Friday, December 14, 2012

Learning Disabilities and Life

This week I went back to my supervisors at work and tried to work out alternate job responsibilities I could handle despite the persistence of post-concussive problems I'm having.  They were beyond kind and flexible, and I left there with some hope that I'd be going back to work soon.

When I met with the neurologist two days later, however, what I could describe in terms of the conversation
was a jumble.  They'd said...I could maybe work with students?  I'd have to stay away from patients?  I told them I could...what exactly? [In retrospect a checklist something like this would have been useful].

I had written notes from before and after my meeting with my wonderful supervisors, and have those.  I am not sure I covered all these but I have them listed and worked off this.  I am having problems with:

  • attention/distractability (severe)
  • organization/problem-solving (moderate)
  • fatigue/insomnia (moderate)
  • overwhelmed by noise/activity (severe)
  • memory (short and long-term, mild now)
  • headaches (mild)
  • processing speed delays (mild)
What I was really excited about was my general confusion, by "cloudy thinking" or feeling half-drunk all the time, was lessened significantly by the use of Adderall.  When it returns midday, I'm taking another dose.  That gets me to dinner time, when using anymore will likely worsen my sleep problems, but this was enough to get through a work day.  The fact that I still can't reliably make dinner was not relevant to that discussion.  They seemed excited too.  They had lots of work not getting done, projects I could tackle, folks needing supervision.  If I did well in an office setting, in relative quiet, then that's what they'd have me do.  Fantastic.  

After the meeting I came home and took a three hour nap.  I was exhausted from thinking so much.  It had been a 45 minute meeting.  I woke up scattered and confused, not only because the Adderall had worn off mid-nap, but because I couldn't really remember what we talked about.  Still don't, just have the notes.  I had pulled into a commuter lot right outside the hospital's entry road to put them down before I forgot.  Had underlined that I wanted to be competent and be given responsibilities I could do as well.  Please.  

When I went to see the doctor, I didn't have the notes (he's not a fan of the notes anyway), and didn't make much sense.  Having trouble making dinner, and sleeping.  Can't go to parties.  Can write in my bedroom during the day when kids are gone and it;s quiet.  Would like to go back to work and be more productive.  Just need some general guidelines to give bosses regarding my limitations.  

I could tell from my husband's face that it came across as...struggling.  

When the doctor upped the Adderall dose a third time, and added Lexapro, I was confused, almost speechless.  He made another appointment in two months.  He said take care of myself.  

In the car I realized that him not believing I had true problems had been bad, but his actually believing them?  Worse.  

My husband wanting to drop off the prescriptions right away so I could start that night?

Now before you say "why on earth did she think she was ready to go back to work in a busy psychiatric hospital?" let me explain.  The last time I saw the doctor, in October, he'd said he didn't think there was anything wrong with me other than, perhaps, a fear of returning to work and getting hurt again, or at least that was his best guess.  That is all in an October post here.   

At 30th high school reunion with Angela Pietrowski (left)
and Carol Tomasetti (right)
Also, if you were to meet and talk with me, I seem pretty fine.  When I was stuttering?  Couldn't find words?  Had long pauses between questions and answers?  That was pretty clear.  Now?  I seem a little...vague.  If you didn't know me before, you wouldn't know anything was different. I went to my high school reunion and managed, with the invaluable assistance of the name tags. My supervisors this week didn't say "Are you sure this is a good idea?"  People trust my judgment.  What the doctor's, and my husband's reaction told me was--maybe they shouldn't.

Big, heavy, tired, sigh here.  

Last week a friend gave me a link to Jane McGonigal talking about how designing a video game helped her get better after a concussion.  The link to her remarkable talk about it is here and the link to the game here.  She's an amazing person and the game is fun, but I thought (last week) that I didn't really need it anymore.  I was better-enough.  So, this week I started to play.  

The hopeful part is this:  Like the inattention, distractability and disorganization seem like ADHD, I've realized that the processing speed problems, the getting overwhelmed and the memory problems seem like learning disabilities.  I know I am stretching for everyday ways experiences to link to mine, because there's still not a lot out there about concussion, repeat concussion, post-concussion, or in my case repeat concussion in midlife with persistent post-concussive complications.     

So we'll stick with ADHD and learning disabilities.  And on my dog-walking excursion yesterday I wondered--what if you had such significant learning disabilities and ADHD that you could not do your job without significant modifications and adaptations.  And even then you might not be able to do it well.  Wouldn't the world be a crazy place trying to make everything work?  Oh, I'm sorry I gave you the wrong change, that's my learning disability.  Oh, I forgot to lock up last night, I'm sorry we were robbed, but that was my ADHD.  It sounds like a lot of excuses to me.  

But from the other side of it, if you're trying your utmost and still having difficulty doing things many other people do with nary a thought, then it's not a character flaw either.  It's lack of that ability, for whatever reason.  And it naturally limits what you can do well for work.  It's limiting me in ways I deeply resent.  

What I would like is all my God-given abilities back.  I liked them.  I fell like they were mine for a lifetime.  But I also know Job 1:21: 

"The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."

Love, Lisa


  1. Hang in there ... I remember you were a brilliant teenager (with super thick brown hair). You'll find your path. The human brain is an amazing and adaptable thing. My guess is you're still brilliant.

  2. Yes, brilliant when I am alone in my room and it's quiet in my house. If only people could see me then...