I'm Back at Work. And It's Harder Than I Expected.
I'm having difficulty with my memory so I need to ask for help at my job.
Posted Dec 04, 2018
Wow. I can’t believe it’s been over a month since I last posted. On October 16th to be exact, when I wrote “The Flow of Gratitude in All Aspects of My Life,” about getting the go-ahead from the neuropsychologist, Dr. Steel (not her real name) to return to work.
I officially started back to work on Wednesday, November 7th, after some unexpected IT issues (which I should have expected after being out of work for five months — did I really think I was just going to be able to sit down at my computer and log-in without a hitch?). I finally connected and was welcomed into a group chat with my co-workers. My base is a home office, but typically I spend a lot of time out in the field. My direct manager told me everyone on my team was enthusiastic about my return.
At the recommendation of Dr. Steel I started back at two days a week, four hours a day. Eight hours a week is and isn’t a lot of time. After those four hours of sitting at my computer, concentrating intensely, I was exhausted. But the four hours goes by incredibly fast and it’s been difficult to finish sorting out the records that piled up on my computer while I was out (as in 1600 e-mails!), while I try to work on new cases and get used to attending meetings again.
The number one directive that Dr. Steel gave me is not to multitask. I sit in front of three computer monitors and before the stroke, I used to sit in a meeting (we use webex technology), write notes and answer instant messages at the same time. The temptation is overwhelming, but my brain is unable to function in that way right now. It’s hard but I have to keep reminding myself to slow down and to concentrate on one thing at a time. Otherwise, I’d just screw up everything and that would not end well.
Our team uses many platforms to access different kinds of data, but there is one platform in which we document our notes. In my defense, when we first learned this new platform about a year ago, everyone said it’s complicated and definitely not intuitive, meaning one step didn’t necessarily flow into the next. Even before the stroke, I never felt I’d mastered it completely. My first day back, I made a phone call and went to document the call and I couldn’t remember how to do it. I played around for a few minutes, hoping it would come back to me, but nope.
I needed to ask one of my colleagues for help. She couldn’t have been more generous with her time, screen sharing with me and walking me through the process. This has happened several times with various functions and each time when I’ve asked different people for assistance, the response has been the same. Everyone has been so gracious. Once I’ve been shown and jotted down a couple of notes, I haven’t had to ask again.
It’s hard coming back when I used to be the person my co-workers went to when they needed a question answered and now I’m struggling with the most basic functions of my job. My psychiatrist, Dr. Adena (not her real name), with whom I terminated therapy at the end of 2016 and returned to after I developed a post-stroke depression, constantly tells me I’m being too hard on myself, a pattern that goes back years. Dr. Steel tells me the same thing. She tells me that she thinks my capabilities will return, but the unknown is the time frame. I know this is all related to my perfectionistic and superiority issues which dates back to the anorexia.
When I left behind my eating disorder six years ago, I didn’t shed the perfectionism and superiority that fueled my compulsion to starve myself. I can recognize the pattern now so I can discuss my feelings and thoughts with Dr. Adena. The stroke and subsequent cognitive issues — it’s as gasoline was tossed onto a fire — when I returned to work.
Little by little. I did a presentation on the Friday before this past weekend. I did beat myself up because I was so nervous I could hear my voice quivering. I used to do these almost every week prior to the stroke as though it was nothing. This weekly meeting is attended by upper management and following my presentation I received kudos for my outstanding work with this client over the past several years from one of the medical directors. That made me feel good.
I’d had this surreal feeling since I’d been away for so long, my presence at the company before the stroke had somehow morphed into a state of “ghosthood.” The comment from this director proved that I’d been a real presence prior to the stroke and still was. I felt relieved, as if I'd somehow needed a form of external validation.
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I'd like to make everyone aware of an article that appeared in the NY Times on Tuesday, December 4, 2018 titled “Giving Patients a Voice in Their Mental Health Care Before They’re Too Ill to Have a Say.” (Click on the title for the link to the article.) The article is about psychiatric advance directives. My objective in posting the link to this article is awareness and education of this topic; I’m not advocating for or trying to discourage anyone from pursuing this course of action. As the article states, this is something to discuss with your doctor.