I found out last week that I’ve got my third bout of frozen shoulder in 10 years. I can’t remember much about the first time beyond getting sent home from work after taking too many painkillers and getting the giggles (not good as I worked in a benefit office).
The 2nd time it happened I worked in Community Support. I had to adapt what I did to be able to carry on working. Within this job I was classed as a lone worker and would often have to travel by public transport lugging my (then) heavy laptop and notes. In the end I found my old flight bag which I could then use to pull everything around rather than carry. Regardless it all left me feeling very vulnerable. I had the constant fear that someone could grab the bag and run off with it and I’d be helpless to stop them as I only had one fully working arm. (As one of my colleagues had had their case stolen from them as they sat in their car I knew this was always a possibility being on foot).
I also had no support from my line manager. On bad days I could be in tears. I could do my stats from home but still had to go to work. And I often felt that I should try and get to work. My job involved helping vulnerable people who had far worse problems than me.
I’ve learnt several things since then. One that you shouldn’t compare problems. Yes these people are struggling but that shouldn’t diminish my issues. Secondly you can’t fully help someone when you aren’t at 100% yourself.
After a while gaining no support at all with management I moved jobs. I had to put myself first and practise the self-care that I preached.
Cut to now. While my job involves travel it’s mostly on train to places. I have a tablet rather than laptop and can access my emails via mobile so I can make my baggage as light as possible. If all else fails I can leave it all behind and find a hard drive somewhere to plug into. I try and go to the gym several times a week to exercise and the biggest thing I’ve noticed from the last few weeks is in the difference in people I’m surrounded by. Friends and family obviously are supportive but I’m talking those on the periphery (big word!). After a reshuffle I have a new manager and both her and the gym instructors have both used the same phrase….What can I do to help and support you?
I genuinely felt like crying when they’ve said this as it’s a complete 180 from before. Such a simple sentence and from it some simple results. I have the option to work from home where needed or come and go to work from where is the easiest on my joints. The gym has created a lightweight plan that allows me to practise movement in my arm while I wait for a physio appointment, taking into account doctor recommendations. This makes me feel more secure in myself and less vulnerable when movement is bad.
But the biggest change is in myself. I’m not afraid to ask for help and the rewards are worth it. Support is in place straight away and I feel like this time it won’t affect my mental health because both me and the people around me have awareness of what I can and can’t do and are working with me.
So it’s a reminder to people to ask for help because people do care and do want to make sure that you are ok. Asking for help is also self-care. Speaking up early this time was a kindness to myself and hopefully will mean a quicker resolve to the issues.