Thursday, June 19, 2008

VESID sucks

A couple of days ago, I actually heard from the VESID rehab counselor instead of from the job developer. The VESID lady wanted to know about my doc's appointment at the end of May. Well no, you see that is yet one more thing that the job developer had gotten wrong. I had told her that the appointment was in June or July, NOT May. May had not been mentioned in the context of a doc's appointment at all. No surprises there. I detest incompetence.

The VESID lady still wants her stupid fruckin' doc "return to work" note. That in itself is a joke. What work? It took several years for me to even meet with a job developer. I finally did and said job developer panicked over a routine (for me) vertigo attack, resulting in the latest stalemate. I been to the CAP agency before. Quite frankly, I don't have the energy for all of this burrsit. And furthermore, VESID sucks.

I cannot point to one "professional" who bothered to find out who I am, or even who bothered to read through all of the medical records. Not one. The percentage of folks who get off of disability is extremely low. Participation in VESID (O.V.R. or B.V.R. in other places) knocks that percentage up a bit. Problem: the professionals' definition of meaningful employment is way different from our definition. VESID is noted as per anecdotal stories available on the web (google "VESID problems," "VESID horror stories," or "VESID sucks" if you wish to read any of them, for an "any job" sort of attitude. That "any job" attitude translates into low-paying down to minimum wage regardless of experience and abilities. Just get us all employed.

The problem is that if we have to go back out on disability at some future date, the S.S.D. folks get to add in the effects of the shit jobs to our benefit checks at that future date. It is no wonder that many of us choose part-time work, especially at first to try to gauge our ability to return to the workforce full-time. And for those of us who are no longer able to do what we used to do (or who are not hire-able into a field which we had years and years of experience due to whatever the hell the last ex-employer is telling folks about us: le sigh), it does not make sense to practically kill ourselves working in a minimum wage job. Sorry, that is the way it is. So if I take a job for subsistent wages and lose the disability after nine months, I screw myself for when I need to be on disability again later on.

Putting up with VESID's shit has been rather taxing for me. Doing more of what doesn't work doesn't work, as Nathaniel Branden says. Trouble is, I can't seem to find what does work. Mate brings home job postings that I am not qualified for and/or not able to perform due to limitations donated to me courtesy of my traumatic brain injury. There are times when having a traumatic brain injury sucks big-time.

*discouraged sapphoq still healing traumatic brain injury giving up on VESID but never on herself.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Shout-Out to Matt Evans of Kalamazoo

At the age of eight, Matt Evans was hiking in Colorado and he fell off a cliff. He fractured a skull. His brain injury left him with slowed cognitive processing. On top of that, he had a stroke which left him with some paralysis in an arm, difficulty walking and speaking, and the need for several surgeries on both his right arm and leg. In spite of his difficulties, Matt Evans continued to play golf-- albeit one-handedly-- and it is reported that he indulges in a game of pick-up basketball here and there. He graduated with a 3.5 cum and he hopes to pursue further studies and a career in elementary education.

Matt Evans, I salute you for persevering in spite of your disability and I wish you the best in life.

sapphoq healing traumatic brain injury

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I Am What I Am-- no, not Popeye the Sailor Man

This weekend left me hot as hell and thinking about getting a summer shack up in the Aleutian Islands. The dog would love it up there of that I am sure. However, we are where we are and where we happened to be this weekend was humid as all get out. It was the kind of weather that rose off the sidewalks in a deep haze. One time way back when I was working in a nursing home, I had left some old lady's shoes on the radiator. Big mistake. The soles were melting by time someone else rescued them. It wasn't hot enough here to fry an egg perhaps, but it was probably hot enough to melt the rubber soles off of shoes left on some black tarry street. The kids down the block had gotten one of them pint-sized electric cars and they were cruising over their front lawn. I laughed to see their yellow lab slowly lopping after it, reaching out once every so often to bite the tires.

Yesterday I went to a speaker jam. Those that know me well know that I have been in recovery for a very long time-- in fact more than half my life. Yes I still attend meetings of several twelve step groups on a regular basis. I have been accused of all kinds of crimes related to being anti-12 step groups on the internet because I am a sometimes critic of ways and means and probably because I am a Witch/Atheist/currently a Discordian. (If you don't know what Discordianism is, please google it if you care). Or maybe because I am sometimes a jerk. Whatever. In the blogging world as in real life, that is the risk that one takes when expressing oneself: That sooner or later somebody is going to take exception to one's opinions. Oh well. The price of freedom of speech is one that I am willing to pay.

