Anxiety, Brain Injury, Depression

Triple Whammy

Dealing with depression, anxiety, and a brain injury is confusing and disheartening.

Were my lows this low, before the stroke? Did I always hate crowds this much? Did I overthink things this much? . . . or everything just a little bit worse? I don’t remember so I can’t make an accurate comparison.

I spend a lot of time scrutinizing things like, what to do with my time, who I’ll spend it with, where I’m comfortable being from moment to moment, and how I’ll get there.

I make mistakes, but they’re not as drastic or detrimental as they used to be.

I have no regrets because in each wrongful act I’ve committed, or mistake I’ve made, I’ve learned more about myself and human nature.

As humans, what we want and what’s right, don’t necessarily coincide.

On top of that sentiment, it’s all relative to who you’re surrounded by, what your beliefs are, what takes priority at the given time, what makes you tick, what resources are at your disposal, etc.

That being said, I’d like to strive to be a better person, while minimizing emotional pain across the board.

A few of my goals for this winter are to remain seizure-free and to combat my impending, debilitating depression. That means staying away from stressful, demoralizing situations.

Part of this quest for salvation is having to battle my inner demons and win. It can be done but it’s not easy and it’s a never-ending struggle.

So, after a week of serious thinking, in early December, I decided to try remain to sober.

My neurologist okayed me to have ONE alcoholic beverage per day. However, I can’t ever predict whether I can stop after one.

For instance, on a Wednesday night about a month ago, I thought, “A glass of cabernet sauvignon would pair nicely with a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie,” and it did but . . . Then, I had two more glasses of wine, only one glass of water, and forgot to take the evening dose of my anti-convulsant.

The morning after the “wine and pie fiasco,” I had a seizure.

I was treating the site where I bit down on my cheek during said seizure. It wasn’t healed after a week. This, among other things, solidified my decision to try self-restraint.

I’m really good at justifying things to myself. I never, really, considered sobriety before because I’ve never believed in abstaining from something. I believed that telling yourself, you can’t have something is just . . . cruel. But, in weighing pros and cons, at this moment, allowing myself to drink is more cruel because of the imminent domino effect.

Overall, I need to take better care of myself.

It’s been a solid month of sobriety. The more time passes, the prouder I am of myself. I’ve been treating myself the way I’ve always wanted to.

I figured, if I could just make it through the holidays, the rest would be cake.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve wanted to drink within the past month to deal with stress, to make myself comfortably numb, to “fit in,” to not remember, etc. But, I realize that those “coping mechanisms” are temporary, counter-productive, and NOT healthy. Again, one drink would be alright, but I never can tell if I’ll stop after that one. It’s better FOR ME to cut it out completely.

It took a few weeks but, now, I feel better than I have, in a long time.

I’m more in-tune with my body. If I feel “off” I think, “Did I take my meds? Do I need food? Do I need sleep?” There’s no ignoring, or guessing, or forgetting.

For about a year or so, I was afraid to leave my apartment; afraid I’d forget my morning meds, worried I’d have a seizure or a panic attack at the gym or on the bus, stuff like that. Irrational fears, really.

I people say, I’m sharper and my speech has improved. I think it’s true. Even if it’s a placebo effect, I’ll take it!

I’ve been having weird, embarrassing dreams where I slip up and do something stupid. When I realize it’s only a dream, I feel relieved and reminded of what could be or has been and I’m like, “No, thank you.”

I’ve had more energy. I still NEED my naps and I still crap out from general fatigue, but it’s less frequent and doesn’t last as long.

 

It helps that everybody in my life has been so supportive.

They say, “Do you!”

And I say, “Hmmm . . . Okay!”

 

I don’t know. Something just feels right about 2016.

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Education, Humility

Being a Disabled Student: A Lesson in Humility

For the past few months, I’ve been attending school and it’s filled me with self-doubt.

Normally, you have to have your IEP (Individualized Education Program) drawn up before school starts. That’s what gets you services with the Students with Disabilities office.

