8 Weeks into TSW

The thought I’ve been rolling around in my mind is the possibility of taking a short leave of absence from work.  While of course this would be beneficial for my skin, I’m thinking of it more because of the divorce.  TSW causes a lot of wonky things and erratic mood swings might be one of them, but I’ve had days where I feel I simply can’t go on and have to go sit in the restroom multiple times a day just to calm down.

Yesterday was one of those days and by the end of the day, I was absolutely CONVINCED that I was going to bring up taking a leave of absence.  Actually thinking seriously that I could do that made me feel a lot better about things, giving me an ‘out’.  Today I’m at work and I feel pretty okay – no snuffling into my keyboard, no locking myself in the bathroom stall for 15 minutes to stare teary-eyed into space and compose myself before I completely lose it.   So I vacillate between “I can totally keep working, no problem, this is great, what a cushy job” to “I CANNOT CONTINUE OH LORD GIVE ME STRENGTH”, often multiple times in the course of a single day.

So there are pros and cons to taking a leave of absence from work:

PROS:

Duh – the biggest one – I get to have time off of work to just sort of wrap my head around things.  This will also benefit my skin.  I’ll be getting more sleep, won’t have to endure any work stress, can take time to do more relaxing things, etc.

CONS:

I’ll have to announce my leave (and why I’m taking it) to my boss and team.  Also, because I’ve worked here a while and am known by almost everyone in the office, people are going to wonder where I am and I could easily see this turning into the entire office of hundreds of people knowing my divorce status.  Which isn’t a big deal per se, but I don’t want people coming up to me apologizing, treating me differently, talking in hushed tones to me, etc.

If I take a leave, some of it is going to be unpaid.  I’m saving a lot of money by living at my parents, but I still have to consider the loss of income.  I think the time to regroup outweighs the loss in earnings, though.

It’s going to be super weird when I come back from the leave.  Everyone will ask where I am, and I don’t want to have to explain divorce a million times.

I could also see going pretty crazy with being able to sit at home all day and obsess about my skin.  I don’t itch a lot while working because it’s socially unacceptable to start scratching away and I can distract myself, but I itch out of habit ALL THE TIME at home.

And, I also wish I could foresee when the peak ‘badness’ of TSW will be – I would love if it coincides with taking a leave.  But I have the uneasy thought – what if I take a leave for a couple weeks, come back, and then my skin decides to explode?

Have you ever taken a leave of absence from work or school for mental/emotional reasons?  What was your experience with it helping you (or not)?

But, now I am 8 weeks in.  About to enter the 3rd month soon.  I’ve entered a new stage and that stage is resigned acceptance with this TSW thing.

I already went through the stages of doubt, denial, fear, and optimism.  But now I’m completely used to having crappy skin every single day.  I’ve had it for so long that it’s just a part of me.  But I’m a little nervous because from what I’ve read, the 3rd/4th months can be really tough where a flare ‘peaks’, so we shall see.  I’ve never had any concrete “peaks” so far, just periods where areas would gradually get worse and then gradually get better.

The bad news: Everything on my body is the same if not worse.  The rash is creeping around my torso and might be spreading downward from my neck to my chest, because my chest has been really itchy lately and has a few rash spots on it.

The good news: I don’t itch so badly in the evening.  The “itch attacks” I do have are less frequent and not so intense.  My face looks slightly less like “Tired-looking girl with terrible red skin affliction” to “Tired-looking girl with blotchy and uneven complexion”.  The skin on my face feels a lot softer, although by the end of the day it’s still dry and tight.  I don’t get the “chills” so much any more.  So I am glad to see those improvements!

New “symptoms” I’ve noticed, that I’m not sure if they are connected to TSW or not:
– I have had brief waves of really intense nausea for the past 2-3 nights.
– I have to think since TSW messes with so much of the body, it also affects hormones, because my monthly cycle is disrupted…it’s either going to be really late or not come at all.

But regardless – here is my optimistic thought for the day!  Happiness CAN coexist with life stress, TSW, grief, anger, loss, chronic disease, and whatever else anyone can go through… just have to keep convincing ourselves of that!

Being happy

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18 thoughts on “8 Weeks into TSW

  1. Amanda says:

    If I were you, I think I would definitely want to take a leave of absence. This is a physical and emotional hardship EVEN WITHOUT the divorce on top of it. Would you absolutely have to tell your team why? Could you just leave it as “medical reasons”?

