Terrified of starting work again

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Terrified of starting work again

Postby sweatybetty » Wed Jan 21, 2015 9:38 pm

I was diagnosed with TMAU last year, although I have been aware that I was suffering from 'odour' issues since I was 12-13. Unfortunately, in my case the real cause was obfuscated by my severe hyperhidrosis so until recently I thought that any problems with 'odour' were due to my heavy sweating. For years I kept thinking that if I could control the sweating that would solve the problem. I asked several GPs for help with hyperhidrosis.

I have had intermittent comments all my life - at University, from friends and in jobs. As I had good qualifications I often moved jobs when I felt that the situation was becoming too difficult. I worked for Big 4 accounting firms, Investment Banks and had excellent jobs but although I did quite well it was not reflective of the effort and quality of work I did. Whilst at one firm the partner walked around waving a strategy document I had produced saying how brilliant it was and how all the rest of the team should be aiming to produce this. When he realised it was my work the praise dried up. In some jobs this was the pattern - a sort of sidelining until I moved on. I remember one politically savvy female colleague (now at Board level for a retailer) saying that if they like you you can get away with anything. The opposite of this obviously being that if they don't like you everything you do will be wrong whatever the quality of your work or performance.

As I hit my late 30s the reactions became more direct - at one consulting firm I heard my boss saying to a very senior MD that I smelt. The MD looked surprised and challenged him saying asking what I smelt of to which my boss said 'Sweat'. Not all people can smell me (clearly the MD did not have a problem with me) but it seems no one at work (especially in a client situation) wants an employee who may be viewed negatively by colleagues or clients.

My boss gave me tougher and tougher deadlines and make my life impossible. I was forced to work overseas (when I said this was difficult he made it clear it was this or leave) without break and for very long hours. At 40 I ended up in the Priory for 6 weeks where I raised many issues workplace bullying including my concerns about my odour. Again the picture was confused - one Doctor went to great lengths to reassure me that I did not smell and said she had 'sniffed me' after I had returned from the gym and there was no odour. My psychiatrist In the Priory however made an oblique remark that all people smell differently and that she had a female friend who was a little 'musky' but nonetheless was very popular with men. At that point I still thought my odour was due to hyperhidrosis so I took these comments from medical professional as reassuring context that any 'odour' was not that much of a problem.

My consulting firm was trying to sack me but I hung in there - they never directly claimed I was underperforming - it was inferred and this was really hurtful and unfair. I believe the real issues was my boss did not like the smell of me and was determined to force me out. Eventually after nearly reaching tribunal we went to mediation - It was horrific and stressful but worse was the behaviour of my solicitor. I had engaged a leading disability discrimination lawyer since I was concerned about the impact of having been in the Priory. Over the course of a 16 hour mediation we spent many hours waiting for the mediator to move between us and my firm and in the morning I had repeated the comments about my boss saying that 'he did not like the smell of me' . To this the lawyer replied that maybe my boss was trying to be helpful. I think now I should have taken her to task about her understanding of disability discrimination but at that time I did not have the diagnosis I knew my hygiene was obsessive and that I could do no more but I was still blaming myself. Now I am furious as I think the solicitor's behaviour amounted to discrimination.

I struck a deal with the firm but I feel this would have been much more favourable if my lawyer had been supportive. A combination of depression and low self esteem prevented me from protecting myself adequately.

I had some time out but then tried to get back into work - I decided to avoid the high pressure world of consulting and banking and aim for the work life balance of the public sector. I did a few contracts but was still experiencing problems - at one government employer it was worse than it had ever been - people were getting up and moving away from me and one colleague pretended to spray me with cleaning product. I was in my mid 40s and due to B12 deficiency had recently started eating fish twice weekly (had been vegetarian pre this). Eventually I began to notice odour on my urine, especially if I ate cod and this began to form a worry that I had this rare condition. The people were so unpleasant and my manager began to find fault with my work (even though I was very over qualified for the role I was doing). People I needed to have meetings with would ignore (several) meeting requests. Eventually I resigned. This was some time ago.

