First Week Back at Work: Addendum
Diary Transcripts - September 2017
The Keith Williams game never stops. I was working in an empty office which was nominally a DXC office, but there was nobody in there. My door pass let me in so I thought I'd spend a day or two doing quiet work in there. I was told by security after a few days that I would have to vacate the office and clear my kit out (a laptop). I could have protested, but I thought it wasn't worth the hassle as I ended up in with Andy and Gordon, which turned out to be much for the better. I have no evidence of who was behind these shenanigans, but I did see Keith witness me in the empty office the day before. I couldn't help but think that if my presence was so offensive, why couldn't he just tell me himself... cowards and liars.
My relationship with Olivia is so very good, probably better than before. She's a quirky and sometimes awkward teenager, but I find her fascinating and more lovable than ever. In some mysterious ways she has had to learn to adjust to and love a new dad. Because of her age and teenage (selfish) behaviour we might be tempted to dismiss this, but I don't. She went through agony and she's come through it stronger and a better person. Obviously I won't see it that way when she's ignorant or has a vile strop, but I know there is a heart of gold in there.
A mention for Ronnie the dog, he's such a good meaning chap that he's a delight. I know that having a purpose to get up before seven to take him for a walk has been really useful. Every little helps. I was starting to feel a sense of worthlessness as Ruth got up each day to go to work while I'd just lie there and the best help I could be would be to make a cup of tea. Why it's taken going to work again for a week for me to feel my recovery is finished is irrational, but I don't feel the need to justify it, I just embrace it.
I once made a comment to Ruth along the lines of "If I'm happy, you'll be happy", this was an example of me not articulating myself as well as I would like. I meant to say "If I'm recovered, you'll be happy". This still sounds a little self-interested, but this injury and recovery isn't about me, it's about us! I really do get that.
I've just remembered our episode at Formby Point where Olivia and I lost Ronnie for about ten minutes. Ruth had just had a ding dong with a moron about how she should take greater care of Ronnie and made sure he had water to drink. Ruth engaged in a standing over him, finger pointing discussion. I thought it was a bit funny (though I'd slept through the best of it) but it hurt Ruth as she's not one to pick up any red rag that's thrown down. I was terrified about how I'd tell Ruth that I'd lost Ronnie. Olivia and I were running fast down the beach to find him, the relief after finding him was enormous.
When we went on walks, e.g. Lud's Church, I'd stress terribly about falling over. It was not over fear of my own safety, it was how Ruth would now have to deal with a potentially very difficult situation for her.
I now recognise and am fully aware that irrationality is part of life, I used to think Ruth was a bit quirky over her belief in spirits, but now I really don't. I get it, she knows there is no rational explanation, but she believes it, and that is all that matters. My anxiety over Ruth having to deal with me falling and getting injured is nothing to do with respect, it is out of love, deep love. Hurrah, I've been able to come up with an example!
Colin at the library while I was doing my IT buddy stint was fantastic, he treated me in the way I like to think I treated others at work: professionally, with respect, but also a bit of banter: it felt like a slice of normality with him. There was Kathleen and Austin, he had extremely severe dementia and couldn't be trusted on his own for one minute. He was a nice bloke, but inept as a human anymore, I guess I felt like we were kindred spirits. Kathleen was wanting to learn to drive and we did lots of online theory tests, there was no way she'd ever be able to drive, but I didn't want to put a pin in her hopes. Arthur and Julienne from Keele University were wonderful, nice regulars who I felt able to chat to very comfortably. Ruth and I visited them at their Keele home and went for a lovely walk around the Keele University grounds, it was wonderful. I dealt with two people as an IT buddy who had terminal cancers, one was a very sharp bloke who told me that "at worst it might be two years, at best it might be three years". I was in awe of how he dealt with this, I thought that death itself was bad enough, but he also knew it was going to be a painful, debilitating process. I met Sue's old teacher at Thistley Hough, Miss Audrey Aubrey. She was a very sharp lady, but had been severely debilitated by a stroke. She kept accidentally putting her electric hob control panel into "lock mode" so the burner controls would no longer work. I explained this several times, and even drew up some instructions for her, but I don't think it was sinking in. I once took her shopping to Sainsburys, it felt satisfying to take her out to do normal stuff that she would have been missing.
Helping with RVS, there was Trevor (Arnold Bennett) Barnet in Hartshill. He was an awkward sod, but I still tried my best to help and support him. On a walk with Ronnie he told me about the problem with his mother was that his father didn't give her enough beatings to sort her out. He then went on to tell me that he should have given his wife a few beatings to bring her into line. I had dealt with his previous unpleasantness about women or about Europeans in a comfortable way by dismissing it as dementia influenced, but this was just too far and beyond what I could deal with as a volunteer. I didn't feel sad for Trevor by disconnecting, but I did feel sorry for his daughter, Vicky. She must have had a difficult life with Trevor (apart from anything else their home was a mess), she was a smart, university educated young woman but the thing with mental illness is that you cannot see the sacrifices that people make for you. I imagine it's been a bit like that with me and Ruth I'm sure there were lots of dreadful situations that she had to deal with that I just wasn't aware of or acknowledged. I met Gloria (Wesport Lake) and her doggy friend Glenys through RVS, I really liked Gloria and was a little sad to move on.