    And I’ve never taken an actual leave, but did consider it. We have talked briefly about a traumatic experience I had a few years ago, and I was a complete and total mess after that. I chose to push through it, and did take a very brief,few day vacation to kind of take an emotional break, but that was it.

    I can also understand not necessarily wanting to take it NOW, because what if this isn’t the worst of it, and it could end up worse once you go back, and then what? Do you think your boss would be understanding about all this?

    • I am in awe that you only took a few days leave – you are so strong! I think I totally would have quit that job on that very day and found something else! Yeah, you make a good point that I wouldn’t need to get into telling my team why. Who cares if they speculate as to why, I could definitely leave it as vague. I just don’t want them to get concerned and think I have, like, cancer or something! Hard to say with my boss, she’s tough to “read” but ultimately it’s my choice – I’m going to keep the option of a leave in my mind for now and see how things go over the next few weeks at work!

      • Amanda says:

        Good idea – at least you know the option is there. And let them speculate! Not caring about what other people think is one of the HARDEST things for me to do, but in this instance, I think your own physical and mental health is far more important than what your colleagues will think about why you’re taking a leave.

        …and I wanted to quit, so badly! SO SO badly. But, here I am. 🙂

  2. amanda says:

    I did take an loa when I had seperated. I think it was 6 weeks. I decided to do this as I was like you. Breaking down at work, feeling anxious, uncertainty and afraid. I however was not going thru TSW. I felt it was a good thing for me. And no I did not sit around and mope…sure I cried but it was better knowing I had the time to do it and not worry about “looking” OK to go to work the next day. I felt it was also a time to figure out what my plan was, how to get there and how was I going to do it. I spent time with close friends. & was able to talk as needed. Sure people at work asked where I had been, but to have the time to grieve a loss ( cause that’s what it is) outweighed the questions.

    • I appreciate your perspective since you’ve “been there” – it reassures me to think that this is absolutely a loss and having time to grieve is okay. And you are right that having that time is better than having to be at work in a fog and feeling sad. Actually at work right now, no one except 2 of my co-workers know about this divorce, so it’s stressful to pretend everything is okay (I haven’t told anyone else just because it’s not really the kind of thing you bring up at work, haha). If I’m at home figuring things out I don’t have to pretend anything. Thank you so much for weighing in!

  3. Taking a leave of absence for a month was the best decision I’ve made. I worked until I was physically unable, which I think was really stupid of me. It gave me time to regroup and heal. You won’t believe the amount of stress it causes to just get up and get dressed and leave the house. Eliminating that was key in my recovery. Add on a divorce- I don’t know how you are dealing.

    I took a month unpaid leave and my partner lost her job my second week of TSW when I was in the hospital. I already was the main “breadwinner” in our family, so I could not afford to take it off. It worked out that the day I stopped being able to work, C got a job, My parents helped some too, but it has been hard. Especially with the added cost of TSW (50 lb bags of epsom salts every two weeks, new wardrobe, new creams, atarax, etc etc). Its hard because people say “Health is number 1”! But putting food on the table is up there too.

    I totally understand your fear about getting worse after your leave. That is why I hesitated to take time off. My boss told me I had to take a month off- and I was nervous that I wouldn’t get any better. I fought her on it, and then I hit rock bottom and it was a moot point. You could try to hold out until things get worse, and then take your leave. Can you cut back on your hours? That has helped me immensely.

    • Ugh, you’re right, getting ready in the morning is the most stressful because it all revolves around TSW (how is my skin today? what can I wear that will not drive me crazy? how can I best cover up my redness so I look human at work? etc etc). If I didn’t have to do that it would be a huge relief.

      I knew about your hospital ordeal with the fever from the ITSAN forum but I didn’t know that all that job stuff was going down simultaneously…. so sorry to hear that you had to go through that ADDITIONAL stress (as if TSW wasn’t stressful enough). Your boss was smart to make you take a month off, I know you love your job as a lawyer but I can only imagine it’s fast-paced and pretty stressful too.

      If I take a leave, it’s going to probably be all or nothing, rather than cutting back on hours, but if I DID work part-time (which I’m not even sure my work would let me do) at least I would still be bringing in income. I do think I’m going to hold out over the next few weeks and see how I do before I take any action.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I’m so sorry to hear all of this – a divorce and TSW, that’s probably the worst possible scenario. You definitely don’t need all that stress. I’d say go with your instincts, what are they telling you to do about the leave?

