My motivation in writing this series is to share my experience living with the impact of a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability. My hope is that you will not give up on your process of living with a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability, as more will be revealed to you in time. That has been my experience living with the impact of a traumatic brain injury and an invisible disability during the past 48 and a half years. More has been revealed to me and I have seen how the dots of my experience have connected for me. May you also be encouraged to stick with your process.
Hello and welcome back to Second Chance to Live my friend. I am happy to have you around my table. You are always welcome here. In Part 1 I spoke about my growing up experience. In Part 2 I spoke about core beliefs that I held about myself for many years. In Part 3 I spoke about how I re-learned how to walk. In Part 4 I spoke about my process of trying to find where I “fit” in life. In Part 5; I am going to share what led up to my being able to take the steps to accept what I discovered I was powerless to change. The impact of living with a brain injury and an invisible disability.
As I shared in Part 4 of this series, my first awareness was almost like an after thought. Like an addendum to an article, that seemed to have little more than an acknowledgement of a piece of information. So when my Mom told me the results of the 2 EEG’s and the other testing done in 1968 there were no “light bulbs” of awareness or acceptance. No,”now I understand what had been impacting my life for all those years.” Just an acknowledgement that, as she said to me; I had proved them wrong. By being able to succeed beyond high school academically, despite the test results.
As an after thought, I continued to march on with my life as though this new information had little impact or made little difference, one way or the other. Nevertheless, I continued to have difficulties socially and vocationally. Shortly before graduation, from my masters program in rehabilitation; I received word that I had passed the exam to earn my credentials as a certified rehabilitation counselor. Having passed the exam to earn my national credentials, I was hired by an insurance company. The position, in worker’s compensation; resulted in my being fired approximately 10 months later.
As shared in Part 4 of this series, there were ongoing signs that indicated that “something was up”. Nevertheless, because I had internalized these difficulties with my inability to get things right; I strove all the more. In the process, I continued to berate myself for not being able to get things right.
After being fired from the insurance company, I investigated working with the department of vocational rehabilitation there in Kentucky. Through my research, I discovered that I could get a job as a rehabilitation counselor with the state, but would be making in the high $13,000 a year range. With this information, I looked for other jobs and then decided to pack up my Honda and move to Florida. My reasoning was that Florida would be a fertile location, in which my national credentials would be highly respected and sought after in the state. What I discovered, after moving; was the opposite.
When I arrived in Florida I attended a church. I met a woman who was looking for a counselor to work in her outpatient chemical dependency office. After a short interview, she hired me. So on my first work day, after meeting with a new client and his family; and suggesting the whole family needed help I found myself fired. Apparently the family called their insurance company, who called and told my boss that the family would not be returning to the office, if I was still working in the office. So the woman who had hired me, fired me 4 hours in my first day on the job. I was amazed by the events.
Being asked, “can I see you in my office” by employers to be told I was fired I had experienced many times, but this was a first. What made the above experience different was that I had never been fired in 4 hours on my first day on the job, for doing my job.
Following this new experience, I felt a bit “sucker punched”. In the next several weeks I attempted to find a job with another insurance company. What I found was that the state of Florida was using CRRN — Certified Rehabilitation Registered Nurses — to do the job of CRC — Certified Rehabilitation Counselors. Although it was good for insurance companies for RN’s to handle both the return to maximum medical improve and the return to work status of workers, the decision negated the need for CRC’s. Consequently, obtaining such employment as a CRC was slim to none, but more none.
Realizing that I would not be able to get on with an insurance company, I decided to apply to work with the department of vocational rehabilitation there in St. Petersburg, Florida. After applying I was hired to work as a rehabilitation counselor. After having some difficulties on the job, I shared with my supervisor that I had experienced a traumatic brain injury when I was 10 years old. She shared the information with the manager and I was made a client, while being a counselor; of the department of vocational rehabilitation. Several months later I was terminated, but remained a client.
