COBRA

Grrr….Argh!

COBRA – Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act – very useful option for those of us finding ourselves suddenly out of benefits, but…. the details!  OK, so my (former) employer sends me at least 5 different packets on my COBRA options, only one of which contains the amount and due dates for signing up and sending in payment.  Several sheets in each packet appear to be duplicates.  Not the entire packet, mind you, as if accidentally sent twice, but each packet a separate piece of the COBRA puzzle, with some redundant pieces thrown in for confusion.  I confess I skimmed through all the pages, looking for relevant, non-repeated information.  However, they give you a great big 1-800-call for information about your benefits hotline, so really, do the details on those pieces of paper matter?  Apparently so, although I still haven’t found the detail that has caused me the most immediate grief.

I called several weeks ago about my benefits and find out that I need to have a pin number sent to me that I can use to access my account.  Great.  Wait for that.  After I have all the information, DH & I debate over dental insurance.  Well, it’s $75/mo by COBRA and if we haven’t done anything about our teeth in the past two years at $12/mo why should we spend $75/mo on insurance we probably won’t use?  So we get that settled and I sign up online for health only.  Done.  I wait 10 days… no money has been taken out of my account.  Well, I need prescriptions.  So I call and verify that I have coverage.  Yes, but it takes 14 business days to notify the insurance company. OK, fine, I can wait another week for my scripts.

Fast forward to this week.  I need my scripts now.  The pharmacy says I don’t have insurance.  I say, fill them anyway.  I’m out of choices.  I call the glorious 1-800 # back and ask them what is going on.  They say, oh, well, we don’t notify the insurance company until you send in a payment.  WTF?  That isn’t what you told me last time.  What you told me last time was that I only had to sign up for it.  So now what do I do?

I had signed up for direct deposit to make my life easier, and that won’t start until June 1, which is still in my 45 day time frame for payment.  That’s all good and well, except that until then, I have to pay for all of my own medical and then try to get reimbursed from the insurance company after the back-dated insurance kicks in.  No, I’m sending a check in on Monday.  Well, you don’t have to, the benefits support specialist says, your account will be direct debited on June 1.  While true, that’s an extra two-three weeks worth of doctor appointments and medication juggling I have to do before payment all becomes automatic and life goes back to simple co-pays.  What land do they live in that I can spare all this up-front cash and trust the insurance company to reimburse me?

Meanwhile, I only picked up two of my three medications.  The third, generic Lipitor, was going to cost me $111 out of pocket.  With my high deductible health plan, this normally costs me $0.  I said no.  My PC is going to kill me if my cholesterol numbers are too high when I get tested on Monday, but she will understand once I explain at my next visit.  A lot of doctors today are sympathetic when it comes to insurance companies.  It’s not that I don’t have insurance, it’s that it’s currently inactive. It will be back-dated once it’s activated.  However, I can’t afford to be filling my psych meds without active insurance.  I need this ASAP.  I’m half tempted to send the check overnight.  It seems to take them two weeks to do anything.  Two weeks to send out the paperwork, two weeks to process, two weeks to notify the insurance carrier.  I don’t even know if I will get new insurance cards.  I should have asked, but it might have taken me two weeks and three tries to get the correct answer.

Well, that’s enough crabbing for today.  I am going to try to get back on the creativity wagon now.  It helps to keep me sane during this unemployment period.  Finding a job is a lot of work, and very depressing, so I have to find ways of balancing that out.  Photography seems to help.  I need to go out on a shoot somewhere soon.  The simple act of taking a photo is an art in and of itself.  And I need a little art in my life.

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Six Weeks

I’ve been on unemployment for six weeks now with no hope of finding a job.  Well, not exactly true… with little hope of finding a job.  I am very discouraged today.

