Taking a Bit of a Break

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Today was the first day in over a week that I didn’t have something hanging over my head that was an immediately pressing concern, and I took advantage of that by taking it easy today. I didn’t do any schoolwork, although I’ll be back on that bandwagon tomorrow (I do have pending homework and a midterm on Monday, but the homework isn’t due for some time, and the midterm shouldn’t give me too much trouble with a couple days’ worth of studying invested in it). Today was pretty much a day for me to breathe.

There wasn’t that much breathing going on, though. I was kinda busy doing housework in the morning, and then had a therapy appointment in the afternoon that pretty much ate the rest of the day.

Therapy went well. My therapist is very excited to hear how I continue to be improving, although I need to take better notes to remember a month’s worth of relevant information at a time.

Tomorrow morning starts with an early doctor’s appointment for my annual physical and flu shot, so I’m going to be going in fasting for my A1C. I’ve written NO in great big letters on a couple of Post-it Notes and stuck one to the refrigerator and one to the Keurig, just in case I wind up on autopilot tomorrow morning and try to take anything by mouth.

I’m starting to fade. Can’t remember what it was I was going to say just now, so I give up. Heading for bed.

Don’t Worry, Little Brother, There’s More

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I’m so tired right now I’ve tried three times now to write this blog post so it makes sense, so at this point I think I’m going to do something quick and dirty.

Today was another algebra day. That’s what I get for putting off a month-long homework assignment until the last week. Next assignment I won’t be doing that. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve got a half-day’s worth of work to do tomorrow in between my algebra class in the morning and my biology class in the evening, plus I also need to be studying for a biology quiz tomorrow night. Then on Tuesday, I have a full day’s worth of homework to do to wrap up the assignment, as well as an algebra test on all this material at the Testing Center sometime before it closes Tuesday evening. Then Wednesday morning I turn in the homework. Going to be another busy week for me.

It makes me wonder if I can handle a full class load. Handling these two have been challenging enough, although I am doing quite well in both classes, so there’s that. I just hope that when I move from two classes this semester to four next semester I won’t get overly stressed about it. That’s one of the things my therapist and I have been working on together, preparing me for this level of stress and human interaction.

It still seems strange to me that at the beginning of 2017 I would barely leave the house for anything other than a mandatory trip to a doctor’s appointment. I would sometimes go out to eat on a slow night at a slow restaurant, or go see a movie I really, really wanted to see, but those occasions were uncommon. I never drove unless I had to, I usually had to be coaxed out of the apartment when I left it, and I was going out of my mind with boredom. But this year has been transformative. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in a relatively short period of time, and I have my excellent, excellent therapist and equally wonderful psychiatrist to thank for this. The therapy that I’ve been receiving for years worked up to a certain point, but things really started to click when I got on a more effective medication regimen earlier this year. The meds helped the therapy stick, and it’s been that way every since.

Whatever happens next semester, I’m sure I can handle it. Might be tough going, but I got this.

(Okay, that wasn’t so quick and dirty. Sorry for rambling, y’all.)

School Daze

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Today has been almost non-stop classes and homework and studying. I woke up at around 5:00 am, did my vitals, took my meds, and made my coffee, then went into the spare bedroom to start in on studying for a biology quiz scheduled for my evening class, and kept that up until about 6:30, when I got ready to drive my wife to work. I got back home about 7:30 and decided that sleep was more important than studying, so I took a half-hour nap before getting my things together for my morning algebra class.

I got there about 25 minutes early this time and, sure enough, the rude girl was in my class watching her show loudly. Well, I say watching. She was getting as frustrated with it as I was, because her stream would drop every few seconds. Instead of taking this as a sign that she should give up, she kept right on watching until class started. I should have said something, I said I was going to, but I honestly didn’t think it was worth my time, so I let her continue.

Algebra class began with our first take-home quizzes being handed back to us. I felt somewhat confident with this quiz, so I wasn’t terribly surprised to learn I’d scored a 92. The two mistakes that I made were both careless math, and I saw immediately what I’d done wrong. We then started into what amounted to a ton of note taking on my part through a lecture and example problems. The class was interrupted by the college emergency alert system doing a scheduled test, during which I checked my phone and found the text message I’d signed up to receive during emergencies, followed a few minutes later by an email testing that aspect of the system. Good to know that it’s in place in case, God forbid, it’s ever needed.

I headed home and started back in on the biology studying, and even rescheduled my usual therapy appointment for Thursday to give me more time to study. I left at about 3:40 to go pick my wife up from work, came home, and went right back to studying until it was time to pack things up and head to class.

The drive was rough, not because of traffic, but because I was very concerned about this quiz. I didn’t feel I had studied enough for it, and I think part of my concern was based around my first quiz in that class, where I was expecting a multiple choice quiz and instead got one asking for short answers. The unknown was making me nervous, but I figured that I’d do the best that I could and, if I did badly enough, the lowest quiz score would be dropped. I got to class and struck up a conversation with the girl that sits next to me about how neither one of us was really ready for this quiz.

The instructor came in a little early and immediately set everyone at ease – the quiz had been postponed until Monday. I was given a reprieve! I sat through the lecture, carefully taking extensive notes.