During my extended probation as a counselor, before being terminated; I underwent an EEG and a Neuro Psyche evaluation. The results of the EEG and the Neuro Psyche Evaluation confirmed the results of the EEG’s and Neuro Psyche evaluation done in 1968. The results showed there was damage done to my brain and that I had indeed succeeded far beyond all reasonable expectations. Upon reading the report and then sharing the results of the tests with my Dad and family, my dad told me, “The Dr. did not know what he was talking about in the report”. The results baffled me too given that…
how could some one obtain an undergraduate degree (be it is 10 years) and a graduate degree (be it in 3 1/2 years) be impacted by a brain injury. How could some one who obtained an undergraduate and graduate degree not be able to overcome a brain injury.
Nevertheless, I continued on with the recommendations and suggestions made by the department of vocational rehabilitation in Florida. I continued to be a client of DVR, until a job placement did not work out and I was terminated as a client. After being terminated from the program, I worked in several non professional and professional jobs from which I was terminated. I continued to remain in denial, believing that if I just tried harder that my life would not be impacted by what the test results had shown through the EEG’s and Neuro Psyche Exam had shown in 1968 and in 1992-1993.
I remember being angry at being identified as traumatic brain injury survivor. I remember not wanting to be identified with other brain injury survivors. But my anger did not change the reality that my life was being impeded by the impact of a brain injury.
After being terminated from the DVR program I applied for SSDI and was denied. A year later I re-applied for SSDI with the Social Security Administration and I was again denied because I was making more than $500 a month. After my unemployment insurance ran out, I constructed a resume and a cover letter and sent those to companies in North Carolina. I did so because I heard that North Carolina was interested in hiring individuals possessing national credentials, which I had maintained through continuing education units while working with the DVR in Florida.
After sending my resume and cover letter to 14 companies in North Carolina, I heard back from an insurance company. The insurance company hired me so I loaded up my Honda Civic and relocated from St. Petersburg, FL to Charlotte, NC in June 1996.
I began the job with the insurance company in July 1996 and worked hard to do well and fulfill the requirements of the job. Nevertheless, after 4 months my supervisor asked to meet with me and he told that they would no longer need my services. Now in North Carolina and after being fired, once again; I attempted to find employment in professional and non professional jobs. Being unsuccessful, I decided to begin receiving services through the department of vocational rehabilitation here in North Carolina. I also decided to submit my 3rd application with the SSA administration.
After applying for services with the department of vocational rehabilitation, my counselor told me that I needed to get a part-time job to receive rent assistance. I got a job at a local grocery store in their seafood department and then was demoted to working as a “bagger”. My hours working as a “bagger” were significantly cut, which was a way to let me go. Several months later I received the results of the evaluation process with the department of vocational rehabilitation. I was told that the results showed that I would be unemployable. Soon after receiving this news I declared disabled.
Both of these decisions came in mid to late 1998 which were both a relief to me. They were both a relief to me and left me with questions. A relief because I could now create a system that would eliminate the ongoing economic insecurity that I experience for many years of my life. Left me with questions because I was still facing my denial as well as my families denial. As a result, I continued to internalize the notion that there was some thing wrong with me. Something wrong with me, because I was unable to not be impacted by what I had a difficult time understanding my circumstances.
I continued to blame myself for not being able to prove that I was not a mistake. I continued to blame myself until I reached a point — a spiritual and emotional bottom. A bottom that revealed to me that I could no longer deny. A reality that my life had and was being impacted by some thing that occurred in 1967. in A reality that I was and am powerless to change. A reality that I could no longer deny or defend to keep from feeling like a mistake. A reality that I needed to stop punishing myself. A reality that I no longer needed to overcome to be alright with myself.
A reality that did I no longer needed to struggle to change. A reality that I could learn to adapt to in my life. A reality in which I could learn how to excel. A reality in which I could create a good life for myself. A reality in which I could follow my dreams and live my destiny. A reality in which I could have hope. A reality in which I could find meaning and purpose. A reality in which I could be of service in ways that would work for me. A reality in which I could own my identity. A reality in which I could frame and see my experience in a new way. A reality in which a brain injury and invisible disability could be seen as a gift, not as a curse.
To read Part 6 of this series, please click on this link: Part 6
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