but the difference with that is I can fit it in around me and the times of day that suit me. I know I will miss teaching and the pupils and my friends but I just feel I have to put myself first.

    Sorry for the long reply, but thanks again for you reply, it was very helpful it confirming that in stopping now I am doing the right thing for me.
  • TrishaW
    TrishaW Member Posts: 109
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Dear Slosh

    I'm sure this must have been very hard for you, and no doubt you'll have some moments of doubt and 'have I done the right thing?'.

    However give yourself time to adjust and I'm so sure you'll feel better and your quality of life will improve dramatically.

    There's a whole world out there that you will (after a period of rest) be able to discover and enjoy.

    The OH consultant said something very significant to me (when I was crying at the thought of ending my career) He said "until you actually have time to explore what else is out there and feel well enough to do so you will miss out on all the wonderful things available to learn /do/enjoy"

    He also said that I may go through a 'grieving' process for a while but the sadness would turn to has!!!

    It's so lovely to plan my time around my needs rather than work, and to enjoy cooking a proper meal, going for a walk, reading late at night if I can't sleep (without the panic setting in that I have to work in 3 hours)

    Life is more than work (I never thought I'd say that)

    One tip I'd give is to sign up for a class/course in something you've been interested in but never had a chance /the energy to try....

    Good luck and let us know how it all goes

    Trisha x
  • Slosh
    Slosh Member Posts: 3,194
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thanks for that Trisha, it has made a difference already in terms of reducing stress and anxiety, no need for adult ed though as I have a fledgling hoandmade jewellery business to focus on snd develop.
  • GraceB
    GraceB Member Posts: 1,595
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00

    For what it's worth I think you've made a brave, courageous - and right for you - decision.

    This is now your time to focus on your jewellery making which will keep your mind and fingers busy but won't physically and emotionally wear you out and "grind" you down.

    I hope it proves to be a smooth transition for you.

    Take care,
  • Slosh
    Slosh Member Posts: 3,194
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Thank you Grace