I am tired and worn out, and I feel weak.  Physically weak.  This is probably because I couldn’t sleep last night.  We went out to dinner and the movies with a good friend (a splurge) last night and I ate too much at dinner but forgot to take my meds.  Ate too much popcorn (still no meds) so when I came home, I had to eat something in order to take my meds.  By this time, I was sick with eating.  The popcorn really did me in, and I had a stomachache all night.  I tried to sleep, but kept having thoughts about jobs (past and present) and after a restless couple of hours, I decided to get up and read.  My stomach didn’t settle down until after 5am, and I didn’t go bed until 6am.  Consequently, I didn’t get up until 1pm today.  By then, the whole day is wasted.

Worst of all, I missed a job fair in the city today.  But there was no way I could safely drive down there on a couple of hours worth of sleep.

I went to “job school” on Tuesday where they talked about job hunting, resumes and interviews.  It was a requirement for unemployment.  But all I feel now is guilty.  I’m not doing enough, but what can I do?  I’m just not qualified for things. Jobs that have no requirements, people wouldn’t hire me for, nor could I stand working at (such as a job at Walmart or some other retail position).  I’d become suicidal, which was what happened last time I was unemployed professionally and working as an administrative assistant.    (I’m not knocking admin assistants – they are great people and do wonderful jobs, but I’m not the kind of person who can handle it.)  One of the things job school talked about was good old fashioned legwork.  Going to businesses and knocking on doors and leaving resumes to see if they have any positions available.  Yeah right.  Can you see me at the local Dodge dealership asking if they need a PhD scientist?  Or at a State Farm agent’s office?  Should I go work for Starbucks?  I hear they have great benefits.  I would be mortified anytime I saw someone from work.  I can’t even bring myself to tell people that I’ve been laid off because I find it too embarrassing.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Today is just not a good day.  No creativity today.  (I’ll get back to that soon.)  No energy today.  I just want to crawl into a hole.  I don’t know what I am looking for anyway.  I don’t know what I will do if I can’t find anything.  All I know is that when I was standing up there in the classroom teaching a couple of weeks ago – it was the most natural thing in the world to me.  Now if someone would just hire me.  Permanently.

Latuda

The second anti-psychotic my doctor prescribed for me is Latuda. She must be using it off-label for bipolar because the manufacturer website makes no mention of bipolar, only schizophrenia. The nice thing about it is that it doesn’t have the same weight gain effects as other atypical antipsychotics. The downside, for me, is the nausea.

I’ve been taking it on and off for about 3 weeks. Sometimes off because it does make me very sick to my stomach. However, it does wonders for stability. It stopped the Ultradian cycling cold. It’s kept me stable. And until tonight, I’ve been able to handle the nausea.

Tonight it made me violently ill. It wasn’t dinner because DH was fine. No, it didn’t start until I took the Latuda. I was sicker that I had ever been on it before. Previously, it had gone almost to the point of dry heaves. Tonight it went further. No, it was not pretty. DH was most wonderful for cleaning up after me.

Now it’s 4 am, my stomach hurts, my anxiety is through the roof (even though I’ve tried shoving a little klonopin down there) and I can’t sleep. I think I’ve had about 1 hour of sleep tonight. Between the anxiety and my stomach, I just can’t get any rest. Even after a hand full of crackers, some lukewarm water, and a sip of milk, my stomach still feels horrible. My body does not want this stuff in it.

Even though this may be TMI, I felt I had to share it with you in case your doctor ever decides to try Latuda on you. I hope you don’t have the same reaction. But if you so start feeling nauseous, keep an eye on it. Talk to your doctor. Don’t just stop it without your doctor’s consent, nor continue it because you think it will get better or you can “handle it”. It may be more than a simple nausea side effect.

Can I teach high school?

I went to the job fair yesterday for the school system. I know they desperately need math and science teachers at all levels. I gave my resume and talked with the high school for a bit. I think they are very excited about me because after I left the table, I was tracked down by one of the teachers and he gave me his card. Before I made it to the next school (middle school) I was also tracked down by one of the assistant principles. He was trying to lure me into teaching their program for students needing special help in graduating. Not slow learners or disciplinary students, but students who need extra help because life has not been kind to them. (They may have children already or a non-supportive home life.) He gave me his number and asked me to call him next week if I would like a tour or to sit in on a class.

