The Day I Knew I Would Graduate

Early in 2015, I applied for assistance in job hunting from Vocational Rehabilitation.  By the time my plan was officially approved, I’d already been hired in my current job, but they retroactively paid for Joan, the employment specialist who had helped me.  Hank, the Vocational Rehab counselor, was available to help with additional problems.  A few months into the job, I was considered stably employed and my case was closed.

When the idea of returning to college started to become more than an idea, I e-mailed Hank to ask if there was anything Vocational Rehab could do to help.  I was mostly thinking of advice – helping find services on campus and the like.  I started school in August before I was able to meet with Hank, then we had to go through the lengthy process of writing a new plan for his supervisor’s approval.

In our final meeting to finish up the plan, Hank read to me the expectations of Vocational Rehab that I would have to meet.  One of them was to attend school full-time.  He didn’t notice, but I started crying.  I was about to tell him that I was wasting his time, and get up and walk out.  There was no way I could register for more than two courses for Spring and he was asking for four.  As I opened my mouth to excuse myself from his office, he mentioned that due to the nature of my disability and the fact that I also work, he could modify that requirement.

My state of panic subsided, and by the end of the appointment it was a state of shock and elation.  I’d been hoping for advice and encouragement, and expected that if there was any financial assistance involved it would be, at most, some help with textbook fees.  Hank gave me some conditions I would have to follow, such as maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA and following the university’s code of conduct.  Beyond that, my major responsibility was to file the FAFSA each year and accept any grants and scholarships that were offered.

With those conditions met, Vocational Rehab would pay the remainder of tuition and fees, textbooks, transportation (including the on-campus parking pass), and a commuter meal plan to cover the days I have to be on campus.  After follow-up with Hank, we have established that they don’t need to consider the parking pass until the start of Fall 2017 as my current pass runs through the end of Summer sessions.  We also will not be doing the meal plan as my scheduled classes are online for next semester, but it will remain in my plan in case it’s necessary when I take on-campus classes in the future.

That was the day I knew I would graduate.  I had taken a huge leap of faith by applying and enrolling in college when I didn’t have a reliable source of money to get through it all.  With every exam I take and paper I submit, I remember Vocational Rehab and am overwhelmed by gratitude all over again.

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Thankfulness, 2016 Edition

A little over a year ago I started a gratitude journal, and today I’m browsing through it to remember all the things I’ve been thankful for in the past year.

I am thankful that I made it 365 days without inpatient, and soon after that I made it through all of 2015 without inpatient.  I’m also thankful that I was able to go to inpatient after that when I needed it.  Not long after my last stay there, they had to temporarily close because they had a staffing shortage, and when they reopened the census limit was so low that they still had to send people to other facilities.  They still aren’t up to full capacity, but I’m thankful that it’s high enough now that they wouldn’t turn me away.

I’m thankful for great friends that I spend time with regularly.  Shawna and her family have welcomed me into their home on multiple occasions, including a belated Thanksgiving dinner last year, and a birthday celebration for myself and her future daughter-in-law.  Glenda and Bea, my beloved coworkers, are always excited to see me and I sometimes make weekend plans with Glenda and her daughter.

I’m thankful that December 1st last year didn’t go as badly as it could have.  My mom called me at work, saying she thought she broke her wrist and needed a ride to the hospital.  I left work to get her, we discovered that her wrist was just sprained, and I took her home.  On the way back to work I had an accident, totalling my car and breaking a telephone pole in half.  Fortunately I only had minor bruising, and was able to find a new car two weeks later.

I’m thankful that the same day that I bought the car I also adopted a 4th cat.  She’s a gorgeous Russian Blue and I’m so glad that I didn’t let mom discourage me from bringing her home.  She had been shaved due to a flea allergy and was looking a little pathetic, but she now has the most beautiful, softest coat I’ve ever felt.  She also has a sweet temperament and has accompanied me to therapy several times.

I’m thankful that I accepted an invitation to a NAMI Christmas dinner, as it led to some exciting activities in the new year.  I took the 10-week Peer-to-Peer course, where I learned a lot and made several new friends.  I also began attending Crisis Intervention Team meetings and helping with a lot of planning for an upcoming 40-hour training on mental illness aimed at police officers and other first responders.  I’ll be attending the training to help out as well, for 5 alternating Tuesdays in January and February.

