Tag Archive for work

A new year and a free book

I’ve blogged before about Jill Bolte-Taylor.  She’s a scientist who studies the brain.  So when she realised she was having a stroke herself at a relatively young age, she found the whole thing quite fascinating.  Anyway, there is a TED talk (see below as it’s worth posting twice) and she has a book that’s widely available: “My Stroke of Insight”.  But someone recently posted a PDF of whole book to a Facebook stroke group so I’ve included that link too.


(Click if you prefer it in paperback or Kindle format.)

It’s all change at my end.

After the stroke I took three months before going back to work, initially part-time.  But I left the role exactly 6 months after the stroke. Something I never would have predicted before it.  Then I finished a Masters degree and did some freelance work.  I graduated in July, just after my house – which I rented – was sold.  So I had to make some really big decisions.  I feel the need to buy a house so I can pay it off over time and have some security.  And I couldn’t do that anywhere I actually wanted to live in the city in which I lived (as an indication, the relatively ordinary two-and-a-half bedroom house with a tiny courtyard for a garden that I lived in sold for £820k..!).  So I needed to change the way my world worked to some extent too.

So I moved to a place where I only knew a couple of people.  I had coffee with anyone that would have coffee with me.  And within a couple of months I got a job offer from a really big firm that needs a specialist in both what I used to do for a job and what I studied at university, and are willing to have me based in the city to which I moved.

Do I really want to be in that place doing that job?  Honestly, I have no idea.  Some days yes and some days no.  There is somewhere else I’d rather be but that didn’t happen; and for Christmas and New Year I’ve been back in my old city feeling no particular reason to go back to the new one much before my work start date.  But it’s city that is loveable, there are people that are lovely, and there is a salary that will work for house buying on offer.

Today I have to go see their medics, by chance in my old town seeing as that’s where I am this week.  I know they can’t un-offer me the job – the bits of law you learn are interesting! It’s because I ticked the box to say I need ‘reasonable adjustments’ which by law they have to provide.  It’s not much: a high backed chair for when I spend a reasonable amount of time at my desk, and the note that I’m going to (a) stick reasonably close to my contracted hours – not my old natural style but it’s going to be my new one so I’ll have to work that out and (b) I’m going to hold them to the offer of working one or two days from home each week.  Those of you who know me know I hate working from home.  I really do dislike it.  But I want a life outside work too and to have that I need to balance the one inside work to make sure that can happen.

In reality, everything I want to do will be compromised, of course.  But without winning the lottery, what can one do?


Six months today!

Six months ago today the stroke started, right up there in the (lovely) Chief Operating Officer’s office.

Tomorrow, I will run my last big event at work, pack up my desk, and have some drinks with my colleagues and friends on my last day with the company.

Someone from my family has been with that company for the last 43 years, with up to 3 concurrently at times, and I’m leaving.  I’m actually saying goodbye.  And I’m about to begin another new chapter.  Starting with getting on a plane first thing the next morning…

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Fit for Work?

So I’m asking Hospital Number 2 to move my stroke consult from the end of May to the end of April. If they don’t oblige then my lovely GP is going to ask them again.  The hope is that I can come off the warfarin at the six month point, which is the protocol, and then we’ll be done.

I’m about to go on holiday for a week, and then I only have 2x 4 day weeks and a 2 day week left at work.  So I asked for a ‘completely fit to resume normal duties’ (after my holiday!) note and she obliged*.  The only difference really is the ability to be on call outside office hours, which I’ve not done since I’ve been back, and it’s utterly likely they’ll not bother to put me back on only to take me off again a couple of weeks later (though they might; I think Kate would like to turn her phone off when she cycles!!!).  The interesting comment though was the GP saying that if it was a long term gig she wouldn’t have given me the note.  Carrying a phone and being ready to respond 24/7/365, even if it only actually happens, on average, two or three times a month, would not be sensible, for anyone?

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The First 5 Day Week

It’s 5am on the Friday of my first 5 day week since October.

Normally I walk to and from work but I didn’t yesterday and I don’t suppose I will today. Some (non-medics) warned I might get really tired but that’s not really the issue.  It’s more that my balance gets tired by the end of the week so walking is harder.  I can still do it, it’s not like I’ve had to slow down again, but I’m aware of that my head is there again. It’s not like it was, i.e. it’s not really a problem, it just is.*

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Liberation from the bits I missed

My friend Andy L suggested I sent out a message suggesting more or less the email below.

I didn’t receive a single negative response. In fact, I got positive responses. It feels like partial liberation from the bits I missed!