The downside is that all of the certification tests are expensive! They have a general test and a professional teacher test (why they have two is beyond me) and then there are the subject tests. At $100-$150 each, that adds up quick, plus there are fees. To qualify for just one subject, I would be spending about $400 all total. Is it worth it for essentially a job application? Granted, I would have my certification for 5 years. I wouldn’t make very much money, but I would be “in high demand” as they put it. Teaching school here would be a nice, easy commute but teaching high school is hard. Very hard.

However, I like the idea of touching lives. Of making a difference. I have no children and I’ll never win a Nobel Prize, so basically I have no legacy. Once my life is over, who will remember me? I will have left no footprint on society or this planet. Only a lot of empty pill bottles.

I am getting maudlin. I need to keep an open mind. High school might be the place for me after all. Or is it only my lack of self-confidence telling me that I can’t teach at a level higher than that? I don’t know.

Also, how will my mental illness figure into all of this? I have to take a drug test – how will I pass it with my Klonopin?

Anyway… do you think I should hand over the money and go for my certification?

Chapter Read and Lesson Learned

The title of this post was actually snagged from a line in the Barenaked Ladies song, “Who Needs Sleep?”  It’s just one line, but a very powerful line that takes on a different context in the song than how I am using it.  For me, this marks the end of my dalliance with a high-paying job.

It’s been a week since I last wrote.  I couldn’t bring myself to write about work and unemployment last week.  Things were still too raw.  At times, I am still stumped about the whole thing.  I feel like I should be more angry or sad than I am.  I simply feel resigned to my fate.  Mix in a little terror and self-deprecation when I think of my situation and the lack of funds that will be coming in.  Basically, I’ve been spoiled while out on medical leave.  Sure I had a lot of healing to do, but I didn’t worry about not being able to pay my bills.

Chapter Read refers to an ending, the ending of my employment.  Part of me is dying to work, to earn money, to be useful.  Another part of me never wants to work again.  Mostly, I just don’t know what I want to do with my life.  It was pointed out to me once that my resume looks like someone who spends a lot of time running away from things.  Is that true?  I am an expert in one specific field, a high-paying field, if you can get the work.  If the job isn’t taken over by a bachelor’s degree technician.  How could they possibly know what I know?  Probably fairly easily. (Or am I being self-deprecating again?) I’ve been overeducated and probably forgotten more than I ever knew in the first place.  You hire a PhD to run the lab, to take care of the helium tanks, track the standards and chemicals… yuck.  All the things I hate about working in a lab.  But all my experience puts me in a lab with a (hopefully high-paying) yet utterly boring job containing droplets of excitement when you happen to work in collaboration on something that is patentable or publishable.  That is, if your work isn’t being questioned or stolen.  What’s the point of being good at something if everyone thinks you suck?  Or thinks your opinion is worthless?  Or questions your conclusions?  Maybe I am better off with this chapter closed, but what will the next one bring?

Lesson Learned refers to what I’ve learned from this job.  Money is awesome but it’s not everything.  Right now, I am unemployed with limited funds, thus once again, I must take what I can find, be it industry or academia.  What I learned from this job is that after the original “honeymoon phase” where I am learning and being challenged, this job is downright boring.  And when I get bored, I get lazy or I watch how others work, and some part of my brain thinks it’s OK to do X or not do Y if other people are doing X or not doing Y.

