Saturday Self-care

Healing can often require a degree of selfishness, or so it seems to me based on my experiences over the past four months. I have had to come to terms with the limitations placed upon me by my injury and ensuing pain and recovery process. Some days I think I am doing very well. My attitude is upbeat and positive. I’m dealing well with the slowness of my progress and the weeks of boredom as I’ve been off work. Most of the time I am doing pretty good, but there are still so many days where I am not doing nearly as well as I think I am.

This week has been a mostly low series of days with no real rhyme or reason, except that I am bored, frustrated, impatient, and a little afraid.

I had another appointment with my doctor yesterday, which was fine but still frustrating. My medical leave is supposed to end on Monday, so I had to get my doctor to sign off on an updated abilities form for my return to work. Every visit with him feels like a waste of my time and taxpayers money. He doesn’t put any effort or care into “treating” me, but wants me to see him again in two weeks. At this point, I’m not so inclined to book another follow-up appointment. What for? So he can tell me again that healing will take time? It’s not like he actually examines me or tests my progress or capabilities. No, unless there is an absolute need, I won’t be seeing my doctor in two weeks.

I know that healing will take time. I have read and heard this same thing over and over and over again since herniating my disc. I get it. I even accept it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t feel impatient now and then. Great strides have been made in my progress since the injury; however, it seems as if I’ve settled into a stagnant stage. From my perspective, there hasn’t been much, if any, change in the past month or so. Still the same numbness in the left leg/foot. Still the same currents and crawlies in both legs when I lay down. Still the same achiness in the back. Still not sleeping well. Still exhausted doing nothing at all. Last month, my physiotherapist had said that there was improvement from his perspective, even if I didn’t see it. That’s reassuring on many levels, but it doesn’t make my body hurt any less. Sometimes I just want to know how long!

With my updated abilities form now submitted in the hopes of being cleared to return to work soon, I am both excited and afraid. I haven’t worked since December 1, 2017, so I am desperate to get back to it. While I won’t verbalize it to most, the prospect of going back to work is also scary on two fronts. One being the nature of missing out on 3.5 months of changes and updates and interacting with regular customers. I know I’ll get back in the swing of things quickly, but the scope of my need to catch-up is also overwhelming. Secondly, I cannot help but wonder if I am physically ready. Talking with my husband this morning about my doctor’s comments and frustrating lack of care in filling out my abilities form, my husband asked with concern if I was certain that I should go back to work yet. To be honest, I don’t know how to answer that question. I just don’t know! I want to get back to work. I probably need to get back to work. But I also fear that I am going to hurt at work for a long time still. How can I not when I still hurt in general?

So, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, and it has been oppressively heavy. Self-care has been hard, which is often the case when I run into a low mood phase. I go through the motions with as little effort as possible until I get so disgusted with myself that I can scrape up enough motivation to do something about it. Today was that day. Early this afternoon, I forced myself to take a real bath and not just the ‘quick as I can’ type. I added lavender oil to the water and filled the tub deeper than usual. I treated myself to a face mask. Dry brushed my skin. I even endured the torture of shaving my legs…something I’ve only done 3 times now since herniating the disc. After the bath, I rubbed extra emollient skin cream into my heels, which have been suffering from neglect due to the torture of bending that far. Coconut body butter was rubbed into the rest of my dry skin. It’s amazing how something so simple as a bath and shaving legs can make me feel so much better! It’s too bad that both actions are too painful to perform more frequently.

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The Green Grass Proverb

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence is an old saying that warns against the folly of thinking others have things better than ourselves. It’s a lesson in making assumptions about appearances which would seem to reveal our faults and short-comings. Despite the popularity of the phrase, it can be easy to fall into the trap of looking at our neighbour as having a better situation than ourselves. Lately I have been twisting that phrase inside out with a different perspective: the grass isn’t always greener on my side of the fence. Or, the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t necessarily more in desperate need of water, sunshine, and TLC than my own!

It has now been 4 weeks since I herniated my disc, and I am still living with numbness and varying degrees of pain. Despite a reduction to the hours in my work week and modifications to my activities and tasks, I am still finding work to be extremely taxing on my body. I came home from work last Thursday night in so much pain that I almost cried myself to sleep. Actually, the tears soaked into my pillow as I wrestled with the physical discomfort and the emotional upheaval born out of dread for another painful work shift the next day and decisions I could make to help myself out. Once or twice in the early days of my injury, my boss had asked if I wanted to take a medical leave, but I demurred. As I laid in bed Thursday night (or early Friday morning), I had to consider the possibility.

