Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Recovery from Workplace Abuse: Perceptions, Assumptions, Injuries, Coping Strategies

"Downtown" Stratford

Yesterday was my Stratford day.  My counselling day.  The day when I go in and touch base with the woman who has walked with me through this entire episode of my life.  A woman who has told me that she has learned a lot about trauma just by walking with me through this.  Which says a lot as the reason I chose her in the first place was that she was already familiar with trauma.

Trauma.  Both the core and the bane of the problem.

The core, because as with a physical illness that's what this injury is all about.  A bane because so many people don't recognize it for the debilitating illness it really is and/or don't have a clue how to deal with it.  So they usually either ignore it or walk away.

Adding to the complications of both walking through it and attempting to recover from it is that often the person finds that for emotional and/or physical reasons they feel more comfortable inside their own home, their own physical surroundings where they can create a safe space.

Out of sight.  Out of mind.


*******

That was my scenario, my situation, in a nutshell during that period of time.  And prior to that period of time as I'd had to severely draw back and limit all outside activities when the chronic, physically debilitating phase reared its head in the fall of 2011.

Out of sight, out of mind.

I adapted to my situation as best I could.

I learned there were all sorts of pre-made foods in the stores.  Unfortunately, most of them which made complete meals in themselves were in the form of pasta such as lasagne.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I love lasagne.  I love pasta.  But when that's all the options there are for meals that can be simply popped into the oven from the freezer, it gets boring.  Monotonous.  What I would have given at that time for a meal of roast beef and potatoes!

I did discover that there were frozen options for mashed potatoes.  Ditto other options such as bagged salads.

We ate those bagged salads a lot.  We ate lasagne and other meals in a bag, box, whatever often.

I coped as best I could ...

UNTIL ...

I fell out of the bathtub one morning and broke my wrist.

All bets were off at that point.

If I thought I was in a world of hurt before, I REALLY was in a world of hurt physically now.

My ability to take care of myself before the broken wrist had been limited to physical fatigue, feeling overwhelmed much of the time, depleted cognitive skills which made it difficult to impossible to read and follow instructions i.e. recipes.

I still had all of that.

But now I had added on extreme pain plus a cast that limited my ability to do common things like drive a car.  Did you know that it's illegal to drive a car with your arm in a cast?  It is.  It's also pretty well impossible as it's impossible for a casted wrist to grip anything.  Which is probably why it's illegal.

That cast prevented me from gripping anything with that hand - which happened to be my dominant hand.  I couldn't grip a knife to cut anything.  I couldn't grip a manual can opener to open cans to fix lunch.  I can't manage to grasp a spoon to dig into the coffee bag to get out coffee grinds to make coffee.  Try fixing even a simple lunch under those conditions where opening things is impossible.  I dare you.

I've been accused many times of being resilient.  Of having good coping skills.  Of learning new ones as needed.  I plead guilty to that and throw myself on the mercy of the court.

If I knew I needed a can opened, I would have to plan in advance and have hubby do it before he went to work.  The dear person who drove me to and front counselling would often step inside and do things like slice cheese for me.  Often that would be my lunch for the day.  I learned to open the cat's canned food by leveraging a knife under the tab and exerting pressure.  I would be breathing heavy at the end of the process, but I would have done it!  And the cat would eat another meal.  I learned to find a shallow tray, lay my measuring spoon on it and pour the coffee grinds into and over it using my left hand to measure the coffee into the basket.  I couldn't handle pouring water into the coffee maker using the bin provided (I don't have a coffee maker with a carafe which would have been easier), so I learned to take a common plastic drinking glass, fill it up and pour it into the reservoir as many times as was needed to make a pot.  I learned to use my left hand for as many things as possible.  I learned to communicate via the computer using the old-fashioned, one finger approach - using only the left hand. People learned to decipher my typos.  Any one of these things would leave me completely exhausted.  All of them together was more than I could handle.  I became more and more physically depleted necessitating more and more bed time.

My therapist said that I needed to rest in order to heal.  Both physically and emotionally.  But how?

Given my circumstances ... how? ... was the cry of my heart.

