Life goes on, even when the past sucks

6 May

Warning: This post isn’t warm and fuzzy; nor is it related to being a paralegal.  We’ll return to the regularly scheduled office snark and mommy talk that I normally provide momentarily. This post talks about child abuse, and if that bothers you, please skip it and tune in next time.

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Life is supposed to go on.  I’m supposed to go to work and be productive.  Earn my pay.  I’m supposed to make dinner.  Be a caring and responsible mother.  Feed the cat and pack lunches.  Make holiday plans to see family.  Smile and pretend that I don’t mind being there. 

And I can do it, mostly.  I go to work, but being productive is another story.  Being efficient flew out the bloody window already.  I make dinner most of the time.  I am always a caring and responsible mother.  Even when I just feel like running away and hiding for a while.  I’m still caring and responsible because that wasn’t something that I had as a child.  The pretending that I don’t mind being with family sometimes is getting harder to do.

I’m sitting here staring at records for an emergency room visit for a car accident case.  I should be typing a compelling account of the accident and the client’s injuries for the demand letter.  I just can’t get my head into it.  All I can think about is the crap from the past that has been bouncing around my head for days.  For weeks, really. 

I’m nearly 40 years old.  Why am I letting the trauma and unfairness of my life from 30 years ago unravel me today?  I wrote a post for Band Back Together.  A post that really makes me feel proud.  I wrote it months ago.  Before I knew that I was ready to travel the road back to the past.  Before I knew that I could unpack the burden of that past and leave it there.  Seeing my words, edited and ready for publishing on someone else’s blog, makes it all seem so real.  I’m putting it out there.  I’m taking it out of my head and placing it into the real world.  Into the world where it is tangible and visible.   I’m still using my pseudonym.  Maintaining my anonymity.  It still makes me feel exposed.  Like carrying a big banner that says, “Hi!  I had a fucked up childhood!” 

Putting it out there, even being anonymous and as vague about it as I have, makes it real.  I’m putting it out there because I don’t want it anymore.  I should not feel ashamed of the crap that happened to me.  It’s not my shame to bear.  I am proud of myself.  Proud that I have accomplished as much as I have.  I’m proud that I’m the first person in my family to go to college and get a degree, even if it is an associate degree.  I don’t have a destructive home life. It maybe somewhat dysfunctional at times, but aren’t we all? I’m smart, funny, a caring friend, and I’m beautiful.  My son tells me so, all the time.  I’m proud of him.  And I’m proud that I’m strong and I’m a survivor.

None of us have it all together.  I have alluded in past posts that I have “issues.”  I’m a survivor of childhood trauma including sexual abuse and emotional abuse.  I’ve had postpartum depression and anxiety, which doesn’t understand that I’m way past postpartum and it should leave me the hell alone.  Even though I’m married to a wonderful guy, we have struggles in our marriage but we’re still fighting for our happily ever after.  

I am writing all of this because it helps me.  And it’s my blog, I can do what I want.  Maybe getting it out will stop all these thoughts that are bouncing around my head and keeping me from my life. But I also hope that by being honest and discussing the things that are affecting me I might help someone else.  Some sources say that one in three girls are sexually abused by the age of 18.  Is that not the most ridiculously screwed up thing you’ve ever heard?  It’s astounding, but I believe it.   Chances are that at least one of my readers has had a similar past.

No matter how old you are or how much time has passed, you are worth it to be happy and healthy.  You are worth forgiving yourself and not carrying around someone else’s shame.  You are worth it to be kind to yourself.  I AM WORTH IT.

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Join us in Purgatory…

12 Apr

Paralegal Hell has created a message board for paralegals, legal assistants, attorneys, or anybody really to chat, vent and discuss our own personal hell.   Come join in the discussions!   Paralegal Hell Purgatory Panel

Big mommy news! (To me anyway)

5 Apr

Plus a long story, possibly with a moral.

So big news first….I am officially the mom of a potty trained 3 year old boy!  Holy mackerel, I’ve wanted to say that for so long.  It was 2 weeks this past Sunday that he finally donned his big boy undies and just did it.  I didn’t dare say anything about it sooner because I was afraid he’d revert back within a day or two like he has before.  But nope, it stuck for good this time!  As most parents know, going #2 on the potty sometimes takes longer, and I was especially thrilled   he started doing that all on his own within a week.   I have to admit – everybody was right.  Just wait and when they are ready, they will go.  And it’s soooo much easier that way.  He started off with a couple of accidents a day, but we have only had 1 accident since last Friday.  Woo hoo!   I gleefully waved goodbye as I walked past the Pull Ups at the store this weekend.  And I think I heard my wallet sigh in relief. 

Otherwise, things are rolling along in the usual manner.  Maybe even better than usual.  Attorney B is in trial in another town on a case that isn’t mine, so I’m happy as a clam.  I don’t dare say the “Q” word again, I learned my lesson.  It really isn’t all that “Q” anyway. 

