Amanda's story | Education Support
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Amanda's story

Primary teacher Amanda, not her real name, felt that her headteacher was ‘gunning for her’, with constant pressure and negative feedback. Nothing was ever right. But when she started to sit in on her classes Amanda couldn’t take any more and was signed off sick with anxiety and depression. With our support she managed to get back to school, take on a new role and manage her anxiety. 

I had a very challenging class but instead of helping me, my head seemed to be gunning for me. Nothing was ever right for her and when I asked for help she didn’t give me any. Instead she started sitting in on my classes, just a few minutes at a time then longer and longer. Eventually she sat in for my entire Maths lessons and that was the final straw. This was just after the Autumn half term in 2017. I got signed off that day and stayed off until after Christmas.

Having successfully come off anti-depressants a couple of years ago, I had to go back on them because of the stress this caused me. Then a few weeks after that I was signed off. I felt dreadful staying at home when I should be at work. I’ve been brought up with that whole stiff upper lip thing, just get on with it. But I couldn’t. We had an Ofsted coming up but I knew I’d be probably do more harm than good if I went in. I felt for my colleagues, the children, everyone. I was so full of guilt. At our last inspection, we’d been put in Special Measures and had been having an LEA educational advisor coming in on a regular basis. That was very tough. Like being under a magnifying glass.

How did you find out about the helpline?

My husband is very supportive but I knew I needed something else, so I searched “bullying headteacher” to see if I could get some help. I found the article Crying in cupboards about the stress of being a teacher. It could’ve been written about me. My online search also led me quickly to the Education Support Partnership helpline.

What support did you receive?

At first it was just lovely to know was somebody was there. Initially I used the online chat and said I wanted to use online messaging as I thought I would find it easier to put it in writing. I’m not brilliant at speaking on the phone and didn’t feel strong enough straight away but the person I spoke said it would be better if I could speak to one of their counsellors on the phone. A week later I felt strong enough to do that.

The call made me see I had nothing to feel guilty about and that helped enormously. The counsellor then suggested signing me up for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which I did (CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave).

I had seven sessions which really made a difference. It helped me to realise my mindset wasn’t helping me and I needed to change it. I’d been waking up at 2am when my brain would kick in and saying, ‘Right! What can we think about now?’ I’d think about the children at school and go over and over have I done this right or that and I’d take a while to get back to sleep. Now if I wake up in the night I say to myself, ‘I can’t do anything about that now. I’ll look at it tomorrow.’ And I get back to sleep. But I don’t tend to wake early anymore since I had the CBT. More nights than not I am sleeping through. Prior to the counselling I was also having nightmares and anxiety dreams. But I haven’t had one for ages now.

What was the impact of the call?

CBT didn’t just help me with the stress of my job. It helped all other aspects of my life. I had thought anxiety was part of who I was. Now getting a full night’s rest and clearing my mind means I can escape from my work whereas before I couldn’t. It helped me to learn how to switch off. 

How has your situation changed?

I now find it easier to manage my depression and anxiety. The head is now overly nice to me. But I don’t trust her. I’m wary of her. I behave as though nothing’s happened. I could carry it with me and feel bitter and resentful but I don’t see the point.

What would you say to anyone working in education who is in a similar position?

Speak up! I was reluctant to involve the union in case it caused trouble but that and phoning the Education Support Partnership was the best thing I did. It’s very important to be kind to yourself and look after yourself. There sometimes comes a point when you can’t be all things to all people. If hadn’t asked for help either I’d have gone back and failed or… I wouldn’t be back at all. 

How we can help

  • Help for individuals  
    Sometimes work (or just life) can be tough. A challenging student, an Ofsted inspection, personal financial worries; there are many stresses on those who work in education. That’s why we offer free, confidential help and support, no matter what your problem.
  • Help for organisations 
    Working in education is demanding so we’ve designed a set of services to help you check how your teams are coping, troubleshoot problems and boost everyone’s wellbeing.