Mail Reminds Me of My Brain Injury– Let the Panic Ensue

    Every now and then I go through these brief periods where I seem to forget that I have an injured brain.  I’m not sure if it’s some type of denial or what because it’s almost impossible to forget you are not on the same mental level as everyone else once you’ve accepted you’ve survived something as life-altering as it was damaging.

    I’ve experienced denial before; I survived a stroke, the first six months of real recovery is a nightmarish mix of shock and denial.  But this is something entirely different.  How could I possibly forget that my brain is injured when I have visible, physical reminders?  I guess it falls under the same question of how as does: How could I forget my left body? Apparently some stroke survivors suffer from this condition called one-side neglect.  It was a concern most of my first therapists had after stroke.

    Every few months I start to get depressed because I sit here in my house four days a week in complete silence all alone.  I fear the maintenance people will want to come do the repairs we’ve waited on since last February so I try not to look inviting.  That’s just stupid; maintenance people probably prefer working in apartments when people aren’t home but my anxiety knows no logic and the behavior that results is as illogical.  

    So I start to consider working again.  My migraines are easier to control, even though they are still unpredictable.  I’m seizure free over a year now (yay!) and I’m walking around without my cane (double yay!).  I try to convince myself the things that could be seen as possible hindrances will eventually work themselves out once I’m acclimated to any new environment.  I try to imagine it like how I taught myself to cook with one hand while essentially standing on one foot. I’ve figured out a lot of things in the last four years out of necessity.  I don’t want to raise my family in housing and on food stamps so getting a job is a necessity.  

    Then, like clockwork, I get a time sensitive envelope from the government.  They come every 3-6 months.  You would think that I would have filled these papers out enough times in the last four years to no longer fear the mailbox. I hate that damn mailbox. Sometimes it’s not so bad and the biggest worry I have is due to HHSC sending me the applications so late that I receive them the day before they are due. One time this happened it cost me three months of food stamps.  We were very hungry but at least we survived.  

    When Windows updated to the 10 Beta (whatever) it removed the driver for our printer so it’s only good for copying now.  I was waiting on Kasper to go to the library to print the info I needed for a SNAP renewal I had sitting on the desk when I got my renewal for Medicare this same month and I panicked.  The application is twice as thick as SNAP even though one has 4 people and the other just little ol’ me.  All the words, the numbers, the highlighted and underlined dates and warnings.  I’ve read them hundreds of times before and every.single.time I get just as fucking freaked out as the last time.  Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, the applications are basically the same but they want so much information and the wording is so confusing and there are so many papers and pages and they fold them funny so sometimes you have to match them up on your own and that just confuses me even more because they’re forms so it’s not even just numbered pages but numbered with letters and dashes.  Even as I sit typing this I am feeling my eyes getting poked at the sides while I grind my teeth to keep the panic at bay.

   That same day, I got my student loan discharge paper.  It’s to prove my income hasn’t changed, which it hasn’t.  It’s the same damn paper every year and every year I look at it with horror in my eyes and the urge to run.  I have to force myself to handle these ugly forms and it’s no easy feat.  There’s a lot of practice breathing, reassuring phrases like “You can do this ,Kt!” and “It’s the same as last year, Kt, you got this.” I try to be as prepared as possible.  I have folders just for the information these forms need.  I keep copies of everything because I’m so paranoid of doing something wrong and losing everything due to my stupidity.

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   My Medicare renewal was due the day after they sent it so I called 2-11 like you’re supposed to and I reported that (after a major anxiety obstacle that came in the form of a palpitating heart, a huge cotton tongue and finger pads so sweaty and shaky it felt impossible to use the keypad on my phone).  They suggested I try doing it online since you could do all renewals at once and you just take a photo of your documents/proof/receipts and attach the .jpg or .pdf to your application.  Easy.   

    Within two minutes I was crying on the phone to the website people.  Their questions were even more confusing than the paper ones.  There’s no space to add anything to explain.  They don’t actually tell you what to attach unlike the paper (I used my paper list) and they offer options for you to answer that didn’t fit.  It asked if my name was applying for CHIPs and if my son’s were applying for Medicare/QMB.  Then it said both Kasper and I don’t live in the house listed on the application.  I cried three times during the hour and a half it took me to figure out the damn application.  When I was done I realized that aside from a few pages that weren’t included on the site but were on paper it was basically the same damn application just worded and ordered differently.

   This is how I recently remembered that I am a brain injured person.  It’s like I forgot and it’s a shock to remember every single time.  The frustration created by the confusion is fresh every time.  I have to learn to adjust and accept over and over.  It sucks.   I don’t want to forget; if I don’t forget then I won’t keep thinking I’m ready to start new chapters when I’m not quite through the last one.  The further ahead I jump, the more damaging the realization that I’m clueless becomes.  It’s a huge setback and a very large welt from the slap in the face is left in its wake.  Restarting thins your motivations, your hope and your goals.  Your standards are lowered and the speed at which you bounce back is slowed.  

    I wonder if brain injury is something to embrace or overcome like stretch marks or something else society disagrees with.  Can you embrace something you’re supposed to overcome?  Can one ever really “overcome” brain injury?  Why is it an “injury” even if it’s permanent?  Injury implies temporary, does it not? Maybe not; maybe that’s just my association with the term….

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