The last few weeks have been hard… getting back to work after having a month off, starting new meds, kids constantly scrapping…. it has been enough to make me want to crawl into bed and hibernate until the sun comes back out.
My month off work was interesting. The first half was taken as annual leave, when Hubs and I went to Bruges for his 40th birthday, the second was sick leave as my body got used to my new medication. I always suspected that work sapped my spoons, but my extended period of time off confirmed it. Within a few days, I could feel the energy start to creep back into my body. Not ‘hey, let’s sign up for the London Marathon’ type of energy, but the kind where I would wake up and feel like I could actually do something. Maybe even something out of the house. Bit of yoga? No problem! Walk (or in my case, scoot) and then pub lunch out? Why not?
It’s only when you have regained the ability to do things that you have struggled to do for so long, that you realise just how much you truly appreciate them. Going out for lunch doesn’t sound like much of an energy-sapper but, as anyone with a chronic illness will recognise, even mustering the energy to shower and make yourself leave-the-house-presentable can be exhausting. But I think the luxury of not having to get up at 6:30am to get to work on time, plus the opportunity to take frequent horizontal rest breaks – making the most of the kids being at school – are what afforded me all the extra energy. The knowledge that I would be able to sleep all the next day, if I really needed to, also helped.
The knock-on effect this extra energy had on my mood (and subsequently, if I am honest, my relationships) was massive. I didn’t feel pressurised to try and fit my week’s worth of errands and housework into just a couple of days, thus depleting my energy further, like I do in my normal working weeks. I was able to have proper quality time with loved ones, playing with the kids more, picking them up from school and even meeting up with friends for coffee.
I have written before about my struggle with work (see here and here). Though I am now back and enjoying catching up with colleagues and seeing the kids I work with, the month long hiatus did give me a chance to see what life could potentially be like if I were to apply for ill health retirement. It is a massive decision; one that could affect me emotionally and, of course, financially. Work helps me feel worthwhile and useful; I see the kids I work with make progress and feel proud of myself for affecting that change. When I am actually in with the kids I don’t think about my MS; I think about their difficulties and what I can do to help them. I worry that being at home would lead to me becoming apathetic, with a massive part of myself taken away.
The answer, I guess, is to use the opportunity to do something new. Maybe try a bit of home based working where I can control the hours, or learn a new language, or pick up a new hobby. Maybe use my of love of writing to try and help people in other ways?
Lots to think about. It helps me to talk to others about what made them ‘take the leap’ into ill health retirement. The negative impact work has on quality family time is usually the biggest factor in making that decision. I luckily have a lovely GP who I can chat to and a Neurologist who said he would support my application if I went ahead with it…I just need to get my head around it and the massive life change that would ensue!
As ever, I would love to hear any thoughts or experiences.