I’m thankful that I have attended several concerts and plays in the past year, and have more on the horizon.  I don’t have time to be involved in theatre right now, but I can still get my fix in the audience.

I’m thankful that I got to graduate from DBT group, even if I did end up returning a month later.  I’m thankful that I returned just in time to start the new edition of the material, and that after getting through the new edition I’ve been able to help explain things to newer members and provide examples that are more realistic than those in the book.

I’m thankful for the trip I got to make to visit Sabra and her family in Chicago.  All the transportation went smoothly despite my anxiety, and I was impressed with how well I handled Emily this time.  I’m also thankful that, after having another baby, Sabra included me in a list of honorary aunts for her girls.

I’m thankful that I’ve been able to donate activities to inpatient to help the clients pass their time.  In January, a few weeks after my last stay, I dropped off a bunch of velvet coloring posters.  Tomorrow I’ll be taking a set of puzzle books (mazes, dot-to-dots, and pixel puzzles).  I know how much I would have loved these things while there, and hope that others will appreciate them.

I’m thankful for the brief period in which I received a little bit of food stamps and the fresh fruit I was able to buy during that time.  I’m thankful for the items I’ve been able to get from a food bank in recent months.

I’m thankful that I was able to manage the annual February depression by writing blog posts to honor my grandparents.  I appreciate Sadie for coming up with this idea, and plan to do something similar again next year.

I’m thankful that I was invited to Bea’s anniversary party, and was able to see, talk to, and hug Deputy Wayne again.  I felt so special when he said that he’d been keeping tabs on me.

I’m thankful for the friends who donated money to help pay down my CMHC bill, and extra thankful that the rest of the bill was eliminated.  Since my insurance pays for all my appointments, I have a $0 balance and never have to pay when I’m there.

I’m thankful for the adventures mom and I have had going on weekend trips and nearby day trips.  My photography is mostly limited to travel now, and I’m excited when I have a new batch of photos to share.

I’m thankful to have completed a full year in my job at the hospital, and that it will be 18 months in 2 more days.  I’m thankful that despite many frustrations with my work situation I have learned to accept it as it is and make the best out of the situation.  I’m thankful for Jacey and Evelyn, the HR managers at work who have lent their ears repeatedly while I was still learning that acceptance.

I’m thankful that after several years of dialysis and a very low chance of finding a match, mom received a kidney transplant.  I’m thankful that she has been doing so well since then and was able to quickly reduce her transplant clinic appointments.

I’m thankful for the encouragement I received to return to college, and for the fact that I was accepted despite some pretty pathetic transcripts.  I’m thankful that I’m doing well in my classes and for the disability services that have helped reduce the stress and the writing center that gave me confidence about my first psychology paper.  I’m thankful for assistance from Vocational Rehab, which I will elaborate on in a later post.  I’m thankful that Sadie is supportive of my career goals and has started talking as though she assumes I will accomplish them.

I’m thankful for prompt treatment in the ER, first for a corneal abrasion and then for a broken pinky toe.

I’m thankful that I got to know Janie for 30 years and was able to attend her beautiful funeral.  I’m thankful for the many times I’ve been able to cheer up her sister, Jacey, by dropping by her office to say hello.

I’m thankful for the comfortable and beautiful LuLaRoe clothes I’ve added to my wardrobe, and for the consultants’ willingness to point me toward a different consultant in search of a specific item.

I’m thankful that Shawna was understanding about my opting out of the haunted cornfield, and that I still got to help by running the shop during her new daytime event.  I’m thankful that I got to face my fears three times in one day, by going through a corn maze, going through the haunted cornfield, and attending the after-party.

I’m thankful that I recently had to go inside inpatient to deliver slippers and was able to turn around and walk right back out.  It was empowering to have the freedom to leave.

I’m thankful for Liam, the guy I’ve been flirting with for months.  He appears to be flirting in return but hasn’t pursued a date, and I’m trying to figure out how to get it through his head that I’m interested without leading to embarrassment for me.  In the meantime, I’m thankful for his smile and his laughter, his appreciation when I do things for him, and the fact that he’ll often pop in while I’m checking their supplies, just to say hi.

