Three and A Half And Counting

 

2015-Calendar-prntclndr03The three month mark has come and gone. Morning, noon and night I check my Gmail account for the posting of potential jobs to make application. I look knowing my 30 years of experience might not be taken into account and I may be making half of what I made previously. That would not be bad, but it means I would need a second job; not a pretty thought. I have had 3 interviews in that past month and a half. Obviously, I have not gotten any offers as I am writing this blog. One thing that is different from days past is once you’ve had the interview, if they are not interested in you they just don’t contact you. In the beginning, I followed up with emails and told, “Oh I am sorry we didn’t contact you the position was filled by…” I have stopped following up. I am glad we are past the days of sending paper resumes as I feel I have used a forest of trees with all the paper I used. This is the more cognitive part of my journey.

Emotionally, this has been a wild and painful roller coaster ride. I’ve felt discouragement in such depth. I struggle with dark thoughts and try not to spiral down to the hole where I am nothing. When I feel I am being sucked in, I take a breath and try to fill my mind with thoughts of how I have the skills; I am a competent worker; I am a valuable person. Discouragement easily fills my mind when I remember all of the work I have put into the job search without results. When that does not happen, I get on the phone and call someone on my support list. When talking with them, I do not allow myself to open up and tell of the darkness. I think just hearing a voice of someone who cares pulls me back to reality. When I cannot tell of the depth of the hurt and darkness, I am still left with a hole in my heart. I hold back because I do not want to hear anyone telling me that it will be all right. Damn, I know that, but my emotions, like a rock attached to my neck by a thick rope, are pulling me down. I don’t want to be told, “don’t worry, the right job will come along.” No kidding, but until then it is a harder time than you can imagine. What I do need is being told that someone hears what I am saying and they empathize. I don’t need to hear about them. When I don’t get what I need, depending on the relationship, I tell them what I need to hear and hope they realize and respond as I need.

Sure I am being pulled to places I hate. I don’t want to be Polly Anna, but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel most of the time. I cannot deny my feelings at the other times. I release myself from the rope tied around my neck. I swim up, take a breath and swim on. I hope I don’t have to swim too long; I don’t know how much strength I have.

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Finding a Job – the Ongoing Saga

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Well, everyone promises me that it will be soon that I get a job. Sometimes I get tired of hearing it. Not that I don’t want to get a job, but the caring but trite responses from people gets tiring.

I have been asked if I have been applying for jobs. Should I say no and tell them I expect someone to show up at my front door and tell me my start date?! I giggle sometimes knowing people care and that they are doing the best they can. About applying for jobs, I have applied for about 60. It is so weird. I cannot quite get over the reality that I apply by pressing a button after answering questions, uploading my resume and cover letter. I wonder if they put them through a computer program to look for code words. They must have some magic application that spits out the resumes the meet their needs. 30 years ago when I applied for my last job, it was all about good-looking resumes on high-grade paper with envelopes. Now when I go for an interview, the resume is a print out.

Ah, the interviews. I like to interview. I don’t feel over whelmed. I figure I know what I know and that is it. I don’t believe in bullshitting. If I don’t’ know the answer, I say that and add, “I would like to know more about it.” There are the single person interviews, tag team interviews – first with one person then handed off to another and the group interview. All are cool with me. I have to remember to give eye contact to each member of the interview team. I was offered two jobs, but could not take them as they were $16 and $26,000 less than my last job, but not possible to take – I like paying my bills. With interviews I have found that if I want to know if I was in the running or not the candidate, I would have to follow up. Thankfully, most can be done by email. Silly me, I thought at this level of professionalism I would be contacted.

Not having a job means that severance runs out this week. I have very little money to pay the bills although I have money for the mortgage. Money from a side job should start coming in. That will keep my head above ground. I have not gotten my unemployment debit card; when I get it, it means I am actually going to begin receiving the overwhelming $430 a week. I will not say actually how much that is below my former job; just know it is a lot. Unfortunately, Now, money I receive from my side job will be deducted from the check.

Not having a job means I still pay for COBRA. The premium is unreal, but not having it as I mentioned last blog, I will not be able to afford my medication and become ill. Even with insurance, my three-month supply for all my meds is $395. Then there are the copays – why go on, you get it. Health care is expensive.

A good thing about being unemployed, I have been able to reach out to people and receive their gracious caring. It is the situation of not being in contact for a while but being able to start a conversation like I saw them last week. Another think is taking time to do the things I have not had the time to do; I am actually doing them! I have been able to spend time with my parents while they were down the Jersey Shore for the summer. They are returning to Florida next week. There are certainly more. They help me to continue to strive for a new job and be thankful for today. I remember: Be Calm and Carry On.