At any rate, I didn't get to the speaker jam at the beginning but that was alright. I am not a morning person, that is fer sure. So I missed the first two speakers out of ten; and the last one. I was there for seven speakers of varying abilities and stories. One thing became immediately clear to me-- from the women speakers as well as from the men speakers-- and that one thing is that a vast majority of those who spoke yesterday have sex on their minds. I learned quite a bit yesterday. Sex problems don't magically disappear when one gets into recovery. I just wasn't expecting them to be so prevalent in what I heard yesterday. A secondary theme was gambling problems in recovery. I was especially appreciative of that since the last couple of months I have wanted to get high and to gamble. The odd thing about wanting to gamble for me is that gambling was never my thing. It didn't do much for me, I only remember getting one gambling "rush" and that was in a small group of folks from Running Sores who were at the race track. I'd been forced to go to that racetrack under the guise of a manager appreciation party when people were still able to force me to be social in a large group but that is a whole other tale. And not a terribly interesting one at that.

About midway through the afternoon, I noticed that someone (who still works at Running Sores) had entered the room and was sitting not far away from me. She was doing a fairly good imitation of being blind to my presence. That was a pretense that I was content to let be. I really didn't care one way or the other. Or at least I had decided not to care for the moment. A bit later as I got up to leave (before speaker number ten and the clean time countdown), the Running Sores woman had moved and I walked right past her to go outside and to my car. Again, she turned away from me. Several thoughts vied for my attention. One of them was along the lines of, "What the hell. Am I a leper? Is brain damage catching?" Some of the other ones were more sane, or at least more of a rationalizing nature. "I didn't want to talk to you either." "Whatever." And there was the ultra-adult thought which ran, "Hey it's been about four and a half years now. Isn't it time to get over this mental masturbation about Running Sores and how 'cruelly' I was treated? Get on with life already."

The thing is, healing doesn't necessarily happen upon demand. Or there would be bunches of people demanding healing, maybe even curing, and getting it. Emotional healing is not much different from the physical in that regard in my opinion. From past experience after a devastating house fire, I know I have to call each thing/person by name and say what they meant to me before I will be able to let go in a real way. So there is more work to do on that score. It's okay though because I have a way to address it and a support network to help me get through it.

I am most fortunate because my support network is not limited to people in recovery. Like the inane commercial for a credit card with frills says, "I got people." This whole life thing, being a citizen of the universe and all of that, is not a simple matter of us versus them. It is not you and me against the world or people in recovery fighting with the aliens (those without a 12 step program, whether they need to be in some form of recovery or not). Nor is it any faction of the gay/lesbian/bisexual/transsexual/transgendered/intersexed/queer communities against the straights, atheists fighting the Christians or other religious groups, disabled against everyone else. Nor even those of us with atypical neurology slugging it out with the neurotypicals.

I sometimes have to remind myself of these things rather forcefully. I have to remind myself that business is business, period. That although I believe that ninety eight percent of those working in the human services field deserve to be eaten by Baba Yaga, really life cannot be reduced to black and white. Consequently, the woman from Running Sores who was at the same speaker jam that I was at yesterday had the same right to be there that I had. And I had the same right to be there that she had.

The last time I saw her was early on after my accident at the local mall. She had gotten my old job but spared no sympathy for her old boss. Hey, I lived anyway. I could obsess over the lack of support from the folks at Running Sores or I could dwell on the support that I was getting elsewhere. Traumatic brain injury has made obsessions the easier softer way and so in truth, for several years I did ruminate excessively over the idea that I did not get a get well card from the folks at Running Sores. [A friend finally sent me a Get Well card, hoping that would help. It did]. What I got from Running Sores was a form from the safety committee which asked, "How could this accident have been prevented?" I wrote down "Shoot all of the pot smokers who drive." [The man who had hit my car was high]. The lawyer was keeping close tabs on my altered states at that time so he was able to convince me to send all forms to him. Whenever I was asked about some form or other, I learned to say, "The lawyer has it. I can't understand it." That much was true. Filling out any kind of form during the first two years post-accident took about an hour and a half and resulted in colossal headaches. And my "answers" were not coherent. The lawyer put all the forms in the round file and had some assistant or other fill them out only when forced to. That is how lawyers do things.

In truth, although my nemesis was ignoring me at the speaker jam, I really didn't have much to say to her either. What could I have said? Hello, how is work? Lame. Good to see you. It wasn't. You are looking well. Like I care. By the way, yes indeed it is a traumatic brain injury just like I had told you at the mall and I am on disability and I hate VESID sucks. She isn't required to care about any of that in even the most superficial way. Just as I am not required to care about her life either.

Traumatic brain injury is a polite word for brain damage. I am brain-damaged. My life got derailed through no fault of my own (for once) four and a half years ago. And yet. The world didn't stop because my world shattered. Since the accident, I've had to deal with lots of stuff. I am not dead. I am very much alive, still breathing. Breathing is a definite plus. I can let the shoes stay on the radiator, their soles melting down into the heat. Or I can take the shoes off of the radiator, open the window to let the stench of burning rubber out, and get on with living the best way I know how.

The metaphor with the shoes bothers me. Like many metaphors that I hear in the rooms of recovery, there is no allowance for more than two ways. Either we are going forwards or we are going backwards. We are progressing in our recovery or we are headed for a fall. We are on g-d's side or we aren't. We are part of the problem or we are part of the solution. I have problems with the whole good-evil dichotomy. For quite awhile now, I've suspected it is just a neat over-simplistic way of saying good g-d-fearing folks to the right and the rest of the infidels to the left. Those of you who know the significance of the numbers 23 and 5 will understand.

