“We looked for the easiest way out: a separate reality.” ― Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die

My hair is falling out

My eyes hurt

And I’m trying to remind myself why I did this fucking treatment

This weekend passed by in fits of long naps

When I’ve been awake, I feel tired and irritated

This is the stuff no one tells you about chronic illness and the shit you do to your body to ‘get better’

I’m almost two months post Round 2

I did my blood work

With much greater ease

The first month of the next five years

There’s so many thoughts rumbling around in my head

And even trying to make sense of them in writing isn’t doing the trick

I went to the optometrist and while my vision hasn’t gotten worse she was concerned over my eye pressure and appearance of optic nerve

She said it didn’t have anything to do with my optic neuritis episodes

Glaucoma?

Being sent to ophthalmologist for more tests

I went to the group again on Friday

The topic was the difficulty in decision making

Funny since I’m struggling with this long term disability decision

I came home feeling understood

Something that’s always evaded me

It was a wonderful feeling

That I’m trying to hold onto

But it’s just out of my grip

Like the Banksy art on my arm

I’m reaching for it but it’s just passed my reach

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Unknown

It’s so ironic how in the click of a ‘send email’ button, your mood can change drastically

I was feeling decent

Dare I say optimistic (I know, my first mistake)

I met with a social worker at the MS clinic yesterday

And after my awesome group on Friday

I was able to put so many of my thoughts into words to express to the social worker

We discussed numerous things including my difficulty attaining acceptance and my work woes

We discussed my worries with applying for LTD

With not having a job

Not having it be a part of my identity

Of what people would think

And most importantly how I would see myself

The social worker told me to listen to my body

I woke up today with a plan

I would email my employer requesting an application for LTD

In the event that at my next doctors appointment, I was ready to make a decision

So I did

And I got an email back quickly

Refusing to provide me with an application until my doctor provide them with those five questions they requested

Painting me as non compliant and difficult

The questions in case you’ve all forgotten are:

‘1. A description of any medical, physical or other restrictions which may result from your medical condition and which may impact on your ability to perform your job duties and attend work on a regular, full-time basis, meaning five days per week. (Please note that we are not asking for any diagnosis or details of your medical condition, other than as they relate to any restrictions it may have on your ability to perform your workplace duties and ability to attend work regularly.);

2. A prognosis from your physician as to the likelihood that your medical condition might improve, such that any current restrictions and/or modifications might not be required in the future, or may be required to a lesser degree;

3. A prognosis from your physician as to the likelihood of your ability to achieve regular, full-time workplace attendance (i.e. five days per week as opposed to your current average of four days per week) in the reasonably foreseeable future;

4. Alternatively, if your physician determines that it is unlikely that you will be able to achieve regular, full-time attendance in the reasonably foreseeable future, whether it is also likely that your attendance will tend to decline in the reasonably foreseeable future; and

5. Any suggested accommodations or recommendations your doctor may have for employer to allow us to better accommodate your situation.’

I wonder how many of you non MSers think these questions are no big deal

Easily answerable

But to someone with MS, these questions are repetitive and lack insight into what a chronic illness is

I jotted down my own answers beside each question:

1. Chronic fatigue, visual impairment and pain, anxiety and depression (both of which are physiological symptoms of MS), chronic pain and headaches and nausea

2. Unknown. Chronic illness is unpredictable and incurable

3. Unknown. Chronic illness is unpredictable and incurable

4. Unknown. Chronic illness is unpredictable and incurable

5. Possibility of patient applying for LTD if you ever send her the fucking form.

I asked again for the application and she refused.

Bah. I’m tired now.

MS and the world around me

I went to my first MS support group on Friday

It took me five years after being diagnosed to take the plunge

I was always hesitant to go

I was afraid of what my future might look like

It was a small group of 8 people

With different types of MS and in different stages of the disease

3 in the group had wheelchairs

A few had canes

Everyone welcomed me right away

The topic was ‘Why I’m glad I have MS’

I winced

Ugh this is gonna be brutal

We went around the table

Many described how having MS forced them to slow down

To reevaluate their life and priorities

To focus on the important and forget the small stuff

No one ignored the hard days

One described it as ‘the rabbit hole’

