I Now Consider Myself A Person With A Disability

Since my seizures began, I had heard from multiple people in my life that I should pursue being on disability. This was not something I could consider in my mind. As far as I knew, I was a able-bodied person who was able to work a 9-to-5 job like most people I knew in the work force. However, as the years have gone on since I began having seizures and have tried as best as I could to make things work within the positions I have held in that time, I have come to the realization that I am unable to perform like my coworkers were able to. I struggled. I knew something was wrong when I was in the Emergency Room twice in the end of 2014 and the beginning of the year in 2015 and was unable to return to work until I was once again “stable” and able to be in the workplace. So over this last year I made some decisions and came to the conclusion that I now consider myself to be a person with a disability.

My mental health conditions had caused much damage in my life towards the end of 2014. I was at the point where I had begun a working at a new job and was beginning to have problems while at work and in the waking hours of my days. I was hearing voices and hallucinating things that were not there. I was crying uncontrollably for no reason whatsoever. This was only the beginning.

With my new job, I had new medical benefits with Kaiser and so I took it upon myself to start seeing doctors to pursue a second opinion. My employer at the time was very concerned for my well being and was also very encouraging to find out what more I could do about my seizures seeing as I was struggling so with them. I started with my new primary physician and went from there to see a new psychiatrist where I was prescribed my very first depression medication along with an anti-psychotic drug. She told me that I was not schizophrenic as I had thought, but the visions I was seeing were coming from my severe chronic depression. I began taking the medication in hopes that it would all make things better. And so I started falling asleep at my desk while at work and was forced to drink things that would energize me which I had never had to do before in my life.

Things worsened with me and the amount of seizures increased and the symptoms got stranger. One night while alone in my bedroom, I had a terrible seizure which lead me to screaming and “speaking in tongues” or “talking in gibberish” as my family described it. They took me to the ER at once where they pumped me full of Ativan and sent me home once I was subdued. From that point I was taken off of the antipsychotic medication and my condition improved a bit and the hallucinations stopped and their were no voices in my head anymore. Oh and did I mention my neurologist signed a paper stating that I was to not drive anymore? I lost the ability to get to work as well, and so I had to rely on family until I was approved to gain transportation through OCTA Access. This is a wonderful program by the way!

Next thing I knew, I was headed in a downward spiral of sadness and I broke down in front of my shrink. I was delirious and inconsolable. She notified my work that I was to be put on immediate leave for the next few weeks and be put on disability benefits while she enrolled me in what they called “Intensive Outpatient Program” or “I.O.P.”. This program was meant to give me the tools to cope with my depression. The thing was, I had been in therapy before and had tried many of these things in the past. Upon speaking to the group’s leader, I found that I would not get the individual help I needed with my issues and my PTSD which I believe was causing my current meltdown. Go figure!

The weeks went by and though the group therapy was good for me, it wasn’t what I needed. I had to go back to work, or lose my job. Next thing I knew, I was working on a very tough new program at work and trying to get things back to normal at work when I had a bad seizure at work. One of my sisters had to come and get me because I was unable to be calm and was a jittery mess. She took me to the ER where they started running tests on me as I had another seizure in the car on the way there and then AGAIN while sitting in the intake chair speaking to the nurse about why I was there that day. They drugged me yet again to calm my nerves and body and I slept. Apparently I was there for about 10 hours and when I awoke they informed me that everything came back negative and re-diagnosed me with Conversion Disorder which is basic Hysteria.

Yet again I was at a loss. I had an answer which did not help my situation. When I followed up with my shrink, she told me to just continue on with the medications I was on and to see my therapist regularly. Oh, and they increased my depression medication to the maximum dose naturally.

Next thing I know, I am being let go at work just after accusing my coworker of harassment in the workplace. Great.

I decided then to take the summer to help out some family in Florida and be a caregiver for my elders for a while. Being stress free and out of work, I only had a few small seizures while away from home. A miracle? I think NOT. I was out of the stressful environment of being in a normal workplace. I was able to relax and do things at my pace. Or at my elders’ pace at least. haha

Upon returning home, I began looking for work seeing as my unemployment had run out. I got a job after 2 weeks of searching and got to it! Yet again, I was down. I was depressed and stressed and having panic attacks and seizures all over the place. What was I to do? I sought therapy once again through MediCal. I did the right thing. I found my current therapist who began working away with me on my PTSD and doing EMDR sessions with me. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is an integrative psychotherapy approach that has been extensively researched and proven effective for the treatment of trauma. EMDR is a set of standardized protocols that incorporates elements from many different treatment approaches. To date, EMDR therapy has helped millions of people of all ages relieve many types of psychological stress.

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Through these sessions with lights and memories being processed together, I was able to go ahead and finally deal with my past abuses and face up to the fact that I am alive and well and able to live.