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In Just a Few Words

She walked in and closed the door. She stood in silence for a moment. What had I done this time? Over the years, I had been called in to Human Resources for some ridiculous reason. Usually some issue that someone said I did something and they went directly to my supervisor who went to Human Resources and called me in. I kind of stopped worrying about it. In fact, I finally let them know I felt it was harassment. Being called in somehow stopped. Let’s go back to my supervisor walking in my office on that sunny day in March. She stared at me then began to talk. “This is hard for me today, we have to eliminate your position.” I could only look at her and think, “what about my health insurance. There was no question in my mind that it was essential to get my medications.” She went on that it was not personal – duh. I am a good worker. I said that it was a business decision. She didn’t like that wording although it was true. She told me how sorry she was; tears came to her eyes. Not mine, I was in shock. Our 30-year relationship did not seem to mean anything to me. Working at the agency for 15 years also seemed meaningless. We are all expendable, pawns. We talked for a while. I told her that I was concerned that no job would offer me the salary I was currently making – I would need to work 2 jobs. I also mentioned the need for insurance to get my medication. She just looked at me saying nothing. I knew she could not do anything, but a compassionate word would have been human. She got up as I did; she hugged me. She walked out and left the door open.

Holy shit. I sat shaking my head. I had to call someone – my girlfriend. “Laurie, I just lost my job. They could not give me a date for my last day but wanted to give me an early heads up so I could start looking for a job.” I then finally burst into tears. She comforted me and promised support as I went through this difficult time. Her words in our conversation gave me the first inkling that things would be ok some day. I needed her more than ever. I called my mother next. She assured me that things would be ok and she would put me on the prayer list at work – I follow Eastern religion. Lisa, my sister and best friend was next. She was a victim of reduction in force also. She told me that it was not necessary to begin submitting resumes immediately; I needed to find whatever relief I could from the initial shock. She loves me so much. I trusted her. After the calls, I closed my door and cried.

When I was told about the loss of my job, the reality of losing my benefits or paying a seriously high premium blasted my mind. I have bipolar that is totally controlled with medication. I do not experience the highs and lows. I have a “good life through chemistry.” With the support systems I have in work, as well as knowing what it is I need, I am a very successful social worker. That aside, the costs of my medication   lit up my mind like a neon light. When I had to meet my $1500 deductible for the year, it was met with the cost of ONE medication – $1680.00 for three months – $560 a month. Lamictal is just one of the medications I take daily. There are 8 more, not all for my mental illness

I remember reading an article in the New York Times written by a successful lawyer. She had an office on the top floor of a building that looked down on Central Park. She could see the homeless sleeping and sitting on the benches in the park. She had bipolar and knew that the difference between them and her was that she was working and had insurance. She wrote of her fear of losing her job; it came to her thoughts often. I was like her in this aspect, but never thought it would happen.

I am afraid. I will get a job. I do not know when. I will get my medication. I do not like the idea of working only to pay bills and afford medication I need to keep moving forward with a good life. I have support. I am loved. And still, I am afraid. I will rise from the ashes.

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…Losing a Job to Find Another

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…I don’t know how many websites I went to, investigating the inter-workings of my new position and work. Financial self – sufficiency for people with disabilities is not an easy thing, but with the right supports and incentives it is possible. I read from Social Security websites, advocacy groups, the testimony of individuals with disabilities, agencies providing the services; the list goes on. So much information is available, information that can free individuals from poverty and a sense of helplessness.

Before I knew it, I was in training through classes offered through the State. It ended up that the trainer was a friend of thirty years. I knew that for this situation he was the trainer; if time came, we could talk family and friends. He is a fabulous trainer known through out the state and even nationally in the training circles of Social Security. I knew that I was going to learn from the best, that I was getting what I would need to make steps towards my new position. The trainings were full of information that painted pictures of success and pride. Work for people with disabilities was not only possible, but happening.

For months, I tried to get into the national training through Virginia Commonwealth University. One day, (the start to many a story) my supervisor met a person who knew a person who knew a person that would look into my being able to get into the next training in St. Louis. A week and a half before the week -long training, I got the word that, poof, there was a cancellation and I would be going. I felt that, “how the hell am I going to get everything in order” feeling. There was the room, the flight, transportation, packing – oh yeah – someone to watch the cats! Like a good little organized woman, I began to make lists. With a few days to spare, I had all done. I packed and was driven to the airport by a dear friend.

The flight was uneventful, even boring. I got off the plane, recovered my luggage and waited outside for my van to the hotel. From what I read, the hotel was a renovated train station, Union Station. My van was not arriving so I called; in a very abrupt tone I was told to wait by the fire hydrant and the van would be right there. There it was – I jumped in – more like awkwardly climbed into the van. I sat down next to a woman who I, during the drive, found out was going to the same training. We arrived. Later in the evening, I met the woman at the bar to have appetizers and, for me, a beer. (The picture at the top of this blog is the opening of the room where we were sitting years later.) We talked about the grueling training we feared. We met the next morning in the training room; she sat next to me. At the break for lunch, the woman in front of us introduced herself. From there we hit it off and helped each other digest the information taught to us eight and a half hours a day. A woman from Baltimore, one from Fresno and the other from Birmingham jelled. We found we would survive as long each afternoon at the break that brownies were there to greet us.