From: [Me]
Sent: 18 January 2011 09:24
To: [An Extended Team]
Subject: Email advice :-)


I’ve now deleted around 4000 emails.  I’ve read others.  I’ve even actioned a few more.  But I’m about to copy 600 emails into a folder marked ‘should probably read’ and mostly they are from you.  It would take me an awful long time to work my way through these, so…

Could I possibly ask, if there is an email in there containing info that you think is particularly important, could you either tell me to go find it, resend it, or verbally update me over a coffee (which I’m happy to buy!)? This will let me prioritise issues the issues you think are most important while giving me time to do the work for meetings and events in the diary, which I’d otherwise have to cancel/decline!

Thanks lots for your help!!!

There is so much going on at work and it wouldn’t be at all appropriate for me to blog details, so I’ll simply tell you about the post-stroke changes/observations.

It takes me longer to walk to places, like between meetings and to the colour printer which is ages away.  Correction: it can take me the same amount of time, but if I keep powering around my head gets lighter and I feel like I’ve taken a backward leap. So I have to constantly remind myself it’s not a race and I need to walk at a slower pace. Which is oddly frustrating, especially as I keep forgetting!

I answer a lot of ‘how are you doing today?‘ questions, and I have to think ‘how am i?‘ because I’ve not considered it much until someone asks (again). Luckily my team is well over this!  But people always apologise for asking and I really don’t mind: it would be worse if they didn’t care at all!

I’m less inclined to get emotionally involved in what’s going on (or what people think) too: I’m advised by everyone else who’s had a bout of leave that this wears off very quickly, but I’m enjoying it, because I think it makes everything easier for me and probably for everyone else too.  Passion is good, but holding things with a loose grip can also an empowering thing.

So, anyway, enough about me, how are you today?


Words of wisdom

On Tuesday I’m going back to work.  I daresay that provides the outside opportunity for more adventures, which will be blogged but, depending on what they are, possibly with a few weeks (or months?!) of time delay!!

I know I’m more than ready to go back because someone asked me today how I knew.  I had to confess that in the past week I’ve been wandering around Belfast, hit over 12500 on my Fitbug pedometer – which represents to and from work and wandering around during a normal day – a few times.

If you can do a gig until 2am, you get get thee ass into work, in my humble opinion, and on Tuesday, I shall.

I was thinking quite hard tonight about whether I could come up with any words of wisdom to share on the last three months (minus two days) and… well… I haven’t.  If you’re at the start of a similar journey I don’t think I have anything that can help you, because you will make your own way in the same way I made mine.  The only tip I have is it’s been quite useful to be someone who generally finds the bright side of most things, given a chance.  It could be awfully depressing if you’re starting out with the cup half empty…


I can’t be sorry; you have been warned!

Everyone keeps asking if I’m going back to work.  Yes, in January. On 10th.  Or maybe 11th.  Do I want to go  back?  Well… If I could be a paid lady of leisure, then I’d seriously consider not going back.  But I can’t, so I will.

I’ve also had a lot of questions about whether the whole shebang has made me question the way I live my life, and the place I work, and the relationships I have.  And the answer is…. no.  I still feel the same way about work as I did before this happened.  I still feel the same way about my lovely home.  I still have the same friends as I did before this happened: though some friendships are much stronger, and one – or maybe two – I will hold more loosely and invest slightly less in going forward.

I get the feeling I’m supposed to think that tearing up my neck, and having a stroke as a result of that, is the worst thing that ever happened to me.  But it is not.  It was a tad scary for a few people, not including me.  It was inconvenient for a lot of people, including me.  I’ve missed a few things I would like to have been part of.  I suspect there will be some issues catching up and re-integrating where things have rolled forward in my absence, exactly as they should have, but they don’t worry me, because they will work themselves out. And there have been some huge positives…

I’ve met a lot of good people.  I’ve learned a lot of new things.  I’ve been forced to learn it’s ok to – occasionally! – be vulnerable and let other people take over responsibility for things – including, sometimes, me – for a while. I’ve been allowed to see different sides of people I thought I knew very well.  And me being ill scared someone I care about very much enough to decide that life might be too short to waste, and to make some dramatic changes, for at least the next year anyway.  And now, well, now I feel like I’m back to more-or-less the way I was, it’s nice I have a couple of weeks to chill, even if Christmas is slap in the middle of it. I know things would be different if the impact had been more significant or protracted.  But it wasn’t.  And it is what it is.

As some of you know, I had been thinking of taking a 3 month sabbatical from Oct-Dec this year, but a combination of circumstances made me think that wasn’t the best idea and hold off talking to work about it until next Summer, when I’m due to write a dissertation for the MSc.  I guess I got the sabbatical anyway.  I mean, I would’ve chosen to spend it very differently: a lot less hospital and recovery time, and at least one overseas holiday with sunshine.  But I’m told that sometimes we don’t get what we want, but what we need… who knows.  There is certainly at least one thing that I’m glad happened as a result of all this, and so I can’t be sorry that it happened.

But I can still relate to this:

And I am so back on my feet.

