Speaking the CI language

April 11, 2014

I remember the first day of my last job. Everyone was throwing around acronyms I’d never heard before, and I had trouble just following the basic line of the conversation. I asked around for a list of these acronyms, but there wasn’t one. I immediately started creating a list of my own. When someone new was hired the next year, I gave them a copy of my oh-so-valuable list.

Every group has their own language. Whether you’re discussing race, illness, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, sex, a job type, a career type, an industry, or anything else, you use certain vocabulary that the general population won’t understand. You have your own terms and abbreviations. Sometimes they’re obvious and you’re aware of them. But sometimes they’re less obvious.

I often forget about the CI (chronic illness) language. Sure, my CI friends know that PT means “physical therapy,” or sometimes “patient,” but the rest of the English-speaking world doesn’t always make that association. We know what a spoonie is. We throw around SSDI (social security disability insurance) and LTD (long term disability insurance) as if everyone knows those acronyms. We talk about medications, insurances, different types of pain, and legal issues in our own vernacular.

It doesn’t happen overnight. You don’t wake up one day knowing these terms and phrases. But bit by bit, it’s easy to pick them up. Within the hypothyroid community I assume everyone knows about TSH, T3, Anti-TPO, and the other thyroid hormones and antibodies. It’s just assumed. At first I was confused, but now those terms are just as familiar as “dogs and cats.” We experience something unique to us, and it’s so useful to have the vocabulary to discuss it with others.

This struck me today. I was in a room of CI folks, with one non-CI person, and we were trying to explain how our lives have been changed to that one person. I noticed people using words that he didn’t understand, and I caught myself trying to change my terminology to be more mainstream. Later, when it was just us CI folks again, it was so great to speak however we wanted and to really understand each other. There’s something really awesome about that. It felt easy and familiar. It helps us to bond.

The language isn’t perfect, but it helps us to understand one another, and that’s what’s important. So the next time you have the chance, I highly recommend that you visit a patient group or check out the patient communities on social media (personally I’m involved on Facebook as me and on Twitter as @CIRants) to learn the phrases they use. Then enjoy it! There’s something great about being able to communicate with others in our group in our own way and we need to make the most of it.

I won I won I won!!!

July 16, 2013

There’s a great moment in an old episode of “Mad About You.” Jamie walks into the apartment and tells her husband that she won the big account she was working on. Then she throws down everything her arms and jumps up and down wildly, Yay!waving her arms, and screaming, “I won! I won! I won!” That’s been going through my head a lot lately.

I applied for long term disability insurance in the spring of 2012 and FINALLY last week I got a resolution: I WON! Well, ok, I know “winning” isn’t the most accurate term, but after being denied and appealing and having the appeal delayed over and over and over again, it sure feels like a major WIN.

I’ve been alternating between jumping up and down (well, figuratively anyway) and wondering if maybe I dreamed it all. Did I really win? Is it actually over? Did I really speak to my lawyer or am I just imagining it? My family and friends have been amazingly supportive through this whole ridiculous mess and this is no Boston sunshinedifferent: I’ve gotten hugs, tweets, emails, and phone calls of joy. They are so happy for me. But me, I’m still in disbelief. Could it really be over?

Of course, it’s not really over. I have yet to receive the payment for money owed. I still have to get paperwork assuring me of the ongoing monthly payments. My lawyer needs to be paid. I need to get my old health insurance back, hopefully before my next medical appointment in two weeks. Once I have the health insurance, I need to start applying for reimbursements for prescriptions not covered by medicaid. There’s a whole long list of things I need to do.

And those don’t include the worst of all: preparing for the next stage. My Social Security application is still pending, but that’s not what worries me. What worries me is that the LTD process dragged out for so long, that in a few months I will need to start the application process for the next stage of coverage! After so many months of effort and anxiety, I really want to rest and focus on my health. I don’t want the distraction of more of this bullshit.

So for now I’m trying to just focus on the win. I’m trying to remember that I succeeded. I’m trying to remember that even though I got only what I deserved (actually, less, when you consider the many hours and huge amounts of money spent on lawyers, medical records, medical visits, etc.) this is a good thing. There is more to be done, but that can wait. It will still be there next week. Right now, I need to (figuratively) jump in the air and shout: I WON I WON I WON!!!

And the insurance nightmare continues to wreak havoc with my life

June 19, 2013

I haven’t updated you on the insurance nightmare in a while. Sorry about that. I guess I’ve been trying to ignore it. And now that I think of it, it’s funny that I chose to describe it as a “nightmare,” considering how it’s been messing with my sleep.

