I’m taking control back

Over the past year or so, I’ve felt my life spin completely out of my control. Worker’s comp is a horrible thing to go through, because you’re so dependent on complete strangers to fix what’s wrong and they care more about the cost than about you. When I first injured my knee in September 2012, I knew that it was going to be a process to get it healed, but I never imagined that I’d still be fighting to get back to “normal” for this long.

I feel hopeless sometimes, because there is nothing I can do to speed up the bureaucratic system. Yes, I’m on WC disability, but that barely pays for my regular bills, even before I add in the cost of eating. Staying at home all day every day is a great way to slowly go insane. I seriously don’t understand how retired people do it. I’ve been steadily gaining weight since my injury, because I can’t do the simplest of exercises that might impact my knee.

I’m fed up with waiting to hear the determination on my appeal. Not knowing is stressing me out, big time. I need to keep my mind busy to stay sane. To that end, I’ve signed up to be a distributor for It Works! Global, selling body wraps and other products that help tighten, tone, and firm your body. I’ll admit that I was a skeptic when I first heard about these things, but then I kept seeing peoples’ results. I’m truly amazed at how much better I feel after one day. It’s not an instant solution, just like going to the gym isn’t an instant solution. You have to follow common sense and stay determined. Nothing is going to work for you if you don’t make other changes like eating healthier and drinking lots of water.

I’m not trying to make this post into an advertisement, and I’m not going to turn this blog into a commercial. I just wanted to share how I feel. I’m taking control of my life again. I’ve had some pretty serious mood swings lately because I hate this time of year. I’ve decided that I’m going to start working on improving me, and not waiting for things to improve on their own. I may be disabled now, but I’m not helpless. I’m still determined to get my life together and move back to my adopted hometown of Charlotte. It’s going to take a while, because I’m looking at several months of therapy after my knee does eventually get the surgery I need, but I’m writing down my dreams and goals, and I’m going to make it happen. Selling the It Works! products is going to help me get there financially, and I’ll finally get back to living the life I’m meant to have.

It’s also time to start working on my happiness project again. Lately I’ve been so busy being upset that I keep forgetting to remember all the good things I have in my life. Positive thinking creates positive action. I WILL hear from the state soon, and they WILL approve my surgery! Or, if not, then my doctors and I will try another direction. I’m not going to give up on myself. I deserve better.

The beginning of the end, or the end of the beginning

It’s been a pretty rough 14 months for me. I knew going in that worker’s comp cases are often long drawn out affairs, with an extra topping of frustration. I started out with a great rep who was very responsive to me and always answered my phoned and emailed questions, generally within a few hours. Then I was shuffled to a different rep who was also fairly good, and replied within a business day. After that, it went downhill. I had two reps after that who did not return calls or emails until I threatened to go directly to their supervisors. Finally, I was transferred to the Corona CA office, and I’ve had two reps in a row that have been overly nice and helpful. I finally feel like I’m getting somewhere on my case.

When Kurt was my rep, he was not only less useful than nipples on a boar, but he was terrible about making sure that my disability checks were sent on time. He turned down every therapy request with really stupid replies (one of which was that I’m not old enough to have arthritis yet – good to know) and was very bad at returning messages.

Since being transferred to the Corona office, I’ve been approved to see a pain specialist, who actually gave me a drug that not only helps with the pain, it also works as an appetite suppressant, which is wonderful for my waistline. The pain doctor wants to have me genetically tested to find out which medications will work best on me, and which to avoid. I’m hoping that request gets approved, because I’d really love to know.

One of the bad things about dealing with this knee issue is that I’ve become more withdrawn. I’ve always been moderately antisocial, but in the past year, I’ve hardly left the house at all unless it’s for work, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, and occasionally to a friend’s house to watch football. It’s just too much effort to go anywhere or do anything. I know that’s partially due to depression and feeling like no one will want to be around me because I’m so slow at getting around these days. I forced myself to get out of the house and took a nice drive up to the mountains yesterday and ended up meeting a friend I haven’t seen in 14 years.