The other thing that bothers me is the blending. The whole "all religions are different ways of going up the same mountain." Or "all religions are just different ways of knowing the same g-d." Or, even worse, "all religions kind of meld together." Uh, no they don't. All of the religions of the world cannot even agree on the basics. Christians say Jesus is the Son of g-d. Muslims declare that Allah didn't have a son of any sort. Jews say the Messiah didn't come yet. The Hindus and the Muslims have been fighting each other in India for years and years. Several Muslim factions are also at war. The Koran has produced believers who take on the admonishment to "Kill the infidels" quite literally. Other believers found their ways around that. The Bible has been used to justify slavery, separation of the races, oppression of women and the disabled and those of us who are not straight. And there are believers who find their way around those verses as well. The Buddhists are actually atheistic in their own right with a twist. I think I will read some more of that Richard Dawkins book along with some of the others ones laying around here. (More book reviews coming up by next week at All religions and cultures and peoples are not equally good nor do they all hold equal value to the survival of the humans and other stuff. Call me politically incorrect. I consider that to be a compliment.

I think about the stuff we have lost and the stuff we are losing to political correctness. Like the pot smokers who drive, lets go shoot all of the comedians. Follow that up with the hanging of bloggers and mediacs, gassing of politicians and educators. Oh, but not just the liberals who in my mind are responsible for things like the renaming of the Sambo's restaurants. Let's rid the world of the conservatives too who don't agree with the libs. Let the dems and the pubs drown together as they debate things like a New York State Law that officially makes it illegal to sell a cow which has tuberculosis. If we get rid of everyone who doesn't agree with everyone else, there would be no one left. I have gone off on another flight of fancy. Drat this brain damage.

Drat the Brain Injury Association of the United States of America which had green rubberized bracelets made up. I don't know how or why someone decided that green is the color of brain injury. Myself, I would have opted for a gray/black combination. I would not wear the bracelet when it first came out nor will I now. The bracelet says, "Mind Matters." Screw that. Scientists cannot agree on whether the mind exists at all. Oh it may and it may or may not be part of or the same as the brain or separate from the brain. Or the mind might me a figment of the imagination. No one asked me my opinion when it was time to decide what color to use or what slogan to put on the stupid rubber bracelet. My slogan, "BRAINS matter." My brain matters. The same political correctness that causes "traumatic brain injury" to be preferable to the words "brain damage," is that the reason behind picking the non-specific "mind" over the very specific "brain?"

English does not have a verb to distinguish a temporary state of being from the essence of being. In Spanish, a language whose beauty captivates me, there are two verbs that translate into the English "to be." There is ser-- a state of being which is not intrinsic to the organism. And there is estar which describes the essence of being. Thus, when I straightforwardly say at to a group of people in recovery that I was a failure at teaching I have no way of indicating that I am not claiming that failure permeates and defines me. Along comes the rationalizations. Someone's g-d didn't want them to be a famous fill-in-the-prestigious-career-of-choice. Someone else informs a small group of folks within my earshot that her definition of failure is different than mine. I can't help but wonder if this unwillingness to admit that because some of us failed at some undertakings that means that we were failures at those undertakings is a leftover from the rah-rah cheerleader self-esteem school of thought. Objectivism certainly has its' foes these days from schoolrooms to boardrooms. I owe a debt to objectivism. Objectivism actually helped me to separate my rationalizations from reality. I learned that yes indeed we are not born equal in terms of ability. I learned through objectivism to take responsibility for my actions, to examine how I contributed to my failures. I cannot push my failure at teaching in the classroom off on some higher power or even on some lower power. It was my own internal inability to ask for help that caused my downfall. So yes I failed at teaching. I was a failure as a teacher in the classroom. Those of you who protest that have never seen me with a group of children as I struggled with the expectation that I keep some sort of order and impose some discipline. I was a failure at teaching-- ser. I am not the totality of failure-- estar.

Even when my brain damage a.k.a. traumatic brain injury has made communication difficult, I know that for example the failure of VESID sucks to adequately serve me is also partially my failure as well. The folks at Running Sores were conducting business as usual after my accident, probably in accordance with legal advice. Brain injuries are expensive. Their insurance company didn't want to get stuck with my medical bills just as my automobile insurance company didn't want to get stuck with my medical bills. Business is business. I don't have to personalize any of it. I didn't understand that back in the early days after my accident when I was sleeping for twenty hours a day. I can understand it now. I am not who I used to be. Even my taste in reading material has changed. I am not who I was going to be-- would have been today if the accident hadn't happened. I am certainly not better off. Spare me.

I am who I am. And regardless of the attitudes and actions of people and agencies around me, I know that I am going to keep striving.

sapphoq healing t.b.i.