One of the hardest things to manage in People Gardening with yourself – is managing your own garden – both your front yard and your back yard and everything in between. By that, I mean your physical and mental self. As a Mom and friend and (federal) employee too, my life seems to revolve around everyone else most of the time. In the meantime, I find that I seem to neglect that I have some of my own stones or hidden boulders to tend to – to remove out of my garden so that better more fruitful things can grow. When we neglect to tend to our own gardens then our personal relationships suffer, sometimes our work suffers too. Compound this garden with managing disability/disabilities and you have to manage removing those rocks in a different way.
I am a disabled Veteran. No, my physical injuries did not come from combat, though I served in combat too during Desert Shield/Storm. Next month on my birthday will be the 23d anniversary of my car accident. Now if I said it was “just a car accident with no picture then you might think my injuries were likely not significant. Here is the thing, I have to own and recognize that this accident was real and it became life changing whether I like or not. In that regard, I can only hope that my words help another veteran through their accident.
Some would say I am lucky to be alive. The accident has been both a blessing and a curse of sorts. Work and education wise, I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for the accident. I would not be so blessed to have the career, lifestyle, or especially my family. I will be honest that it has had its low points as well, the constant pain, in what seems like ever evolving problems of injury and illness. So, for those Veterans or for those loved ones supporting veterans in working – this blog is for you. How do you handle work and your disability?
- Take care of yourself – if you don’t tend to your physical/mental self, who will? It is okay to look in your mirror and ask yourself – Are you doing everything that you need to take care of you? Are you taking the right steps make those VA doctor appointments? Are you submitting your claim timely? Are you getting the additional vocational rehabilitation training or education that you could use to learn a new job or skillset that works within your disabilities?
- Give yourself permission – Listen, it is okay to give yourself permission to ask for help. Asking for help in anything does not make you less than you were, it is being honest with yourself in saying that you aren’t going to let yourself overdo things which could cause more harm.
- Know that you are never alone – believe me, I’ve been finding even lately that more friends understand my issues now because I am speaking about my problems. It is okay to realize that even after the fact – PTSD is not a bad acronym. It is acknowledgement that something happened in your life and you are getting help to deal with it and you are not alone. Someone is walking by your side.
- Sometimes re-learning means re-learning again – Personally, I am at a point where I recognize that my physical condition is changing. My old “new” norm of how to do things in life means that I need to relearn how to do things with my “new” self. I am still not less than what I was but it is okay to say let’s approach living and figure out what my “new” limitations are. Maybe that doesn’t mean that I can be as vigorous in my yard work anymore that I really love doing (seriously). What it may mean is that I have to slow my pace down and get more help in doing the same work like pulling the weeds or maybe even mowing. Some folks get readjustments in medication – instead- think of this as a readjustment in what your working norm is. Make room for the proper rest to keep ahead of health curve with no relapse.
- Be honest not only with yourself but your family, friends, maybe even coworkers and supervisors – I know, everyone wants to be the hero and you think you need to keep things to yourself. What I have been discovering about my friends who are also great People Gardeners, is that they are willing to help me more because I am honest with them about how I feel. I’m not hiding and nor am I ashamed about my physical condition. Though I am fully aware of HIPAA, sometimes just being honest with your supervisor about things going on is not a bad thing. Now mind you I am fully aware of Union related concerns too (as a previous Article VII representative), but here is the thing – being honest with your supervisor can be the smartest thing you can do. It can prevent work performance issues or absenteeism. If you are productive and they know that you are trying your best, and then chances are, your supervisor (if they are smart and compassionate) is going to be in your corner too. I have been very fortunate that my current supervisor is a Veteran too (albeit Navy ), so he understands that things happen and works with me.
If I have learned anything from my accident, it is that it is supposed to help other people. I’ve heard it from veterans who know about my accident that they received training as a military police directly as a result of my accident. I also know that the things I have gone through and continue to go through are meant to help encourage other Veterans that you should never give up hope on a working life – it may look different and it may take on different facts – but your life still matters. We are all here for a reason and maybe, just maybe, you are to put a hand out and help someone else out of their dark foxhole to continue on to another day to help another out. If we can all work together to get our stones out of our gardens, then surely you can see that together our garden will be the most beautiful ever!