For those who don’t know, the short version is that I left my job a year and a half ago when my health took a nosedive and I received payments from short term disability insurance. I expected to return to work long before that ran out, but my health was worse than I’d wanted to admit to myself, so I used up STD and then applied for long term disability. LTD denied me, so I hired a lawyer and appealed. The company’s response to the appeal was due more than 4 months ago, so of course they haven’t given it to me yet.

Now that you’re caught up to everyone else, here’s the latest: I still don’t have a response. The company wanted me to see an independent medical examiner (IME) and a field investigator. If I said no, they’d deny my claim. I guess they’re still looking for some way to deny me? I don’t know. I saw the IME. I met with the investigator. Both went well, I think, but it’s hard to really know.

Of course, both appointments were horrible and exhausting. Both involved local travel. Both were long, a combined total of 4 hours split over two days. And both were incredibly stressful. What if I said the wrong thing? What if they didn’t believe me? What if they thought I seemed to healthy? I need the money, but it’s also the principle! How dare they deny my legitimate claim! Especially when so many fraudulent claims go through. It’s just so wrong! So I had to make them understand.

When the time came for each meeting, though, it wasn’t hard to be convincing. I didn’t sleep well before each one. I was pale and puffy. The stress wore me out. By the end of each meeting, I was so fatigued that I had trouble focusing. I could barely understand what was being said. By the end of the second one, I was having trouble sitting up. How observant were they? Did they notice the way I rubbed various joints while I spoke? Did they see my twitching fingers? Did they realize that I didn’t stand up to say goodbye not to be rude, but because it took too much effort? I may never know.

I’m still in wait-and-see mode. I don’t know how long they will take to respond. I hope that it’s quick, because in a month and a half I will lose my health insurance if they haven’t made a decision. I suppose that’s a story for another day. Still, it’s all part of the same thing.

So instead of hanging out with wonderful friends tonight, including the one I mentioned the other day, I am home alone. Instead of having a fantastic time (because in our 20+ years of friendship, I don’t think I’ve ever seen them and not had a fantastic time,) I’m sad and lonely. Instead of feeling bad in the usual way, I feel much worse.

I need to get healthy. I need to get healthy so I can see my friends, date, and go back to work. And so that I can find a way to change this barbaric insurance system.

New pains both literal and figurative

April 3, 2013

The thinking used to be, “That hurts! I better see a doctor.”

Now the thinking is, “That hurts! Damn! I hope it doesn’t last.” And I go on with my day.

Sound familiar?

I’ve been thinking about pain today. In the last couple of days I’ve started feeling pain in new  places. There’s my left elbow, and a specific spot on one wrist. That’s not good. Add to that old pain that’s gotten worse over the last few weeks. Then don’t forget the regular pain that seems to have new triggers that I haven’t figured out yet. And the fatigue and digestive problems have gotten worse too. Not good.

There are a few possible reasons for this new pain. It could be the change in season. It could be all of the added stress from the insurance bullshit that I’ve been dealing with. It could be that the universe is just cruel. Who knows? I sure don’t. But if I had to guess, I’d point to the stress.

That brings me to the other pain: the figurative pain in my ass. Almost two months after I expected a decision on the long term disability insurance appeal, I just received notice of a third delay. They did not give a reason at all. None. Really, I’m not kidding! They just said they couldn’t meet the deadline so they were setting a new deadline. I believed them the first time, but not now. And this comes just a few days after I was denied SSDI again. I knew the SSDI appeal would probably be denied, but when I saw that envelope, a little part of me hoped against hope that maybe, just maybe, I would be approved.

No such luck.

So now it’s April. My bank account is getting scary-low. I don’t know if I should be packing up boxes to move out of my apartment. If I need to move, I’d like to get started. But if I’m not going to move, I don’t want to squander all of that energy on packing – I’d rather use it on searching for doctors! Of course, searching for doctors is hard, because if I win the LTD appeal then I have one insurance and if I lose then I have another insurance. Some of the doctors I’m finding take one but not the other. How can I move forward with treatments when I don’t know which health insurance I’ll have tomorrow, next week, or next month?

So yeah, LTD and SSDI are a huge pain in my ass.

It pisses me off more when I hear stories about people fraudulently getting money from the system. How do they do it? How is it that healthy people are getting approved and I’m not? I really don’t get it! What are they doing? They could probably make a lot more money by helping legitimate applicants like me apply in such a way that we’d get benefits. If they can do it, why can’t I?

I’m tired of justifying myself. I’m sick. I look healthy. Both are possible at once. Get over it.

So this adds up to a whole lot of pain in my life. The figurative pains in my ass are translating to literal pains in many other places. I can only hope this all goes away soon. Before I lose what’s left of my patience and my coping abilities.

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