Sunday, 15 April 2012

I Passed the test....I'm disabled!

A funny thing happened on the way to recovery....I know you're waiting for the punchline and I have forgotten it already.
I decided to go back to school but there was a 2 year wait for funding through unemployment insurance services and I wasn't going to sit around that long.
A co-worker of my mom,  recommended a government agency that would possibly fund my education immediately.
All I had to do was pass a simple test.  I thought great, anything just to get back to school, would do. 
The agency was called Aid To Handicapped.

I met with a lady who would be testing me on what I wasn't sure but if it meant getting my schooling for free then, here goes nothing.
The test involved a myriad of challenges.  The examiner would ask me to repeat after her, three, nine, six, two.
I would then repeat them.
She increased the amount of numbers to seven and I would try to repeat them back.

Another test was similar but instead of repeating them forward, I would have to repeat them backwards.

I would be given words and in the same manner repeat what I had heard.
Several times during the day I would be asked to recall those words.

The test took the better part of the day.

A few days later the examiner called and informed me that I qualified for Aid For Handicapped and that my college would be covered.
I was elated!  I had passed the test!  I would be getting my schooling paid for!  Hooray!

What I had not taken into account was the fact that this innocuous test had proven that I was in fact disabled.  It didn't even cross my mind for another 25 years.  No one told me I was disabled.  No one offered me assistance or mentoring, preparing me for what was yet to come.  A lifetime of frustration, anxiety, missed opportunities, a divorce, working in dangerous industries where memory was key.

Now, I'm not bitter, and the reason I am writing this blog is to be informative in hopes to save some other person and all the loving caregivers, the grief of what I encountered.
I have to laugh at myself because I passed that confounded test totally unaware of what passing it even meant.

I am amazed that no one in the medical community caught on, or even informed my parents of what I might be faced with and that I would require some counseling as to better understand my condition.

Some count me as lucky.  I agree however, I am still disabled and have issues that constantly require coping skills to help overcome.

Now the pat answer I often hear from well meaning people is "Don't worry Kev, we all have a habit of forgetting things from time to time."
This statement is meant to console me when they see that I am frustrated for forgetting something.
I know they mean no malice however, they have no clue what it is to forget to a level that I do.
It is the frequency of my forgetfulness that is the thorn in my butt which often causes me high levels of anxiety.

If you have ever forgotten where your kids are or have lost them temporarily in a mall and then realize that I do this every single day with mine, then one gets a greater picture of what it is to live inside my broken brain.

My kids would tell me that they were going to a friends house.  They would tell me and leave.
 Now I had 5 kids aged , 5, 6, 6, 7 and 10.
My wife would come home and ask me where the kids are and I would say they were out.
She would ask where?
I would say, "I don't know."
This is where the panic would set in for my wife and of course for me too.
We learned to reduce this by writing down where they went so that I would not need to remember.

I have lost 8 wallets.
I have lost my Keys a million times.
I have forgotten important meetings.
I have made hundreds of  round trips home to pick up something that I need, like my lunch, the letter for the mailbox, my thermos, or my my tools for work.
I fail to return phone calls and I cannot to this day remember names at all.
I joke that I have been practicing Alzheimer's for 30 years now.

Yes even a minor brain injury, like mine where my recovery was not expected, is still a disability and no matter what you might think is small potatoes in the realm of disabilities, it  is still a challenge that I face each and everyday.

Since I do not wear my disability on the outside in the form of a wheelchair, a lost appendage, where visually one can appreciate the limitations afflicting the disabled person, then one has less empathy and often thinks I am faking it.
 I have been accused of being lazy and had friends think its all in my head and I should have been cured by now.
I feel blessed for being here.  I have fathered and now enjoy grand fatherhood and all of this is to me bonus life.  I do not take it for granted.

Are there days where I am beaten up and get frustrated with myself?
You bet!
Will I ever be cured?
After 30 plus years, it's doubtful.
My brain injury and possibly yours will be permanent.

It is how we learn to accept the new you that becomes paramount to overcoming and mitigating the setbacks associated with your disability,
The sooner both you and the caregiver can accept the new you, the sooner you can build bridges that can help you overcome the obstacles that life will throw your way.
Hopefully, I can point you in the right direction over the next coming weeks and months as I share with you things that worked or didn't work for me but might still benefit you.

Just today, I forgot breakfast.  Yesterday, I went to the grocery store and bought sausages, bacon, and hashbrowns and was looking forward to cooking up a nice breakfast the next day. 
It is 3:30 and I just remembered the breakfast, I didn't cook for myself today.
I got up, had coffee, did laundry, cleaned 2 bathrooms, took the dogs for a walk, went and bought some items for yard work, cut the lawn, washed windows, had a coffee and piece of pie and wrote this blog.  I'm hungry and was considering what I should cook for myself while my wife has been away for the past month caring for her ailing mother.
One thing is for certain, I gain very little weight while she is away.

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