MI’m sat in a hospital cafe with a rather delicious cappuein front of me. I’m waiting for my prescription which I’m informed will take 15 minutes. It’s usually longer.
I’m on my own, but that’s OK. The other four filled tables also have single occupants.
I’m feeling pretty miserable. Monday was my first day back in work after the Christmas holiday and the start of my new, temporary role. I was determined to ‘hit the ground running’. Show them what I’ve got.
I’m not the same person anymore. The loss of my Dad and the experience of his illness and death have changed me. I’ve tried very hard to hide this, to be the person I used to be – strong, capable – but I have failed. A conversation with work just before we broke for the Christmas holidays has proved that.
In telling me that, all they’ve done is acerbated the problem: for me, I’m failing at hiding it so I’m failing in general. I feel that people are doubting me, seeing my new weakness. I’ve heard that one colleague, in a show of support apparently, has called me a ‘broken woman’. That I am, but I’ve worked very hard for work not to see that.
But this new, temporary role was a chance to change that. A different focus, different expectations – a chance to prove my worth again. People have short memories – the past year I have been plagued by a burn out, the death of my beloved father and the subsequent grief and – I’m guessing – associated illnesses. I want people to remember what I can do, the years of success that I had before this.
Unfortunately, Monday morning I woke to a severe flair up of a pre-existing medical condition that rears its head when I’m run down. Not a problem, I thought. I will get it quick – make the emergency hospital appointment, get the usual medications and get back to proving my worth.
Apparently not. After a lengthy appointment at the hospital I was informed that this flair up was particularly bad. This meant my usual medications, plus steroids and a sick note for a week.
I was angry. I didn’t want this! I drove to work in a rage. I could ignore the note, just go in. But a conversation with my ex on the way (the man who never advocates unnecessary time off work) brought me to my senses. A senior consultant has told me that I need a week off. That means, I need a week off.
I drove to work to hand in my note and met with my boss. They were sympathetic, understanding. I don’t know what’s worse.
I was angry, upset, apologetic. I told him that I didn’t want the time off, that I wanted to prove myself. “Don’t give up on me.” Should I cringe at the memory of saying that? I don’t, because that is how I felt. How I still feel.
He told me to stop worrying, I couldn’t help it. He knew I was good at my job, knew what I had been through. Just get myself well.
Tuesday and Wednesday I was glad of the time off. Pain and exhaustion ripped through me and the illness took hold. My consultant had warned me it would get worse before it got better. Seems she was right about this too.
So today I am back for my follow up appointment. Although there is improvement, I’ve been given more medications for the next few weeks. This hasn’t happened for a long time. Again, I appreciate how bad this flare up has been now. This different consultant was sharp and quick. Not much care, but efficient. I didn’t feel like asking questions.
As I entered the coffeeshop, I was followed by two hospital staff, coming to fix the coffeeshop fridge. One of the men quickly got into a cherry banter with the coffee staff and his colleague, and as I was being served, me too. He made me smile and I watched the banter between colleagues in good humour.
As I sit drinking my coffee, I’m considering how we present ourselves affects others, perhaps without us noticing. Today’s consultant’s abrupt efficiency has meant that I didn’t ask questions I had. The experience in the coffee shop cheered me up – all from one man’s smiling face and sense of humour. I was lucky to be an onlooker of that, just for a moment, because it has made me realise how important your ‘outside’, your demeanor – whatever you want to call it – really is. I’ve tried hard to be professional, to be the person I once was. I realise now that it is impossible. Inside I am changed and that is ever present on the outside too, no matter how I try to cover it up.
So. What can I do about it?
My job is still important to me. I’ve lost some confidence in myself. I need to prove to myself and to others that I can do this. My demeanor needs to show this care and determination. Does it matter that I’ve shown people my more fragile side? I’m not sure. But I can’t change it. I can only focus on how I present myself from now on.