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One of the bad things about dealing with this knee issue is that I’ve become more withdrawn.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.

I meet some really crazy people at the car dealership

Disclaimer: If you don’t like cars, don’t bother reading this

 

Everyone who knows me knows I love cars. By extension, I also love car dealerships. It’s a great place to be surrounded by a lot of horsepower and talk with other people who like cars. Unfortunately, liking cars does not always equal knowing about cars. I took my car in to the dealership today for a free inspection, because the price was right and I know I’m coming up on 60,000 miles sometime in the next six months or so and I wanted to be prepared for whatever would need to be fixed.

There is a complimentary shuttle that will drop you off somewhere and pick you back up when your car is ready, but if I don’t need to be somewhere specific and I know that it’s only going to take a couple hours, I’ll usually wait at the dealership. There is always something going on that’s good for a laugh.

While I was waiting today, reading my book and minding my own business, an older woman came and sat in the seat right next to me. It always amuses me to see how people approach a waiting room. Most people try to sit with an empty chair between them and their neighbor, but some people don’t. This woman was obviously looking for someone to talk to, and I was the only one not using a laptop at the time. I was, again, reading a book. I had music playing on my mp3 player, going through earbuds that I was wearing.

As soon as she sat down, she started trying to start a conversation with me. She was rooting around in her purse and found a pair of sunglasses. She nudged me on the arm and said, “I thought I lost these last year. I put them somewhere and couldn’t find them. I’m so happy that I’ve found them now; they’re my favorite pair.” (I don’t know if she speaks with semi-colons, but that’s how it sounded in my head) I didn’t have my music up especially loud, so I could still hear her.

A few minutes pass and she nudges me again and points to the TV. “Is that Rosie O’Donnell?” she asked. I pulled one earbud out and turned to her and said, “I haven’t the faintest idea. I haven’t owned a TV in over 10 years and don’t go to movies.” She gaped at me and said, “Oh my, you poor thing. How can you survive without a television?” I replied to her with, “It’s really easy. You sell your old TV and then never buy a new one.” She then started rambling on about how awful it must be to not have anything to watch. I put my earbud back in and tried returning to my book.

A few more minutes pass and she nudges me yet again. This time, she wanted me to tell her what kind of car I drive. I answered her briefly and then got up to walk around the parts store to get away from her. I’m not a morning person normally, and I don’t like being disturbed when I’m reading.

As I’m walking around the parts department (as in parts and service) a sales rep walks up to me. He thrust his hand out and offered me his name. He asked me if I’m looking to buy a new or used car. I told him neither, I was getting my car inspected and the oil changed. So, of course, he asks me what kind of car I have. I tell him that I have a 350Z that I just purchased 11 months ago. He asks me what year and I tell him. He immediately responds with “Have you considered trading it in for a brand new 350Z?” I laughed and said “They don’t make new 350Zs. Nissan makes the 370Z now.” He responds back with, “Okay, so how about a new 370Z then?” I tell him that I don’t like the body on the 370Z and that I wouldn’t trade in my car regardless because I love my car and I’m right side up in the loan. There’s no purpose in trading in my car for a car that I don’t particularly like, especially since it would raise my car payment. He then starts gabbing on about how the 370Z has a wider body and deeper seats than the 350Z (both of which are true, neither of which are selling points for me). I tell him again that I don’t like the looks of the 370Z and that I’m happy with my car.

He immediately rebuts me with “How can you not like the new 370Z if you drive a 350Z?” I respond yet again with “I don’t like the body on the 370Z. It looks disproportionate to me and not nearly as graceful.” Once I had decided on purchasing a Z last year, I specifically went looking for a 2005 or 2006 because they have what I think is the sexiest body on one of the sexiest cars around. After about 5 minutes of going around in circles with the sales guy, he decides to change his approach. (Remember, I love car dealerships, and that includes toying with sales people who just don’t understand)

This time, he asks me, “How about a GT-R?” I told him that I loved the GT-R as a track car, but I wasn’t interested in owning one. He replies with, “Have you ever driven one? A test drive might change your mind.” I told him that yes, I had driven one before, but that I still didn’t see the upside to trading in my car. Of course, even if I wanted to trade in my car, I don’t have the cash or credit to be buying a $100,000 car. He then starts talking about how the GT-R has over 400 horsepower (technically true, but he’s seriously lowballing that) and that since I like fast cars, I should give it a try. I joked that I wouldn’t consider it because it doesn’t come in convertible. He immediately responded with “You could always get it cut to a convertible.” I laughed and said that I didn’t think the frame would like that too much, and that it would defeat the purpose of buying a supercar.

