Monday, July 26, 2021

Stress, anxiety and my cure

Finally I am coming to the end of my Physical Therapy. Twice a week for 8 weeks - that was double the anticipated treatment. Just one more visit to go.

I know I have mentioned before that I suffered a rotator cuff injury, stupidly as a result of stress incurred during the last few months of my employment with Amazon. Prior to my retirement which was not entirely of my own choosing - OK, I chose to retire but only because the alternative was unthinkable

Now, two months later, I believe more firmly that I was pushed out - either due to age or because someone in greater favor wanted to take over my extremely successful, high performing team. She took them over alright and is now driving them into the ground or out of Amazon. I won't go into that here.

Stress is insidious. You may be well aware that you are going through something that is unpleasant or upsetting, but you won't necessarily notice how you are reacting physically, or even mentally. I googled symptoms and found a huge list, here are a subset that I know I suffer from:

  • Having difficulty relaxing and quieting your mind
  • Aches, pains, and tense muscles
  • Insomnia
  • Clenched jaw and grinding teeth
  • Constant worrying
  • Changes in appetite -- either not eating or eating too much
  • Increased use of alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes

The problem is that the impact of these symptoms creeps up on you, there is no smell and pain like gangrene or outward sign such as the discoloration and numbness of frostbite. Suddenly I am 10 pounds heavier - due in part to the increased amount of wine I was slugging down; thankfully I have cut that out now. I was also tired and tense from lack of sleep, teeth and jaw aching from clenching and grinding; and my shoulder and upper arm aching constantly - adding to the lack of sleep as I toss and turn and try to find a comfortable position.

Eventually I went to my doctor with my shoulder - well, I took my entire body, but my shoulder was my one complaint. He sent me to an orthopedic specialist who took X-Rays and decided the rotator cuff was not torn, just sprained and recommended physical therapy. I chose a PT office close to home and was lucky enough to pick one that was first class. Not only do they know what they are doing, the atmosphere there is friendly and fun. I actually enjoyed my visits, despite not being a social being. 

The original assessment suggested 4 weeks, twice a week. I schedule appointments for Monday and Thursday and got started. After 4 weeks I was still in a lot of pain and my therapist turned into a detective, quizzing me on my daily routine and habits. She suggested some changes (all too boring to go into - things like ensuring I swing my right arm loosely as I walk) and it worked! Another 4 weeks and I am about to graduate, finally pain free.

So, how to prevent this? I resist taking any medication, for stress, anxiety or sleep - I just won't do it. I do constantly extoll the virtues of writing as a therapy. So now I am wondering if maintaining a journal, writing every day would help to make you more aware of the onset of stress situations before the silent symptoms become expensive medical conditions. 

I don't mean writing random thoughts such as this blog - though it does help. I mean each day write something that illustrates how your day went; no matter how you think it went. Write the good things, the things that piss you off or upset you - especially those things you don't want to write about; then as soon as you notice stress rearing its ugly head - expand on the situation. Tell yourself how you feel and why. This allows you to 'get in touch with your feelings' - seriously, not in a new age way, but to understand what is bothering you and rationalize your reaction so that you can let it go - or at least understand it better. I think of it as a bit like looking under the bed as a child - nothing, no boogie man. Just the fear inside my head. It is as scary to look inside your head as it is to look under the bed, when you are sure the boogie man will be looking back at you and grab your ankles; but it does help to face the issue and deal with it.

Not only did Amazon put me in a position where I felt I had no alternative but to retire before I felt ready, reducing my income considerably; they also were partly responsible for a somewhat expensive series of treatments to correct the stress related issues incurred. I say partly because I accept responsibility for my reaction to how other's behave. How they behaved was their responsibility - and I believe it was a disgrace - but how I reacted was my responsibility. Bottom line is, my treatment was caused indirectly by some very unpleasant, unprofessional people, they just happened to work for Amazon and Amazon didn't have a process that allowed me to even be heard. in fact the process they had in place ensured that I was silenced - I was not high enough in the hierarchy to qualify for a hearing or for consideration. All they did was a quick CYA report to have in case I sued. I did not.

But, as always, silver linings abound. I am now retired. I am thoroughly enjoying my retirement and I know that I would not have taken the plunge if I had not been pushed into it. I was enjoying my job too much, and felt a responsibility to my team. I still feel I let them down, but life teaches you, you have a responsibility to take care of yourself first. And my shoulder is better!

OK, I know this image is not really anything to do with the silver linings I am talking about, but who doesn't enjoy a photo of Bradley Cooper? Even just half of one.

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