When I got home, I’d decided that I’d had enough studying for one day, so I started being social online and eventually got into a voice call with my wife and a new friend of ours.

And that was my day. How was yours?

But Wait, There’s More!

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Yesterday I registered for my first college class. Last night, before I went to bed, I checked my account with the school. I had a zero balance. It was a great feeling to fall asleep with.

This morning I had a meeting with the college’s Student Accessibility Services office. My counselor was very pleased that I’d gotten the application done before the meeting, and after we got the introductory details out of the way, we started going over the accommodations that she recommended for me. Despite a letter from my psychologist explaining that I’ve been improving recently, my counselor approached my situation from a standpoint of what the stress of school could cause in someone with my diagnoses rather than what I’ve been exhibiting. We decided on a list of seven accommodations designed to help me learn – six of her own recommendation, and one that I requested. We then went on to examine the class that I had registered for, to see if I was taking a class taught by an instructor who’s not as accommodating of students in my situation. The verdict is that the instructor is not the best choice, but tolerable. There are two other instructors that she would recommend for that class, and I’m waitlisted for a class with one of them. (I signed up for a class that I knew would have seats in it, but then put myself on the waitlist for a class with more desirable hours. If a spot comes open when they get to me, then I get to attend that class instead.) We chatted for a while longer and then she went to scan all my forms, and that’s when I got an email.

Last Thursday, I wrote about my meeting with an advisory specialist in the Health Sciences department, and how much it had added to my list of things to do before I’m accepted into the sonography program. There’s one part in particular that I want to bring to your attention:

Back to Anatomy & Physiology I for a minute. There have been so many students that have taken and failed this course since it was instituted that they now give an assessment test that you need to score a 70% or higher on in order to place into A&P I. There is a list of test objectives, so you’ll have an idea what to expect on this test. That list is six pages long. I can either study for it on my own, or I can take Biology Fundamentals, a course that exists only to be preparation for this exam. Because it’s not part of this or any other degree program, it’s almost certainly going to have to come out of my pocket and not be covered by my agreement with Texas Workforce Commission.

In my Thursday afternoon letter to my counselor at Texas Workforce Commission, who’s underwriting my education as part of the Return to Work program, I explained that I understood that this course wasn’t going to be covered, but would she allow me to take it anyway? I hadn’t heard back from her until today, and she had unexpected news. She was going to authorize payment for the Biology Fundamentals class!

When my counselor with SAS returned to the room after scanning my documents, I told her about the email, and she sat right down and helped me find a suitable class for me to take. Or rather, she tried to. Her computer was locking up on her and preventing her from registering me for the class that we’d agreed on, so she told me that she’d get to it later in the day. I asked her if it would be helpful for me to try and register when I got home, and she said it would.

On my way out, I noticed that parking permits were sold online and at the cashier’s office, for cash only. I was going to put it on my debit card, so I signed into the system on my phone and quickly had a receipt in hand. I went to the cashier’s office, told them I’d just sent the transaction in, and they looked me up in their system and handed me my parking permit.

I went home and signed onto the course offerings and registered for an evening class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and then waitlisted myself for one in the morning on the same days. (That made it impossible for me to get both classes that I’d waitlisted myself for, as one ends right before another begins, and they’re on different campuses.)

In the afternoon I saw my therapist, and told her that her letter to SAS was perfectly sufficient and explained what accommodations I’d been given. We discussed that, and all that’s transpired in two weeks, and it was at that moment that I realized just how much stuff is happening to me in a very short period of time. She asked me if I was proud of my accomplishments, and I told her I was. We talked more about school and life in general before the end of what was a very good appointment.

I left there and went straight back to campus to try and pick up my books. I was able to get one, for college algebra, but I’m going to have to go to another campus to pick up my textbook for Biology Fundamentals. That’s a trip that’s going to have to happen tomorrow, as I’d run out of time to do anything else before picking my wife up from work.

So that’s my day. It seems I’m going to be taking six credit hours of classes this semester, although only three will count toward my degree program. It’s going to be a very quick turnaround next semester, as I’m going to have to take the entrance exam for Anatomy & Physiology I around the time I’m doing finals in order for it to allow me to register for that class in the spring. My plan for the spring is to bump the courseload up to a full 12 hours and attend A&P I, Introduction to Physics, and a couple of my co-requisite courses to get them out of the way.

Spring is going to be a busy time, but I’ll prove to myself this fall that I can handle it.

One last thing. I checked my account with the school this afternoon after I’d registered for Biology Fundamentals. I had a balance of something over a thousand dollars. I checked it again just before writing this blog post. It was back to zero again. Both classes have been paid for, and both books have been credited to my account. So far this semester I’ve paid fifteen bucks out of pocket, and that was for my parking permit.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say that was the best feeling of all.

 

College Roller Coaster

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Today I went to go deliver my sealed transcript to Austin Community College so financial aid could start working on my FAFSA. Everyone I talked with was helpful and easy to deal with. Hopefully this is a good sign about starting my education.

However, I did get a dose of reality when I learned the difference in the tuition for a three credit hour course between an in-district student and an out-of-district student.

