Monday, 28 August 2017

Thoughts: On Recovery & Return to Work

I'm an English teacher, so it goes without saying that I probably enjoy reading. One of the reasons I, and many others from what I glean, love to get lost in the pages of a book is because they allow us into the lives of characters who remind us that we're not alone. They show us that our feelings are real and our experiences have been lived out by others. Even if these others are only fictional characters, they came from some living breathing human. Since my concussion, I haven't been able to read as voraciously as I used to. This being said, when I can I try to read novels, articles, and blogs. I've found comfort in reading medical articles and personal blogs about concussion and recovery. So, since I have appreciated others' written word and since the world keeps dropping hints to write...

Over the last 5 months I've felt my injury and eventual diagnosis of post-concussion syndrome change and evolve. With each new level, seems to come new challenges physically and emotionally. It would seem at times that I would solve one problem (a pain, a pressure, a tightness) only to discover or develop another as my body balanced itself out again. It's like I would open my curtains to a sunny day full of potential then by the time I applied my sunscreen and grabbed a hat it would have started to rain. One day, I would start to feel like myself (with a few bonus headaches), the next might have less headaches but the third will find some new version of all the things I thought I had just gotten rid of. My list of triggers is long (light, screens, fast movement, loud anything, ... essentially anything fun) and their ability to effect my brain varies greatly each day.

This last shift in recovery has resulted in a lot of stress and anxiety. Trust me, I was also in disbelief when my body gave me all my "you're stressed" signs despite having been off work and being unable to identify any "valid" stressor in my life. Recovery is stressful. The thought of (not) getting better gives me anxiety. I want nothing more than to feel like myself again. At the very least, I crave to be some close version of that person.

As the summer comes to an end, teachers begin to prepare to go back to work. Typically, this time is stressful and anxiety ridden for any educator. Unfortunately, this year, I'm more apprehensive than usual. Some of my fondest classroom memories are those rare times when you can stop and observe the organized chaos that is high school students who are fully engaged with a task and each other. It's loud, it's messy and it's beautiful. The classroom I know and love is fast-paced, requires the use of a variety of skills at once, is full of conversations and questions, it's full, bright, loud, and... terrifying. Now, I sometimes can't handle the radio while I drive.

My Dr. and I have deciding that I'll go back on a gradual basis, starting with one class a day and my 40 minute drive there and back. In a few weeks, if all is well and I'm still standing, I'll take on the rest of my classes.

The last two weeks have been my best so far. Shout out to my mom for being my backup driver on a few test drives to Windsor and for reminding me that all teachers want to cry when they see their classroom for the first time after summer break. I feel good about where I'm at in my recovery and I'm anxious yet excited to get back to work. I've started doing yoga and meditating daily and am working on being mindful and kind to myself. One of the most important things I've learned through this process is the value of self-care and mindfulness. I think about the Harry Potter quote above often; it's comforting. Of course, all of this is happening inside my head... and it is my reality.


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