• You’ll never work in this town again. Or any other town.
An approximation of those words were delivered to me sometime in 2008 by a neuropsychiatrist who had examined me at the request of my disability insurance company to determine if I had really suffered a brain injury or was a faking it (a malingerer is the official term). In the good doctor’s opinion, I had suffered enough damage to make me effectively unemployable. When I was told of my predicament, I don’t think I heard it, because I just could not accept that at 45 years of age I was done. Actually, now that I think about it more, I just don’t remember much about hearing the news, if I heard it, if I did whether I understood it. It’s all very hazy. But here’s what I remember about visiting the doctor.
The night before there were warnings of a hard rain and heavy winds to come and Catherine, who was going to drive me to the appointment, wanted to reschedule. The drive would be long, about an hour, and it would take us over the Bay Bridge, exposing us to the worst of the storm’s elements. But the law firm that was helping us with our case against the insurance company told us we really should go because the doctor we had been assigned had reputation for being brutally honest and if I he determined I was not a faker I could maybe get the insurance company to resume my benefits. In the end, Catherine and I were supplied with a car and driver and thank god because the storm the next morning was raging.
My day with the doctor (and it was full day lasting from 9:30 to 5:00 with only a 30 minute break for lunch) started with a 2 hour interview, which was recorded. He asked me all sorts of stuff — about my job, the loss of my job, what I could and could not do, treatments I had tried, how I felt — and then we broke for lunch. Catherine had found the one taxi in town (we were out in a suburb of SF called Walnut Creek) and so I called the cab and headed out into the whipping rain for a quick bite. I was already spent and felt awful. I ordered a Coke in the hopes that it would revive me a bit, but it did not.
When the exam restarted, I asked the doctor for aspirin, Advil, anything, as I could feel a headache coming on and I was dizzy and nauseated, but he said he could not give me any sort of medication. Fine, I reached for my bag and popped a few Excedrin. No effect. For the next four to five hours, I had to sit up and take various tests. One was the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, another had to do with remembering passages of text (fail), another dealt with faces (epic fail) and some were IQ-related.
When the car picked me up in the evening, I got in the back seat and tried to sleep. By the time I was back home, a migraine had started and the next few days were hell. But it was all worth it in a twisted way because the doctor had determined that I was not a faker, that I had genuine problems and that, apparently, I would not be able to hold a full-time job any time soon, if ever.
Well I am happy to report that the doctor was dead wrong. Because yesterday, I was offered a job an agency, to which I said, “Hell yeah!” I’ll write more about the position, but it’s going to be a fun one and a bit different from what I was doing back in 2006 when my brain injury took me out of the game for good. Not!