I’m typing this as we’re driving back from 4+ hours of testing. I know if I don’t type it now, I will forget details. This was my fourth Neuro-Psych test and by now I know a little bit of what to plan for. Plan for rest before the day of testing and a long time to recover. Take water and a snack, and if testing is long, be sure to take something more substantial. I am glad we ate beforehand! But for the most part, there’s no real preparation you can do for these things.
The exam was at noon and here’s my lowdown:
(I did find it strangely ironic this office did not call to confirm my appointment, us Brain Injured folks do forget things…)
The ladies behind the desk looked very sweet and kind. I was asked for my insurance card and her words got lost in my inability to filter things out. “Ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann, ba ba ba ba Barbara Ann Oh Barbara Ann, take my hand Barbara Ann, you got me rockin’ and a-rollin’ rockin’ and a-reelin” was blaring over the radio.
“Focus!” I told myself as I got my wallet out and began to thumb through, “Insurance card, insurance card, insurance card,” I thought hard and went blank as to what it even looked like. I haven’t even started the test and my brain has already gone hikey!
I was asked to fill out only a section or two on two different forms I was given. Cool! I thought, I won’t have to work hard at filling in paperwork and I sit back down next to Richard. He had driven me to the appointment and now was thinking out loud about the errands he was going to do while I was being tested. Hello! I’m trying to fill out paperwork here, oldies are playing on the radio, and even the pendulum on the clock on the wall were distracting me. Hmph!
I can’t hear him and try to answer the paper work so I stop to listen but the words must be bouncing off my ears, nothing he says sinks in. I hear him only when he looks concerned and asks if I’m okay. I nod and tell him to go. Richard heads off on his errands, I finish the paperwork and hand it in and sat back down relieved that was done! Yeah! I was then asked if I could sign the second page which I think was all I had to do on it. Did I remember? No. Yeah me! I’m starting off on the wrong foot. Oh joy, oh bliss. I sign it and sit back down, resuming staring at the carpet. My brain is tired, I’m in a new environment, too much stimuli to handle.
I meet the Psychologist; he takes me back to the office. I sit on the couch, he in a reclining chair and he begins asking me what I perceive this meeting is for. I tell him it’s been years since my last neuro-psych and we’re trying to see where I’m at and what help is available. He nods his head, yeah, I answered right!
He catches me off guard and asks about my childhood, work history, any history of abuse, what type of therapy I’ve received. I answer to the best of my ability but word finding is slow and I know I’m saying “um” at least a million times before the words appear. He said he did not see me as having trouble with word finding. Really? I was then asked about my family background, mental health issues, or if I had compulsive behaviors of my own. I laughed and said I’m always too tired to be compulsive!
He asked why I hadn’t applied for Disability earlier, I said I had, and was denied because I made too much money. Truth is, I was in that terrible Catch-22. In order to be accepted for Disability, I have to have not worked for a period of six months prior to applying. Um, yeah, right. And miraculously pay the mortgage how? I had to get a Disability Attorney, and thankfully she expedited my case when she learned how dreadfully close I was to foreclosure and losing everything. God bless those who ‘get’ this crazy path we’re on and choose to be our voices and advocates.
He asked about my work history, why I’m not working and I have to delve into the terrible memories of being fired, hired at a new job working for friends and making huge mistakes. I speak of my experience with DVR (Department of Vocational Rehab) and how they wouldn’t help me until I “got my act together.” Yup, they actually said that. Okay, I know I’m slow, have a head injury and everything, but isn’t that why I’m there getting help?!
We then moved to an office where testing takes place and I was asked a lot of test questions, some of which felt more like mental gymnastics than anything logical that I could sort out. The appointment was four hours which is a lot shorter time than I’m used to for a neuro-psych. But he says with his testing he doesn’t have a standard battery of tests, he likes to see where people are and then can personalize testing for that individual. Boy am I ever glad we didn’t touch much on math!
