Many of you probably don’t know that I have been diagnosed with a brain injury – years of repeated concussions in my youth combined with huge amounts of different medications over the length of my life have left me with some blank spots in my pre-recorded tape.
This diagnosis has led to some heart-breaking challenges in my life over the last 4 years.
I lost my government job, used all of my savings and retirement to live on, lost my car, declared bankruptcy and mostly lost all of my confidence for a long time.
Hearing that your brain no longer works correctly has the same effect on you that grief does. First you get deny and isolate yourself, then you get angry, then you bargain with yourself, then comes the depression and finally, you accept it.
So – in the beginning, I categorically denied that there was a problem and in order to keep up that façade I isolated myself…“who the hell are they to tell me I have a broken brain?” a psychologist – that’s who. “I’m sorry, I’ve lost both my parents in the last few years and I’m reeling – so I can’t go anywhere just now.” True – but still a bad excuse.
Then I got angry. “Fuck them…they know nothing…it’s their fault I’m not working. I’ll show them!” This one can last a long time…
Then I made deals with myself…”I have EI, I don’t need to work” becomes “what do you mean I’m cut off 7 months earlier than you originally said?” turns into jumping hoops for social assistance in an effort to apply for disability.
Followed by depression. I was diagnosed and medicated for depression, to go along with Crohn’s Disease, Diabetes, Arthritis, Gerd, PTSD, cancer and several other anti-immune diseases years ago. This time the depression became a great dark hole of self=loathing and fear that immobilized me literally for months.
Finally comes acceptance. Acceptance is the day you can stand up and say to yourself “I have a brain injury.” Eventually, you can say it out loud. And eventually, you begin to slowly look for help. You begin to understand that unlike your previous employers the answer is not to think about what you can no longer do – but to focus on what you can do.
I have a brain injury. I am still intelligent, articulate and smart. I am enough.
The last couple of years have been lessons in humble for me. Support has come from some surprising places. And there has been a lack of support from some people that really hurt me but that’s a story for another time.
I tell you all this…to tell you about my day yesterday…
I’ve been trying to get a job since October of 2018. I think my trying was sporadic at first, and then tempered by my deciding and changing my mind about disability about once a week since then.
The process of gaining assistance in this province at this time is heinous. As an intelligent person, I had a hell of a time figuring it out. And I have a counselor I see weekly set up via a local program of support for people with brain injury. You can not apply for disability in this province without being on social assistance. The process for social assistance is a slog but if you don’t get on it you can’t have the application to apply for disability. If you get the application and go off of assistance, you can’t submit the application. There are actually companies here that will apply for disability on your behalf if you meet the requirements, but you have to pay them for the assistance. There are 2 volunteer programs that will help you with the application however you must wait at least 4 weeks to get an appointment with them and then you have to have a Dr that you have a relationship with that will fill out the forms for you outlining your diagnoses.
None of this made me want to get out of bed. The shame at requiring social assistance is likely all from your own mind…but the shame is real.
Part of the social assistance process is to be involved with an Occupational Therapist via Work BC, aka GT Hiring Solutions and the March of Dimes.
Finding this out was a stroke of luck. The Occupational Therapist connected me with an Employer and Client Coordinator (a job carver).
On Monday I attended a job fair for potential employees in the Health markets. It was a bust for me but while I was there, I spent some time on the computer looking at jobs with the E&C coordinator. Frankly, I was kind of uninterested. After months of this, I find it harder and harder to work up any enthusiasm for applying for jobs that I’m not likely to get. I was feeling let down.
I applied for a job as an Office Administrator with the Victoria Brain Injury Society via Indeed.ca. I didn’t hold out any hope of it going any further.
On Tuesday they emailed me and requested a cover letter as the application process online hadn’t asked for one. I sent them my cover letter. They called me back and asked me to meet with them at their office on Wednesday morning at 8:30.
In the morning? With pants on?
We had a fabulous interview. I left to come home 2 hours later feeling at the very least I had once again got up, put on pants and left the house and talked to some nice people.
They called on Thursday to confirm the number of one of my references. Her number has changed and I guess I’d not remembered to change it prior to sending in my resume.
They called back an hour later and said that they were “thrilled” to offer me the job!
I’m farklempt. There has been so much negativity in my life over the last years that I thought that darkness was going to be the norm forever.
This job reads as exactly what I need. It’s not quite full time. It’s hugely flexible. They are dog-friendly. They have parking and benefits after 90 days. If there are projects that I need to hyper-focus on I can start early or stay late to work uninterrupted. And best of all they know about and understand my brain injury.
I am absolutely giddy.