Turning 21, getting a good job at the microchip factory, and finally having my own place seemed to solve so much. Having some illusion of control over my life helped my mental state immensely. The shifts at the factory were long, and they caused a great deal of pain, but I was self-medicating on my time off and my situation really wasn’t THAT bad yet. Or at least I convinced myself of that.
Not that bad still included some injuries to my hands and some back issues that kept me off work for over three months. Another diagnosis of degenerative disc disease, and now also bone spurs on a couple of my thoracic vertabrae. When I returned to work from my ‘back vacation’ I could tell that my co-workers thought I was faking it. This only made me work harder. In retrospect I realize that I was doing a lot of damage to myself during this time, pushing myself and trying to prove something, but I was medicated and most of the pain hadn’t set in yet. My factory job got harder and harder for me to do, but being a union thing, I wasn’t going to be fired for medical issues when things did fall apart.
I knew I couldn’t keep doing that job forever, so I started to look for other openings within the company. I thought I found my salvation when I landed a job on the ‘management’ side as a Document Controller. This meant a cushy office chair and no more walking around on steel floors and taking that pesky suit on and off 10 times a day. I had the computer skills needed from my time at community college and the position was mine!
The triumph was short lived though, I guess the boss just didn’t like me. Maybe it was adrenaline rushes on my part too, but I spent most of the next six months anxious I’d be fired and battling ‘tension headaches’ on a daily basis. My menstrual cycles were still horribly painful, so between the headaches and the monthly – I became ‘that sick girl’ at work yet again. I kept seeing my doctor about the anxiety and headaches and he kept prescribing medication that masked the symptoms so I could function.
It was a Friday morning, the one before Labor Day weekend in 1999. I woke up feeling nauseated, with a headache worse than normal. I wanted nothing more than to call in, but I was afraid to. My boss scrutinized Monday and Friday absences worse than the rest, much less on a holiday weekend. I drug myself into the shower and leaned against the cold tiles and tried to summon the courage to get myself to work. In the shower I just felt dizzy and more ill, and I knew this was going to be another call in. I bit the bullet, called my boss and slid back between my covers and slept most of the day.
The next morning, I woke up even worse. When I opened my eyes, everything was blurry. My head was pounding, and the shafts of light coming through my bedroom windows felt like icepicks in my head. The good news was, at least it was Saturday on a holiday weekend. I had three days to get myself back right for work on Monday. I laid in bed a while longer, discussing the symptoms with my then live-in boyfriend and assessing what I needed to do. We mutually agreed that the eye symptoms were too weird to ignore, so I called the nurse hotline I had available through my insurance.
The nurse of course insisted the emergency room, yet I still argued with myself that it might not be necessary. I waited and took another shower leaned against those cold shower tiles. Not feeling any better after the shower, I allowed him to drive me to the ER in Orlando. The next few days are a bit of a blur, but I’ll do my best to recall the highlights in part 5 of my epic saga.