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…

Harassed by a Friend and Coworker

I knowingly worked in a warehouse full of men. Knowing this fact I had been very aware of my surroundings and how the guys all speak to me when we’d be working together on anything. Yes, we did tend to joke and play about certain things and some of the guys are more “macho” in a sense than the rest. That is to say that I did indeed partake in the occasional workplace banter alongside them all. I tried to “fit in” as best I could even though I am a member of the opposite sex. Having said all of this, and having been around for over 7 months, the following occurred nonetheless:

Two of my male coworkers were in the office with me on a Friday just a few weeks prior to me being let go back in March, with no manager in the office, things were pretty chill around there. One of them was on the phone with our offsite operations manager with whom he was discussing the hiring of a new Sales and Marketing employee. He was telling her things like “It would be nice to have another female in the office, someone with a bit more estrogen”. “Make sure it is someone who would not qualify as being described as obese, but someone thin”. Once the conversation was over, he hung up the phone laughing and looked over at me to say “You know Sarah, you must have a lot of testosterone running through you or something”. And with that, I got up out of my chair while my two coworkers in the office both laughed. I stopped to bend over to turn off my little heater and he commented again saying “It would be nice to see a little leg around here, I mean come on Sarah, you’re wearing sweats.” They both laughed, yet again and I told them, not laughing, that “It’s Friday and I’m being casual”. I immediately called my significant other on the phone after clocking out to take my lunch break and told him what had happened, in tears. I had never been subjected to such blatant discrimination in the workplace, nor to such ridiculous sexist remarks. I decided to report him to management immediately. My manager on duty was actually an offsite Office Manager that was working out of her office in Dallas, Texas and so I phoned her immediately to report him. She informed me that I needed to report it directly to the owner as she did not know the correct protocol. So I made another phone call to the owner’s wife who normally handled all of the Human Resource issues that arose at the workplace. I left her a voicemail and walked back to the warehouse. I asked then to speak to my warehouse manager for a moment about what had happened. I informed him and he asked if I’d like to finish out my shift working in the warehouse with him. I informed him, in tears, that I would be unable to do so. I said goodbye and got my stuff from my desk a few desks away from the coworker who had harassed me, and he asked if I was having “boyfriend problems?”. I did not even acknowledge him. I walked out of my office and out of the building and went to wait for my ride to pick me up.

Over the weekend I struggled greatly. Both with my gender and with my having been attacked for being a female while at work and for many other reasons. This man I worked with had said multiple things that were very very wrong to say to anyone in the workplace and it had left me to cry all weekend long. The owner’s wife did get back to me and she told me that I needed to think very hard and write a descriptive letter to her informing her of just what had happened in the office that day because an investigation would happen. So I did. I researched and found that I needed to be very very detailed and needed to show that in my paperwork when I was hired I was told that this company had a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment in the workplace. I referred to it over and over in my writing up of the event. The only thing left to do was email what I had written. I clicked the send button and waited for the next step to happen.

The next week was dreadful. I was told by the owner’s wife that their would indeed be an investigation by an outside Human Resource Representative that they were hiring in order to look into what had happened and that I would be questioned, as well as everyone who had been present at the time. However, I would have to wait a week until that happened. In the meantime, I was to endure the silent treatment from that coworker for the entire week. It was so difficult to concentrate on my work and focus because I was still so very upset with him. Halfway through the week I asked if I could speak to him about it and he said yes and I told him that he’d hurt me badly and he apologized, but things were still weird after that. Once we were questioned, it was still off in the office. Nothing was normal again after that and my managers wouldn’t even speak to me regularly any longer. Communication went downward and nothing was done for 2 weeks that I was aware of about what had occurred.

They had us meet, all of the warehouse and office employees, to discuss the slow season that had hit at last. I had been warned that that time of year it was bound to happen that hours would be cut. And so it happened and I went from a 40 hour week down to a 30 hour work week. It was a big hit, but I was fine as I was still living at home. After one week. 5 days. That first Friday, the owner’s wife asked me to meet with her the last 15 minutes of the day. What I thought was just a regular conversation about my mental health as we’d had in the past, turned into her letting me go from the company.

I was shocked, but then, not so much. I had a feeling that this company was going to be something good for me, but once I had gone through all the medical appointments with my doctors and all, I figured they might decide to let me go after all of it. Especially after the harassment claim I filed against another employee, I just knew something was going to change, and here it was! No big shock here. She was all teary-eyed when handing me an envelope with my last paycheck in it, and I just told her I would be alright and everything was fine. She said no. I went and gathered up my belongings and said goodbye to my warehouse manager for the last time and goodbye to the owner of the company and left the office for the last time.

I realize that I could have made the decision to go after them for what they’d done, but they were a small company, and I just did not want to cause them such hardship and trouble over this. They’d covered their tracks by cutting everyone’s hours across the board, and so they could use that to their advantage to fight me. I just chose to let it go. It was something of a blessing in disguise to me. Here I was, tired and stressed out from all this, and they handed me an opportunity to relax. I took it! I’ve been unemployed and getting unemployment checks and living stress free at home while I look for work, and also visiting family out of state while I have the chance. Things have been good since to say the very least!

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!

Updating Life

So to you guys, it probably appears as though nothing exciting is happening in my life right now. Yes, I did just lose my job… but I’ll be getting a new one soon enough without a doubt! I have much to tell you guys and so much time I’d like to dedicate to you all. Please do me a favor and be patient with me as I get it all together for you.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about anything, please leave me a comment or a message either here or on Facebook about anything at all and I will do my best to keep you posted via blog or privately.

The truth is, much has been going on in my life. I am struggling with mental health issues, psychological issues, and also emotional issues in my life right now. Something happened to me in 2011 that has been a major cause of all of this and I would like to start a discussion with you all about it. It is part of why I have been so quiet on Social Media the past few years and just posting major little happy points and nothing about my private life really.

Wish me luck as I open up to you all about all these things. It won’t be easy for me and I’m sure it won’t be easy for any of you either. Bare with me as we make this journey into my mind, for it is a deep dark place that I do not care to venture far into too often.

Much love to you all! Thanks again for caring enough about me to read this. It means the world to me that I have such loving friends and family and just people in my life!

Sarah Marilu

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