There was not question that the information was dense and hard to digest, that we had intense tests and write ups to do when we returned to our homes and that we were intimidated. Once I opened the manual, the 8 pound manual, I knew that I was going to have to push through, be confident and complete the work within the timeframes. My two friends and I were not able to discuss our assignments. Instead, we became our own supporters. We leave each other FB messages with words of encouragement. We express how tired, confused and successful we are as we forge ahead.

I may not have been excited to make this change in my work, but this training made me feel more confident, a bit more alive and looking forward to my new work. Having the two women now in my circle of friends and who experienced the training with me has been an encouragement and helped me believe I would do well with my new position. I am going to help change peoples lives and achieve financial self – sufficiency.

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Crumbling

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I had no idea where I was going. Following my GPS, I ended up in an area of town where I had not been and needless to say wouldn’t necessarily choose. I saw the backup going onto the Beltway so I went plan B.

I ended up going on an avenue that ran straight form one end of Baltimore to another. As I started there were rowhouses quaintly kept lining the road. I continued only to see the crumbling City before me. Lines of condemned houses lined one block. Some were boarded up, some closed with cinderblocks. A few were open, windows shattered, and front door torn off. I knew there were blocks such as these but when I continued to drive, I continued to see block after block with a majority or complete rows condemned and dilapidated. Not only were the houses lifeless, but also the only activity around them was people loitering on porches or hanging out of the houses. It was not a sight I would want to see everyday.

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I thought of a few things.

In Baltimore the news stations had been focusing on homeless camps and how they were going to be shut down by the City. Everyone knew the camp would just be moved to another area, then another, then another. I am a dreamer, but wondered how much it would cost to rehab houses, by non-profits or big business. It could take on a habitat for humanity structure. It isn’t impossible. Homes would afford those who wanted it to have an address – needed for a job application, a place to sleep and cook meals. Set up like a boarding house, people could choose the level of interaction they would want with others. Those entitled to benefits could find the resources to direct them in how to access the system. I could go on about the possible outcomes, but the one, the foundation is shelter that will not be destroyed every few months.

I thought about the people who have to live in areas so depressed and rotting. Life around the houses themselves was minimal yet all around them the hustle and bustle of the day proceeded. How did the people living in the area stand to have the city rotting before them? A sense of apathy filled the air; it was kind of an area of pure survival, not growth. I didn’t stop to ask anyone, but did they expect more from the City? How can the despair of decaying houses, blocks of them not affect the neighborhood? I wanted to get out of my car and ask the people. Of course, I would not. Can lives fall apart piece after piece like the houses around them? Are the people forgotten like the environment where they lived? Has the apathy shown by the City in regards to the rotting buildings been seared into every part of their lives?

The sadness overwhelmed me. In minutes, I was glad to be home yet the specter of what I 23_ndperiscopeabha_1216620gsaw on my ride would haunt and would for quite a time.

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It Takes My Breath Away

I was getting out of the shower when I was asked why was I breathing so hard; I thought I was moving around too fast. I was walking up the stairs and I had shortness of breath; I thought I was just overweight. I was sitting watching football when I still had shortness of breath but now had tightness in my chest and thought I felt tingling in my left arm. I messaged my sister on Facebook. A few seconds later, she called and told me to get myself to the ER. A dear friend drove me there and waited until they sent me to Coronary Care Observation. I still had shortness of breath and tightness in my chest. I went for testing and found that I didn’t nor ever have had any coronary issues. I still had shortness of breath and tightness in my chest. They were planning on sending me home then out of no where a doctor came in and checked my legs then let me know they were going to do a quick test for blood clots. Before I knew it, I was taken away to have a CT scan. It was then that I was diagnosed with bilateral pulmonary embolism. I liked the way that sounded but didn’t like the reality of having large blood clots in each lung.

I was taken up to a room and told I was not to walk. They began anti-coagulants both orally and by injection. The daily blood tests, injections and medications became a routine. One morning I woke at 8:30. When the phlebotomist came in later that day, she said at 6:00am I just put my arm out and they took my blood – I was not fully awake. After one week in the hospital, I was sent home with Warafrin and medication to be self-injected. That started the process of twice a week blood tests for the level of Warafrin – the first blood test out of the hospital showed a high level. One good thing is that it meant no more self-injections! Medication then as now has to be monitored and adjusted.

