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Monday, July 9, 2018

I Am Working Woman, Hear Me Roar (In Pain)

Well, I did it. I survived my first week back at the day job.

All in all, it went pretty well. I chose an easy week - most of the office was away for the holiday, and with July 4th falling on Wednesday, I got a bonus day off in the middle of the week. It turns out that was insanely helpful.

Monday went by quickly, and was mostly spent visiting with coworkers and catching up, weeding through 4 months of emails ( they numbered in the thousands), and just trying to re-acclimate. I did a lot of walking around our office complex, and even made myself take the stairs a few times just because I felt like I could. I got home Monday night, sat down on the couch, and the tired hit me like a ton of bricks. I realized I may have overdone it a little, and dragged myself upstairs to bed at eight o’clock.

Tuesday I was a little more tired, but still managing well. I got home from work, sat down on the couch and couldn't get up again. I slept through my evening medications, and woke up at 2 a.m. wracked with pain. I dragged myself up to bed, very grateful that I had the day off on Wednesday.

I spent the entire Fourth of July on the couch with only an occasional trip to the kitchen or bathroom. My exhaustion level wasn't any better than the day before. Thursday and Friday I was dragging at work, literally willing myself to put one foot in front of the other when I needed to go somewhere. Stairs weren't even a remote possibility. Early bedtime was a given. I was amazed and how cumulative my exhaustion and pain were as I moved through the week. My heating pad and my muscle relaxers where my best friends.The weekend was a blur of elevated pain and weariness.

So this week, I am pacing myself more. I'm getting plenty of rest and I'm making sure my day is a good mix of occasionally getting up and walking around for short bursts like my therapists have recommended, offset by gentle stretching of my limbs and the use of elevators over stairs, at least until I build my stamina a little bit more.

In a perfect world (or should I say a perfect country), with proper Universal Healthcare benefits for its citizens - I could take a full year like my therapists recommended to recover properly from a significant brain injury. But I don't live in that world, I live in America where my relatively good health insurance from my very good employer is only willing to allow me six months of short-term disability leave at two-thirds of my salary. Long-term disability wasn't an option either, due to my employer's policy of terminating your employment once you move into long-term. The salary restriction was tough, and my therapists were brutally honest with me and let me know that two more months weren't really going to make much of a difference as to my pain levels. I might as well feel crummy in a cubicle earning my full salary instead of feeling crummy sitting on my couch and worrying about how I'm going to pay my bills or put food on the table.

This is far from ideal - but then again, having a stroke is pretty far from ideal, too. I obviously wouldn't have chosen any of this for myself. This is my life now. I can wallow in it, or I can keep moving forward. I've had to redefine my expectations of myself, but I don't have to let this situation redefine all that I want out of my life.

Getting back to work is a big step, and a much-needed one. I'm glad I took it.

Next on the agenda: working my way to the bottom of my never-ending laundry pile. I'll keep you posted on that one.

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