For example, I watched as lazy Dr. B (short for Dr. Bastard) get away with everything.  He swears he has something in his personnel file that says he shalt not be fired.  Who knows? Maybe he does.  He must have done something valuable for the company at some point because they let him get away with all sorts of things that no one else can.  He would stroll in at 10am. He would leave at 6pm.  (Core hours are 9am-3pm.)  Sure we are salaried and have flex time, but you were expected to be on site for 8.5 hrs a day, excluding lunch. He would ramble all day long to anyone who would listen – not getting an ounce of work done.  He brags about how great he is and how the company has wronged him.  His stories are 20 years old, yet he tells them like it happened yesterday.  He brags about how he got his revenge on people by getting them fired.  (And now I am one of them.)  He is mean to people who report to him or work with him if they don’t do exactly as he wants.  He is insulting to anyone he doesn’t like.  He is bigoted and reeks of harassment.  But the company thinks he is some sort of god in the field and that they can’t part with him.  Not everyone does, but enough people to keep him around.  Some people see him for what he truly is:  a narcissistic ass who is not always right (scientifically) even though he is trying to BS you into thinking that he is.

My other lesson learned is that I need to admit when I need help.  I needed to have this surgery a year earlier.  I needed mental health help a year earlier.  I went through hell because I didn’t seek the help I needed.  I thought I could control my bipolar, my OCD, my PTSD all through sheer willpower.  It’s taking me 5 prescription drugs a day to control all that and still I have to contend with symptoms from my mental health problems.  I need to have a psychiatrist.  I need to have a therapist.  I need healthcare coverage.  I am jealous of people who can get away without coverage or who just need the bare minimum or people who only have to take two or three pills a day.  I have in total 11 prescription medications per day and I am barely into my forties.  I have to learn to admit that sometimes I need help.  I am too damn stubborn for my own good.

So where do I go from here?  Without my six figure income, how do I live?  How do I get to travel?  Take my photographs?  Do the things I enjoy?  How did I ever survive on $40k/year?  For starters, I didn’t have a 4 bedroom home with a formal dining room.  I didn’t get to travel.  I didn’t have an iPhone, an iPad and an iMac.  I didn’t eat out that much.  I thought a little bit more about what I spent money on.  I didn’t spend hundreds of dollars on steel swords for renaissance costumes.  We didn’t have an Xbox or a Wii or a flat screen TV.  I certainly didn’t have this many pairs of shoes.  We never remodeled the house and I didn’t have nearly  the wardrobe I have now.  (Some of which I no longer fit into – thank you meds.)  Still, I am at a loss.  I don’t know where to go from here.  My mortgage is too high.  I have too much junk.  This house is turning into a money pit.

Some days I am good – I can handle the stress, focus on the tasks ahead, and move forward.  But always in the back in of my mind is: Where are you going?  You aren’t going anywhere.  You spin your wheels wandering from job to job.  Sometimes making money, sometimes not.  Always banging your head on some wall.  Always allowing your illness(es) to encroach on your life.  Mania or depression coloring your view, affecting your productivity. Like a hamster on a wheel, I am forced into running through these cycles, never getting anywhere.  I never get a productive hypomania like other people do.  I’m either constantly distracted, fidgety, talkative and flighty, or touchy, angry, and easily set-off.  My depressions are laden with anxiety, sadness, and a lack of energy and focus.  How the hell did I get through school???

Well, there’s my emotional core dump.  (For now.)  Where do I go from here?  That is the biggest question on my mind.  Everything else is details.


© Manic Monday (manicmonday123) 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Estimate

Note:  I started this post yesterday but got too tired to finish it, so I’ll separate the days.

Yesterday:

First things first, I met with my pdoc today.  She seemed very concerned about my depression, so she is increasing the Paxil gradually up to 40mg.  I asked if that was a good idea, but she said we would watch closely for switching.  Apparently, the more depressed you are, the more likely you are to switch when when things start getting better.  She commented, “We’ve got to get you out of this depression.”  Which makes me think that maybe I look worse than I thought. I meet with her again next week because she wants to watch me closely for any sign of mania.  If I didn’t have 6 months worth of Geodon sitting in my pantry, I’d throw up my hands and say: let’s try lithium.  Why I would rather take three meds than one is probably beyond any rationalization, but I have my reasons.