And seeing it open up

But not plunging into the darkness

They talked about fear, sadness,pain, love and hope

I sat quietly until my turn

And I spoke honestly

I told them I couldn’t find anything to feel glad of

Yet

And I couldn’t imagine a time when I would

But I was grateful for the resource of a group such as theirs

I explained to them how I thought I’d finally accepted having MS

Only to realize that I only was acknowledging having it

Acceptance was still a long way off

It still is

I talked about how I was going through a particularly dark time

I told them I was having difficulty reconciling my current life with what I thought my life would look like at 36 years old

I looked around

They were nodding their heads

I didn’t see the same sympathy that I see so often in my friends and families eyes

I saw real understanding

The kind that only someone who’s been there can provide

And I realized it’s been five long years since diagnosis and I’ve been doing this all wrong

I’d chosen to go at this alone

Seeing other 36 year olds living their life

Other 36 years who don’t have MS

And comparing my life to theirs

And coming up short every single time

The people in this group weren’t sad and pathetic

They were living their lives

Enjoying their lives

Maybe they adapted their lives to work around having MS

Maybe their life plans changed

But they didn’t stop living

That’s true acceptance

After I left

I felt a sense of relief

At having done something I’d put off for so long

I also felt hopeful

For the first time in a very long time

Not hopeful for a cure

Or that tomorrow I’d wake up without MS

But that one day I too would be able to finally accept that I have MS

With all that it includes and with wherever it might lead me

And I’ll be okay

I’m not there

Yet

Not even close

But I want to be…

Long Term Disability 😒

I’m tired and don’t feel like disguising what I have to say in a poem

For those of you that know it’s been a long week

Few weeks

Months

Entire 2018 really

Maybe more

I don’t know

I heard from my employer

I don’t even feel like cutting and pasting with my smart comments interjected

I’m standing at a precipice in my life

That I never thought I would be wavering on at 36 years old

Yet here I am anyway

Long term disability has been brought into the mix

I’ve been on Sick Benefits since April as my employer doesn’t have short term benefits

I now have to decide what’s the best decision moving forward

The key points are:

-My shitty attendance

-The unpredictability of MS

-The realization that my mental health has probably caused more lapses in employment than anything else

-Will anything change?

I’m under no illusions that having the best of intentions doesn’t equal being employee of the year

Nor does being an above average employee on the days you do show up

I get it

From an employers perspective

I’m more hassle than what I’m with

It’s always the same

Angela is amazing at her job

When she’s here

I’m tired of hearing that

Like I think my soul seriously can’t handle hearing that another time

Or feeling like I need to defend myself

Defend the ‘chronic absenteeism’

So long term disability is an option I’ve never wanted to pursue

For the following reasons:

-I fear falling into a depression being home

-I’m too young to be off of work

-I still want to work

-There are still so many kids I never had the opportunity to work with (even typing that had me ugly crying)

-I will feel embarrassment and shame at being off of work (that was difficult to admit but there it is)

-If I’m not a youth worker, what am I?

Some of the reasons may seem trite to you but it is what it is.

On the other side of the spectrum…

Reality of returning to my current employer:

-I will be under hard scrutiny

-I have no faith in an organization that has none in me

-The way I’ve been treated (though perhaps legal) has been insensitive, ignorant and disrespectful, nothing will change that

-They are holding the power of where they will place me and will continue to send me to the doctor for more medical documents until they get what they want

-As soon as I get a ‘pattern of absenteeism’ they’ll can me

-The stress of this will have a negative impact on me

The reality of finding a new job:

-Things will be great for awhile

-Once the honeymoon period is over and they notice my absences, it will start all over

-This isn’t about being negative this is about accepting my reality, and there will be absences. Lots probably.

-During a 6 month probationary period I can be canned easily

I’m curious as to how other people have come to the decision to stop working. Or hear from anyone who is off of work and their experiences with it. In other words, any feedback would be appreciated.