I know I need to force myself to be more social. I have very few friends because I don’t like the normal things that people my age do. I’d rather read a book or crochet something. I need to create some goals for improving my life. I’m staring down the barrel at 40, and I feel more like I’m 80. I need to do some proverbial house cleaning and start doing things differently. Time to start writing up some lists.

Workers compensation sucks

I’m frustrated, angry, depressed, furious, but mostly just tired of it all. It’s been over a year now, and I have worse pain now than I did a year ago. My request for surgery was turned down, so now I have to get an independent medical review to see if it can be overturned. Until then, I just get to deal with the pain. It’s so bad right now that I’m resorting to crutches, which I hate, because I can’t put any weight on my right knee at all. It sends shooting pains up my leg, in addition to the “normal” pain where the condyles are crumbling and grinding against each other.

It’s really hard to stay positive when one is constantly in extreme pain, to the point where any tiny movement when I’m sleeping causes me to wake up in agony immediately. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten more than about 2-3 hours of sleep a night for the past two or three weeks. I was able to get an emergency appointment on Friday to see what, if anything, can be done. I highly doubt anything can be done at this point, until the independent review is completed. I think the best I can hope for is stronger medication and, unfortunately, being pulled out of work again. I emailed my new WC admin to ask about a stool for underneath my desk so I could rest it on something, and he hasn’t bothered to reply. I’m not sure why I expected any different.

All I can say is that they’re not going to out-stubborn me. If they want me to jump through hoops, I’ll jump through the damn hoops, but I’m fed up with being in pain all the time.

There is one distinct advantage to having chronic insomnia

Over the past few weeks, we’ve had some screwy weather around here. It’s been super hot and muggy more days than not, which means that personal productivity is slightly higher than a tortoise galloping through mud. However, since I’ve been dealing with nearly two weeks of insomnia this time around, I figured I’d put it to good use.

I’ve been spending a good portion of the evening, night, and early morning to clean and organize my house. It’s relatively cool, considering the nice breeze from the fan that’s blowing on me, so I just put on some music and get stuff done. In an ideal world, I’d like to have my room completely organized before my knee surgeries.

I knocked out a big chunk of my to do list today by doing some remodeling in my closet. I hung up a new clothes bar with a shelf over it, so that I have more room to store things, and I plan on adding some additional shelving in there as well. I’ve also dismantled part of the Elfa system that was in my room and reconfigured it to make it more user-friendly for me. By the time I’m done, I should have an actually functional room that will be easy to maintain and look a lot less messy.

I love the satisfaction of writing out lists of things I want to accomplish, and being able to check things off once they’re completed. I guess that’s the super-organized overachiever part of my personality. I don’t like when things are messy and I can’t find what I want. It drives me nuts. I’m also taking the time to do some more crocheting. Again, it is immensely satisfying to see the progress as I stitch together whatever the hell it is I’m making.

Yesterday (September 7) was the one year anniversary of trashing my knee, and I’m getting to the point where reading is getting boring. While I was out of work on full disability, I was reading an average of 600 pages a day, because I just wasn’t able to do anything more than go to the kitchen or bathroom, or to the doctor’s office or physical therapy. Slowly but surely, things are coming together. I’m still waiting on whether or not my surgeries will be approved; I plan on calling WC tomorrow (today?) and trying to get an answer from them. The new claim rep that has been assigned to me doesn’t have a direct phone number listed, and I can’t find him in the company directory when I try to call. If I can’t track him down, I’ll call my previous WC admin and see if she can get me his phone number. There are things I need to discuss with him in addition to trying to settle the surgery plans.

I’m just so ready to move on with my life now, so I can start the next chapter and see where it leads me. I feel like I’m walking up a down escalator. One step after another, with no forward progress in sight. Fortunately, I seem to be keeping the depression at bay for now, which is making things a lot easier for me. I still have just the edge of anxiety gnawing at my subconscious, but I’m doing my best to ignore it, and mostly succeeding. The not knowing what’s happening next is the hardest part of the whole situation.

