Back to Work: The First Few Days
April 13, 2008
My first few days of work were wonderful and awful. It was so good to see all of my co-workers, and to get so many hugs. They’d actually left my desk intact– I couldn’t believe that it was still there waiting for me.
Half of the department is gone now. This contract was supposed to last a year, but it’s dragged on for almost two. Many people have become impatient about putting their lives on hold, and they’re moving on, finding new jobs and foregoing their severance. The people who remain seem tired and stressed, but still as kind and funny as ever.
I’ve been staying at the home of Kim, a supervisor in the department whom I love. Her house is almost an hour from the office, and it’s just beautiful. I go out on the deck in the mornings and drink coffee, listen to the birds, and watch old dead leaves float from trees, making room for new ones.
My body has not been holding up well through this, but my supervisor told me on my first day back not to worry about anything. She’s given me an unbelievably easy job to do, so there’s no stress involved. She also made it clear that I am to leave whenever I need to, and she doesn’t care if I’m late. “I just want you to get your severance, and to have a proper going away lunch like everyone else.” I heart her.
I have mixed feelings about it all. I’m so thankful for the opportunity, but I’m angry at my body. I’m coddling it, and in a way, so is everyone at work. Stress exacerbates fibromyalgia, but there’s absolutely none involved. I can sit or move around, or do anything I need to do to relieve the pain if it gets bad (including going home). If standing on my head would help the fibromyalgia, they’d provide me with a pillow and the space to do so. But nothing seems to matter. The fibro does what it wants to do, and what it wants to do is wipe me out with exhaustion and send pain shooting through my limbs. I find it all so frustrating. People can see the effects of this written on my face. I don’t want them worrying about me, or having to deal with this at all. It’s embarrassing to feel like a forty-seven year old ninety-two year old.
“I think the worst part of it is the mental aspect,” I told a couple of work friends. “The fact that I can’t control the pain or anticipate when it’s coming or how long it will last drives me crazy.” I try to keep it in the background, but it keeps screaming at me.
There are great lessons in all of this. I’m learning to let go and accept this gift that I’ve been given by the people at work, and to try to do it gracefully. I’m beginning to understand that I will never understand this syndrome, and that, try as I might, I’ll never be able to fully predict what it’s going to do. I’m trying mightily not to hate my body for what it’s doing, but to instead listen to what’s it’s telling me, and to try to obey its orders as much as I can. I’m trying to learn to not be humiliated or feel “less than” because of all of this, but that’s been a little more difficult. Right now, I’m missing the part of me that was energetic and fun. I hope it comes back soon.
Quite honestly, I’m a bit terrified. I will never have an easier job, or one where I am accommodated to this degree. This wasn’t even a full work week, and I’m not holding up well. I’ll try again next week and the week after that, and hopefully, my body will respond better. But this experience has made me decide that I need to think much more seriously about the future, and how I’m going to survive financially with this uncooperative body of mine.