Working girl

[Written 20th August, 2015]

I’m a working girl!!!

Well, a girl with a part time day job anyway.

YAY!!!

It’s become official in my mind; I’m back to where this whole adventure left off!

I’ve come full circle, progressed to that critical point which was always going to define whether I was recovered or not; my working status. Of course this isn’t what really defines life, but it’s been my goal all along to return to work, and I’ve returned to work! Magical moments!

This week is Week Five of restarting my career, and today was the day when I knew I would make it; that this new endeavour was going to work! Lots of smiley faces about that!

It’s week five, but it’s only Day Twelve because I work part time, 3 days one week and 2 days the next; every Thursday and Friday, and every second Wednesday. The alternating Wednesday off is my bonus day. Monday is my essential, flat-out-like-a-lizard-drinking day meaning I mostly sleep, laze around and do not much of anything, and Tuesday varies, mostly set aside for a bike ride though. Saturday varies and Sunday we keep for church.

My twelve work days so far have contained a lot of orientation and hospital-specific training, a Lot of policies, procedures and protocols, and a LOT of hanging out til the next break, grabbing a chair any time there’s anything close to a pause in proceedings, or to dispense a script, or do paperwork; tasks anyone else would stand for.

Standing is proving hard, especially for hours on end! My right heel hurts and shoots arrows when I strike it on my down step, my calves ache, and everything in me is shouting for me to sit down! I’m just not used to being up on my feet all day, and let’s face it, I weigh a few decades more in weight than when I was last doing this gig! Which poses a much greater task for my legs in holding me up! But I’m slowly improving with the standing thing, so hopefully soon it won’t be such a big deal!

Also hopefully soon, I’ll begin losing some weight! But this isn’t my priority right now. Right now it’s about settling into work and managing like every other person to do a day’s work without completely exhausting myself!

Let’s face it, at home I would have previously spent most of my day lying, slouching, sitting and briefly standing/walking for some short task, then sitting down again to catch my breath and stop sweating. I ride once a week, but that’s really sitting with a higher heart rate. I do groceries and chores at the shopping centre, but I do the absolute minimum then sit down again. Etc. Well actually I am trying to do more, but this is what I have been doing over the few months up until now.

So any time I do any extra walking out of my way around the house, at the hospital, etc I know that I’m surviving better. Well, I was patting me on the back until today when the pharmacist I was working with innocently walked me up 3 flights of stairs to the ward, because the lift was slow!! 3 flights of stairs! What was she thinking? I couldn’t speak by the time we got to the top, and I was still sweating half an hour later!  So I’ve dug into the drawer with all the aluminium anti-antiperspirant products again…let’s see if they can’t help me out a bit!

So that doesn’t bode well as an exercise tolerance test! I guess my cardiac fitness, and my enjoyment of it have still got a long way to go. Last time I was climbing stairs for work, I could manage to not let on I was even breathing more heavily than usual over 2 or 3 flights of stairs. So that may be the next target to work on, once I’m settled in to work.

I’m still trying to spread out my energy levels across the day without coming up short, or skimping too scroogishly! It’s a real art, and I haven’t got it yet. I don’t want to have to go home before 5.15pm because I can’t think straight, or I’m catatonically tired! I also don’t want to have so much energy left over that I’m not doing as much as I could be at work, and having loads of energy at night. I don’t know if you can even plan for such things, I just have to be aware of my staying power and energy levels throughout the day, and adjust my workload or my output if needed.

The first two weeks I did nothing extra before or after work. Obviously I’m lucky to have a very talented and willing husband able to keep the house in some order on those days, and to get me dinner most importantly!

Lately I’m finding it a bit easier to get up in the morning and I’m not so drowsy first thing, and I have a bit of energy left over at the end of the day. Hopefully this trend of improved energy and stamina will continue! In the meantime, I’ll keep my strict bedtime, try not to expect too much from myself at home on work days, and do my best not to over do myself at work! This is always the trap that I have fallen into in the past. I get excited and enthusiastic and forget to pace myself! But I really want this to work, so it’s worth keeping my spirits on a leash.

I have to say, coming back into work after illness, and having disclosed my illness, and the way that I will work with it with pharmacy management makes me feel extremely confident in being able to go to them with any request or problem that I may have. Which is a very powerful and empowering position to be in, from my point of view. A lot of people find the ‘to disclose or not to disclose’ dilemma a very sticky point but I’ve always gone on the disclose side and it has never backfired on me. Of course I have always had a good relationship with my bosses so it has been an easy choice.

People fear being discriminated against, and that’s a reasonable concern. From my point of view, with so much anti-discrimination law out and about these days, it would be a very brave employer who didn’t hire you after you disclosed an illness, injury and disability! Doing that would open them up to being sued, but that’s not how you want to start a new job! Being the one who sued them to get the job! But I think they are more than conscious of not culling you for the finalist list because of something other than a genuine failure to meet selection criteria.

