Back

I did my gradual return to work over a month and a half and now am back full time.

And today I am at home, sick with a virus that someone brought into the office. *sigh* I don’t even know if I have the sick time to cover this, but I can’t spread this further.

I’m still experiencing the prickling but my desk is being set up ergonomically, so hopefully that helps. I’m trying to follow the recommendations of all my health care providers and move, refocus my eyes somewhere more distant than my screen, set healthy boundaries (for myself and others), walk away from my desk every noon hour.

But I always have that internal critic, sniping at me and making me feel like I have to justify myself, and that drawing boundaries is “letting myself off easy”. But I can physically feel that the boundaries are necessary. When I turn off my computer at night to go home, it’s because I have to. I need to do something other than my work. Sometimes I barely have the energy to make a decision about what that will be before my alarm goes off, signaling the beginning of my medicated time, and the rapid approach of the end of my day.

I don’t know where I picked up this sickness – perhaps I could blame society or some aspect of a work culture. But it is a sickness. I remember feeling so righteous in my overtime. Moments that disappeared into the void of a “good job” given with a quarter of that person’s attention, because they were so busy being busy. Or perhaps not even a thank you. Which led me to believe that this was what was expected of me in that job. Sacrificing moments of my life to ensure that something was flawless.

But nothing is flawless. And to chase down every obscure flaw provides diminishing returns. At some point, you’re just driving yourself into the brick wall for your own ego’s sake. A man on a flying horse isn’t going to notice, as my grandmother said. Good enough.

I have a couple of personal projects that I want to do. They are at the top of my “things to do when not at work” list, but they take effort. And effort is something I haven’t felt like I have a whole store of. I was hoping the medical leave would have helped to refill that, but maybe I’ve been running on fumes for so long, I didn’t realize that my tank was that empty.

So right now I’m working on a work project that I was asked to do just before I had to take my medical leave. And I’m trying to keep track of my symptoms daily to try to describe the patterns.

And I’m trying to live healthily. I’m incorporating more exercise, and I’m eating well, I think. I’m enjoying some deep breathing exercises and keeping my mind mostly clear. I’m playing piano and playing some video games and reading. I am watching shows and movies with my husband. I occasionally even socialize.

Some days I’m okay. Some days I feel like a shadow of who I was. I don’t know if people notice. I don’t like the side effects of the medications that are supposed to be helping me. I’ve been on most of them for over a year now and I’m still experiencing the same symptoms. 

But the world shows its beauty and I am grateful to witness it. I try to keep my head up and ears open. Slowly, I am determined that I will be back.

Okay, owning it

Hey y’all. It’s been a while.

I’m sitting on our new couch, in our new place, listening to disc 1 of 4 of *one* of my Ella Fitzgerald collections, thinking about the calls and paperwork I have to do today but I’ve been promising myself all week that I was going to make a blog post. It’s Friday, I’d best get on that.

So. Sometimes I like to think that I’m fairly intelligent and body-aware and all that jazz (see what I did there – ha). Then sometimes my body has to scream at me, especially when my stubborn, head-down, plough-through attitude is over-talking the gentle “Dear, stop.”

After two one week vacations this summer where I finished them off with a night where I kept myself from sleeping due to the anxiety of returning to work and all that would hold. Given my current medical mystery, the things I was anticipating were great – such as the feeling that I’m wearing a mask of pins (to clarify, pointy side down towards my skin), that feeling creeping into my arms and legs on a really bad day. Not to mention the dizziness, feeling like I have blisters on the underside of my eyelids (I don’t as far as I can tell), and a brain that constantly was feeling like I was trying to run an electrical current through porridge (usually how I feel post migraine).

It took me hitting the verge of tears at my desk, and a friend who also was telling me about her struggles and shrugging off crying at her desk as a part of a normal workday until someone convinced her that wasn’t right, to have me make the call.

I can’t do everyday work right now and try to fix whatever is wrong with me.

And I’m sure a lot of people around me sighed in relief, glad I finally came to the conclusion they’d known for months. Those people include my husband, who bears the brunt of it and only gets frustrated at my stubbornness occasionally… All the way to my RMT, who has felt like we were in an episode of Groundhog Day since I began seeing her in January, I am sure.

So I went to see my GP, and she wrote me a note of medical leave until “at least December 1st”. Thanks to a supportive manager and a workplace advisor, I’ve been navigating the system since.

