Work has been... interesting, of late. As ever, we all feel like nothing we ever do is good enough, or that we're not working hard enough despite being exhausted and (until last week, anyway, as it was half-term) having backlogs of either minutes or distributions or both because of barely having time to get anything done. This basically boils down to Senior Management having no clue what our job involves and moaning about it here will not change anything so I won't bother.
Also, it's currently unclear whether we (as in PSS) will be taken into the Children's Trust when it arrives in April. Initially it looked like they were going to consider us as part of the arrangements, and now we'll be moved into a "Transformation Directorate" whilst they figure out what to do with us, which will likely result in a lot of job losses. All we know for sure is that Gr4 managers will have to reapply for their posts. The ideal scenario would be for the Trust to decide that it wants dedicated admin support like in the good old pre-PSS days, in which case we will either TUPE across or we'll all have to reapply, but at the moment nothing is set in stone.
The more cynical amongst us reckon that the reason PSS are no longer being considered is because Senior Management know full well that most of those pointless middle managers will be out of a job under any Trust arrangement, and they're trying to protect themselves. Never mind the rest of us actually doing the work that keeps things moving, let's just make sure these stupid overpaid email monkeys keep their jobs.
Anyway, the uncertainty means I am half-heartedly (for now) job hunting again (both internally and externally), which sucks because I actually like this job and I don't really want to go, but at the same time I just want to jump ship before it inevitably sinks. A lot of people are feeling the same way, so if something doesn't get sorted (or at least clarified) pretty sharpish, they are going to lose a lot of good staff.
Stupid bloody Council. They never learn.
In smaller work news, I have been having colleague issues which have now (thankfully) been mostly resolved. It's a bit of an odd situation because the colleague and I get on really well most of the time, and went through this weird three-week period of constantly getting into stupid arguments.
It started around the end of January, when the colleague (Y) was finally getting around to the mandatory data protection e-learning which we all had to complete in order to get our secure email sorted finally. The only reason this came about was because of an email that Y herself sent last year regarding our so-called secure email solution, an Outlook add-on known as "Egress" which it transpires is neither secure nor a solution and which has caused nothing but problems and delay from the moment we started using it, not just for us but for our external partners (such as health, probation, etc).
In point of fact, the data protection e-learning is mandatory for all staff regardless of whether they need secure email, because we all deal with information on a daily basis, and it's the Council's insurance policy in case there is ever a data breach - it places the onus back onto the individual employee rather than the Council as a whole. Y also took issue with this concept when I tried to explain it to her, stating she would rather the Council got fined millions of pounds (potentially resulting in further job losses) if there was a serious data breach, than undergo a disciplinary on an individual basis. Considering she's a union rep, this attitude boggled my brain.
Anyway, this took place on a Friday (specifically on Trump's inauguration day, so I was not in the best of moods as it was), which is our manager's non-working day. Throughout the course of the morning things just got more and more annoying; initially Y asked me to help her set up the training, which was fine - I don't mind helping people. Then she kept interrupting me every ten minutes to ask how to do the training, despite all of us telling her multiple times that she just needed to make sure she clicked on everything and put in nonsense answers for anything it asked for in a freetext box, and that she could not complete the quiz until the software recognised that she had, indeed, clicked on everything and entered something into freetext boxes. I lost patience with her after the sixth or seventh time because I was attempting to type up some quite complex/annoying minutes, although when I explained that she left me alone. Three other colleagues then helped her with the training, including answering the quiz for her.
I should point out that everyone else at least read enough of the training to do the quiz without help; I assisted one colleague with it but she basically answered herself and I just clarified that she was correct. I am not about to babysit a grown woman through a simple point-and-click exercise.
At the same time as this was going on, I got involved in an argument with Y's union colleague, C, who was point-blank refusing to do the training despite being told by our manager that it was mandatory. I should not have engaged in the argument but, y'know, hindsight. Her attitude also pissed me off because when I explained that the training was mandatory and contained in everyone's contracts, her argument was that it wasn't in her contract so she wouldn't be doing it. At that point I gave up.
I was off sick following this for three days because the stress had made my kidney pain flare up. In fairness, I had let it get bad anyway because I had a hospital appointment the Wednesday before and I prefer to turn up at hospital appointments when things are bad, rather than not. I had been intending to get a GP appointment on Monday as it was, then it turned out I was off sick anyway. The stress had also made my horrible facial eczema flare up to the point where it was red and scaly and sore, and even something as mild as E45 cream just made it sting like a bastard. Thankfully the GP gave me something for that as well, though like every other ailment I'm currently suffering with it's simply refusing to go away. It definitely looks better but I haven't managed to vanquish it yet.