On to the title… the husband of a good friend of mine is a general contractor.  We had him come over to our house and give us an estimate on updating our kitchen.  The estimate was a little disappointing, but pretty much right where I expected it to be – just under $5k.  One of the biggest expenses will be the tiles I want, so I went to Lowe’s this afternoon to look around at options.  (I watch too much HGTV and I wanted those little glass ones, which run about $12/ sq. ft. whereas regular tile costs $3-$4/ sq. ft.)  I found some stone tile that I’ve fallen in love with that will probably knock the price of tile in half, more if I don’t add the decorative ones.  Which would bring the total under $4.5k.  It doesn’t sound like you get a lot for that money, when you consider all that I get is new counters, backsplash, sink and faucets.  However, this would completely change the look of the kitchen and really modernize it.  Yes, it would be cheaper for us to do the work ourselves, but we would never do it if left to our own devices.  We are terrible homeowners.

Today:

Well, to pick up where I left off… yes, we are terrible homeowners.  I HATE home ownership.  If I could, I would live in a townhouse, except for one thing: privacy.  I like my privacy.  I like being able to sit on my back patio and read and not have the world watching me.  Maybe it’s a little paranoia, but I always feel like I am being watched.  I know I am at work because everyone watches everyone else so that they can draw false conclusions and develop gossip. Maybe our jobs just aren’t interesting enough so everyone feels the need to indulge in gossip.  This is the most gossipy place I’ve ever worked.

Back to home ownership… I found this wonderful tile, so I bought one of the decorative ones to take home and see how it would match up with what we currently have in the house and it goes wonderfully with everything!  I think it will go well with the stainless steel sink and the new counter tops (which will be jade green concrete), it also works with the tile we already have and the white cabinets that will stay white until we can afford to have them painted and glazed.

The decorative tile I want

Retail therapy works really well for me.  I’d been planning on spending $3-5k on the kitchen anyway.  DH and I are not handy with tools and such.  I love my drill and electric screwdriver, but I have a saw I bought 4 years ago that still sits in its box.  (I was going to make bookshelves.  Yeah, right.)  I even have a small saw bench for safety. Never been used. (Obviously.)  We barely hang up pictures.

I slept for 12 hours last night.  This depression is really kicking my ass. I know I’m worried about money, but I think putting a little bit into the house is worthwhile.  This is not the only thing that needs fixing… we might have termites too around the front door.  I wonder how much that is going to cost to fix.  At least a new kitchen will look pretty.

Argh! It’s always something…. 😦

 
© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

My Neuropathy

Since my last post, Manic Monday, spurred a lot of interest on the topic of neuropathy, I thought I would share my experiences in hopes that they help someone else.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a MD nor associated with the medical field in any manner.  This information is based solely on my experience.

It all started about 2&1/2 years ago.  At first it was just a light tingling in my fingers and toes that would come and go.  Since I had been previously diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I thought it was just a relapse. I thought, “Great, my first relapse in seven years. Must be all the stress I’m under.”  But then it started to happen more often.  Within a month, I had full-blown peripheral neuropathy: severe pain in my legs, temperature regulation issues, tingling, etc. Within two months, the numbness started.  It began with the side of my big toe on my right foot.  I remember this because I was thinking how it was the furthest body part from my heart.  The numbness spread, encompassing all of my feet, ankles, and eventually spread up my legs.  After a year and a half, the numbness was up to my knees.

You can imagine the terror I felt the entire time.  I’ll try and give some description as to what it feels like.  Imagine a burning, searing pain in your feet.  Like walking on hot pavement in the summer times a hundred.  The pain doesn’t just feel hot, it feels electrical. I also occasionally get stabs of pain which feel like someone has taken a spike with a small, sharp head and slammed it into my toe.  These stabs occur randomly, and are so sharp and shocking that I have been known to cry out, and even remove my foot from the gas pedal.