I have now been offered another government role - the thing is I have excellent skills and qualifications and I work hard and come across well - the problem occurs when I am in the role and certain people (not all) begin to realise that I am the source of the odour. However I am terrified of work and people now - I think if people/my manager becomes aware of an odour problem they will make my life difficult. I know that I 'should' in law be protected but I think people are clued up enough to realise that if a professional, well groomed woman in her 40s who is not presenting as depressed has an odour it is unlikely to be due to soap dodging and is likely to be a medical problem which will be more difficult to tackle. Then faced with this the organisation will consider the best way to rid themselves of that employee and 'underperformance' will be the chosen solution. You can always find fault in - most job performance reviews are not strictly black and white - to return to my ex colleagues comment if they don't like you, everything you do will be wrong.

I realise this is a dissertation rather than a post - writing it is part cathartic and I'm sure many others on here have experienced similar fears but I am bloody terrified and really scared it will go wrong and that I will be sacked for alleged underperformance and will never have a hope of working again.
sweatybetty
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby Lisa » Wed Jan 21, 2015 10:23 pm

Not dismissing any of what you have been thru at all, BUT, we are more savvy towards this disease now, I think we have more rights than people think, this is a medical condition, and there is not a lot we can do about it. FACT!
If you want to go back into the workplace I think you have to change your mindset, easily said than done I know, you have had so many negatives, but use these to make you stronger.
Nobody has to be used, abused, downtrodden, you sound like a very strong person, and perhaps, I maybe wrong, this, along with your odour, put people's noses out of joint for one reason or another?
Personally I would go for it, be the person you are, do the work you are more than competent to do, show them.
DO NOT LET ANYONE PISS ON YOUR CHIPS ANY LONGER!!!!

I am not particularly good with words, (see above) Lol. But I hope you sort of understand what I am trying to say.

Good luck, and keep us posted please.
:D
Lisa
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby Lisa » Wed Jan 21, 2015 10:26 pm

P.S. Proof of under performance?

I think not, you argue your case, if you have done your very best then you can do no more.
Lisa
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby sweatybetty » Thu Jan 22, 2015 10:50 am

Hello Lisa

Thanks for your reply and positive thoughts - do you work for a company in an office environment?

What have you found works for you in dealing with peer colleagues, managers, HR etc?
sweatybetty
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby Lisa » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:04 am

Hi,

Luckily for me I run my own business with my husband and son.
It's fencing & gardening, so customers etc have never commented on anything, what with the wind howling around etc, so I count myself as extremely grateful for the job I'm in, as I have said, I greatly admire all of you that work in an indoor environment, I don't think I could cope working in those conditions.
Also, I have the sort of face only a mother could love, my husband says I don't have to say anything when I'm miffed off, my face says it all, but I do have a lovely smile. :lol:
I also like to up-cycle furniture, which I sell, again, doesn't really affect anybody, I do things at my own pace, and I enjoy it very much.
Lisa
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby Lisa » Thu Jan 22, 2015 11:06 am

P.S. I don't take any crap from anyone either, if Someone did make a comment towards me they would be told under no uncertain terms not to be so bloody rude!
Lisa
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby sweatybetty » Thu Jan 22, 2015 12:28 pm

[quote="Lisa"]Hi,

Also, I have the sort of face only a mother could love, my husband says I don't have to say anything when I'm miffed off, my face says it all, but I do have a lovely smile. :lol:


I'm sure that is not the case - obviously you have a great husband and son :D - I now have a mental picture of Charlie Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh

Over the past few years I have been scratching my head as to alternative careers - too old to start a career in certain outdoor work and not really fit /strong enough for outdoor work generally. I would happily become a computer coder and work on my own at home but, unfortunately I am rubbish at the coding aptitude test.

So for practical reasons and money reasons I have to do what I have experience in and am good at! As worried and terrified as I am I feel really sorry for the few people on here who are teachers - I think that is one of the most stressful jobs to manage TMAU in. Some kids can be really cruel and there is no downtime or retreating to your desk or office as you are interacting with the pupils constantly and often quite closely.