Just then, Kevin, my service advisor, came over to let me know that my car was ready. Car sales guy tried handing me his card and told me to call him when I was ready to upgrade my car. (gigglesnort) I told him that if I was going to buy another car, which I wasn’t, I would be talking to the sales guy who originally sold me my Z ride. At that point, sales guy finally gave up and looked for a new victim.

The technician brought my car around for me and parked it in front of the parts department. I went back to the service counter to pay for my oil change (that, unfortunately, was not free). When I walked back out to my (newly washed and waxed!) car, there was a couple standing right next to the driver’s door, so I asked them if I could get by. The wife (? girlfriend? sister?) turns to me and says, “We’re looking at this one. We’re just waiting on the salesman.” I told her that it wasn’t for sale, and that they should go look on the new or used sales lot if they’re looking to buy. She gave me an odd look as I opened the car, got in, and drove away.

I love car dealerships. I always meet the craziest people there.

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.

Doing good, one cat at a time

I’m having another extended bout with insomnia (I get this way several times a year, where I won’t be able to sleep for more than a couple hours a night for several nights in a row), so I figured I’d update a little of what’s going on in my life. I’ll try to keep this post upbeat, because I’ve been dealing with so many lows right now, that I figure I need to talk about some positives in my life.

I volunteer for a fantastic cat rescue group called The Rescue House here in San Diego. We are responsible for rescuing cats and kittens who would otherwise be banished to the streets, put down, or get stuck in overcrowded shelters. I’ve been volunteering with them since January of 2013. I started out as a “center volunteer” which means that I would go into the adoption center (one of eight within PetCo and PetSmart stores in San Diego) and take care of the kitties that were waiting for adoption at that center. I had originally submitted a request to volunteer because I had just had to put my beloved Milo to sleep due to advanced kidney failure, and I wasn’t sure I wanted the commitment of another cat. I ended up getting another cat randomly, but also decided to volunteer as well.

Working in the adoption centers is very rewarding because you get to spend time with a lot of different kitties that have wonderful personalities, despite many of them having some serious hard-luck stories. It’s wonderful and bittersweet when they get adopted, because they all take a little piece of your heart with them when they go.

After I had volunteered at the center for a while, I started doing transportation duty; taking cats to vet visits or rotating them from center to center so they’d get more exposure. That’s fun, if you don’t mind upset cats crying while you’re driving. I also ended up on the fundraising committee and tried my hand at new volunteer intake, where we interview prospective volunteers to see if they would be a good match to volunteer with us, as it is a time commitment and training takes a while, so we want people who are dedicated, not just looking for some easy volunteer work to pad their high school transcript or fulfill legal requirements.

Eventually, I started training to become an adoption counselor, and that is what I’m primarily doing now. I interview prospective adopters to find out if they would be a good home for our kitties, and specifically if they would be a good home for the kitty that they have chosen. Sometimes a great home selects a cat that for some reason or another just wouldn’t be a good fit for that household. Sometimes there are crazy people out there who should not be allowed to have pets. So far, it’s been very rewarding to me. I’ve just approved my sixth cat for adoption, to a wonderful couple who want to adopt a very special cat with specific dietary needs. They’re excited to have her, even though she’s going to be a little higher maintenance, and we’re happy that they love her, because not everyone can see past the “special needs” to see what a wonderful cat they could be bringing into their lives.

I’m still in training so that I have a senior counselor who can help me with phrasing and how to dig deeper into certain questions to make sure that the home is going to be a good fit, but I’m starting to be cut loose a bit, so that I’m able to do most of the decision making. I think I’m doing a good job, and I’ve gotten good feedback, so it makes me proud that I’m able to help in this small way to enable these cats to find forever homes where they can live out the rest of their lives in a loving environment with people who truly love them.

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.

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