I don’t get this. I have been fine, mostly, with the ptsd issues for years now. I mean, there are the things I think I’ll always carry with me: the hypervigilance, the nightmares (narcolepsy plays an accompanying role there too) and the kick-in-the-gutt panic reaction to either vanish into thin air or burst into flight like a startled bird when someone or something reminds my deepest memories of something dangerous that may or may not be a threat in the moment. I still startle easily, even in my endlessly busy office, even thought there is a constant stream of people, phone calls, email messages, knocks at my door and now, most irritating, an in-house instant message system to keep in constant touch with colleagues no matter where you are. **Good news staff, it even sends notifications to your phone if you happen to be sitting on the toilet so you’ll never miss a moment!** It is actually kind of nice to be able to pop off a message to someone I like but can never find a moment to say hello to but the day my bosses discovered it turned the entire thing in more of a servant call bell. Okay, maybe not quite that dramatic but still….annoying. Point was, now I have another thing to make me jump….the alert sound when a message (or email, voicemail or IM) comes in is intentionally loud to be heard over the constant activity of a busy hospital, scares the living crap out of me. Nothing, however, beats the times patients (or staff!!) decided to bang on my windowed office, sometimes with a cane or other gait aide, on the window behind me. I think my butt leaves the chair by at least half a foot when that happens.
*Bing – email*
*Ding ding ding – IM*
*Bing – email*
*Riiiiiiing – phone Bing – email Bing – email*
*Ding ding ding – IM*
*Door opens – Grainne, can you help me with (one of a fucking gazillion things no one seems to ever be able to remember how to do themselves INCLUDING changing pager batteries or using the photocopier- I shit you not. The worst part? There are TWO secretaries sitting directly beside the photocopier…. who also ask me how to use it)
I deflect the request or answer, depending on the moment. When I look back I have ten more email, have missed three calls and have a dozen IM’s when suddenly….
*BAM BAM BAM BAM BAM* on my glass walled office – from behind me.
I LEAP into a standing position (helps wake me up at least, when the narcolepsy is calling me to sleep, and turn to find a grizzled old man, angrily waving his cane at me because he’s trying to check in for his appointment and no one is at the front desk. (for like, eight seconds because they are helping someone else).
I help them, of course, because I’m a nice person and hate to see someone have to wait for five fucking minutes when they want something NOW and, just to add injury to insult, I have to ask if they’ve had their flu shot this year. They answer honestly the first time (they catch on fast, these patients) and, if not, have to force them to wear a surgical mask in the department. This never…ever….ever….EVER goes well. You should hear the things I get hurled at me.
“Oh I can’t wear those because I can’t breathe through them.”
Riiiiight. Yes, I follow. We do like to asphyxiate our surgeons in the middle of complex surgery so I understand your issue.
“I’m allergic to them.”
You can’t be allergic to a mask. I’m sorry. It’s not possible. It’s non latex, paper based, completely unscented, no dyes or chemicals, nothing but paper fibers for crying out loud. But I just keep telling them that it’s not to protect others from THEM its to protect them from getting the flu from all us flu shot carriers who likely have the virus coursing through our veins but are not getting sick because we got our shots.
They pause. Squint their eyes at me, quickly look the fact up on their smart phone, and put on the goddamned mask. (usually only until they’re out of my line of sight).
I go back to my office to find I’ve missed a dozen calls, a million email and ten million messages from my bosses demanding to know why I’m not answering their calls or emails. Generally this is when I go hide in the locker room with a coffee and try to pretend I like my job. (Okay, I really do like my job, I just dislike that I have to be five different employees at once and somehow my bosses are still always annoyed that I can’t get everything done.)
I had a meeting with one of them on Friday – the passive aggressive one, and it was to be 30 min. “Just a few minutes, I swear Grainne, I know you’re swamped. I just need to blah blah blah.” aaand it started at 100 and ended at 345. *sigh* In truth, the last hour was mostly me scrolling passively aggressively through my mile long to do list, asking her how, exactly, she’d like me to prioritize things.
“Well, these ten things are top priority to me” she’d say.
Okay…makes sense. Now, tell me how to get that done plus payroll for over 100 staff and patient by patient audit of all clinical patient stats entered by each of the 120 clinicians in the last month, all in the next four working days. She just looked at me because there is no answer. She was quite kind, really, and acknowledged that we keep having these same meetings where we discuss my workload with the other boss and strategize on how we can make things accomplishable, let alone reasonable, and we come up with things that never get put into action and then I drown in work until the next meeting.
“If there was one wish I could grant you Grainne….anything that would make this better, what would it be?” she asked, kindly.
I couldn’t come up with an answer. “I’m not sure there is one thing. I just hate struggling and working so hard every day, putting in free OT, not seeing my family and now I don’t even get to see the staff because I’m closing and locking my office every day, madly working away with no breaks, no company and no interaction other than to tell you and other boss ‘no, I didn’t get to that yet’ twenty times a day and to help people out the fastest way possible without any conversation or meaningful contact”
She openly recognized it was not okay for me to be trapped in there, socially isolated. She realized I’d not gone to any of the parties, lunches, gift exchanges. She knew I’d been in my glass bubble working away like a trained animal who was still being poorly treated and denied food and water for not being fast enough, good enough. I mean, people walk by my office and look in, giving me sad, sympathetic eyes all the time and they’ve started bringing me coffee and cookies as if sneaking food into a prisoner. In the end, you know what she said?