For every high, there is a low

It seems that my life is a constant struggle to balance out my highs and lows to maintain some sort of “even” that I’m not actually sure exists. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes the bad days outnumber the good days, but sometimes the good days outnumber the bad days. I’ve found that when I’m at my lowest point, staying busy and cleaning or organizing helps my mood. There’s something very satisfying about fixing something that is broken AND fixable or organizing a space and seeing the improvement afterwards.

I took a huge emotional hit two weeks ago when I found out that I’m going to need at least two more surgeries on my right knee, which means that I’m stuck here in San Diego for a minimum of one, but more likely two, more years. Worst case scenario, it might be as long as four more years. I know it doesn’t make much sense to San Diegans as to why someone would want to leave this “perfect” place, but it has no emotional ties to me, aside from a few very good friends who live here. There are planes. I’m trying not to dwell on the fact that I’m stuck in a city I don’t like, that has emotionally been nothing but despair for me, and instead making long-term plans for how I am going to escape once it gets to that point. I’m also working on building up my credit while I have the opportunity to do so, so that when I do move, things will be easier. There is no way I’m leaving my beloved Morgan behind, which means renting a U-Haul with a car hauler, which means expensive.

I’m also starting the process of weaning away at stuff I don’t need. There are things in my storage unit that I haven’t even looked at since putting them in there. Aside from my books, that tells me that they’re not necessary to my life. In all honesty, if it weren’t for my books, I doubt I’d need anything except my clothes. Everything else can be replaced. It’s time for me to really start getting rid of the detritus in my life, so that I can concentrate on healing my knee and my life.

At least I’ve pulled myself out of the deep, dark hole I was in for three weeks, when every day was a struggle to just make it through to the end of the day. I’ll get through this.  I have before and I will again, and I’ll keep on getting through this every day, even if getting through just means pulling myself out of bed and hugging my cat.

I’m feeling a little bit topsy turvy

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

 

I think my feeling of being “off” started on July 24th when I walked out to find my roof slashed on my car. Nothing was stolen, but it still felt very much like a personal violation. My car is very special to me. He symbolizes the grown up me who is supposed to be fun and spontaneous instead of dull and boring. I feel good when I sit in my car. I enjoy the attention I get when people comment on what a nice looking car he is. (It never extends to what a nice looking driver he has, but I’m quite okay with that)

Things started to get better once I was finally able to get to the claims adjuster to inspect the tear and get a check to pay for the new roof. I felt like I was finally making some progress. Then, the following Saturday, I suddenly lost fifth gear. Thankfully, I have a dual clutch transmission, and was able to utilize fifth gear by switching into manual mode. Once again, I fell into stress mode, worrying about what this was going to cost me to repair it, even with my super awesome bumper to bumper warranty. At this point I was looking at a $250 deductible for the roof, plus a minimum of $250 deductible on the transmission repair. Since I’m still on disability, this meant that I was going to have to save up for a very long time before I could get either repair done.

I returned to work on a modified schedule, working four hours a day. After the first two days, my knees hurt so badly that I could barely walk. I made an emergency appointment to see my surgeon’s PA and he cut me back to 3 hours a day to see if that would help. I’ve discovered that if I keep my legs elevated at work, they don’t hurt nearly as bad, but I’m still having to ice them for several hours when I get home.

My check arrived from State Farm and I called the auto upholsterer that was recommended by State Farm (and more importantly, but a very close friend of mine whose wife used the same company on her beloved Miata) and found out that the cost of the roof and labor was the exact amount of the check I was given. State Farm forgot to back out the $250 deductible that I was supposed to pay. Oops. I called them and asked, and they informed me that the check was correct, so I was went with it. I ordered my new roof . In the meantime, Morgan (my 350Z) decided that he was going to use fifth gear again, and hasn’t had any shifting problems since. I still want to get it checked out, but it’s not on the urgent list anymore.