In the summer, I was anxious to get started on the next step, moving forward with my life and in my stroke recovery, so I pressured the appropriate people at ACCES-VR (Adult Career and Continuing Education Services-Vocational Rehabilitation) to approve to me attend school in the Fall.

The stipulation was that I have an appointment with a psychologist to test for said IEP, as soon as possible.

The IEP tests problem solving skills, reading and auditory comprehension, ability to retain information, memory (both, short and long term), any attention deficit, etc.

What I learned about myself through it (other than the obvious speech and speed deficits, and physical ailments) is that my visual memory is on point but my auditory memory is shot. For example, sometimes, I don’t remember key points to conversations or lectures. If I’m distracted, forget about it. That’s part of why, everything takes way longer to sink into my thick skull.

I went into the Fall 2015 semester knowing computer science was going to be a challenge, totally outside of my comfort zone, and without proper services in place.

I worked my ass off at school, anyway, and “failed” miserably with 0.000 in computer science.

Someone, who works at the college level, explained that the 0.0 GPA reflects that the course taken in that given semester was “failed.”

However, this “F” can be replaced if the student chooses to retake the course.

Now, I know more about what limits are, based on what’s happened within the past few months with school, as well as the results of the tests concerning the IEP.

With services in place with the Students with Disabilities office, in the future, I’ll get more time on tests (because of my slow reading, writing, and comprehension) and I’ll have option of having tests split (because of impending brain fatigue), etc.

That should help tremendously in coming endeavors.

Needless to say, this has all been very humbling.

But, now, I have a plan!

You see, computer science is a prerequisite for Web Design, which is was I’m interested in (besides tattooing, https://mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com/2014/11/30/identity/, Identity, Nov. 30th, 2014.).

When I had my last meeting with my ACCES-VR councilor, we discussed the results of my IEP.

We decided that I don’t really need another degree (I, already, have 3; see Identity, again), but a few classes.

My plan is: In the Spring 2016 semester, I’m retaking Commercial Illustration (initially taken 10 years ago, or so) to give my brain a break and brush up on Photoshop and hone my left-handed skills (the stroke affected my dominant right side).

I’ll, then, spend the summer reviewing computer science, making sure I grasp the material, so I’m ready for to retake the class in the Fall.

With any luck, I’ll be free to take Web Design in the Spring of 2017.

For other “Students with Disabilities,” I’m sharing my experience with you because I hope you’ll see that people are willing to work with you, if you put in the effort. Communicate with the people in your corner and if you’re not sure where to start, ask a doctor, councilor, or your service coordinator. Someone’s bound to know SOMETHING.

 

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” (Polonius, http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/hamlet.1.3.html, Act 1, Scene 3 of Hamlet. William Shakespeare.)

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Sorry

An Apology . . .

Parental Advisory: Crude Language

I don’t know, exactly, when I lost my innocence. I think it was a gradual process.

The older I get, the more jaded and guarded I become.

When I had the stroke, I was completely lost. I’m still lost but, now, I’m as grounded as I’ve ever been.

As part of services set in place through the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver, I received a psychological evaluation. What that accomplishes is pinpointing what deficits I have that may affect school or work and what my needs would be, according to the psychologist’s findings.

As part of the evaluation, he had me fill out a personality assessment questionnaire.

Upon analyzing my answers, he said that they raise a lot of questions, one of which was, ”What’s the deal with you and relationships?”

I wanted to say, “Well, that’s a loaded question, Doctor.”

I’m in transition. I don’t know what I’m doing and I feel like an asshole but I can’t give any more to anyone than I already do and it’s not fair and I’m sorry.

I’m fucked up; more fucked up than I let on. It may seem like I’m an open book but I have a lot of layers. You only see what I allow you to see. I have secrets that I don’t want to talk about yet; secrets that lend to who I am but I’m not ready to share. I’m comfortable with my guard up for now.

What I mean is, I don’t know my new self so I’m doing my best but I don’t want to let anyone new in, at this time, and I’m trying to right past wrongs.

Getting to know me takes effort because I’m never satisfied and always evolving.

