Thursday, November 15, 2012

When is an accident not an accident?

Last week I posted about the work I do in my clinics. And the extra work they added by shuttling in two displaced counselors from the hospital's detox and rehab wards. On a good day my job is stressful; when I have to babysit two people, one of whom doesn't know much about methadone and the other of whom doesn't know much about methadone and WILL NOT STOP TALKING, it's extra stressful.

I was proud that despite the extra-extra stress, I was not, as my clients would say, "poppin' off" at anyone. I kept my tone low and respectful. I told the talky counselor, apologetically, that I needed some quiet so I could finish writing my notes. Dr. R commended me for not getting into fights with any co-workers despite my stress level. (We had a phone session because I forgot I had an appointment with him. I put it on my calendar and got an email reminder that morning, but by the end of the day I was so fried that I forgot the appointment and went home. Stress can make you absentminded.)

Then  I slipped on a wet floor and banged my knee.

That would seem like a random accident. But earlier that day, the custodian, mopping one section of the clinic, told me to watch out and not slip.

"I'm not an old lady yet," I scoffed. "Besides, I have good insurance."

Famous last words. A few hours later, after he mopped another section of the floor, I slipped on it and landed hard on my right knee, which is the worse of the two. Initially I thought I was fine and planned to just go to Employee Health the next morning and file an accident report. But I woke up in serious pain. Not the worst I've felt, but bad enough that I really couldn't see running from clinic to clinic all day.

After consulting with my union rep, I went to see my primary care physician, Dr. Cool, and I called Dr. Dashing. Neither thought it was serious -- just a bruise. I rested Friday and the weekend and went to Employee Health Monday morning instead. And then I went back to work with the two extra counselors, my 16 regulars, and 812 patients, because we've had a lot of admissions since I last counted them.

Today things slowed down a bit, and I had some time to think. Was my slip last really an accident? Or was my subconscious conniving to secure me an extra day of rest after an incredibly stressful week of going the extra light-year?

The administration is very respectful of my knee injuries, I think because they're a little afraid I might sue them for starting work at the hospital with sore knees but after three months of a killer commute, being diagnosed with the onset of osteoarthritis. So I'm never afraid to call in sick over my knees. I don't abuse the privilege, but I refuse to suffer any more.

I think they also don't hassle me about calling in sick because they are grateful for my work at the clinics. Everyone except the sociopathic counselor is very happy with me. I'm not imagining this; just today both charge nurses, from both clinics, separately told me how happy they are with my work. The managers tell me they're happy, 15 out of 16 counselors tell me they're happy, and the temporarily displaced administrator tells me everyone's happy. They know that if I call in sick, I'm really sick.

My psychoanalyst friend Joey calls non-analysts "Muggles." I like this term, since I view psychoanalysis as akin to wizardry, whereas I am an evidence-based behavioral clinician. But I do think there's something to the notion of subconscious drives influencing our behaviors. We often react to people not by what they do but by whom they remind us of, which is known as "transference." And not all of our behavior is rationally based. Emotionally driven behavior might have subconscious origins. (Was I angry at Dr. R? Did I really not feel like talking about my feelings?)

I have to remember that as frazzled as I feel sometimes, it's better than the years I spent between college and going to graduate school, when I kept outgrowing my jobs and feeling like I wasn't living up to my potential. I have a career. I have expertise. Four years after social work school, even though I messed up trying to start a dual diagnosis program at my old job, I am supervising 16 people. I harp on that number because I'm proud. My professional accomplishments are impressive, and almost all of the people I work with really like me. After the spectacular crash-and-burn at my last job, I'm flying, and not flying too high.

So I'm grateful for the stress, because it means my job matters and I'm doing it. Just like I'm grateful for the excessive heat in the airless, windowless clinics, because more than two weeks after Hurricane Sandy many people don't have heat or power at all. As the security guard in one of the clinics likes to say, "I'm too blessed to be stressed."
Copyright (c) "Ayelet Survivor"

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad to hear that your job is so fulfilling and that you're (rightfully!) feeling accomplished. Keep it up!