The two days after that I managed to avoid Y and C by virtue of hiding at the Access Centre. :P The week after we ended up in a stupid argument (again on a Friday!) because she was asking a question to those of us present in the office which should really have been directed towards our absent manager, and I lost my temper because she kept staring at me like I was giving her the wrong answer. She did at least apologise for it later with the explanation that she was tenacious about things, but it didn't really help to clear the air.
The week after we had another argument. On the Monday our manager called those of us present into a mini team meeting to share that one of the Gr4 managers would be coming back on phased return and the Team Manager (S, or Alien as he will henceforth be known because the only way to explain his lack of personality is that he is clearly only here to study human life up close. :P) said one of us would have to move so she could be accommodated. This is after we all moved desks back in July, under duress, to acommodate another team. We all refused on the basis that this Gr4 manager had managed to upset everyone she'd worked with thus far, including the team which she would actually be managing, and it was up to Alien to deal with any problems that might arise.
Anyway, C was not present for this meeting so we appraised her later, including the news that one of the two suggested people who might have to move was Y. C went through the roof (as she always does) and immediately called Y to tell her, which caused even more trouble. She did later call our manager to apologise for her behaviour, but she does this every single time: overreact, rant and rave unnecessarily, upset everyone, then apologise later.
The next day I ran into Y at the Access Centre and she asked me about the desk move. Perhaps stupidly, my opening gambit was to say it hadn't been C's place to tell her about that as it should have come from our manager. She argued that she was glad C had told her because our manager hadn't - I said that even if she HAD been told straight away, the position changed again within ten minutes, and in any case those of us present for the meeting made our feelings known quite vocally. She was giving me the look again like I was giving her the wrong answer and I told her so, and she reiterated that she wasn't having a go at me. Nevertheless, I emailed our manager immediately afterwards.
The next day Y asked for a mediation because she didn't want to keep upsetting me, which was lovely of her (and a vast improvement to what I imagine would have happened at Legal in the same situation!) but TBH the mediation didn't really make me feel any better. Our relationship has improved because one of the main issues was that I was stuck in between Y's issues with our line manager (possibly because I sit next to her and tends to just offload at me), and they have both agreed to be more conscious of that from now on. However, Y was absolutely adamant that she had nothing going on in her life which was impacing on her, and made me feel as though the problem was me.
I should point out, I very much doubt that she did this intentionally, but everyone is more than aware that she's lying / not acknowledging her own problem - which is that she's constantly covering for C by doing work for her and covering meetings for her. She's doing it as a favour because C has issues with her son's school which she's trying to sort, and we're all supportive of that, but they're also both taking liberties with their union duties to the degree that they're barely there. Y is overworking herself and cutting corners and is clearly stressed, but she won't admit that because she's trying to keep the peace between C and the rest of us.
The thing is, and this didn't occur to me until a few days after the mediation, what she's doing is subtly, unintentionally gaslighting me. After the mediation I had to go into the toilets to have a little cry because my anxiety was through the roof, because she honestly made me start to wonder if I was have a major mental health wobble and taking everyone else with me. It was only a conversation with other colleagues later that made me realise (a) everyone else had noticed Y wasn't herself, and (b) it wasn't just me who had been experiencing challenging conversations / interactions with her.
Anyway, our relationship has much improved, so the mediation did at least sort out the piggy-in-the-middle issues that seemed to be exacerbating everything. I have nonetheless mentioned the 'gaslighting' issue to my manager and she's going to talk to her again (apparently they recently had a two-and-a-half hour supervision which achieved basically nothing). Other people have mentioned it as well, because we are concerned for her well-being and indeed for the team dynamic. But if she won't admit there's a problem there's nothing any of us can do to ease the burden.
That was basically the long version of my Twitter rants lately. I also need to do a health update, though I put most of this on Facebook already.
As mentioned above, I had a hospital appointment on 18th January. I am now under the BMI / Priory, thankfully still funded by the NHS, as a result of my asking for a re-referral elsewhere to try and avoid my previous consultant, given the complaint I'd put in against him and various others.
Anyway, because my life is some kind of ridiculous soap opera / situation comedy, I still have the same consultant because he works for the Priory also. In fairness, this has restored my faith in him somewhat, and despite some initial embarassment at the start of the appointment (because he had the complaint in front of him and pulled me up on a comment I'd made in there) it went as well as could be expected.
I think the situation was not helped by my last two appointments, to be honest: one was rushed because it was the day of the NHS strikes so everything was delayed by an hour, and at the last one I didn't get to see my consultant from the off but his idiot colleague (who attributed my chronic pain to my period, remember him?) so by the time I saw my consultant I imagine he was just fire-fighting and thinking "what can I do to get this hysterical woman out of my office?".
He apologised immediately for the lab cock up and explained I was not the only patient they'd doen this to (they've done it to me twice, in fact) and that he'd also put a complaint in himself. With any luck that'll prompt the Trust to discipline the member of staff involved.