I am, by no means, trying to make excuses. I’m just trying to explain so the people I inadvertently hurt, hopefully, will not be as pained.

I don’t want to hurt anybody but I want to be ALL IN with people as passionate as I am. The old me just wanted to be loved. Now, I want to be loved and to love myself.

I didn’t think that was possible. I thought, if I showed other people love, it would replace that empty feeling inside of me. Their happiness would make me feel whole. Now, I’m trying “. . . to find what will make me content in the moment, while continuing moving forward, especially in recovery. I’m trying to find self-worth.” (https://mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com/2015/06/03/redefinition/, Redefinition, June 3rd, 2015.)

It’s a lot of work. I’m focusing on myself so I get lonely but it’s for the best.

Relationships mean more now, whether they be platonic or otherwise. If I choose you to be a part of my pack, I want it to be for life.

It’s a painful process. I’ve lost a lot of people throughout it; people I thought were friends lose patience or no longer believe I have anything to offer. Sometimes, would-be friends, don’t realize what they’re getting into. I try to explain from the get-go but I think I fall short in articulation. It sucks but oh well.

The way I see it, tattooing is my passion and I haven’t been able to do it so I’ve picked apart what I love about it. I love interacting on an intimate level with clients. I love getting to know people. I love picking apart people’s visions and being able to bring them to fruition. I love being a part of other people’s healing processes.

I’ve spent a lot my recovery trying to mimic those feelings. Sometimes, I come close to those same sensations. Just trying makes me feel like I’m doing something positive and not just rolling over.

Again, that’s all I can do for now and for that, I am truly sorry that I can’t do more.

Thank you to those who have been patient with me. It means the world to me and I’ll make it up to you someday.

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Adapt, Balance, Change

Redefinition

I’ve become, quite recently, truly (in the plainest of terms) grateful for my stroke.

The reason being, it’s given me a real chance to redefine myself, and what I think is pivotal to my well-being. I have the time to actually become the person I want to be.

That is a gift. No more coveting. The world is my oyster. The sky’s the limit. Yes, because of my new-found, so-called “handicaps,” I’m supposedly limited to what I “can do.” But, not really. I have the mental capacity and resources to navigate around obstacles. It takes longer, but what are we in a hurry for anyway? Think about it.

When I had that significant change at the blink of an eye, I spent the following year, working my ass off, trying to regain what I’d “lost;” hoping everything would be as it were. I wanted my life back.

Once that year went by in my stroke recovery, I was devastated. I thought I’d be so much further than I was. I went through the stages of grief, mourning my past-self. I was in a very dark place, feeling very disheartened. After months of debilitating depression, I finally came terms with how different my life had become and will always be. I tried and am trying, to find what will makes me content in the moment, while continuing moving forward, especially in recovery. I’m trying to find self-worth.

With being labeled as disabled, I believed for a time, that I no longer had anything to offer anyone. Pre-stroke, I used my trade (tattooing) to show people I cared, to make money, and to travel. I gave newlyweds, birthday girls/guys, etc., tattoos as gifts. I made trades for things I wanted/needed. I could afford to visit peers/friends or offer rides places because I was always working.

Since the stroke, I’ve had to rethink my Love Languages (see www.mariahrosesramblings.wordpress.com, Support and Forgiveness, January 23rd, 2015.). What makes me a “good friend?” What am I physically, emotionally, or spiritually able to do now to show people that I care?

I have no money. I can’t, legitimately, drive. I can’t tattoo.

What CAN I do?!

I’m so grateful for the support I’ve received. Without it, I couldn’t have survived the first year of recovery. Not only did people visit me, but there were numerous benefits on my behalf. There was a place, online, where people could donate. All this started happening before I could even begin to fathom what was going on. No joke, in October 2013, I was out-of-it for nearly 3 weeks, but, without knowing it, I was being taken care of. Words cannot describe how much that means to me. With that support I was able to get through that first year financially and emotionally. I had a roof over my head, rides wherever I needed to go, kind words and encouragement, etc.

