Yep, that’s right. I went to work this week for the first time since May 4. Ten months to the day not including all the pre-visits that I did leading up to the big day as part of my therapy to get ready for the big day. Pre visits you ask? Well, yeah, I did a series of practice runs to get to the office and no it is not because I forgot how to get there. Prior to going off work and over the last while, any time I travelled int he general direction of the office, I was overcome with anxiety / panic attacks. The pre visits were meant to help me deal with the anxiety and show myself that nothing would happen.
So, the day arrived and I walked into the office with a whole shit tonne of apprehension and irrational fear that I would be crumbled to nothing in front of my coworkers by some mysterious PTSD force. Happy to report that didn’t happen but it was far from easy. But it was not the worse thing that happened to me either. In fact, when I think back on it, it was an interesting experience for many different reasons.
I went in determined to not let the environment or people get me down so I found myself going on an offensive of sorts right off the bat. For me, that is usually using humour to break the ice and that is exactly what I did. With both the Staff and the Officer in |Charge, I proudly declared that “Space Cadet Jay is reporting for duty”. It seemed to take a bit of the edge off for me and I began to navigate the rest of the office. There were a few genuine reaction to be being back with a colleague’s big hug and exuberant “I’m so glad you are back” topping off the day, heck, the best couple of months for me. It was an example of why I have seen this person as a support for me that I truly can rely on.
The rest of the time, which was slated for an hour (Gradual return to duty being the key) went by without any major blips. What became obvious to me is that it is going to be difficult to figure out what my new normal will be at work. With this restarting of sorts of my career, I need to learn how to work with my triggers and protect myself from allowing myself to take on more trauma. After the hour, I was wiped. It is hard to pretend that everything is okay and wear a smile so that others don’t worry about you. All part of trying not to be the guy with mental health issues.
Thankfully, I am starting to understand this sooner than later. The next shift I was scheduled for happened to land on a day that the area was dealing with an ice storm. So, instead of saddling up and making my way in, I simply sent an email stating that risk/reward for me to travel in this weather to say I did an hour sift just wasn’t there. And you know what, I didn’t feel bad about it. It was the right thing to do for myself.
I finished off the week with the my involvement in the final step of a Moral Injury research project I got screened into. Almost one hour of a MRI brain scan while reciting a moral injury situation and a neutral situation, along with questions and two pre and post scans for comparison. It took a lot out of me but as I was leaving, I spoke with the Research C|oordinator and said that the findings won’t help me but maybe they will be used to help those that will start their PTSD journey.
And now, I have to go and pack. Tomorrow I leave for a week so that I can take part in a PTSD / Moral Injury residential program. I am scared of the unknown but excited that this might help put the pieces together. It will also be the first time since my diagnosis that I will be away from home for a prolonged period of time. Last time, my world came crashing down, maybe this time, I will be able to further rebuild that world.