So my return to work is underway, I’m on week three out of eight weeks and it’s going so splentiferously well, so fantastically, so wonderfully, OK you got me. It’s going and so far I’m coping, that’s the best part of it. This is not going to be a light hearted post, it’s me being brutally honest about how things are.
My return to work has been hard, emotionally and physically. It’s been extremely difficult adapting to my work environment, it’s learning to live with my disabilities and restrictions all over again but in a different setting, and boy is that hard. Little things like the plugs being left out of sockets, windows being left open,chairs in my way none of which were a problem pre accident, post accident it’s a different story. I become frustrated several times a day, often with my own limitations but more often with lack of forethought from others. Simulataneously I recognise that they shouldn’t have to consider my every need but conversely, it has resulted in me collapsing in a soggy mess in the staffroom twice in the past three weeks.
My colleagues and pupils have been most supportive, the children welcoming me back (well, when they realise that the teacher standing before them is the more polished and less unkempt version of one that they vaguely remembered, recounting and embellishing stories of lessons lived, or imagined, in some cases.) I’m an (urban) legend in my own lifetime – who’d have thunk it? My colleagues have been genuinely glad to see me and that has greatly lifted my spirits.I feel like I have a purpose again.
I knew that returning to work was going to be hard work, I’d just not realised how hard it was going to be. My first morning at work, I came home, napped for nearly three hours, got up for something to eat and then returned to bed, sleeping for fifteen hours straight. I had anticipated that I was going to need a great deal of sleep but hadn’t realised what a toll working would take on my body. Last week I worked for three mornings, I felt that I’d earned a weekend, I was relishing the thought of a weekend spent with Mr RR, doing enjoyable activities, I’d not realised that the majority of the weekend was going to be spent, you guessed it, sleeping. Oh and moaning about the intensity of the pain at regular intervals to Mr RR, lest he forget 😉 (like I’d ever let him forget!)
There has to be a balancing act, and sometimes I get sick of balancing things and I just want to stamp my feet like a petulant child and do what I WANT to do, and not make choices all of the while. Not big choices you understand, like which car we’re going to buy or where we’re going on holiday (the chance of either of these things happening is slim to none) but to be able to have a bath and not consider in advance whether the act of getting in and out of the bath and the embarassment of having to ask Mr RR to help me out of the bath will actually negate any relief that I might get from sitting in the water for a while. Or whether not asking Mr RR to help me get dressed will mean that I struggle more with driving to work. A colleague asked me today if I’d like to attend a meal next week, I replied that I’d love to, but currently I’m not physically able to. The look that they gave me spoke volumes, that they, not so far apart in age from me, could not comprehend how I could be able to make it into work but not to a meal and I, well I didn’t want to have to justify myself and explain the sacrifices which are being made at home in order for me to do this. As every day passes, Mr RR seems to acquire another task in helping me to care for myself and each day, I feel more and more like a burden.
But, I’m coping. When people at work, genuinely curious about how I came to be disabled ask me how I am, that’s my response “I’m coping, adapting to being disabled.” One of the more senior members of the school, when calming me down and handing me tissues to mop up the flood of tears, made a good point. That just as I’ve had to get used to being disabled and my limitations at home, so do I now need to recognise and work with my limitations at work. I couldn’t have asked for more appropriate equipment to enable me to do my job and for that I am grateful. I am hopeful that, once the phased return has completed, my body has adjusted to what is now being demanded of it, that I can start to pick up the threads of a social life and to begin phasing in more enjoyable activities. I can but hope.