When I became sick in my first job, I found it very easy to go to my managers and tell them I was struggling, and they got me onto the Employee Assistance Program, which is 4 free counselling session with a psychologist. This is available to any employee of public hospitals, which is a fabulous program. So I was able to talk out all the things that were getting me down and she was wonderful in helping me figure out how to go forward, and getting me to see my GP.

For my second job I disclosed my illness on the application form, so there were no secrets and no surprises. And boy was I glad about that when I got too sick to work and spent six months out of my twelve month contract not working! I would have felt like a real deceiver if I hadn’t let them know I was undergoing treatment for depression and then appeared to have a nervous breakdown out of the blue!

For this job there was no need to disclose, because it was obvious that a sixteen month gap meant something out of the ordinary! It wasn’t brought up at interview but when the offer was made, I was given the opportunity to address that gap and I did.

And do you know what the responses have been in those three cases? I recommend the counselling service because I’ve used it myself. I’m a psych pharmacist so I understand what you’re going through. My best friend has mental health problems so I understand.

None of us are above mental health difficulties, whether it be stress, an illness or exhaustion of our own capabilities. We are all prone to mental health problems, but our issues don’t need to define us. I have bipolar, but I’m also a wife, pharmacist, photographer, bird watcher etc etc. Disclosing an illness is only disclosing a part of us, and a part that other people need to see in order to support us better. But we all know, that there is so much more to ourselves than that one part, so let’s let them know and get it over with, and move on to show the rest of our beautiful selves.

So, moving on. I’ve ticked off most off the orientation hurdles; I just need one more which I hope to finish tomorrow then I’m done with orientation, and onto the real job. I say real job, but I couldn’t do my “real” job without all of the training, orientation and PPPs that I’ve been through, so I’m not dismissing them by any means!

But today I was back on the wards, back in my home territory, and…I feel good!

Like I knew I would! And you know what’s coming…time to strut your stuff! James Brown!

Today was the first taste, and it was a sweet, sweet taste! It feels like home, and in some ways it really feels like I never left, which is such a relief and so lovely!

There are new and different things. I’m at a different hospital with a different clientele and management. I’ve been off the job 16 months so there are new drugs, new formulations and devices, new laws and new guidelines.

There are the new electronically generated discharge prescriptions, which are printed not written, which list the drugs in alphabetical order, automatically remind the doctor to fulfill their legal and PBS requirements, and which are legible! What a win for pharmacists everywhere! They still have other problems but counting our blessings wise, that’s a win.

There are chutes throughout the hospital to send medications, and drug orders, and scripts all over the place, instead of taking a hike. Great!

The pharmacist brings up the drugs of addiction instead of the technician. Could be improved.

Some things to embrace, some things to just do, and some things to save for discussion in a while once I’ve learnt more about the processes. But all part of the excitement of really getting into this job.

When I sat down with a patient to chat about their medications today, time stopped and it’s like the 16 months in between “drinks” (drinks being patients) was a 15 minute tea break. And isn’t that awesome? I think it’s awesome!

I’m back where I belong, in the workplace, at my ideally structured position, loving it!

And that’s just so fabulous to me!

Turns out that those corny Worksafe Victoria return to work ads are right; “more often than not, helping an injured worker return to work sooner is the best medicine”! When you’re in the phase where you can’t possibly imagine waking before 10am, getting dressed is something you last did on Wednesday, you haven’t left the house since…and you spend your “waking” hours doped out and falling asleep, returning to work sooner seems like a bad joke or a hellish reality that you would rather run from than face. And you haven’t run since March!

So being at work at 8.30am, dressed in professional, clean, fitting clothes, feeling emotionally and physically ready for what the day may bring, is truly an amazing miracle that you have to pinch yourself to believe, and you mentally dictate long letters of praise to your psychiatrist who is a genius!

My husband will tell you that the more work I do, the more energy I seem to have, and the more I get done around the house! Which is great for me to hear, and I’m so pleased on his behalf that I am picking up more of the jobs around here. That I’m able to and that I have the energy to do so. There’s definitely something to be said for structure, and for having set days for set tasks. When seven empty days stretch out in front of you and you feel like doing nothing, more often than not you let yourself do nothing. Having less time makes the jobs more urgent because if I don’t get to it today, and then have to work for 3 days, it won’t be done til…and etc.

They say do what you love, and being back today reminds me that I LOVE this job! I also love the people that I work with; this department is such a big, friendly family and that is just so great.

This job has given me some of the motivation that I have been lacking and the more I do and see of it, the more I get excited to get back there tomorrow! Bring it on!

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