I had another neurologist appointment a couple of weeks ago, and she has ordered an MRI. We’re playing with my meds again. I’m in another experiment right now – I’ve added the new medication two weeks ago, and tonight I’m supposed to increase the original medication again on top of that. But my neurologist had mad respect for the treatment my RMT has been doing (and that I’ve been undergoing it – TMJ massage is not for the faint of heart, or the easy gag reflex). And the good news was that the difference of one week on the new med (which I don’t think can be a forever medication) is a drastic reduction in the tension (therefore pain) in my jaw and face from two weekends ago to last weekend. So much so that we bumped my next (weekly) RMT appointment back another week to see how I’m doing.

It didn’t help that we moved house over Thanksgiving weekend, shortly after I officially went on leave. It didn’t help that I didn’t have any more sick leave because I’ve had to be away so much (and my previous job had me so stressed that I basically was sick every month with a new cold or flu – stress does depress your immune system). I’m on leave without pay right now, trying to get a bit of coverage. That’s the paperwork that has to happen today.

So when I didn’t perceive any prickling yesterday, it was awesome. I have some today – right now pins are prickling my cheekbones, the outer corners of my eyes and a bit on my top lip. It’s been pretty light this week, though I’ve still been having headaches.

One of the pieces of advice I got from my therapist, who has been trying to help me work through all of this, was to go for walks so that I actually leave my house. I’m not super great at just making them walks and not multi-tasking. But I have been able to take some photos of the beautiful, colourful autumn we have been having.


I’ve also been able to get together with a friend who is off on maternity leave, and have lunches or tea and we both are less isolated.

I still think about work. I wonder how people are, how my stuff is going. But I’m trying to do things that will make me healthy again and I’m trying to be mindful so that I can accurately report to my doctor what I’ve been experiencing.

So that’s where I’m at. I feel like I’m not really interesting right now but I’m doing what I can to try to heal myself. I thought for a moment about doing NaNoWriMo but that gentle voice said “No, dear. Not this year.” And I listened.

I’m going to go and make those calls and do paperwork now, and maybe play some piano for a bit. Then, I’ll go for a walk to drop off some dry cleaning and try to take another few photos of something interesting.

Happy Friday, everyone. :)

Ah, the flu

So, I was going to make a ranty blog post about people wandering around with the flu, infecting the innocent populace. Except technically, I was walking around doing exactly that on Monday when I was likely contagious but I went to work because I felt fine. Or on Wednesday when I was stubbornly trying to get some things done as I was in my slow decline to full on flu. So I won’t be super ranty. I also don’t have the energy to be super ranty. But I will discuss it.

Frankly, because I contracted this flu (as did my partner)[despite me getting the flu shot, I might add], we were not able to help our family yesterday when our new nephew made his entry into the world. Because flu + newborn doesn’t mix. Especially when it has smacked us immunocompetent adults down for 3+ days, and has made me worried about it moving into my lungs.

And that really disappointed me. It’s such an honour to be the one on call, to come and take care of the toddler we love for as long as needed, until childbirth was over and the parents were able to bring their family back together. It also means we won’t meet our new nephew until we are through with the virus.

I know there are people out there who will tough it through, but here’s the thing – in a public health context, toughing it out and stubbornly going on with your errands does spread disease and impacts a lot of peoples’ lives. Toughing it out is stupid. I know, there are lots of reasons why someone can’t take time off, but frankly, it just means that you’re miserable and unproductive in your job, exposing your co-workers, clients and co-commuters to a disease that can have serious consequences (and that they don’t want, trust me), and actively working against your body being able to fight off the disease by stressing it. It’s called presenteeism, and I’m not sure an employer would rather have all his staff out sick because you didn’t take some sick leave.

I don’t know where we contracted this from. It may have been simply putting a hand down on a counter where someone had just coughed into their hand and then put it down. And we transferred that virus from the counter to possibly our eye, since we both wear contacts (another mucus membrane that can provide viruses access to your body). Cue several sick days of complete exhaustion and coughing, chills and sweats.

But we’re both using our sick leave, and we’re trying to protect our friends, family, co-workers and complete strangers from the influenza virus. The flu shot is not guaranteed to work, and apparently this year, the flu has shifted from the strain that was used to make the shot, making it not super effective. But it’s something at least. Time for some more tea…