My counsellor asked me if I'd let my church know that I'd broken my wrist.  I snorted and said no.  I was already bitter about being left alone to my own devices during a time when I needed support more than I'd ever needed it in my life.  I asked my counsellor, why should I let them know?  If they weren't inclined to step up to the plate and support me with the grief issues, then why would they choose to support me now?  She said that physical was different.  They would understand that.  Try them.  Give them a chance to come alongside you and support you.

So I did.

I was I hadn't.

Yes, I got a meal delivery. One.

The person who brought over the meal was the same one who had brought the first delivery over.  In hindsight, I believe (as in perceive and assume) that that original delivery was done under duress.  They didn't understand the situation and were doing it only because I had made noise.

This person came into my home, looked at me with my bright blue wrist and blurted out:  "So you really did break your wrist!"

Many thoughts went through my mind.  One of which was:  "So I need to provide a doctor's note in order to get help?"  Another one was:  "Why did you doubt me?  Did you think I would make something like this up?"

I didn't say any of those things.  

I did get her to put the food items in my fridge.  

This, though, may have led to another misperception and assumption in the line up as my fridge was bulging with food.  Food which I had no way of preparing.  As someone verbalized much later on in that phase of the journey while the cast was still on, I had food.  I just didn't have hands.  She never came back.  No one from the church office or the caring committee ever called me to see how I was doing or if I could use another delivery.

I had food, but I needed hands to convert that food in the fridge, the raw materials, into a bona fide meal.  Just as the yarn in my stash isn't going to magically become a scarf, etc. until needles are applied.  Needles with hands attached to them.

Which leads me to another huge problem in the recovery process.  Knitting and crocheting are my right brain therapies.  Those I use to help keep me stable.  With my wrist in a cast, it was impossible to knit or crochet.  I had lost, at least for a time, the ability to do something which I needed to do in order to heal emotionally.  Those who are knitters themselves will understand fully.  Those who are not, will not understand.

I had a husband. But husbands, especially those who are working a physically demanding job, can only do so much.  They come home tired and hungry after a long day's work.  They want to come into the door, smell a good meal on the stove and say:  "Smells like someone loves me."

Instead, the poor guy came home day after day to a house where it was obvious that nothing was on the stove for supper and had to start preparing a meal for both him and his wife.

In the original stages, the poor guy had to dress me.  I figured out how to bathe myself (remember what I said about being resilient and coping skills?).  The one thing though that I needed help with that I couldn't figure out on my own and he refused to do was wash my hair.  We found a hair cutting place which was willing to wash my hair for just a few dollars as opposed to the approximately $40 fee most places charged.  We found ways to cope.  But each way took a toll a me.  A physical toll on an already depleted body.  Plus, an emotional toll on a person who was already feeling worth less than others.

As my counsellor said, I needed to rest in order to heal.  However, without more in the way of practical support, that was not possible.

As I've mentioned from the book which became my Bible, my handbook, during the earliest phases of recovery Helping Those Who Hurt:  Compassion and Practical Ways to Offer Comfort, a needy person can easily suck those who walk with them dry causing them to burn out.

I came to realize that those who walk with me need to take care of themselves.  They need to be sure that whatever they choose to do will not burn them out.  I realized that not only did these people who were already walking with me before the death of my mom, before the broken wrist, could only do so much.  It would be unfair of me to expect them to take on more.  I chose to value them for what they were already doing.  I chose to thank them for each thing they did for me.

I needed more people to come alongside me at that time to do a designated task.  What ever they felt they could do without burning out.

For example, I would have loved for someone to call me every week or two just to see how I was doing.  It would have made my day to have a handwritten note or card in my mailbox, especially if it was regularly.  Anything to let me know that people cared.

It didn't happen.  Was it because people didn't care?  Or because they didn't know?

I prefer to think the latter.  I prefer to believe (i.e. perceive and assume) that there are caring people who would have stepped up to the plate if they had known, if someone from the church office had communicated the need and asked.

I prefer ....

*******

As I wrote this segment today, I realized how hurtful this could sound to those who did walk with me.  The lady who drove me to Stratford and doctor's appointments.  The friend who had lunch with me and even came by to help me plant spring bulbs in my garden in honour of my mom.  The friend who herself was walking through a horrible time with a dread disease and wanted to be there for me, but couldn't.  The neighbours who put sympathy cards in my mailbox when I first came back after my mom died.

Believe me, I appreciate you.  Thank you for being in my life.

Until tomorrow....



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