Wednesday, May 4, 2011


About four years ago, I was unloading a container of bedroom furniture at work one morning. It's something that I've done for about forty years, and I'm good at it. Step One is this: Disarm the Boobytraps.

The people at the other end of the transaction have never met you, and they aren't actually trying to kill you, but historically, their loading practices would appear to indicate otherwise. One of the first things that I learned was if there is a boobytrap in the vicinity, I will be the booby who falls into it.

I think that my next lesson was not to worry too much, because my heart is pure, and my head is hard.

So, here was I with my nice, safe container half-emptied of its headboards, footboards, dressers and armoires, stacking one nightstand on top of two others so that they could be dollied into the warehouse to be counted, received and divided up for shipment to our twenty-one stores, when the carton of bedrails fell over.

I have a very clear image of one of the narrow sides of the box hitting the target painted on the back of my head just exactly on the bullseye. I don't recall the next few seconds very well, but I do know that there were some lovely, bright colours skipping, gliding and dancing in the pleasant, twilight that had formerly been my secure, brightly-lit workspace.

Whenever I tell this story, I say that I reported the incident, emptied the container, and finished the day, but the fact of the matter is that I don't recall anything after Dave and I sat in his office adding yet another page to my WCB file. I don't actually have any clear memory of how much of the following week I missed, or even whether it was longer than a week, but I do remember the headache. I also remember the morning that I had to call my upstairs neighbour to walk me to the CarePoint Clinic on Commercial Drive, because I was too frightened to leave my apartment by myself.

My claims officer at the Workers' Compensation Board (it wasn't Worksafe BC yet) arranged for me to be treated by a group called LifeMark at the Columbia Health Centre on Keefer Street. My first visit involved an assessment by a doctor whose name I can't remember. I told him that I really wasn't interested in what was wrong with me - I just wanted him to fix it. We discussed my medications, my family and work environment, my lifestyle and my interests. I think I failed the memory and co-ordination tests, but that might have happened anyway, because I tend to be an absentminded clod as a rule.

We agreed that I was reasonably fit, healthy and motivated, and that a return to my customary work, social and recreational activities was very likely - very quickly. Under the care of a fine psychologist named Warren Weir and a brilliant, patient occupational therapist named Theresa Wong, I was back to work on a graduated return program in about six weeks.

I found that I was having anxiety attacks which cascaded into full-blown panic episodes every day, and vivid, terrifying dreams every night. The medication I was taking just seemed to intensify the dreams and to ramp my anxiety. It got to the place where the Tall Lady had to wear body armour to bed. The best solution that the doctors at CarePoint could come up with was to double my dose of trasadone. 

I began to miss a few shifts every week, or to leave work early. Frequently, I'd forget to call in, and I never told Warren or Theresa that there was any problem. I think that I was too embarrassed. Finally, about three and a half years ago, I stopped showing up for work at all.

My friend and boss, Dave, likes me, and has hired me twice for two different companies. I stopped answering my telephone calls or looking at my emails for about six months, but Dave is pretty sharp.

I think maybe he's begun to suspect that I won't be coming back...


  1. Wow... I had a head injury in 1980... Car accident, put my head through the passenger window. I haven't been the same since. I understand the anxiety spiral. It took many years of therapy and finally the trip to the Psychiatrist with a friend holding my hand to get me onto the right medication. It's been a year and I feel better, but my partner wasn't able or willing to go the distance with me. Tell the Tall Lady I think she's one in a million, and you are a very lucky man....

  2. I had no idea Lee. I watched my brother go through recovering from a brain injury after he got hit by a car. My big strong 23 year old brother became scared of the dark and I slept beside his hospital bed for three weeks. So hang in there Lee, and if you ever get scared of the dark let me know and I'll come over and we'll spoon.....the tall lady doesn't read this right?