For the first time he actually examined me (couldn't find the pain because of how high up it is; everything lower down i.e. bladder region was not tender at all) and took the time to listen to me about my job and how the pain affected me on a daily basis. I don't know if this is a reflection of the standard of care between private/NHS, or if it's a result of the complaint (given I asked to be listened to as an outcome of it), but either way it made a refreshing change.
I was hoping the appointment would be a quick booking-in of the biopsy that should have been triggered by the TB results coming back negative. However, he confirmed that the biopsy is specifically used to diagnose interstitial cystitis, which is when there's a rupture/fissure in the bladder wall which means it keeps getting infected, and given the location of my pain he doesn't believe that's what I have. So now I have an ultrasound booked for 14th March. (My other hope by referring myself to the BMI was that things would progress quicker, which so far seems to be holding out...)
Last week I also finally got around to chasing the TB doctor for the summary he offered to send me of my last set of bloods (to check my immune system), as thanks to Christmas and work being insanely busy since January I'd not found time to get back in touch. Hopefully that will turn up soon and will not reveal anything untoward - I'd like to think if there was an indication of anything serious they would let me know, but it is the NHS, so...
If there are issues with my immune system I would not be terribly surprised, given my chronic sinusitis, dermatitis, and a wart on my thumb which is refusing to die. At this juncture though, we will never know if that's the root cause of my kidney issues, or a direct result of having to take so many antibiotics.
Interestingly, when I went to the GP to get more antibiotics, the sample I provided returned clear for everything, including leucocytes (white blood cells) which is previously all they could find. It was definitely not healthy though considering the colour/cloudiness of it and indeed the smell (I hesitated to invite the GP to smell it for herself). She said that normally she wouldn't give me a prescription if there was no evidence of an infection, but as the antibiotics were proven to help ease my pain, she did one for me anyway. I have to say, my new GP surgery is excellent.
In other, slightly more exciting health-related news... on 28th February I went to get my daith pierced. I had been intending to get it done for some time, but finally bit the bullet thanks to my colleague and our line manager deciding to get theirs done. One of our East colleagues had it done specifically for medicinal purposes and confirmed the magic, migraine-healing properties, so we figured we had nothing to lose and all booked Tuesday afternoon off to go and get it done.
My migraines have been getting worse lately - more frequent and occasionally more intense, and painkillers do nothing to relieve them. £30 for a daith piercing seemed a small price to pay if it actually worked.
You're supposed to pierce the side where you get migraines; mine tend to occur on both sides (when I get a three-day migraine they start on one side and migrate to the other by the third day) but I went for my left ear as on Saturday I had a bit of a migraine on that side.
This will sound crazy, but about an hour after getting it done it felt as though there was less pressure in the left side of my head. I hadn't even noticed there was pressure at all until it was gone. The ultimate litmus test, I guess, was actually the day after (yesterday) as we had to attend a funeral (Lynn, Andrea's [Paul's sister-in-law] mother, a lovely lady who we last saw at Christmas). This was an understandably stressful and upsetting day (we were both fine until we saw Andrea in pieces and that set us both off; she's one of the strongest people I know and it was awful seeing her so broken), though for me my reasons for being upset were somewhat more selfish: basically, I miss my mum. Obviously, I have come to terms with the emigration, but sometimes it just hits me like a punch in the face.
(It's also likely I've become That Person who cries at funerals. And weddings.)
(Also, the wake was lovely - the family pulled the stops out to cater for everyone and I think Lynn would have been proud of their bravery and resilience. Unfortunately, I ran out of spoons pretty rapidly because Paul's dad (Brian) is hard work at the best of times, and it didn't help that his opening comment was regarding the piano - he and his other half had given Noel and Helen a lift to the funeral and she'd told him that they wanted to decorate the room where she's kindly storing the piano for me, so Brian's first comment was that we had to move it or it would be "going on the scrap heap". Admittedly, he isn't aware of all the drama surrounding the piano issue, but I'm sure Helen would have asked about it in a more subtle / less dickish way. Brian is also hard work when he's drunk and I decided it might be best to leave before I got snappy and upset someone, as the spoons deficit had obliterated all my social niceties.)
Anyway, even though the stress did cause a migraine, it was interestingly only constrained to the right side of my head, and on getting home later I took a Naproxen which was actually effective (on its own, without the addition of paracetemol) at easing the pain.
Clearly, it's too soon to say if the daith piercing has been a success, but the evidence so far is promising. I had a feeling I would need to get both sides done because of how my migraines manifest, so I'll leave it a couple of months and see what happens, then probably get the other ear done as well.
If this improves my quality of life even a little bit, I'll call it £30 well spent - and one less health issue to worry about whilst I resolve my mystery kidney problem.
Anyway, I think that's about everything.