Then I went to see my surgeon. He told me that he’s done all he can do with arthroscopic surgery, and the next thing to try is a procedure called “autologous cartilage replacement.” Basically, they do a quick arthroscopic procedure where they harvest some healthy cartilage and send it off to a lab to grow into a patch large enough to cover the two condyles on my tibia that are crumbling. Then, he’ll go in and do an open surgery to essentially sew the new cartilage onto the bone, where it should theoretically grow into healthy cartilage and be just like new. Finding out I need two more surgeries put me over the edge again and I spend a good portion of Monday crying and trying to wrap my brain around the fact that this means I’m stuck here in San Diego for at least the next two years, and possibly as many as four. I’m trying to stay optimistic and think of how wonderful it will be to not have pain and grinding/crunching in my knee every time it bends, but it’s hard to stay positive right now.

I did get my new roof on my car installed on Friday, and it looks very nice. It’s driving me a little nuts that I can’t lower the roof until tomorrow afternoon, because it needs to stretch properly so that I don’t have issues down the road, but that’s a minor inconvenience that I can live with. Also on Friday, I got a surprise visit with my son, as his father had some business to attend to here in town.

At this point, I’m so mentally turned around and upside down, I don’t even know what I’m feeling anymore. I’ve been having panic attacks again since finding out about the new surgeries and I have a pervasive feeling of anxiety that I just can’t get rid of. I try so hard to stay positive and always look on the bright side, but sometimes it’s just too hard. I feel like I’m bogged down; stuck in a city I hate, for the foreseeable future, and every time I try to make any plans to leave, something else comes up to hold me here longer. I should have never moved back. I haven’t been completely happy since returning, and I’m brokenheartedly homesick for the Carolinas. It’s getting to be time for the leaves to change color, and the air to turn brisk.

I feel like I’ve lost control of my life, and that I’m surviving on the whims of others. The depression is creeping back in, and so is the anxiety. No, they’re not the same thing. I’m trying to do the one coping mechanism that generally works for me, and that is taking control of one aspect of my life and setting it right. If I can control just one thing, then I know I’m not helpless. Inside, I’m still screaming though.

My week has been a bit of a roller coaster

Last week started out very low. Not only do I have depression (I personally hate the phrase “suffer from depression”), but I am also extremely empathetic, so the death of Robin Williams struck me very personally. For most of the week I was in a pretty deep funk, and it was hard to pull myself out again. Finally Friday rolled around, and with it came my measly little paycheck from only working 3 hours a day, five days a week. It doesn’t add up to very much. Fortunately, it was enough to provide just enough funds to be able to repair the slashed roof on my car. That put me into a better mood, even though it means waiting until next Friday before they can actually install said roof. It’s been nearly a month since it was sliced open; I can wait another few days. While I was wallowing in my misery, I was also feeling very alone, as my best friend and “other half” was out of town and I wasn’t able to talk with him daily like I normally do. He’s the one I depend on to cheer me up and remind me that things will get better.

Also on Friday, I had a conference call with the founder of the rescue group I volunteer for, to let me know that I’m ready to start interviewing potential adopters instead of just listening in and learning. I was extremely nervous about the idea, even though this is something that I wanted to do, because I had listened in on all of our senior counselors doing interviews and they all sound so professional and knowledgeable and I feel like I’m just struggling along, trying to remember everything I’m supposed to cover. Well, tonight, I made my first call to a prospective adopter and it went really well. I had one of the senior counselors listening in, and afterwards she told me that I did very well and didn’t seem nervous at all. Maybe the two bourbons I had before the call helped.

I’m hoping that my life smooths out a bit. I’m trying to make plans for the future, but it’s hard to do when I don’t know what’s going on with my knees. I’m just getting through one day at a time here.

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