Saturday, November 03, 2007

Welcome To McDonald's...Can I Take Your Order Please?...

Just practicing for my new job!

OK, I greatly exaggerate...but I DID complete my Vocational Rehab Assessment last week at the "U"...I simply have not felt well enough to formulate any written ideas until now (and just so no one thinks I am "dissing" McDonald's employees, I am aware the memory and endurance needed to work in that environment is FAR greater than what is necessary for my posh, little "govmet" job!). But I HAVE been thinking about the assessment over the past week and HARKOO/JOYCE reminded me I had yet to post anything about this topic.

So, without further delay, I give you the synopsis...or dissertation...just depends on how boring it becomes.

I had my 90 minute Voc. Rehab. consult at the local University on Thursday of last week (while already developing full-blown shingles, I might add). You remember? I was sent to the "U", who's motto is, "We're the U, go eff yourself!" And, true to form for this prestigious University, I sat in a waiting room for over 20 minutes past the appointment time, waiting for my "therapist" to arrive.

I'm not a big fan of the "U" (because of prior interactions through my job), so I was more than a little peeved by this disrespectful delay...I DID have to go to WORK immediately following the appointment and I watched the carefully planned minutes between the appointment and my time to report to work tick away...I was now going to be rushed to get to work...something I abhor.

So, when Mr. Voc Rehab (henceforth, to be know as Mr. VR) eventually bounced his smiling self into the lobby, seemingly unconcerned about his tardiness, I imagined the assessment would only go down hill from this moment forward. But thankfully, my initial gut reaction proved to be very wrong...I actually ended up feeling the assessment was successful and well worth my time (AND insurance money!).

I had no idea what to expect from this particular type of evaluation...I've never BEEN to a Voc Rehab consult before and I could only speculate we would be talking about my current job and possibly physical issues related to my job performance as well as any limitations. I half expected to have some sort of physical examination or physical testing of sorts, but this did not occur. We focused solely on my current job, my MS, my perceived difficulties and my expectations of my job, as well as my OWN performance expectations. It was a PURE TALK CONSULT...not unlike hundreds of cognitive therapy sessions I have had in the past.

What was different about THIS consult/therapy however, was the focus was primarily about my job...and more importantly my PERCEPTIONS about my job. Mr VR did a brief history of my disease and also a detailed outline of the daily tasks of my job...and then, we got down to "business".

We talked specifically about my "Midwest" work ethic and how sometimes this "performance drive" leaves me feeling exhausted...especially when always feeling I MUST perform 100% ALL the time...especially when now, with MS fatigue beating me down, I have less stores of energy available to PUSH myself to achieve this top performance.

We talked about my need to take breaks, to stop for meals, to pace myself in a more reasonable manner, and why I don't do this routinely NOW if no one (i.e., boss) is insisting I can't provide these basic accommodations for myself? (And, breaks ARE a protected contract agreement in my job.)

We talked about my need to have "permission" to allow for basic accommodations for my MS perceived need for permission...and how these accommodations could be met WITHOUT making formal requests at this time.

Ultimately, I left the appointment feeling more at ease and with a plan...I DO love to have a plan!

We decided I WOULD NOT make formal accommodation requests of my employer at this time. Instead, I will have informal conversations with my bosses, explaining my concerns and needs as well as what they may expect of my continued performance (i.e., I WILL be taking breaks, pacing my work, requesting noise reduction when it interferes with my ability to process information, and so on).

I will also ask Dr. She Who Will Not Be Named to write a letter with FORMAL request/acknowledgement of my needs, which I will keep in my desk as a reminder I DO have the right to make such requests...I have "permission". This letter will also be immediately available to me should I be forced to make such a formal request in the future.

The most difficult decision (and oddly so) I arrived at while in my consult appointment was to begin the process of application for a disabled parking sticker...this is a "biggie" for me to accept because, basically on most days, I am perfectly capable of walking distances. But on those days I am not, I simply force myself to do so anyway and become very tired...more exhausted than I need to be. I have always worried others would view me as "weak" or even a "slacker" if I were to use such a thing...or even worse, view me as taking advantage of the "system" for having a parking permit when (as I've already said), on most days, "I look so good!"

The important point is, I get to decide when I "look good" and when I don't by having the permit at my disposal...when I CAN walk the distance and SHOULD walk for exercise and, well...when I can't.

I am hoping once this latest shingle fiasco settles down and I return to work, I will be able to feel strong enough to begin implementing some of the ideas Mr. VR and I discussed. What I ultimately walked away with from my appointment was this understanding: Although there are actual physical limitations brought on by my MS, the biggest and scariest hurdles to overcome exist in my mind (isn't that ALWAYS the case?!?). I am hoping now, after our assessment/consult, I have obtained a better mental picture of the "track" I am on and there will be less surprises along the way...the hurdles don't feel quite so tall and more like something to stride over versus existing as permanent road blocks.

But, there IS always McDonald's...


harkoo said...

I am both really surprised and pleased--he took a different track than I had expected--he helped you with attitude. He helped you make your job work for you and helped you go as far as you can with it for as long as you can. Guess it was a big hurdle for you to get a handicapped sticker--hope you do it soon to make things easier. You aren't weak or lazy at all and it will come in handy when you are out and about. It's your right. Think of these things as making a statement to yourself-"I have a problem here but this is what I am going to have to do to make it work." I have never had a Big Mac, but don't knock McDonalds--sometimes they have the only accessible toilet in a whole town!

Sara said...

I personally think you should go for burger king, i'd much prefer to wear a crown than a red wig, but luckily you don't have to make those crucial decisions yet :)

Bubbie said...

oh aren't weak OR lazy. I know...we look marvelous, but our feet go numb, our calves spazz out, and sometimes our feet drag. Repeat after me: A parking permit is a wonderful thing.
Good, I 'm glad, sounds like you have a good plan and had a good meeting w/ Mr.VR.
BTW: You know I know That McD's clown too. Personally I know I am seriously overqualified for all positions except his.

Diane J Standiford said...

My oh My, my experience at the "ef-U U" (and I so agree) was quite different. I am happy to hear you got out unharmed. I should post about my 18yr career with the city of Seattle had MS whole time, fast paced job, type A personality(Aries), also had bout of cancer, rarely took a sick day and never had a full week vacation. I was a good pacer though, turtle not hare, and immediately after dx I brought all my co-workers/bosses aboard my journey. They were great.
Fate gave me that job. Must say: the best traning program I ever had was at McDonald's in Indiana. at 16. But it is HARD work. Ronald has the best gig there. Advice I read right after dx was this: "Sharpen your emotional tools."

Joan said...

Wow! This sounds like a great visit and what a wonderful opportunity to get a completely new, un-biased opinion.

I understand your comment about the parking placard - I had a lot of angst a few months ago when I got mine. I felt like it was a badge of un-courage. But I don't use it all the time, similar to your plan.