Thursday, July 21, 2011

RTW after TBI

I am part of a discussion group concerning issues of brain injury. Recently, I contributed to the topic of returning to work. All of the research suggests a supportive work environment with positive feedback with the goal of addressing concerns prior to a crisis. This was what I added to the discussion based on my personal experience:

The problem I had, and that I see as an obstacle for anyone returning to work is that there are "crises" that do irreparable damage and then all the review, support, and feedback are useless. It is almost impossible to anticipate what will bring out these disastrous moments. Whether you go back to work immediately or you take time to recuperate, nothing tests your limits like the stress of work (except maybe navigating the NYC subway system). Once I had my first inappropriate, emotional response to a colleague brought on by fatigue, auditory processing problems, unexpected confrontation, difficulty reading social situations, and impulsivity, I was treated differently. No amount of education or explanation that my actions were unintentional and not personal can erase the damage that was done. From that point on, the anxiety that I was going to overreact again contributed to my ability to concentrate and do my job. Working in an environment where my colleagues expected strange behavior from me became a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The feedback I got, while well-intentioned, did not help. Think about how others feel. Try to control yourself. By the time I started to get the cognitive rehabilitation I needed, it was too late. 

I am happy to be on disability now. My family appreciates the less stressed me. I can focus on my recovery. I have more time to exercise which is crucial to my well-being and cognitive functioning. I feel like a more capable member of society than I did when I was working. 

I would be very leery of going back to work now. I am not sure I could work in any capacity involving face-to-face interaction with other people. Every BI is different so I cannot speak for others, but the Internet is a beacon of hope for me. Time will tell. I really want to be of service and part of the solution. The BI community needs this and I know we can figure something out together.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

How would you interpret this picture?

Last year when I was still struggling to do my job, I asked two of the kindest, most generous women at work if they would consider mentoring me. They both work in the Learning Resource Center and therefore have a lot of experience with students with disabilities. They agreed, and we met every couple of months to set goals. If I ever needed advice on how to handle a social situation, their advice was always dead on.

One day I walked into work and on my desk was a present, the above picture in a frame wrapped in pretty paper. I started to cry because on the card was written, "I saw this and I thought of you." It was signed by one of my mentors. I was not crying tears of joy. I was hurt by what I thought she meant. After discussing it with my neuropsychologist, I decided to ask her what she meant by the picture. 

I was so way off in my interpretation of the picture, it was bizarre. I am still not 100% sure how to interpret it so I am soliciting suggestions. Anyone out there reading this blog, please leave me a post telling me how what you think this picture says to you when accompanied by the message that the picture made someone think of me.