There was an episode where I was trying to be useful by doing volunteer dog walking, the guy insisted on coming for walks with me and his Staffie Bull that it became a bit of a joke. I had wanted to take his dog out with Olivia but he wasn't having any of it. That was the final straw!
Ruth and I disagreed over the timing of my work return (she was concerned that I wasn't recovered enough). I was struggling with finding the right balance between doing things myself (to show my recovery is working) and being selfish, it was so hard to make the right choices. I know Ruth was obviously delighted for me to be recovered enough to be able to work, but I also knew that if it all went wrong it would be Ruth left picking up the pieces.
Ruth and I went out for a meal in Milton with Fred and Caroline the week before my work return, we went the whole evening without once speaking of my recovery - ace. We once went walking with Claire and Jay up to Gresley Arms in Alsagers Bank. During a conversation Jay made a comment about himself not cycling anymore, he said something along the lines of ‘things change’, but there also clear inference at Claire's input! I respected the way that Jay dealt with answering my questions and that he respected Claire's wishes enough to change a lifetime of cycling habit. I was knackered at RFest 2016.
Money concerns were enormous (in my mind), I cut every corner possible, even on doggie poo bags. I'm still penny wise pound foolish; though I can still book holidays, go for nice meals, I still tend to skimp on cheaper birthday cards.
I have limited smell such as breath, armpits and toilet. Poor taste in different pizzas, I keep quiet for tea and meals out as I don't want Ruth to suffer anxiety over my ‘lack of enjoyment’. I am always spraying armpits as I'm unaware of potentially smelling, I'm pretty sure I must, but I don't sense it.
It felt ace to buy Olivia some Nike trainers, I feel like I haven't spoiled her for two years. I promised Olivia that her mum is gonna take her on holiday to Spain somewhere next year, she was thrilled.
I'm more comfortable considering myself as an expert than I ever was - bizarre. I got so frustrated at painting the front fence and garden gate, it drove me mad how even two coats wasn't enough. I had a similar experience re-painting the kitchen walls.
Naming association: Puff Daddy; there’s Sylvester Stallone’s first wife Bridgette. There’s Sex Maniac Alex. Sadly, I can’t claim ownership of GAndy.
Tracy Binmore's wisdom - it’s called trauma because it’s traumatic!
Walking, then cycling, then driving to my shrink appointment in Howard Place in Shelton was a chore. The doctor was a good clock watcher, I never stayed beyond my allotted precise one hour slot when it was clear there were no following appointments.
When Charlie learned to drive, I was delighted for him. However, I felt a pang that I may never be able to contribute either directly or financially to Olivia learning to drive. This made me feel guilty and sad.
I really believed in late 2016 I would never get better, I felt I would genuinely struggle with a Tesco shelf stacking or McDonalds job. I was hoping for a Saturday evening job at Pizzarama, I didn't feel sad about this, I was just hopeful I could be in employment again. I phoned Pizzarama and was elated when the guy said he'd be back in touch, he never did however.
I never felt that psych tests (such as Dr. Fokias in Worcester) were indicative of my mental state / limitations, it all felt a little arbitrary, sadly I can't suggest a better alternative.
This diary lacks the emphasis of just how unlikely my recovery has been. It was never two years of effort by Ruth and I to a seemingly inevitable happy ending. Generally, the best we could ever hope for was a situation where I was on my feet and lucid, but the goal was never to be anything like before as that seemed ridiculously unachievable. I'm so glad I've lots of evidence and actions demonstrating my love for Ruth prior to the accident, evidencing that my feelings for her are not phoney or simply gratitude for helping me through a difficult period.
I slept through the evening of 31st July from 18:30 to midnight (2 year TBI anniversary), I missed dinner, I had hotel biscuits instead!
I had a really good experience fixing a KSC / TPM issue that only I could find a workaround for!
I think of how my life changed and was aware that lots of people who had similar injuries find it difficult to avoid clinical depression. I think I was very fortunate to avoid depression, I believe it was a mixture of my own bloody mindedness and the support and love of those around me. I simply refused to even countenance depression, it's not that I wasn't aware of its threat, I was just so determined not to allow it to happen to me. There were plenty of times when I really felt that there was no likelihood of a decent recovery, I just would not let that lead me into depression as I was intelligent enough to know that would be a path with a dreadful outcome, both for me and those who love me. I'm trying to think of my lowest point, but I simply can't, although I think I was taken a bit by surprise by how low I was following after the first month of being discharged. I'd got it into my head that things would simply continue to improve, they didn't. My saving grace was that a consultant had told me that recovery from brain injury is non-linear, I clung onto that thought during difficult periods.