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Vocational Rehabilitation

On the April 3rd I started a vocational rehabilitation course ๐Ÿ™‚

I’d been planning this for like the last four years or more but always either had to push it back because of new illness or old symptoms getting a lot worse before I even sent in my application or once, had to cancel my application it because my Crohn’s Disease suddenly got really bad and there were procedures planned which would’ve required sick leave for about 1/3 of the first month. Which would’ve made the thing a waste and useless :/ It took this long for me to stabilize and be so so that things feel like this is the new normal and that I can maybe do other stuff than just be at home and try to make it through the day okay. Then it took like about a year the unemployment agency & doctors etc. on board with the idea and go through the steps from there. So yay! I’m finally at this step! ๐Ÿ˜€

The course consists of periods of days/weeks at the rehabilition center’s premises and of work training (weeks/months). The first stage lasted for four weeks, and I’m currently at the second stage – the first working training.

The first four weeks were at the rehabilitation center’s premises at a nice hotel (!), theory and discussion about various aspects of health and recovery, living with chronic illnesses, work life, computer stuff like e-mail and office programs, making your CV, psychology, healthy eating and living habits, stress relief and management, goalposting and how to achieve them and a lot of other subject requiring a lot of thinking. Our days were 6 hours, including one 45 minute lunch break and I was totally wiped after every day when I got home. There’s 6 persons in my group all in all; we get along great and really talk things through (our counselors have remarked that our group spirit is exceptionally good, and that it’s easy to get us to discuss) and spend a lot of time together during the day on our breaks. I really enjoy my group, and counselors and our discussions, but it’s so much mental work and a lot more physical work just changing rooms from one end of the building to another every hour or so, that after being home for the last nine years and having pain, and fatigue, it just takes all my energy and I don’t have much left for home. Things like doing the dishes and everything possible gets pushed back to the weekend. My Crohn’s Disease symptoms remained pretty much unchanged, but my migraines got a lot worse: I had to take medication every day to hopefully prevent or to stop an attack, either in the afternoon while still there, or in the evening at home. Really not good. But it normal that big changes and added/new stress has that effect on me, so one month doesn’t really say anything about the migraines yet (that’s one of the reasons why I wanted a rehab course that goes on for 6 months instead of one or two). In four weeks I had only 3 days off due to migraine or diarreea… I have no idea if that’s good or bad. Even just two years ago I’d have had sick days double or triple that. Oh, I need to sleep like 15 hours on the days we don’t have anything because these days I require 12 hours of sleep every night preferably, but due to having to take medications at certain times at evening before I can go to sleep, and then not being able to go back to sleep in the morning after taking the meds, I get about 7-8 hours sleep. And that wasn’t enough even when I was healthy :/

So in short, I really enjoyed the days at the rehab center and never felt mentally exhausted during the day itself, physically it was pretty hard just because I wasn’t used to anymore. So days went well, but I didn’t have have left-over energy to do things like cooking, cleaning, washing dishes, washing clothes, having friends over, visiting friends – shopping I did because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have had anything nice to eat. All normal household chores had to be pushed to the weekend. We got a free lunch at the hotel which was a blessing because eating anything hot in the evenings was just unappealing. I just wanted to go to sleep. And the migraines. So it was both really good, and really bad.

My main goal is to discover whether I’m still able to work, and if I do, how much? Full-time, part-time? My second goal is to try and figure out what kind of job might be suitable. Because I can’t do customer service at a desk or a phone anymore – I can’t be tied to place I can’t leave practically immediately when suddenly my bowels start cramping and the need for the toilet is immediate. I’m a librarian by training, and that job is like 80% minimum customer service. I’ve worked at places where it’s only that all day every day, but more usual is 2-3 hours behind-the-scenes and then 5-6 hours at the customer service desk. So since all customer service jobs are out, if I’m going to work, I’ll have to change careers.

A normal full-time here is 7 hours 30 minutes plus a 30 minute lunch, which is deducted automatically in most places so we have to have to work eight hours every day to make up for that lunch hour. For at least the last 6 years I’ve known I am physically and mentally unable to work full-time at this time, but I’ve wondered if I could manage part-time and this rehab and work training will hopefully answer that question! I had a lot of trouble with the 6-hour, mentally intense days of stage 1. You’re supposed to have energy enough left over for not only for household chores but also for socialicing, right? I didn’t. But I got hope because there must be jobs that don’t mentally train you the same way as the literally thinking intensely and discussing for six hours straight, every day.

The work training stages are divided into three, due to summer vacations. First one is for 5 weeks, the second for 2 weeks and the last one for 4 weeks. They can all be in the same place, in two places or in three places. It’s hard to find them, I found my first one and fingers crossed I can find for the last two too.

On the May 11th the second stage, the first work training started, and so far it’s going great! It’s for five hours a day, with a 15 minute break. We have to find our jobs ourselves, and I found one in the public relations office of my city’s education administration that lets me do things at my pace, from my desk, away from the public, using the computer and programs like Office and Drupal which I already know. The work itself is pretty easy and simple at least for me – it’s a variation of what I’ve been doing with my websites and WordPress for about a decade now. A lot of routine stuff that still needs to be done (it’s required by the goverment). But no doubt – it’d be a lot harder for someone who not very familiar with Office suites and content management systems and html/css. There’s at least two in my rehab group that couldn’t do it, or could do it only after much teaching. So doing websites for two decades and using WordPress for about half that definitely helped in getting this work training job. And best of all – I’m not there on charity! One of them is on sick leave, and they badly needed additional hands who preferably didn’t need a lot of teaching to help with at least two projects, one of which I already finished. I just happily happened to send in my application at just the right time! ๐Ÿ™‚ They’re happy to have me, and happy to be there. The people are nice and attentive but the work both lets me and requires that I work independently once it’s decided on how to do a particular thing, and what information should be included. At the end of the day I’m not as nearly exhausted as I was in stage one – I think the big thing is that there’s much less mental work involved, and not on such a deep level. So far, I haven’t been wiped out by the end of the day and still have energy to do things at home – not like when I was healthy, but at least a little! As an example, I worked today my normal hours at my normal tasks and still had energy to finally write up this (looong) post. I didn’t have the energy to do that during stage one, even on the weekends. And yesterday I had energy to do some icons. Obviously it’s early and tentative, and it hasn’t been even a week yet, but I’m getting cautiously optimistic that given a suitable job with suitable intensity I might be able to work part-time. Maybe?

(Of course that’d be whole another bag of things… like will I need to go to back to school? Can I handle that, physically? Maaayyybe. Mentally? I don’t think so. Financially? If political situation and schooling benefits the same as of now… no. I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent, never mind food or books. And the intensity – it all depends on the job itself, and the people there and stuff, so one part-time job that looks it’d be a fit for me by all out appearances might be, and vice versa… But one step at a time. I’ll worry about this things when I get to them, if I get to them. I’ve no idea what I’d even change careers to.)