But the reality of the situation in my workplace is that perception can become reality and often performance assessments have huge weighting on how you are assessed to interact with others and this what I am so fearful of. I hope I have enough self awareness to be aware of how I am appearing to others and often I have built great friendships with some of those I work with (even went on a US road trip with male female colleagues in my early 30s though after a week in the car one guy made a comment)

It is just the 25% -50% of people who react very strongly are a problem because even the other 50% who may not be bothered do not want to feel as though they are not aware of a potentially social problem. Sorry sounds dramatic but it is the reality for me - in one consulting project the HR director at a client told me to leave the room and eventually my embarrassed consulting colleague came out and asked me what I had been eating!
sweatybetty
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby Lisa » Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:01 pm

:lol: Alan Titchmarsh & Charlie Dimmock!

I get what you are saying completely, like you say, it's not everybody that has the sheer audacity to say something, but, the people who have made very rude comments have dented your confidence, a lot.
How about you start off part time, ease yourself into it, and see how the land lies.
Push comes to shove you could always have a print off to hand so any comment made you could just pass the "offender", said info, and that may just be enough to make them think before they speak?

When you heard these comments that were directed to you how did you react? Did you try and explain the situation or just accept it so to speak?
Maybe, just for a little confidence boost you could try CBT, so you have a little more power to your elbow on how to handle difficult situations?

I can't answer your Q for you, only you can do that, but what I will say is, don't not do something you want to do, don't regret decisions, and certainly don't live life on a "what if" basis.
I totally understand how you felt/ feel about these comments, I can't believe people would be so rude with their opinions, but if you don't do what you want to do these people have won.

Worse case scenario has happened to you, it's been out there, directly to your face, can it get any worse, IMO no, you have put up with disgraceful behaviour, and you have come thru it.

Dip your toe in the water, see how it goes, why let anyone stop you from doing something you enjoy, need to do to keep your head above water.

You are preparing yourself for something that may never happen again.

I hope what I have written makes some sort of sense?
Lisa
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby Lisa » Thu Jan 22, 2015 2:05 pm

Btw, I have heard there are Botox injections you can have to help with the sweating, I suppose you have looked at all the options?
Lisa
 
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Re: Terrified of starting work again

Postby sweatybetty » Thu Jan 22, 2015 4:14 pm

Hi thanks for replying

Yes it makes sense :D

This is a full time role unfortunately though if I can get through 6 months I may apply to do reduced hours.

I did all the CBT, Social Anxiety, managing boundaries during my time in the Priory - it was 6 weeks therapy boot camp albeit in luxury surroundings (I was lucky I had insurance in those days that provided me with the treatment) and then had 1-1 counselling for 6 months after. Logically I know that if I get comments I need to diffuse them by explaining the condition and that I am doing everything I can but ultimately I have a cynical view that organisations will look for reason to rid themselves of an employee with this problem. Many people at the Priory faced being pushed out of their jobs for depression/addiction - even where is legal protection firms can 'create' a case. Unless you have a job making widget where the output is completely quantifiable there is always room for an employer to do this. I know I sound negative :? but my direct experiences and awareness of others' experiences worry me. In fighting my case I became very knowledgable about employment law !

I didn't have the official TMAU diagnosis back when I was in the Priory or when I was last in work. I was aware I had odour problems beyond my control that even obsessive cleanliness was not helping. Unnfortunately I was not armed with the knowledge that I had a medical condition so did not 'stick up' for myself sometimes. Anyway most comment were oblique and even when I tactfully challenged people i.e. one woman who got up and moved away those people made silly excuses. Often I tried to ignore it - , those I trusted and confided in denied I had a problem - even GP friends denied it! I genuinely believe this was because they were totally unaware rather than avoiding a difficult subject. This seems to be a common issue for some of us and maybe in my case my friends were self selecting i.e. those who were not attuned to the odour.

Re Botox - sadly not an option for - don't sweat much under arms anymore following aluminium treatment. Unfortunately this displaced sweating to trunk/groin area which they cannot botox or treat with the Iontopheris therapy and propanadol (bit like beta blockers) don't seem to help! . Happy Days eh - have to laugh or I would cry.
sweatybetty
 
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