He could tell I do learn fast, like I’d mentioned to him before the car accidents I’d learn a new job in about a week and then I’d bored! Post-injury, I never “knew” my job after many years and continually made mistakes.
It was interesting, a far less formal testing and environment than what I’m used to. He asked how I thought I did and I said, “fair.” He said in my being able to give him a list of words starting with the letter he chose, I did far better than he expected. He said I did above average and because my vocabulary was so varied he knew I had the intellect in there and he kept hoping I’d go faster. I joked and said I only have one speed and it’s not fast!
He said I did better than average on my number recall, he read the number 613528749 to me and I had about twenty chances to get it right. I think I got it only on the fourth try which surprised even me. Back in high school our Driver’s Ed teacher would flash a seven digit number on the screen for a split second and we had to be able to write it down. For whatever reason I always did very well with that. It was neat to see one or two things remained even after all these accidents.
There was one test similar to connecting the dots but they were with only numbers to start with, then only letters, and then the last test was going in numerical and alphabetical order (going from 1 to A, 2 to B, 3 to C. I completely screwed the last one up because I lost track of where I was and couldn’t quite figure out where I’d messed up since I had an extra number! I went back over it and didn’t catch my error and then had to do it again, that time I got it right but when you’re being timed? I do okay if I have time to think things through but completely tank when being timed on some tasks.
I don’t know how well I did on other parts of the test. I’m not too concerned is because I have been through this before, the test results (or ghosts) of neuro-psychs past have pierced me to the core showing in stark black and white what I was already struggling with. The reality of my deficits solidified and canceled out those really great high-functioning moments and my wishful thinking I was back to normal.
I am relieved that is done and will next schedule a follow-up with my Neurologist to see what can be done from this point forward. Do I ever give up on getting better or being higher-functioning? Nope.
I do have to say it was nice hearing what still remains functional in my brain instead of all the harrowing deficits. That’s a nice change. He said none of this would affect my Disability [benefits], and then he added, “But this is Montana.” I said, “But this is Disability and I had to get an attorney in order to get benefits.” I added, “Heck, if I wasn’t living this I there’s no way I could understand what life is like with a TBI.”
I was left with the Michigan Modality Personality Test to finish, it had over 500 questions. After an hour of that joyous task, I finally go to leave and walked out without my water bottle. I go back in and say I’ve left it, they tell me I can go back and get it, but I have to ask them where I was at. Now that’s pretty poor memory. It’s times like these I don’t need to be a card carrying TBIer because sometimes my own deficits show up voluntarily and in a most embarrassing way! It’s a challenge making peace with your own brain for its shortcomings, definitely a process I have not mastered.
He asked if I had been an artist before all this. I said I was really good at computer graphics but had to give it up because I just don’t see things in my head like I used to, it was such a natural thing to do before. I ended up not keeping my huge 3”+ binder (my portfolio) of before and after work graphic design I used to do. It’s unlikely I’ll be able to do that kind of work again.
It’s probably very hard to understand why I don’t “just” go back and brush up on what I used to know about graphic design. It’s not that easy. Basically all my years of learning and experience were wiped from the hard drive of my computer (aka my brain.) I really, really, really wish there was an effective backup system! Things like my enjoyment of computer graphics is an interest or a hobby, and as such, since all my energies are spent on getting daily chores done, remembering to eat, taking care of my animals, those things non-essential to my survival get left behind.
I am trying to get more disciplined about what I think I can and cannot do – in that I mean I am learning to not carry the burden of believing I’ll never be able to do something EVER AGAIN, I’m learning to say it’s not something I can do TODAY. I am open to change and am not actively setting myself up to have my hopes dashed or feeling I’ve failed because I can’t make myself learn or do something I want to. It’s an interesting balancing act between clinging and craving, hoping and fearing…but it’s where I find the most peace.
Namaste dear friends, Namaste.
Blessings, Love & Peace,