In-district students will pay $255 for that three credit hour course. Out-of-district students will pay $1,089 for the same course.

Naturally, I am out-of-district.

So this has thrown a monkey wrench into things right now. Even with the generous assistance of Texas Workforce Commission that will only cover about half of my tuition at that rate, leaving me on the hook for the rest of it. If I were in-district, their assistance would cover it all, and I’d be going to school on what would amount to a full ride.

So now we’re looking at what our options are. The most obvious answer is to move somewhere in-district, but moving is a real pain and certainly not something we’re prepared to do right away. (Especially not in the heat of an Austin summer.) But will TWC let me put my action plan on hold long enough to make that happen? That’s an email for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, therapy was today and things are going so well that my therapist asked me if I would be available to answer questions that another client of hers has about the process I’m going through. I told her I would and she arranged a meeting, where I answered what questions the other client had and what they could expect in going through the process. She’s really happy with how well things are going for me, and she’s excited to see how I handle the stress of school. So am I, for that matter.

A List of Accomplishments

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Today is therapy day, and since I don’t remember all the progress that I’ve made over the last two weeks, I figured it would be prudent to summarize everything in a single place rather than looking through two weeks of blog posts during my session to grab the highlights.

For those new to the blog, remember that I’m on disability for PTSD, bipolar, and anxiety, and while these accomplishments might not seem like much, they’re kind of a big deal for me.

  • Set up an appointment to discuss a last-minute change to my Return to Work action plan that Texas Workforce Commission and I have in place. It’s the difference in a vocational certificate and an associate’s degree transferable to a bachelor’s program.
  • Went to the store on my own prepared to shop for a full week, stopped only by a lack of funds to cover the list I went to the store with, so the full week’s worth of shopping turned into about four day’s worth, long enough to tide us over until we could revamp the menu to more affordable fare. While at the store, I dealt with an anxiety-causing situation very well.
  • Went back to the store the next day to wrap up the week’s worth of shopping, this time with my wife.
  • Dealt with a difficult situation with customer service regarding two computer games that I play.
  • Took a trip down to San Antonio through bad rush hour traffic to have dinner with my mother-in-law and dealt with construction traffic on the way home. Bad traffic is one of my bigger triggers.
  • Went out to dinner on a Friday night without experiencing any anxiety at all about the situation – another of my big triggers that I avoided even at my best.
  • Went back to the store for the next week’s worth of shopping, again with my wife, but this time striking up and otherwise participating in conversations with people we know at the store.
  • Entertained a friend at home for a few hours and had an excellent time. Not necessarily an anxious situation, but it does show that I’m starting to socialize in person more these days.
  • Went to a friend’s house for a Fourth of July gathering with about 20 friends and about 4-5 people that I didn’t know beforehand. I chatted people up, I was conversational (about as conversational as I get at parties, generally speaking the more people are there the less I tend to interject myself into other people’s conversations, instead preferring to quietly observe), and I sat in on a new-to-me card game that I want to pick up a version or two of. Stayed considerably longer than I thought we would, leaving on my wife’s schedule rather than my own.
  • Went back to the store for a few items and ran in to pick things up while my wife waited in the car. At no time during this two-week period did my wife go to the store without me being present.

Wow. Looking back on things all at once, I really have made some strides over the last two weeks. I’m looking forward to discussing all of this during my session today.

Progress on Several Fronts

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I met with my therapist today.

We talked about the last two weeks – about the SCA event over the weekend, about how I managed to avoid much anxiety, how much fun I had, and how glad I was to be getting back into an area of the SCA that I used to enjoy very much. She was very pleased to hear about everything, and when I was quick to give credit to having the Zoloft on board she was just as quick to correct me. She said that most of what I did over the weekend was me, and not the medication. The Zoloft might have taken the edge off, but the complete lack of panic leading up to the event and the relative low amount of anxiety I felt during the event was because of my progress over several months and my own efforts were what kept the panic attack at the event at bay.

We also talked about school, and she mentioned that my classes over the weekend will go a ways toward preparing me for my classes in the fall. She was concerned that I was going to be doing four classes at once, but she was relieved to hear that I would be doing them sequentially. I told her that Austin Community College offers an associates degree in Health Information Technology that would expand on the learning that I would receive through the certificate program, and that the associates degree transfers to the Health Information Technology program at Texas State University for a bachelor’s degree. She asked if I could go back to Texas Workforce Commission and ask if they would greenlight the associates degree instead of the certificate program. It’s six semesters versus two, but it would open more doors for me at the end of my education, and presumably increase my asking salary. I told her that I have a new counselor at TWC and that I’d send something over to her tomorrow.

We also touched on my fear of dying. I mentioned that it had come up in the book that I’m reading on her recommendation, and that the entry wasn’t very helpful. The end result of that conversation was a little surprising. She wants me to do some soul searching to arrive at what I believe happens when we die. I’d never given it much thought beyond “if there is something, living a decent life on Earth is the best way to secure a happy afterlife, and if there isn’t something, living a decent life on Earth is its own reward.” But I suppose that over the next couple weeks I’ll be deep in thought about this so I can report back to her.

It was a good session today.