You have been warned.



Furious and sad, at 3am

Well, I guess the ‘i can’t really be bothered to be bothered’ phase is over.

I’m furious, and I can’t even tell you why.

There is good advice out there for people like you (who are well) dealing with people like me (who are just about well again having been very sick).  Taking this advice can help you to avoid introducing your friend to what it’s like to feel like they’re not trusted anymore, and strip them of the dignity they’ve already had to fight to get back once.

If you’re reading this because you’re dealing with a work colleague, there’s some good stuff on the Health & Safety Executive’s website.  It includes quotes like, “Empowering an individual to influence their return to work can significantly boost their well-being and confidence,” and “Don’t make assumptions about your employee’s situation” .  They’re a useful reference as googling for this on a friendship basis produces little worthy results… I can find useful stuff like, “Ask the person what you can do to help and listen to their answer. Never assume that what you think is helpful is what they will find helpful,” and “They and their condition are always changing,” (which is true every week post my stroke has been like entering whole new era) but they are not official sites and their advice is a often bit muddled.  However, there is one paragraph that means a lot to me, and is my top tip for dealing with me this week:

What is important is that the person who is ill not lose his or her dignity. Illness carries with it a whole gamut of feelings: fear, anger, disappointment, hopelessness, sadness, grief, perhaps guilt or even shame,,, People often feel dependent and often resentful about that dependence. When you are conscious of these issues, you will more likely respond in a sensitive way.

In the whole time I’ve been sick and off, I’ve not been stressed about it for a second.  Now I’m better I’m dealing with people who seem to be making it their mission to decide they know better than me (or my medics) about what is right for me. I know – I really do know – it’s because they care and they want to do the right thing; they don’t want to be seen to do the wrong thing either.

But you know what, when this first happened my dignity went out the window.  I couldn’t stand up, and then I couldn’t balance so you don’t need too much of an imagination to work out some of the things I couldn’t do by myself when I was first in hospital.  But dignity there was neither required nor important.  Well now I’m back, and I’m pretty much back to being as normal as I ever was, and dignity is both required and important.

Please think carefully when you’re making suggestions to friends (or colleagues) who may be in my position: resuming normal life after a period of sickness that was not my fault.  I’ve worked hard to get to this point, to reclaim my independence and my dignity.  Do you really want to take it away from me?  No, I know you don’t; so please be kind and, most importantly, listen. Don’t make any assumptions or think that you might know best.  Invariably you won’t.  Well, not unless you have a medical doctorate.

(p.s. Be very careful re this in a work situation.  For my sins, I used to work in HR (don’t tell anyone) and the whole thing about not making any assumptions is really, really important.  Now from the other side of the fence, I’d say it was kind too.)

I was reminded today of a very special lady that I was fortunate enough to work with a couple of years ago.  We shall call her N, as I haven’t asked if I can include this (though I am certain she won’t mind as her story is already on the net by her own doing).  N has sickle cell anaemia (have a look here and here for two experiences).  For some, sickle cell can cause much pain and inconvenience their lives to the extent that can severely impair the way they are able to live their lives.  Yet N taught me some amazing lessons that I’m only now realising and valuing as much as I should.   I think they go like this:

  • N is in charge of N.  She’s good at it.
  • We’re not in a position to make any assumptions about what sickle cell means to N: everyone’s experience is different and hers is personal to her.  Don’t assume that because you’ve read the wikipedia entry, you know what the deal is
  • The only person qualified to know if N is overdoing things is N.  And her doctors.  Whom she will consult/visit/ambulance to if she knows she needs to.
  • She doesn’t appreciate being second guessed.  A question is welcomed; concern is touching; your non-medical-trained-advice is smiled at, but asking a question is going to work better for you both

They say that 50% of people who’ve had a stroke suffer depression.  It’s probably higher among younger people.  I imagine mostly this is because if it’s really bad, you have lost more than if you’re older (?? That sounds patronising, maybe I don’t mean that). But in my experience the stroke isn’t the problem.  The problems most likely to send me off into depression were (1) the stroke ward after I got out of the hyper-acute unit, because it was mixed with the geriatric unit, and (2) feeling undermined and second-guessed and by people who I’m quite sure love me but are also thinking that they know better than me.  Despite the fact I’ve been living this 24/7, 1440 minutes a day, for 2 months and 4 days.

I know I shouldn’t blog this one.  But I know the main person concerned does not know that this blog exists.  And I’m pretty sure that none of you know them.  So it’s fine.  I’m desperately trying to come up with a way to let them off the hook; for them to be able to move on – with my information rather than their notions – having not backed them into any corners.  It’s hard when I feel backed into a corner myself, but I have to be bigger than that. If I can’t be, how can I expect that of them?

