Thursday, October 01, 2009

Work Experiment

I have long wanted to return to work, and believe a part time job in a quiet office would be a good option.

Sean is closing his office, and his part time secretaries have been made redundant. His full time secretary, Gabrielle, has been with him for 20 years. On Friday she had a surgical procedure and was booked off work until Wednesday. Sean asked me to go and help with some of the English typing, and of course, I did.

On Monday, I worked from 4pm until 6pm, and although I did not understand the filing system and office procedures, I enjoyed it. I learned how to insert special punctuation symbols into a document and learned to type from a tape, using a headset.

On Tuesday morning, I again found working in the office very pleasant. One of Sean's ex part time secretaries, Charlotte, came in and she showed me a lot of things, such as where to put the cassette tapes after I had typed from them, which envelopes to use for which correspondence and that sort of thing. Sean came in from time to time and spoke to Charlotte. We went out for a sandwich lunch, but when we got back to the office, Charlotte had gone as agreed, and I sat down with the intention of carrying on with the typing. I did a bit, but my head got very 'spacey'. I stared at the screen, wondering what I was looking for and what I was supposed to be doing. I took some notes and found I wasn't spelling words as simple as 'can' correctly. I just could not write. The words I tried to write came out wrong. The more I tried, the worse it got, so I told Sean I would have to go out and rest for a bit, then I would come back to work some more, which I did. The rest improved brain function but did not make it as sharp as I would have wished.

On Wednesday when I got up, my body hurt like blazes. Especially in the arms and legs, but in other places too. . And my head was spacey before we got anywhere near the office. I did a few letters and emails with Gabrielle's help then had a sandwich with Sean at lunchtime and then got the train home, where I slept for hours.

These are my conclusions:

  • It scrambles my brain when I am trying to do something and there is a background noise. For instance, when Sean came in to talk to Charlotte while I had my typing earphones on, I could no longer type. The same applied when Charlotte was using the phone.
  • Trying to do a full day is completely counter-productive. The brain can't keep up and I feel very ill the next day. I had the same experience during the afternoon session of training for CROP. Mornings are OK, but the brain goes into meltdown in the afternoon.
  • It is demoralising to misspell simple words and being unable to write properly. My confidence has taken a knock. I was embarrassed, so I'm glad I was with people I know and like.
  • I was angry because I could not function as I had anticipated. I feel I let Sean down, or rather the ME did. He was wonderfully patient and gentle and didn't reproach me, but I had wanted better than that for him. Even I could see that my best wasn't good enough. The work I was able to do helped to a certain extent, but it's just as well I wasn't on the payroll!
  • I'm not as fit and well as I had hoped. And that conclusion is very annoying. I miss and mourn my old competent self.
  • I'm having to have a Recovery Day in bed today. And that, although necessary, makes me feel pathetic.
  • I think the trouble was that I was unable to Pace myself as I would at home.  When you are working in an office outside the home, you just have to push through and ignore your 'warning' symptoms.  If I were at home, I could stop when I began to feel nauseous and resume when  I felt better.  I don't think the relapse was caused by the work in itself, but rather due to the limitations that ME imposes, and the possibility of normal symptom control practices being unavailable. 

Brakkie had to come with me, of course. Here he is, in a respected legal office. Hasn't his life taken him to some unlikely places?



"Helping" with the foot controlled dictation machine

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