Sadly, this did not stop my seizures from occurring, nor did it stop me from having panic attacks in the workplace. Thus in April of this year, I quit my job and began filing for disability benefits. I have found that over the last few years, I just have not been able to perform very well at any job that I have held due to what is going on with me. The seizures, the panic attacks, and much more… It is all so difficult to handle when I am expected to be present at work for 40 hours a week and be high functioning at that. I have tried so very hard to do everything in my power to keep up my spirits and be the best worker I can be, but their has finally come a time when I know in my heart and mind and my body that I just cannot do things like some others out there can.

I am waiting now. I have been waiting since May for an answer. I can only hope that I will be approved for the benefits that I am in such need of at this point in my life. Family in my life has been extremely supportive of my decision, as have friends and my significant other as well. I am so very grateful to them all. The only support I am in need of now is from the government. My hopes are high, and my medications are increased as my anxieties are amped up like never before.

Now, I wait.

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Struggles and Doctors

So. I was laid off from my second bookkeeping job and I kept my government provided medical benefits. I had no concerns with finding a new position as I had about 5 years of experience. After submitting my application to about 20 positions, I had 3 interviews lined up in the 2 weeks following being laid off. Boom! New job the 3rd interview. I was the only person they interviewed and I rushed them into it since I had already gotten an offer from the 2nd interview. I decided on the latter because of the promise of medical benefits. With my seizures and my mental health issues, I knew that this was what I needed.

Though this job was challenging, it was far less stressful than my previous position in a tax office that was very fast paced and demanding. My issue was with management there, whereas with this job, it was a matter of learning all of the items in our inventory. I was working for a manufacturer of Performance Makeup used for movies and also for airbrush tattoos and body paint. I was in love! I was excited to be around creative people. However, their were many things to learn. I studied and improved by working with my warehouse manager and all the guys in the warehouse and office. Yes, I was working with all men, but I felt right at home. They all treated me like one of their own and I felt right at home. I was not the only new employee so I wasn’t the only newbie. The stress was horrible for the first month, but I was picking things up as I went along. In just 6 weeks, my medical benefits kicked in! I had also begun seeing a therapist who helped, but I felt I needed more.

I decided I wanted a second opinion on my seizures. It had been a year since they had started and I had not been able to get much help with them and they continued on no matter what I tried. I attempted to meditate, exercise, do the essential oil thing, almost anything you could think of naturally to help with my seizures and my flashbacks and anything and everything associated with my PTSD. Nothing helped. I needed professional help. So I went and got it.

First things first, I went and saw my new primary care doctor. I told her all about myself and my medical and mental health history including my most recent hospitalization the year before. I also informed her that more recently I’d begun having little hallucinations and hearing voices. She immediately put me on an antidepressant and anti-anxiety medication and referred me to psychiatry because I was also having panic attacks at work.

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When I first spoke to someone regarding my psychiatric doctor appointment, basically each person I spoke to would ask if I was having thoughts of suicide. The truth was, I wasn’t. I was under lots of pressure at work and now I was searching for medical help yet again. I wanted to get to the bottom of all this and I wanted to be healed. Well, maybe not healed, but I wanted to feel okay again. I was not okay. So, I went and saw my psychiatrist. The voices had not gone away, so she prescribed me an anti-psychotic medication which would help with the hallucinations and the voices. I was diagnosed with depression for the first time in my life, and she informed me that that is where my psychotic episodes derived from.

I decided I needed to inform management at work in case I had a seizure while at the office. I did so in the form of a heartfelt yet informative email to everyone I worked with (once I’d received approval from the owner), and I was so pleased to hear that everyone was very supportive and promised to help me should I ever have an episode at work. Not long after I wrote the email I had a few seizures at work. I do not regret informing them AT ALL.

Soon, I made plans with my primary doctor to see a Neurologist once again. I wanted my second opinion on my Psychogenic Non-epileptic Seizures (PNES or NEAD). This doctor was a total douche. No sooner had he walked into the room than he basically was pushing me back out the door. I wasn’t leaving without some kind of testing happening though and I made that very clear. His medical opinion went something like “What you have are episodes, not seizures.” Well… He was simply one of those doctors who believe that my seizures are “pseudo seizures”, basically that I was faking it. Which has been a common belief for people who have what I have. Non-epileptic seizures just aren’t very well known and their is no medication for them because they are not epileptic. He allowed me to undergo another EEG test that would measure the electrical activity of the brain or show if I had epilepsy or not. Funny thing was, this doctor did sign a letter saying that I should not be driving because I was having “seizures”! The fuck?! So I had to find another way to get to my job which was an hour drive away already for me. I had my family driving me at first until I found my WONDERFUL alternative means of transportation. OCTA Access! Such a blessing let me tell you. I will have to write another little blurb on that entire experience sometime.

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Negative. I had my second opinion and it sucked. So, I stuck with my psychiatrist a bit longer before having a major breakdown in December. Nearing was the date of the anniversary of the sexual assault that had happened to me 3 years previously, along with flashbacks, crying fits, panic attacks at work, and seizures in my sleep…