Sally’s story

When Sally needed time off work for treatment and monitoring of her ectopic pregnancy, she was put under pressure to return to work.

[Being dismissed] turned out to be a blessing in disguise… But at the time, it was devastating, and I believe had a profound impact on my mental health in the months that followed.

My experience with loss in the workplace has been hit and miss. The most memorable without a doubt, though, was in August/September of 2017, but it began in May of the same year.

In May 2017 I discovered I was pregnant. I was six weeks away from getting married, and I thought if this all goes okay we could do a cute little announcement, or give parents a private gift to let them know.

However, almost immediately I began to bleed. It wasn’t heavy, just enough that it was concerning, and it never went away. I was too scared to go to the hospital – this was our sixth pregnancy with no live births, so our history wasn’t great. I informed work, so that they could be aware should something go wrong.

The bleeding continued for almost 2 weeks before I went and got checked, and they found an ectopic pregnancy. I was early enough that methotrexate had a good chance of working, so we went down that route. Once it was diagnosed, I immediately signed myself off, I was distraught. Once I had the methotrexate injection, I had to go back every other day to get more blood taken until my levels had dropped down to consider the injection successful. This took a further 2 and a half weeks, and was absolute torture.

Throughout this time, my employer rang me repeatedly to ask when I would be back, and it got to the point that I couldn’t answer their calls anymore. Once my blood levels were low, I left it another week before I went back to work.

By this point, my anxiety was through the roof and I was struggling to cope day to day. I would drive the 30mins to work, and sit in the car sobbing because I just could not face going in. I eventually told my manager that I believed I had come back too soon because my mental health was really suffering.

He showed no sympathy, no empathy, and simply stated that I had 3 weeks annual leave booked off in about 3 weeks’ time, and I couldn’t go off sick before then – keeping in mind this was booked off for my wedding/honeymoon – and besides, now I’m back it would be counted as 2 separate absences, and that “wouldn’t look good”.  So I came in every day for 3 weeks, sat at my desk with physical shakes because my anxiety was so debilitating, until I could go off for apparently the happiest period of my life.

After that time off, everything just got worse. My employer offered me occupational health help, and I got one visit from them and we barely talked about anything that I had experienced.

Now that my wedding was over and I had no distractions, it felt like I was experiencing everything all over again. I went to my GP, who immediately insisted I sign off again. I could not phone my employer, I couldn’t face it, so I sent my GP notes in via post on a regular basis. This went on for about 3 weeks, when they started calling me repeatedly. I couldn’t answer, and they would just leave messages saying to call them.

Eventually they emailed me to say that my latest GP note had not been received, but instead of giving me the chance to supply them with a replacement copy, they sent me an invite to a disciplinary hearing for being absent without leave. I received the invite in the post, an hour after it had taken place, and was not in the mental place to fight it, and I was dismissed from my job.

It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, it was an awful place to work and to this day I tell people to avoid it like the plague. But at the time, it was devastating, and I believe had a profound impact on my mental health in the months that followed.