Saturday, May 16, 2015

“Workin’ 9 to 5: What a way to make a livin’”
         -- Dolly Parton

Barb Polan
Barb’s Recovery
10th October 2012

SSTattler: Re-published Saturday, February 28, 2015 in Stroke Survivors Tattler  - “Workin’ 9 to 5: What a way to make a livin’” -- Dolly Parton.

As you may have noticed, I have some rules for my blog entries: nothing about work/co-workers and no anger or pessimism about anything. As far as I’m concerned, the rules have worked well for me. I want to make an exception today and write about work. I am ambitious in a positive, not cutthroat, way: I have always wanted to move forward from any position I hold, “up the ladder” goes the old stereotype. Only once have I run into a glass ceiling, and that was justified by the owner as, not because I was a woman, but because a guy at the equivalent position in another department was not progressing at the same rate I was. At that company, in the 10 years I worked there, I progressed from cardiology technician to director of marketing. I loved that company until the day it was purchased and closed up; no, I still love it today, although it’s long-gone. The company I currently work for is a weekly community newspaper back where we used to live (before GLO); after progressing from reporter to copy editor to GM, I am now back to being a copy editor and writer there. Given that I was GM before the stroke, my boss and I tried to have me return to that position after the stroke, but my “brain fog” interfered, leaving me frustrated by tasks I knew were easy for me before the stroke. And my agnosia – the inability to recognize my new limitations, both physical and cognitive - left me unable to identify my limitations as an inability to do my job properly. Both my boss and I love to pat ourselves – and each other – on the back for progress made. After I returned, I was pleased whenever I could get back to doing what I had done routinely before the stroke – that was my yardstick for progress. On the other hand, for the paper, it was a giant step backward to return to where we HAD been before the stroke; no progress there. I finally acknowledged that and started giving up well-defined chunks of my responsibilities; I resented it, and it wasn’t pretty. My first OT and my physiatrist both disapproved of me starting to work so soon after the stroke – about a month. The former suggested not going even part-time for 3 months, while the latter said 6 months; perhaps that’s why my re-entry was such a failure. But, man, did I ever love it when my boss hired more than 3 people to cover (he sensitively avoided using the word “replace,” because, he said, I could never be replaced) what I had done before the stroke. Yes, I’m boasting, because, as I said, I love to pat myself on the back. That ability to recognize and appreciate my previous successes has helped me post-stroke – now doing anything for the first time is a reason to do a happy dance (in my heart, anyway, if not for real). This applies to both work and my physical recovery. My yardstick has changed now - firsts now, as opposed to efficiency - but I still expect to continue advancing. I have defined myself as a writer since I was a child. That goal was quashed by my parents, who considered writing a hobby – like oil painting – not a profession. Being a doctor or lawyer was a profession. Now, though, writing is my primary focus, my profession. For me, it brings the satisfaction my husband has always had with his work. He frequently has said, “I can’t believe they pay me for something I would do for free.” That now applies to me, although I really don’t get paid much. Toward the end of the summer, I attended a picnic for stroke survivors with aphasia – trouble with language. It ranges from people who have to relearn what all those squiggles on the paper are to those who cast around in their heads searching for the correct words as they are speaking. Aphasia is generally the result of damage to the left side of the brain, which means that survivors who have hemiparesis on their right sides are those who often have language limitations. Despite all the bad things that the stroke did to me, I do appreciate something about the particular stroke I had - it was on the right side of my brain, so: (1) my language skills were left intact – except for slurred speech as the stroke was occurring - and (2) I lost the use of my non-dominant side (i.e., I am right-handed and lost my left side,) instead of my dominant. At the aphasia picnic, I met a woman who had started her career as a Spanish teacher. Two months before her stroke, Marian had been promoted to be the principal of an elementary school. I don’t know how effected her language skills were, but at the picnic, her speech seemed fine to me. She had made the same mistake I did: she returned to work (as a principal) too soon, and the job was beyond her. Two weeks after we met, she was scheduled to return to teaching Spanish. Ironic, I think, for someone with aphasia to teach a language because it is easier for her to do than her former job.

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