When I broached the subject with my boss the next day, I was still somewhat reluctant to take a leave. She asked me what was standing in my way. There are 2 things. Firstly, I don’t like to let people down, and secondly, I don’t like to ask for help. That’s it in a nutshell.

I don’t want to leave my co-workers scrambling to cover my absence. Being a key-holder makes filling that gap a bit trickier. It’s not an insurmountable obstacle, but I really don’t like to let people down.

It’s the asking for help part that is the big one here. Taking a medical leave may not be asking for help in the strictest sense, but it does make me feel weak  and incapable which is tantamount to asking for help. This is where my mind has been turning the ‘grass is always greener’ phrase inside-out.

I don’t feel like I should need to take a leave! I mean take a look at me. Well, I guess you can’t see me through a computer screen, but my point is that, unless you know me well, you wouldn’t necessarily see that there is anything wrong with me. Even those who do know me well would have to look carefully to see cracks in my veneer. Over the course of a day, my ability to walk will vary considerably. One minute I can walk with almost no limp at all, while the next minute will have me hobbling like a 100-year old lady. Mostly I look normal, so I feel guilty for wanting/needing time off work to heal. I am in pain, yes, but less so than I was in the first week or two of the injury. Things are improving…even if not even close to as fast as I would like. There are people much worse off than I am! And that is where I think my grass is greener than on the other side of the fence. Why should I need special care for my injury, when there are so many people suffering and struggling with illness and injury so much worse than mine?

It has been pointed out to me by a few people that I need to take care of myself first, that I am not doing myself any favours by continuing to push myself to go to work when it is causing me such difficulty. As difficult as it is for me to admit to weakness, I do see the wisdom being spoken into me. I need to take care of myself, which includes allowing myself the opportunity to heal properly so I can resume a normal life. Failing to do so will only prolong my suffering and negatively impact all areas of my life. Acknowledging my own injury, pain, and current limitations is not about comparing myself to anyone else. Each person’s suffering is valid and real, even if of no importance to anyone else.

So I have made the decision to seek a medical leave of absence, but first I need to get a doctor to sign off on the paperwork in agreement. Obviously I am not keen on seeing my family doctor after his erroneous dismissal when I first went to him with this injury, so I will return to the walk-in clinic where I received better care along with the referral for physiotherapy. Part of me is so skeptical of the medical system that I am half-afraid of meeting with resistance to the idea of a leave. I can hear the arguments against it in my head. Why not reduce your work hours? Why not just find ways to accommodate your limitations within the workplace? Thankfully I have answers for those questions! I have been working fewer hours for the past 4 weeks. I have made as many modifications to my tasks as I am capable of making. I have already been making my best efforts to avoid doing anything I cannot or should not do with this injury…but it simply isn’t enough! My job isn’t in the same league as someone in construction or some similar type job, but my job consists of so much bending that I cannot avoid it all. There is no value in paying me to stand there for hours each day, but even something as simple as preparing one beverage for a customer requires me to bend and lean and twist in ways that are subtle but take a toll on my body in it’s damaged state. My job cannot be modified any more than it already has. As much as I don’t like the idea, I need some time off work. I love my job, but I do not enjoy how I have dreaded each shift lately, knowing the pain I’d be in through the shift and after. Although I am in much less pain than I was originally, there is a significant increase in the pain when I’ve been working. I need to take care of myself first.

So, while the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence, please don’t think that you are wrong to put extra care and attention on your own lawn. Especially not when it comes to your health!

Wine, Wonder Woman & the Weekend

It is my Friday. Working an open shift this morning means that I have officially been on days off since 2:00 this afternoon. My first plan upon getting home was to have a bubble bath. This morning I had thought about having a glass of prosseco as I bathed, but by the end of my work day I realized that I hadn’t had any coffee yet. An Americano while bathing was what actually happened. I find it kind of funny how drained I feel in this moment despite having a 4-day work week. As I do feel wiped out, I put my Wonder Woman onesie on after my bath and had planned on enjoying a quiet night at home. Then my phone beeped a text notification…

A friend wanted to know if I had any plans for the evening. I paused. Thinking. Mentally weighing my options. I could say that I had no plans but just wanted to stay home and do nothing, or I could open the figurative door to hanging out with my friend. I chose to open the door. A quiet, relaxing visit with a friend over some wine would be rather nice. As much as I truly love my friends and enjoy being with them, we are all busy people and simply don’t get together very frequently. But I wonder if I should give my friend the head’s up that I am planning on coming over in my onesie…because it is warm and comfy and I really don’t want to get dressed in real clothes again tonight.