A Daily Dose of Gratitude

Probably about 6 months back, Sadie encouraged me to keep a gratitude journal.  I was not feeling motivated to do it, and told her I would manage to write something positive in my regular journal each day, but not keep a separate one just for gratitude.  This lasted about two days.  Months later, she brought the idea up again and I caved, pulling out this pretty peacock journal that a friend had sent me in a care package.

gratitude-journal.jpg

I aim to write three things every day, although sometimes I struggle to find two and other times I have a fourth one that must be included.  I started on September 30th and have managed to force some positive thoughts on to paper every day since.

I don’t always feel them.  Very often, I write down things that other people would find positive, not because I actually felt grateful about those things that day.  It feels silly and stupid most of the time, and I’m not entirely sure why I keep doing it.  I suppose I want to look like I’m making the effort.

Something I noted to another blogger on a related post was that I focus on things that are specific to that day.  Daily reiterations of “I’m thankful to be alive” or “I’m thankful to live in a warm house” would make me feel even stupider about the whole thing.  I definitely wouldn’t be feeling the gratitude on any day if I didn’t find something about that day that was special.

Some examples:

“Used a gift card to get Wendy’s for lunch.”
“Going to White Castle  in horror makeup.”
“Finally tried a Larvet.”
“Listening to my iPod on a long car ride.”
“Increased biking distance by a quarter mile.”
“Was allowed to leave work to go to therapy.”
“Mindfulness exercise in group was enlightening.”
“Reverse trick-or-treating at work.”
“Seeing the moon in daytime.”
“Dyed hair red.”
“Baby gargoyles.”
“NAMI Christmas dinner.”
“Mom bought me a beautiful new coloring book.”

I Am Thankful

Exactly one year ago I was released from my 4th and final inpatient stay of 2014.  I haven’t been back since.  There have been several times in the past year where I thought I was headed there, but (whether wisely or not) the people who make those decisions have opted not to send me and I am thankful.

I am thankful I survived the Benadryl overdose.  I am thankful Deputy Wayne was there to put my shoes on when mom couldn’t get the double knots out of the laces.  I am thankful for the sweet nurse, Darlene, who ordered my meals in the ICU so I wouldn’t have to make scary phone calls.  I am thankful I got sent home in time for Thanksgiving, even if it felt like a mistake at the time.

I am thankful for 56 appointments with Sadie, 10 appointments with Brent, and 33 meetings of DBT group.  I am thankful for Sierra and Nadia, Joan and Jean and Jan.  I am thankful for the assistance from Vocational Rehab and thankful for the new job that I’ve now held for exactly 6 months. I am thankful I didn’t lose said job when I had to take medical leave less than a month after I started.

I am thankful for the state-funded insurance that covered my unexpected surgery.  I am thankful the surgery went smoothly and thankful that my coworkers took good care of me during my hospital stay.

I am thankful for my doctor and her nurse practitioner, and my dentist, all of whom are accepting that insurance.  I am thankful for the patient assistance program that provided medication for free when I didn’t have insurance to cover it.  I am thankful for CMHC’s leniency in expecting repayment of the bill I accumulated during all those inpatient stays last year.

I am thankful for my mother and her willingness to keep pills locked up for my safety, no matter how inconvenient it is to her.  I am thankful for my friends and how they tolerate my seemingly never-ending litany of complaints.  I am thankful for the coworkers that make me want to stay late after work just to spend time with them.  I am thankful for the talented, fun, and kind actors I had the privilege of stage managing.

I am thankful for this blog and the opportunity it gives me to express myself. I am thankful for the haunted cornfield and the confidence I gained from selling tickets and souvenirs there. I am thankful for regaining the ability to concentrate well enough to read dozens of books this year. I am thankful for the three cats who welcome me every time I come home.

I know I often say I can’t see the point in living, when nothing could ever be good enough to make up for the suffering involved.  I am thankful the universe hasn’t taken me up on my offer to cease existing, as despite my doubts about the future I do still hope to see better days.