My mother helped get services in place: Medicaid, Disability, the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver, etc. She gave me what I needed to be able to figure out what I want. In one word: my mama gave me “SECURITY.”

Medicaid helps me maintain my health and keep my doctors and therapists in cahoots. We’re a team. I love it.

Social Security Disability Insurance gives me money every month, which I use to pay bills.

The TBI Waiver provides me with, basically, loopholes with insurance, and services through an agency of my initial choosing. That said organization, first and foremost, hooked me up with a service coordinator (SC) and a councilor. My councilor has been with me since the beginning. I got lucky with her. Unfortunately, I had to go through 4 or so service coordinators in a year, and threaten to go through another agency, in order to reach the SC I have now. But, such is life, and we’re sure making up for lost time now!

Through the TBI Waiver, my service coordinator was able to get me funding with TBI Housing. Now that I have my own apartment, I have food stamps as well. They definitely lesson the financial burden. I’m, also, going through ACCES-VR (formerly Vesid) to make myself more “employable.” Namely, they’re helping me with driving lessons and going back to school; stuff like that. I figure, even if or when I start tattooing again, I could adjust my schedule accordingly. I’m not worried about it in the least.

So, on paper, things are going quite well.

There are some hiccups in regard to my health but I’m working on those too. I have to remember that I’m NOT a typical young woman anymore. The best I can to do is to take care of myself. Believe it or not . . . the alternative . . . THAT would be selfish. When I slip up on the things I need (or need NOT) to do, not only do I suffer, but the people who care about me suffer, as well (maybe even more-so).

That mentality has changed a lot of things for me. I used to think that giving all my energy toward other people mattered. I set myself lowest on the totem pole. I put other people’s needs and happiness before my own, because I thought that if the people around me were happy, I’d be happy too. I didn’t want to make waves. I wanted everyone to “like me.” I kept silent and sweet. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” right? Not necessarily. I now realize, you can be pleasant without sacrificing your self-respect.

Throughout my stroke recovery, I’ve been working hard at, not only my abilities and health, but my character too. Like I typed, previously, “I have the time to actually become the person I want to be.” How cool is that?!

So, I ask myself:

1.) What DO I THINK makes a solid human being?

Integrity. “Word is bond” (Wu Tang Clan, c.1993.). I like that phrase. It embodies everything I want to accomplish. I look at it as encompassing honesty, loyalty, following a certain moral code, strength in the face of adversity, etc.

2.) What qualities do I find in people I respect and admire?

I don’t believe in accepting hand-outs. I believe in working for what you’re given. I have to keep in mind, the services I use now, are in place because I NEED them. You’re not taking advantage if you’re in need. 

I respect conviction. Even if I don’t agree, I admire people who sick to their guns but allow room for discussion; debate, even. 

I lost a lot with my stroke but it’s okay because, in turn, I grew a backbone. I learned to say, “No.” Now and again, I try to keep up with the Joneses, but more often than not, if I need to sit a round or two out, I do. I’m still working on that. 

3.) What qualities do I find in the people I truly love unconditionally?

I appreciate when people are honest, while treating me as a peer. “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” (Judge Judy, 1997.) And, patronization or babying does’t do anyone, any good.

I would do anything in my power for the people I care about. That’s not a lot right now. Still, the people I love, don’t expect much but still make me feel special and held in high regard. 

4.) Would I date me?

Nah, brah. However, I’m starting to like myself and exhibiting more self-respect than ever. I’m getting there.

5.) After all is said and done, what do I think’s most important?

Integrity. Honesty. Loyalty. Strength in the face of adversity. Hard work. Conviction. Respect.

All these things matter to me, but NOT at my personal expense. Some overlap. Some contradict. But, it’s all about finding a balance. Allowing some vulnerability without victimization, pride without conceit. Finding self-love without selfishness. Knowing when to fight and when to walk away. Exhibiting discipline without obsession. Etc. Etc. Etc.

. . . : Make way for “Mariah 2.0” : . . .

Ask yourself versions of these questions and see where you end up.

Fine-tune yourself.

Above Photo by James Via

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