In the hospital they tried to find the origin of the clots. A vascular study showed no residual evidence of why the large clots were found in my lungs. Of course they are a result of deep vein thrombosis – clots in the legs that traveled, in my case, to the lungs. The clots could take an additional course. A clot or a piece could have gone to my brain and caused a stroke or gone to my heart and killed me – that is like kill me.

It has taken 3 weeks for the seriousness of this to set in. The first week out of the hospital it was as if the experience was happening inside a snow globe and I was staring at with all of my attention. Then, although I knew the seriousness my health experience, those around me weren’t on board. Finally, this week it has hit me – I could have died.

I again have been reminded me of the preciousness of life, the importance of a moment, the appreciation of another day. It only takes a second. I feel it is important to tell those that I love that I love them – the words being said. I look at issues differently – what is really important, what is worth stress?

Don’t let a health crisis bring you to a point of celebrating life and those in it.

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A Magnum 357

Turkey and the beginning of the holiday season continues to bring me dark memories. The Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 27, 1987, a friend and I decided to go out and get a movie. On the way in, we were talking and an out of now where, about 100 feet from the apartment buildings’s front door, a person jumps out behind me and tells me to give him my purse. As I turned around all I saw was a guy in a hooded sweatshirt and a silver Magnum 357 pointed in my face. I tried to negotiate and told him I would give him my wallet. He said no and put the 357 on my shoulder. The thought of a client telling me that it really hurts and burns when you get shot. Scared and pissed off, I gave him my purse. In shock, we went in – thankfully I had had

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the keys in my hand not in my purse – and I called the police. My next call was to the credit card companies to report my cards stolen. Obviously I was in shock – the fear of it all would never allow me to be able to get the information together and make the calls . The Baltimore City Police – came quickly. The first question they asked was if we were hurt. Physically no, but in the future I would learn of the psychological effects. They took down all the information, gave me their names and told me they would do all they could. They seemed sincere; it was a ray of light in a terrible situation.

Tears filled my eyes and I began to cry, sobbing uncontrollably. My friend call others to come to my apartment. Caring was given and offers to stay the night was offered. After mid-night, my friends left. The woman I was with during the robbery lived above me and told me to wake them if needed.

I slept through the night then – at the time I attended church – dressed for my day. I went throughout the service telling people what had happened. I was offered money, food, housing and much more. Communion began. I was in daze waiting in line when someone poked me in the back. With no thought, I swung around a punched the person; he fell to the floor. Of course that stopped the service.  That minute, I began to realize the effect of the robbery. The robber came from behind; anyone from behind was a target.

Later in the day between my crying spells, I went to the local park and looked for my purse. I looked for hours. I loved my purse and the memories and treasures it held in the pockets and in my wallet. Finally, I gave up; my heart was heavy. I began to grieve. he effect of the robbery. The robber came from behind; anyone from behind was a target.

The next night, I went to grad school; I attended night classes. When I got out of my car in the underground garage, I froze. Literally, I could not move. A couple saw me and asked if they could help. I gave a short version of my robbery; they offered to walk out with me. When we reached ground level, I asked them why they were going to University Hospital this time of night. They told me their son had been in a horrible accident and after a week they decided to take him off life support. Oh my god! Here they were literally in a life and death situation and they helped me. They even offered to walk me to the door of the school. When I left the class, I asked for someone to walk to the garage with me. When the guy came to me I told him of my incident.

Time went by and I found myself afraid of being in elevators alone with young men; I continued to be hyper vigilant especially when someone came from behind (to this day I still have this shoot from the hip response); I began grinding my teeth and cracked 4 teeth and needed root canals and crowns; I would cry at the top of the hat. Over time other psychological effects piled on these. I called Victims Assistance and asked it there was any financial assistance for the dental issues. They asked if I was shot in the mouth or had the gun in my mouth. Honestly, I replied no. That was that.

The same police who initially came to my home showed me a photo lineup. As I gazed a the photos, they told me that some people have weird ears or wild hair cuts. All I could see was the silver 357. By the way, if you ever have to do a photo lineup, listen to the police; they were giving me characteristics of the thug.

I had to go to court and when I got there it was cancelled. One day the police came to my home to tell me that the thug with 11 armed robberies and 7 other felonies got 7 years PROBATION! I grew cold. The officers told me how pissed they were as they were not even given an opportunity to testify. Officer Levitz told me one day he would meet a bigger gun.One office told me of how the guy had all information on me and the he could not tell me the thug lived at 376 General Way and his name was Trevor Allen. With that, they both hugged me and told me they were sorry how the system failed me.

I learned that life could be there one moment and gone the next. I learned to see the situation as a person, not a person of a specifically racial group, robbed me. I have to admit I will always say that it was a man that robbed me. Till this day, 26 years later, I still am hyper vigilant when I go out when it is dark. Darkness, a poke in the back and a 357 changed my life forever.

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