Having made the decision not to return to work at school, I was ready to face returning to work at hospital. I have worked in the rehabilitation department there for 4 years as an on-call therapist (weekends, weekdays as needed, etc.) The hospital setting is my first love career-wise, and I’m scheduled to have my first full day April 10th.
Having met with the staff Tuesday to get through the initial awkwardness and emotion, I came in Thursday for 90 minutes to see 2 patients. All this time I’d been concerned my emotions would be the challenge - fear of breaking down in the middle of a session. I should have known it’s the things you don’t anticipate that knock you over. My emotional state was fine (until on my way home), but my cognitive state is in trouble. Before I even arrived at the hospital I experienced two signs of malfunction. (Bringing the right things and recalling parking rules on weekdays.) Once there, everything was familiar but as if a mirage, like if I reached out to touch it I may or may not find something solid beneath my hand. Getting into the computer system, passwords, procedure and codes to charge a patient for service, writing the progress note... it all felt just beyond my reach. Most of the time I had it right, but it was the disconnect that was so disconcerting. When talking to staff and going through all the practical and mental pieces of going about the job, my brain felt like a bicycle slipping gears. Slip, grind...catch, move forward, slip, grind....catch. I believe I completed all the steps, but awkwardly. Disjointed.
It is in no way how I know myself to be, and it’s frightening. Frightening to know that I couldn’t have performed my job as needed or expected if I’d had a normal, full schedule. I mean, this was 90 minutes! Two patients. And the therapy was handed to me from the main therapists, I didn’t really even have to think. On a normal day, there are at least 12 patients and alot more brain power involved. In the words of my husband, Holy “You’re Screwed”, Batman.
It’s stunning to see the effects of grief on cognitive functioning. How blatant it is when previously normal demands are re-instated, and how muted at home, where we only take on what we know we can do.
I feel like I need to wear a T-shirt that says “Stay Tuned (we’ll see if I can get back) For Our Regularly Scheduled Programming.” One for work and one for Life.