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.

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