Tuesday, 4 October 2016

What a difference a year makes

Just over a year ago, I left my job. I worked in a university department, teaching physiology to medical students. The job was well paid, had a good pension... it was also killing me. No, seriously. I had a stress-aggravated arrhythmia that resulted in my heart pounding in an uncontrolled fashion that didn't effectively pump blood around my body. Episodes of it could be as short as a few seconds or as long as over an hour. On two occasions, my heart just stopped beating completely for several seconds. Believe me, that is a terrifying experience.

One day in late October 2014, during a lecture, my heart rate and rhythm decided to strut their own stuff and I collapsed.
My sense of normality, of what was acceptable to be asked to do in a job was so skewed, I carried on to finish the lecture while lying on the floor, too dizzy to be able to stand.

On top of a ridiculous work-load and unrealistic expectations, what really pushed me over the edge was that a colleague was bullying me. The department and Human Resources were doing little to nothing to help me and eventually, I hit burn-out. I was sent to see Occupational Health who immediately said I wasn't fit to be at work. My GP signed me off for a week, but said he was expecting that I would be signed off for at least 3 months. I didn't believe him. I thought I would be back for Christmas. That was in November 2014. In June 2015 I had 2-hours of heart surgery to fix the arrhythmia and then I returned to work. I had already handed in my notice and I left the university, after working there for 18 years, at the end of September 2015.

It was the one of best decisions I have ever made.

Fast-forward to a year later... I've published my first novel, I've been awarded a Spotlight on Crime Slot for new writers at an International Crime Writers Festival, I'm back to running (albeit I've not run any half marathons for a few years now!), I have a fantastic work-life balance and I love my job - writing. Well, most of the time. We can all have an off day.

Leaving a well-paid job with a decent pension was a difficult decision to make. Hearing your GP say that he genuinely thinks that staying in that job will kill you by giving you a fatal arrhythmia one day, made it one hell of a lot easier.

So far, I haven't looked back.



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