“Grainne, I know this isn’t right. I’m sorry….I don’t know how to fix it. All I can say is, Chin up, as little as that helps….” and she left me to use my last 15 min which turned into 45 min of free overtime to finish my day.
But that just set the mood. That night, on my way home…the way I take every day to and from work, I got to a back road that takes me into my town and was stopped by an officer for what I assumed was a sobriety check. It was actually the beginning of a road block though, because there had been a fatal accident just down the road. There is a bridge on that road that is terrifying in the best of road conditions; blind turns both sides, narrow and with cross intersections appearing out of nowhere on the north side…..many people have crashed there. This spring, a 21-year-old kid was driving his mom’s BMW along in the morning, doing just over the speed limit (which is 90 kmph out there on county roads) and for unknown reasons, he lost control of the car just before the bridge, veered off to the side and threw himself over the railing, crashing down into the train tracks below upside down, killing him instantly. It was so sad….so sad. Every time I’ve crossed that bridge since I think of him and wish him and his family peace. But, back to the road block this past week – I was detoured around an even scarier route covered in ice right next to the river and could see many rescue vehicles across the fields. I hoped people were okay, whatever had happened, and then, later that night heard there was an accident on the bridge where one of the two vehicles had slid on the ice, turned his car sideways and t-boned himself on the driver side, directly into an oncoming minivan. The driver was 18….died instantly at the scene (as they were both travelling at around 80 kmph and he got crushed by the front end of the van). They had to use the Jaws of Life to pry his mangled body from the wreck and the driver of the van, alive but injured, was left with a front row view of the carnage…which confused me since she was clearly alive and he was clearly dead….I guess they had to get him out first before they could find a way to get her out. She was in her early 40’s…my age…driving along the route I take every day and usually would have been exactly where she was when I leave work on time. I’d been delayed by a few minutes that day, thankfully.
So yes, sad story….so close to Christmas a family has lost their barely adult son and it is heartbreaking to thing of how their holiday will now be attached to his death for the rest of their lives.
The next day, at work, I got a text from a friend saying she’d not be in that day. She had been in an accident and was on bed rest for two weeks while she healed. I really care for this one and asked her if she was okay….turned out she was the driver of the minivan. I called her immediately and she sobbed into my ear for 20 minutes, trying to explain how her husband thought she had lost her mind and how everyone was trying to check her into the psych ward for PTSD. Then she told me what she could not stop seeing play out in her mind over and over and over. The kid who had died had been a friend of her son of the same age, further complicating the guilt and trauma. I soothed her, calmed her, told her she was okay. I told her I had been in a bad wreck years ago and came away with ptsd from it (neglecting to tell the entire rest of the story which is the real thing I struggled with all those years – but that wreck was still fucking terrifying and I remember every single sensation to this day including the sound of the metal ripping from the roof as the rescue crew tried to get me and my friends out of our obliterated vehicle).
So I’ve been trying to be a good friend….allowing her the room to talk to me when she needs to and not prodding her to go to get help or asking how she is every five minutes. She’s got a good family around her but they are offering terrible advice so I’m trying to offer alternate options, learned from years of CBT and other personal battles won. Of course, I’ve not told her any details of my car accident….that certainly won’t help her heal, I know, but it seems to have reactivated a panic centre in my brain I thought I’d been able to settle years ago. The crash was a LONG time ago…I was a teen! We all lived and went on with life…everything worked out as well as it could have, but the failure issues at work along with the trauma my friend is living through and me trying to help, plus other personal issues at the moment have sent me spinning.
Yesterday, Dayne, Colt and I went christmas shopping. It was icy out. By the time we got home I was barely able to stifle a scream every time someone stopped quickly in front of us. Dayne and Colt understood, took turns hugging me when we got home. Colt was the sweetest….arms around me,
“Shh shh shh mom…it’s only. I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes it gets so big inside you just have to let it come out of your eyes as tears.”
He’s twelve guys. He’s autistic…..so detached from most empathy and feeling, and this is what he told he as he hugged me and rubbed my back. Dayne was next in line, holding me tight, letting me cry without even understanding why, really. I had a hot bath, took a sleep med and crashed out to have nightmares plague me all night, waking screaming as my brain thought I was about to die over and over. It’s 130 and I still can’t shake it.
It’s just hard sometimes, right? I know this. I’m lucky….I have beat back so many of my demons and have so much better a quality of life than I used to have. I rarely panic, rarely fall into depression. I have the arthritic pain totally under control….that bitch is mine now and I don’t let it stop me ever. I can feel it now, all through my spine, my head is aching, jaw and face pulsing, shoulders, knees, arms and chest aching that deep bone ache. Everything physical hurts and I don’t mind. I’m sleep and tired and struggling to stay awake even though I just took my meds to wake me up. The narcolepsy isn’t sharing control with me yet but I’ll get there. It’s the internal stuff that’s just swirled out of control….out of nowhere.
Shit. I have to stop typing or I’ll never stop. If you read this far, thanks. I don’t have anywhere else to put this stuff. Going to drag myself into a shower. See if I can unscramble the thoughts some more.
Tags: cannot wake up today, Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Depression, difficult work place, mental health, mental health at work, Nightmares, PAIN, post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, ptsd recovery, Sadness, stressed, trying as hard as I can