There’s also the cold.  My feet are constantly cold.  I’ve had problems with cold feet for most of my life.  But now my feet sometimes get really cold – like ice.  Your feet can sweat and be cold at the same time – it’s the weirdest thing.  If you manage to get them warm, that often triggers the searing hot pain.  But there is another kind of cold.  It’s a bone deep cold.  I remember walking down the hallway one time thinking, “this is the strangest sensation.  Something is not right.” (Brilliant deduction, huh?) This feels like is your bones have turned to ice water.  The whole leg doesn’t necessarily feel cold, but the bones are deep and frigid.  It’s more like an ice cold water than pure ice because you feel a little “sloshy” and unsteady. Peripheral neuropathy also causes problems walking and you will trip if you try to walk too fast.  Good comfortable shoes are essential for keeping your balance and to prevent pain.

I almost forgot the deep pain. The surface can feel fine (or most likely is numb) but there is a deep pain. Like your bones are crying out for mercy.  It reminds me a little bit of when I was a kid and the doctor said I had “growing pains” in my legs because of a growth spurt, only this is much more severe.  I had it in my shoulder and chest one time and went to the ER.  That time it felt like the muscles as well as the bones were in agony – I put it as an 8 on my pain scale.  (A 10 is having your hip put back in its socket and waking up after a hysterectomy.)  At least I know my heart is fine.

Lastly, there is the numbness. The numbness feels like it’s on the surface.  In my case, it’s not so bad that I can’t feel a pin or a scratch but I still have it.  When it was up to my knees, I didn’t even want to shave my legs because the sensation was so creepy.  Now it’s only in my feet, from the balls of my feet to my toes. So I both like and hate pedicures.  The warm water and foot massage is wonderful, but I can’t let them work on the balls of my feet because the pumice stone is painful. The sides of my toes and between my toes are partially numb.  It feels like there is sand between my toes.  At the time it was spreading so rapidly, and in combination with my other symptoms, I was convinced I would die within a few years.  Since they have both receded significantly, the absolute terror I lived day to day has also receded, but I still remember it and dread the day it may come back.

There are many causes of neuropathy including diabetes (most common), vitamin deficiencies, toxic chemicals & medications (for example, cancer treatment), and more obscure diseases.  However, 60% of all neuropathies are deemed idiopathic.  What I have described here is peripheral neuropathy (PN).  There is also autonomic, optic, audio and others.  PN is the most common. It can be difficult to find information on the web regarding neuropathy unless you start looking specifically for diabetic neuropathy. I’ve included some links below.  The only way to treat PN is by isolating the underlying cause and treating that.  Certain medications are used to help treat it such as Cymbalta, Lyrica, Neurontin, and topical creams, but those medications are only addressing the symptoms (pain) and not the underlying cause.  Studies in Europe have concluded that alpha-lipoic acid helps to aid in recovering nerve function.  It also lowers glucose levels.

I’m still a medical mystery.  It’s unclear why my PN hit so hard, so fast, progressed so far and then receded. This is NOT typical. My A1C (diabetes test) was under control within 3-6 months. It’s possible that I had a MS relapse that exasperated my symptoms for a period of time. There was a lesion found on my t-spine, which may or may not be related to MS.  Since my spine had never been imaged before, there is no way to tell if this lesion was new or old, so I still carry the diagnosis of “probable” MS.

This is my story.  I hope someone finds it valuable.


Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/peripheral-neuropathy/DS00131

Medscape: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1170337-overview

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NIH): http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/neuropathies/

WebMD: http://diabetes.webmd.com/diabetes-neuropathy

American Diabetes Association: http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/neuropathy/

Alpha-Lipoic Acid: http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/alpha-lipoic-000285.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10595592

 

© Manic Monday (manicmonday123). Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Manic Monday (manicmonday123) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.