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.

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…

Therapy Sessions and Onward!

So once I had my diagnosis, my job was to save up some money, and seek out a therapist all while waiting for my medical benefits to kick in during my probation period of 6 weeks. In that time I learned the ropes at my new job in Fullerton.

For the most part from therapy my goal was to get through my trauma from my abuse so that I could recover and get past the disorder that was so crippling that it was causing me to have these seizures, these episodes. After being so depressed that I was having panic attacks and anxiety attacks, and then the bouts of crying for hours for so long, I was so drained and exhausted from being depressed all the time. Therapy was definitely an outlet that I needed. I am not the type to rely on my friends to carry my burdens, so I felt that therapy was a necessity.

I sought out a good therapist and we began working on everything from my childhood and teenage years up until my current living situation, family, romantic relationships, friendships and work life. We were covering all the bases. However, when it came down to it, I was still having my seizures. I was taught in therapy to calmly think through my emotions and why I was feeling them. This was new to me. Usually if something didn’t feel right I would just remove it from my life. What I was now learning was the coping skills that I had never had in my life. I was taught to meditate and do deep breathing exercises and drink teas and do all sorts of mind exercises to help me figure out why situations made me feel the way they did. This is where I discovered I had OCD tendencies and also where I found out I had a condition called Dysthymia, which explained why I had chronic low-level depression. Chronic mental illness was not something that I had anticipated hearing about when in therapy, but I was glad to have learned about it so I could work on how to care for myself.

What I got from seeing my therapist was mostly help in my daily life. From what she told me about my PTSD was that I needed to find forgiveness in order to be healthy. That was not about to happen and so I avoided talking to my therapist about it any longer and saw her less and less until I stopped seeing her altogether. That was also due to the distance from my workplace had changed when I changed jobs.

In my next Blog I will discuss my next medical excursion when I was laid off from one bookkeeping position and got a new one further away from my home and much more fast paced than my previous position, and that is saying something!

State of Mentality: Preliminary Results & Diagnosis

The team of physicians including the main doctor on my case and the underlings that were learning under him all entered my room the morning of the 3rd day of my being admitted into the UCI Medical Center. What the doctor told me was a relief, but also a major concern to myself and my family to hear.

The attending physician informed us that the MRI they had taken proved to show no signs of any tumors or signs that anything in my body was producing the seizures. He then went on to tell us that the Video EEG they took of me in order to record a seizure had shown that indeed their was no sign that any electrical misfires in my head were occurring, what I had was not at all epilepsy. They decided to tell me that what was happening was referred to as “pseudo seizures”, which in regular people talk means that they are psychological and that nothing was medically wrong with me. They told me that they would be sending a psychiatrist in to speak with me and evaluate me later that day. With that, they all exited the room.

I must admit that I was somewhat disappointed in the result. Not that I was disappointed that I did not have epilepsy, but that their was no medication the doctors could offer me to fix whatever was wrong with me. That no tumor was someplace in my body that could have been removed in order to make these seizures stop. That their was no “easy” solution to what was happening to me. Sending in a psychiatrist meant to me that this was going to take time and that their was indeed no simple solution to what was happening to me.

After waiting hours and hours for the psychiatrist to show up, she finally arrived around 2pm that afternoon to begin her evaluation. She asked me if what I was going to discuss with her could be spoken about in front of my father, and when I looked to my Dad I immediately said no (not because it had anything to do with him, but due to the fact that their were just some things my Dad did not know about me). She went ahead and asked him to leave the room until she was done speaking with me. He left slowly, unsure as to why I’d asked for this, but still prepared to allow the doctors some space.

She began by asking me if I had been in therapy before and if I had had any mental illness previously. I started out by explaining that I’d always had issues with anxiety since I could remember and that in high school I had my bouts of depression like other teens, but a bit worse I feel since I was on some heavy medication for my acne (Accutane) which really upset my mental state. I also explained that in the most recent few years I’d began to have panic attacks as well, which I believe stemmed from some sexual abuse that had happened to me when I was in high school. However, more recently in 2011 during the Winter holidays, a family member’s significant other had sexually assaulted me. What stemmed from that occurrence was the worst depression I had ever been through in my life. I would cry for an hour or more every day of 2012 for over 6 months. Only when I was encouraged by my best friend to start preparing for a 5k run and started to have an healthy exercise routine, did things start to improve drastically. I stopped crying for the most part unless I spoke about the assault from the previous year, or if flashbacks took over my mind as they tended to do. I had also gone through hallucinations and such other things that upset me.

Upon hearing my stories and happenings in my life, the psychiatrist that evaluated me concluded that I have PTSD mainly, and that my seizures most likely were right along that and are called Psychogenic Non Epileptic Seizures and so were psychologically produced. Along with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, I have a generalized anxiety disorder, depression, panic disorder, and a touch of obsessive compulsive disorder. The list seemed to go on and on. She suggested that since I did not have medical insurance that I seek a cognitive behavioral therapist to talk to and a regular psychiatrist that could regulate some medication with me and a schedule to follow and work on with my therapist.

She eventually left my hospital bed and room and brought my Dad back in. I told him what she’d told me and he carefully did not ask too many questions. At the end of this, a nurse came in and began prepping my trip out of the hospital so I could return home at last. The next week I started at my new job as a Bookkeeping Assistant and held that job for almost a year. I also sought out a therapist to begin my healthy recovery. All through this time, the seizures continued on…

Below is a table displaying the differences between Epileptic and Psychogenic Non epileptic Seizures:

Epil vs PNES