    • Thank you Jennifer!! Right now my instincts are saying to wait a little bit and see how things go. I’m going to give it a week or two and then see how I feel. I’m also going to be attending a divorce support group every week, so hopefully that should help too!

  5. tomatoskingirl says:

    I battled with taking leave myself and I’m really glad I did. I have two weeks off at the moment and I’m feeling much more happier and relaxed than I was while I was working. I’m no longer in tears every day stressing out and having panic attacks. I’m not scratching as much as I thought I would be at home and spend most days napping and in the bath. Plus the damage that I do at home is probably less than the damage I did when I finally got straight home from work. I used to let the stress out by tearing at my skin as soon as I got through the front door. Although this time off hasn’t been that productive, it’s incredibly relaxing and I definitely needed it or else I probably would have had a major breakdown. I can’t imagine how stressful it would be to go through a divorce at the same time.

    It is annoying having to worry about the questions people will ask. Maybe if you mention to your boss to let your coworkers know that it’s a sensitive issue, people may hassle you less. When I explained what was happening with my skin to my boss he told me that nobody else (my coworkers) has to know and he would just tell people I wasn’t feeling well for now. I did have to tell a worried coworker I was just going through some personal shit at the moment and I wasn’t ready to share my problems and she accepted that fine.

    Your boss may be able to make some alternative arrangements for you as well. Working from home / part time? Not sure what working in America is like but my boss is currently trying to work something out for me.

    Good luck!! xx

    • Amanda says:

      I agree. Tell your boss you’d rather other people not know and if other people ask, just gently but firmly tell them it’s personal and you’d rather not get into details.

    • I remember our blog conversation about taking a leave and now i feel kinda silly that at the time, I suggested to you not to take a leave….now here i am wanting to take a leave… LOL. Very good point that the damage at home is probably less than when you get home from work. I absolutely go crazy when I’m finally done with the day and tear at my skin, if i don’t have that stress I probably will be more controlled about it. Your boss seems like a great guy with being so accommodating! I think my boss would keep things in confidence too so I probably would just tell her and then everyone else would get the standard “i’m going through some personal issues”. Working from home would be okay! Then I can sit around in pajamas all day, red-skinned and all – I will consider that. Keep me posted if your boss works out that you can work from home too, that would be really great and less stressful.

  6. joey says:

    I left my job in DEC ’12 & I am also 8 weeks into TSW. I am finding it really hard to cope, It’s a serious illness that I am taking seriously so I am glad I left.

    • HI Joey! Did you leave your job because you knew that it would be so tough with TSW? If I take a leave, I definitely don’t think I’ll regret it, so I guess that answers that I probably should.

      • joey says:

        More or less… Yes, I left because I wasn’t happy or coping, I wasn’t coping because of out of controll eczema
        I’m guessing your american, why don’t u pay a visit to dr rapaport?

      • joey says:

        I’ve seen all the reports online about peoples TSW experiances & it’s no walk in the park. My 1st week my eyes lids were so swollen when I blinked it took an extra 2 seconds for the eyelid to close.

  7. Cindy says:

    I noticed you’ve mentioned a lot of times that you worry about what others will say or do. DON’T. Think of it like this: most people ask only to be nice – sometimes they don’t really care what’s going on with you; they might even forget about your explanation later. Besides, there shouldn’t be any stigma associated with divorce nowadays! It’s not like everyone is grouped together when you explain your divorce the first time, so if different people ask you, just take a deep breathe and explain cheerfully again and again. You can even explain very simply, one sentence. I think it’s really the way you come across, if you sound cheerful and open when you explain it (or talk about other stuff), they shouldn’t treat you any differently. If you sound upset, they will talk in hushed tones.

    I guess my point is to other people, you’re not their most important person, so don’t care what they think. You should do what’s best for yourself. xxx

  8. @ Joey – I AM in the U.S. but I’m in the Midwest so flying all the way over to California to see Dr. Rap would be out of the question. Plus I don’t think seeing him would really do much besides reassure me. I am 99.9% sure I have TSW and all I can really do is wait it out. Plus I am seeing a bit of improvement now that I’m almost 2 months complete. Sorry to hear about your swollen eyes – those are the absolute WORST!! Mine were so bad in the first weeks as well – I could barely open them in the morning and had to put ice on them every morning to reduce the swelling. I am wishing you, me, and all the other TSWers out there continued and speedy healing!

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