Monday, January 29, 2007

Hypertension 32: Returning To Work

Today I met with my Executive Director, my union representative, and someone from Human Resources. (You may recall I have written that I am a civil servant, of sorts.) The purpose? Organizing my return to the workplace on or around February 12, after being off work on medical leave for five months.

Everyone was very nice. My E.D. discussed me returning to a greatly reduced work load (let's say I investigate individual cases alleging rights abuses), which was appropriate and welcome. The Human Resources person was supportive. Both agreed I should check with my doctors about the return to work plan, to avoid medical problems. The idea was to see how I did, and if I did okay initially, to gradually increase my work load.

Even within that positive context, however, I have worries. The worries are the same anyone would have on returning to work from an extended medical leave, and while still on powerful prescription medications. Such worries are an important issue, given part of the treatment for Hypertension is to reduce stress. Worrying ain't good. It's counterproductive. But it seems to come with this territory.

What am I worried about?

Well, it's easy to be worried that I will not be able to do the work I used to be able to do. My work requires focus, attention to details, a solid memory, being on top of it. Some days, these days, on top of it isn't how I feel. Will I remember everything I have to? In my work I interview people, and it is considered bad form to return a second/third/fourth time to ask additional questions. Will I cover everything the first time around? I used to be able to do that. Can I still do that?

What about controlling my temper? My work involves being diplomatic, appearing relaxed, in control of the situation. Will I get tired and fed up and yell?

In my work situation, and at home, one of the most troubling aspects of my meds was that they seemed to prompt me to be irritable, leading abruptly into anger. That also appears to come with the territory of feeling weak much of the time. One problem with such emotional outbursts is that, when you are in the moment, you think you are being reasonable and normal. It is only through hindsight that you slowly come to accept that you were over the top.

The emotional cues and miscues are subtle, easy to miss--and the people around you do not appreciate it, for some reason, when you get angry with them. I have had to learn through experience what was happening to my mind and my relations with other people. In fact, it was really only after I began taking three prescription medications at once, and the emotional impact was unmistakeable, that I finally began to realize how much I had been losing my anger, and how tough it had been on the people around me, whether at home or at work.

Would I know if I was over-reacting at work, before it got out of hand?

I have no worries about being accepted at work, at fitting in--at least, as much as I have ever fit in, being something of a misanthrope. People like me at work. I give away candy. But I do have worries about remembering appointments and about being "work perky"--y'know, where it's important to be positive and friendly all the time.

And, of course, I worry that although I may start out okay, what would it be like to return to a 37.5 hour week, after five months at home, doing what I felt like (including naps)? I'd certainly have to adjust. And how would I be, focussing and being energetic, five days a week, full time? Would I last a week?

Sounds like I should take a pill, eh? Ah, our society!

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