It only looks hopeless when you can’t see an alternative

No matter how hard you try

Even trying on a different perspective for size

Still the hopelessness persists

This is what scares me

I remember during the height of my worst moments with anxiety

Thinking to myself that the rest of my life would be filled with days of panic attacks and days where I waited for the panic to attack

It would never end

That thought still haunts me

Part of the crux of my anxiety is the feeling of being trapped

Not necessarily in the physical sense of the word

But even where situations feel like I cannot control the outcome

Where I cannot extricate myself

Like a panic attack itself

Or being drunk

Or high

Apparently my depression isn’t much different

The darkest cloud hovers when I cannot see a way out of an empty thought, moment or situation

What starts as a fleeting worry morphs

And I begin to think in terms of ‘always’ and ‘forever’

It’s frightening because it feels like even the sanest part of your brain cannot conjure up a tidbit of hope to tide you over

Not even a little breadcrumb for you to follow towards hope

Life is funny that way

It gives you this stadium of life

And throws these curveballs at you

But it doesn’t provide you with the bat, the helmet or protective gear

Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder how some people win

I question the authenticity

Maybe they cheated

And everyone knows

That the games been rigged in their favour

And I’m just not in on the secret

What is it about a death that makes you evaluate and question everything?

I think it must be the finality of it and the possibility that each of us might pass away before we’ve done/said/felt something we have determined to be important.

And if we fuck it up

That’s it

There’s no take backs

No do overs

There’s this one chance at life

Yet, to fuck up is inherently human

We make mistakes

Sometimes we learn from them

And sometimes we keep making them over and over again

And yet to say at the end of your life (however long that might be)

That you have lived and will die with no regrets

Is kind of a beautiful thing

A lie undoubtedly

But indeed a beautiful thing

Much in the same way that fairy tales are beautiful

Or heavenly tales of the after life

Each of those beautiful in the way that can never be true

Real life stuff isn’t beautiful in such an edited way

It’s messy

And it doesn’t play out in such a fantastical way

There’s not a before

Not a once upon a time

Not a singular event that changes us

And then an after

Not in such a seamless order anyway

There’s lots of before moments

Lots of events that are detrimental to who we are

Lots of events that are completely insignificant in the greater scheme of things

But there’s not one final culminating scene in which the fairy tale closes

We don’t know when it will end

We don’t know when our life is over

And so we live it the only ways we know how

We segment this great big life into days and weeks and months

Not knowing when we will run out of them

We go on this way

Until we simply have no days left

And the story ends

Sometimes abruptly and with a bang

Sometimes quietly and with a whisper

And each of us never knows how the story ends

Up until that final moment

What will be replaying behind our eyelids as we take that last breath?

Will it be relishing our own versions of the happily ever after we lived?

Sprinkled with some regrets but overjoyed with all the things we did do

Or will it be filled with visions of a life that we never really lived?

Weighed down with regrets that could have been chances if not for the fact we didn’t take them

Once upon a time I knew how I wanted my story to end

But my head got stuck somewhere along the way

And I’ve become stilted by some life altering events

And now I can’t reimagine a happily ever after

That includes me

Let alone

One that stars me

‘I don’t know who I am or maybe I do know who I am and I just don’t want to be her anymore.’ -G.F

Feeling a little lost

I know

Nothing new

Since stopping the Paxil project

I feel like I have little purpose

I’m still off of work

Which basically means

I’m sitting on my ass doing a whole lot of nothing

My return to my role in the Section program is still unclear

Work has had my medical documentation for over a month but I haven’t heard anything on that end

Not a ‘get well soon’

Or ‘are you still alive?’

All that aside the million dollar question is what will happen if and when I return

I don’t know if they think I’m capable of returning to my position

They have the authority to move me into a different position

That’s weird isn’t it?

I’ve been made aware that it’s within their legal rights

But I no longer have a say where I work

Somewhere along the way

I no longer have control over a huge part of my life (my career)

I don’t know if it’s MS that I owe that to

Or my ongoing struggles with mental illness

Or an amalgamation of all the above

Each taking a little piece of my ability to be a ‘good’ employee

Of course there’s an option to leave this job and look elsewhere

But I would only be kidding myself

If I were to say that it would be different in another job

I mean

At first it would be

I do well in interviews

Maybe they’d hire me

Things would go well

I’d exceed their expectations

And then

The sick time would start accruing

And instead of them looking at me like I’m some slacker

I’ll explain my illnesses

And then

They’ll understand

For months or maybe even a year

But eventually

The rhetoric remains the same

Angela is an excellent worker…when she’s here’

Call me pessimistic

But I think it would make a memorable epitaph on my grave