This is not a good test for me. It’s ok if it’s “how much can you move before it hurts?” although even that can be problematic since often, the hurting starts later, and by then it’s too late. By the time it hurts, the provocation is long over and all I’m left with is the pain.
It came up at the doc’s office last week, although it’s a good analogy for the entire scenario of work right now. Last week, I got hurt at work. The nitty gritty details make for a long story. The upshot is that if I’d had accommodations in place, it would likely not have happened. It involved doing something stupid, but something that everyone was expected to do. An inconvenience for others, for me it was dangerous. I had already suffered social judgement for my initial reaction to this set up from a coworker. After that, on top of not having the formal support of my employer for things like this, I felt stuck, trapped, and like I had to try to put on a good face and just put up with this situation, like everyone else.
I really want to be like everyone else, at least when it comes to things like this. This involved bounding over bags left in an unnecessarily narrow walkway in a poorly laid out room, executing various “silly walks” to get around the poorly laid out room, or scrunching up myself and my chair so that people could silly walk their behind me, while leaping over said bags. But I am not, like everyone else.
It’s clear that part of this equation of injury is me. Not the part where the set up was chosen for the room I worked in that day. But the part where I moved myself in and around this space. I was constrained by the set up, but I was in charge of my own body – one could argue. Unfortunately for that argument and for me, I have piss-poor proprioception. I suspect that many hyperflexible/hypermobile people do. You combine a physical environment that necessitates contortion with joints that move too far (or move in planes and at angles where they shouldn’t) and you have a recipe for injury. So why didn’t I refuse? Why not say “eff this, I’m sitting somewhere else or I’m leaving”? Well, like I said, I had already gotten some shit for just being me (“you can’t sit there” a young man told me when I put my bag down on a chair while I took my coat off…hadn’t planned to sit in it, just had to put my bag down since I can’t hold the bag while extending the arms unless I’m looking for an ER visit. This was only the start of a really unpleasant interaction.) I’m under extra scrutiny at work on account of sick time, and that scrutiny has been extended by someone to things like whether or not I attend work social events so you can imagine how it would go over if it was reported that I walked out of an actual working (not socializing) event. And lastly, while I have a general sense of what I can’t do, for some things, I don’t know until I do them just how bad an idea they are. I’ve been working on living by the motto of “just because you can doesn’t mean you SHOULD” when it comes to movements…like sitting on the couch with legs crossed up under me and reaching all the way down to the floor to retrieve something that fell and rolled under the coffee table. Can do? Yep. Should do? No. Why not?
Here’s a little story, from way back before my autonomic nervous system decided to just check out (i.e. back when I was still relatively ok).
In college, in my psych of women class, we had a final exam in one of those big hall lectures. The TA walked up and down the rows passing out the test. My test got hit by a gust or something, and floated up off my little chair desk, settling down under the chair in the bleacher style seating in front of and below me. Rather than get out of my chair and kneel down on the floor to retrieve it, or even get out and walk around to the next row down from me, what do I do? If you guessed bent forward and reached way down with my go-go-gadget arm to get it, you are correct. I did it though. Range of motion. And something went “PING!” in my shoulder. I sat back up. I thought “uh oh. That hurt. Hurts. It’ll pass….nope. Still hurts. Hurts more actually.” and then the “no don’t pass out” mantra started. It didn’t help. I got up, because that’s a good thing to do when you feel faint and in pain. And walked, hugging the wall, down to the front of the classroom, where I told the teacher and TA that I didn’t feel good. I made it to the hall, then hit the floor. All the way out. Woke up wondering what my face was pressed on that was so nice and cold (linoleum).
The hurt at work last week was not as bad as the initial and relatively short lived pain from the college exam episode, oh thank god. I think mostly because this time, when I felt the “PING” I stayed seated. I stopped moving. I held my iced coffee on my head and neck, oh cold cloth is not a myth btw. Always makes me feel better to have something cold on my head and neck when I’m feeling faint. And it passed, the faint. The pain, unfortunately, stayed around a LOT longer this time. I’m chalking that up to nearly 20 years of my body slowing going down the shitter. I do not bounce back from a bad movement now. I used to. Used to run on my ankles, pop my hip in and out with ease, no problem, it was like a party game when I was a little bendy kid. Now? Definite problem. Definite hurt. And definite disability after.
I saw my doctor the day after hurting myself at work last week. Sitting on the exam bed, I am asked to turn, first left then right “as far as you can….” “Um, yes, but I’m going to do this slowly and I’m stopping when I think it might hurt later if not now” I tell him. So I start turning. And turning. And turning. I’m about to stop on the left when he says. ”Ok, stop, stop stop….Jeeez, you still could work for Cirque du Soleil, couldn’t you?” Yeah, and this is why range of motion is not a good test for me, I say.
This is extra crappy because since my gut has decided to launch an all out jihad on me, I am very reluctant to take narcotics or anti-spasmotics. So it’s ice pack, tylenol, NSAIDs, and lido-patches. Yes, lido-patches are not the best for us, I know. I do respond to topical anesthetics, just not strongly. So I put a whole patch on and while I can still feel pain, it’s not as bad. It’s enough for me to get to sleep if I am very still and stay off the left side. I am lucky. The pain itself is not horrible. It’s there, it’s like a little warning beacon not to bend or stretch or turn too quickly right now, and god help me if I carry something. I put it at about a 7 at its worst, and it’s like a toothache. Very concentrated. I know I am lucky for that. I am not lucky for having done it, and I’ve spent the days since getting hurt feeling very let down and screwed with by my employer. To the point where I am making a formal statement to them this week that I am NOT ok with how they’re handling the accommodation request I made, and then starting the official state/fed complaint process. I hate doing this – it’s a lot of work, a lot of paper, a lot of calling, and I worry for the effects on workplace harmony, but I think I have to because workplace harmony isn’t going to be helped by my hurting myself for their poor planning and negligence (or, if I’m feeling uncharitable, their intolerance and obfuscation). But let me be clear here. The stupid thing I did was complying with the demands of my employer. I did it because without accommodations in place, I worry that I will be judged and evaluated negatively (and possibly penalized, socially or more formally) for failing to comply with demands or expectations. It’s already happened once, so I’m not imagining that this threat is real. But I need to learn to not care as much about that as I do about my body. I wish they wouldn’t make it so hard for me to work WITH them on preserving my health and safety. My old boss used to say, while perpetrating some truly horrible workplace behaviors on her employees, “You have to be flexible.” And I’m starting to get that at this new job as well, although admittedly not (yet) to the same blood curdling degree of my former workplace. And if this week taught me anything about being flexible for people who are refusing to budge for me, its that the range of motion and flexibility of my body is matched only by my will, and I need to firm it up a bit if I’d like to continue working or even living without incurring severe injury.
So that was my weekend. And week, since that happened on Tuesday. I spent Wednesday doing some work from home, then at the doc’s and radiology. Thursday and Friday were rest days. Yesterday, I cooked. Have to, or I’ll have no food for the week. I’m still not done. Still have to make pudding. God damn I’m sick of this. Seeing the nutritionist on Monday. I do not have high hopes – I want to, but I am trying not to get my hopes up too much since that disappointment is just too much. Then Wednesday I am seeing a counselor to try to get a referral for mental health. Boy do I need it right now! Not in a good place.
I thought I’d post some lovely pictures of my arms and a movement that I can but probably shouldn’t do. This elbow and hand hyperflexion does not hurt. And I think it counts only as a little hypermobile because I’ve seen pictures of worse. Note the pinky in the top picture. I didn’t even know it did that.