It’s just utterly ironic that the first time I get stressed about anything, it’s about other people’s issues on preparing for the good bits coming back on line.  It’s sad, and funny, and sad again, because I know it’s done in love, and yet all I want to do about it is cry and scream.

Though tears stream my cheeks as I blog at nearly 3am, so I guess I’m mostly upset.


A little bit of normal…

A little bit of normal is here and I’m loving it.  This is the first week where I’ve felt like I can do things without making too much of a back-up plan.  If they said I could go back to work next week then I would.  And in hindsight that kind of fits because my GP originally said a number of weeks but it turned out that meant going back Christmas week – i.e. next week – and so she said avoid the busy-ness of that and go back in the new year.  How funny and cool that she predicted to a tee.

The weirdity of being off ill for more than a couple of days is, of course, that you’re not in a position to enjoy the fact you have some time off.  My boss recently pointed out that when you’re in most need of a proper holiday is when you’re too busy or too sick to take one.  Apart from the insurance issue, getting there is too tricky and tiring, exploring is not an option, energy is not available, your own sofa and bed aren’t there, and basically it’s easier to be at home anyway because you’ve already put everything in the most ergonomic place for the circumstances and worked out how to make it work.  Though the idea of sitting by a glorious outdoor pool, with sunshine warming your skin, with a big fat novel (that you can’t read) and a pretty cocktail (that you aren’t allowed to drink) is still the most appealing thing in the world.  Anyway… I digress….

Going outside the UK is a no-go because of the travel insurance, but Northern Ireland is in the UK and on Thursday I’m getting on a plane and going for a few days.  My friend at the other end has stayed here since ‘the incident’ so knows the score.  And, not that I want to feed an already-in-danger-ego, but my dad credits them with the week that he thinks I turned from ‘obviously sick’ to ‘nearly normal’.  And, let’s face it, ‘nearly’ is as close as I’ve ever been.

So now I need a new Christmas party frock, because the warfarin weight makes the ones in my wardrobe less flattering than I would like.  (I ought to blog on the warfarin weight thing, but my hair stopped falling out before it became an issue so I’m trying to look on the bright side;though WW beckons in the new year!)  And then I am sorted.  It’s almost like a real holiday.  With drugs and sidelong glances from people just checking my head hasn’t exploded!


Can she do it? (Yes she… will find out!)

My life is about to begin again, and I’m looking forward to it.

This began on 11 October.  I left my office for 10 minutes and haven’t been back since.  I haven’t opened an MSc book. I haven’t done a normal ‘go out with my friends’.  I haven’t been any in busy/loud places for any longer than it takes to get out of them.  I haven’t been away (except to hospital).

In the course of the next two weeks, the following is happening.  On Tuesday a friend is coming to stay until Sunday; we will most definitely pace it, but we will not be housebound.  On Wednesday I’m going into work for the morning, to be present at an event that I usually mastermind but didn’t quite get to finish  before I disappeared for 10 minutes.   I’ve a plan for lunch at Borough Market on Friday.  And on Sunday, as my friend leaves, I am departing to do the final MSc residential week.

[click link to see image owner]

Have I mentioned I haven’t read a single book yet (neither non-fiction, nor any of the gorgeous books of stories stacked up in a lovely, chaotic pile of adventures)?  Yesterday, I pulled my MSc papers out.  Today I shall look for the sheets of paper with the essay questions on them.  Tomorrow I will pull old essays so I can draft a page for a group presentation we’re doing at the end of the week.  And I printed out lots of research papers for each essay before this happened; so I will aim to match the papers and books with the essay questions on Monday.  Somehow I don’t think I’m going to read anything much beyond that this weekend… but it’s a start.

I don’t know how this works, all the stuff that happens next, but I’m really looking forward to it.  I’ll blog more on this later, and may include some (anonymised) excepts of some things people said when I first said I was going to do the residential.  I don’t know how this plays out, but I have a feeling it’s all going to be fine.

I’m looking forward to Tuesday very much.  And then I’m looking forward to Wednesday.  And then… You get my point.

In other news, my friend Mark, who made so many posts earlier on (because he’s such a star at showing up at all the right times), fell over on a mountain the other day and banged his head.  The BBC even reported it: “During the operation a rescuer slipped and suffered a head injury.“!!!!! He escaped with concussion.  He assures me he’s home and he’s perfectly fine, bar the concussion… But I just wanted to publicly acknowledge, given our competitive natures, that he wins – hands down wins – on modes of emergency transport.  His helicopter airlift, during a storm that meant they could only touch down a the 4th hospital they tried, utterly trounces land based ambulances.  It’s just a shame your head hurt too much for you to enjoy it.  But I am glad you’re ok.  Thanks for not being too dramatic on that front.  Though I see you’re not listed yet?  Well hey ho… get listed and I’ll link straight to the Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team donation button…!

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