I’ve previously vented about another paralegal in my office, who I call “The Soul Sucker” because she’s so damn negative, and has been known to frighten new paralegals.  No lie. She also thinks she’s all that with a side of fries.  Really, I think she’s a few fries short of a Happy Meal.  Soul Sucker, or SS, has been lamenting ever since she started that she was so busy and needs help.  I’ll have to give you some back story so you’ll understand why SS really aggravates the crap out of me.  Before we hired SS, it was just me and another paralegal working on the med mal files.  We were uber-swamped, and they decided we needed a third paralegal.  Right about that time, I discovered I was pregnant (if you call counting the days until I could pee on a stick and expect a reliable result “discovering”) and the other paralegal announced she was moving to another state.   The outgoing paralegal gave 3 week’s notice, during which she concentrated on wrapping up current projects and getting depo summaries caught up etc.  Any new projects on her files came to me, and at the same time, I was trying to dig myself out of my files. 

Outgoing paralegal left, and it was another month before we hired SS.  Of course, it took quite a bit of my time to train her and get her up to speed.  Let’s also consider the fact that I had raging morning sickness starting within 2 weeks of my coworkers announcement.  I had to take meds so I wouldn’t get dehydrated and wind up in the hospital.  Again.  So, I was barely treading water as it was.  One month after SS, we hired a young, less experienced paralegal.  Once again, I was going to be involved in a lot of training.  Newbie paralegal was to help me out and then cover my files while I was out on maternity leave.   Would you believe that before Newbie started, SS had the balls to come into my office and talk about how excited she was about Newbie because she was sooo busy and could give her some stuff to do?   With the pregnancy hormones, it’s a wonder I didn’t pound her into the ground simply by willing it. 

After I went out on leave, it didn’t take long for SS to make Newbie her depo summary slave.  Anyway, Newbie didn’t have the greatest attitude and I wasn’t heartbroken when she eventually left.  But SS has never stopped from whining about how busy she is whenever given a chance.  She also attempts whenever possible to recruit others to help her.  Hell, she’ll even ask the legal assistant to find something in the file for her.  Or make one copy of something.  Even the attorneys around here will get off their royal butts and copy something or look in the file. 

She had the balls to complain to Attorney B that she was too busy.  She took an outdated list that his assistant had made up that listed which paralegal had which file (an unsuccessful attempt to educate him, then was abandoned), and added a lot of BS to her portion of the list.  I hate that I missed it, but I later heard that he took a pen and crossed out several of those things and told her that she will probably find out that she has LESS files than everybody else. 

Fast forward another year or so to last week.  Apparently, she decided to try her luck with Attorney A.  Attorney A is a lot more sympathetic, and sent us all an email that he wanted a list of all the cases we had and a brief status report.  No problem.  I put together my list and emailed it to him.  Upon his request, I created a document on the network where we could all list our cases and keep it updated.  I predicted that SS’s list would be the same or slightly less than mine or Other Paralegal’s list.  And it was.  I love it when karma comes back around.  I wonder how all of that bitching and complaining about being too busy looks now.

Frolicking on the Medicare website

15 Mar

Large amounts of sarcasm should be assumed with that title, by the way. 

So, for the first time in a million years, I had to obtain information on a plaintiff’s Medicare lien status.   Just let me say that the Medicare.gov website is about as helpful as a bikini in a snow storm.  (Actually, I guess a bikini top could double as ear warmers.)  It was also about as much fun as sticking your hand in a blender. 

We had sent the plaintiff discovery asking if Medicare had paid any claims, if so, how much, blah, blah, blah.  Instead of answering the questions, since they SHOULD know this since they have to inform Medicare of any liability or worker’s compensation claims, they sent me a signed Consent to Release form and basically said, “Have fun.”   Golly gee, thanks. 

My boss calls me up and asks if we sent them the Medicare discovery and if so, where is it.  Of course, it was in the notebook of discovery he had in front of him, and scanned in the computer.  As, dum-dum-dum, “Discovery!”   I’m a frickin’ genius, I tell you.  Then he asks me what we’re supposed to do with the release.  Good question.  I told him I was hoping he knew, and to my relief he laughed instead of sighing or scowling.  We must have had a good billing month in last month.

So I go upon my happy way thinking, “Tra-la-la, I should be able to hop on the Medicare website, find something dealing with liability claims or liens.”  Right?  Oh God, no.  That would have made too much sense.  I fall back on my old friend Google.  After looking at a website entitled something like “Medicare liens for Dummies”, which most assuredly meant me at that point, I learned nothing except plaintiffs have a lot of hoops to jump through now with Medicare liens. 

Finally I discover the MSPRC acronym and find out there’s a whole entity just for processing the claims dealing with liability insurance, no-fault insurance and worker’s compensation.  I was then introduced to the Medicare Secondary Payer Recovery Contractor.   Seriously?  You guys couldn’t have mentioned this on the Medicare website?  Google is my BFF.  Forever and ever. 

For some of you paralegals, I’m sure this is seriously old news.  You may be rolling your eyes and thinking, “Duh!”  I just hadn’t had the pleasure of dealing with it in so long.  And in case you are just as clueless, and feel as behind the times as I did today, the website is http://www.msprc.info.   Scroll to the bottom and there’s a section on Proof of Representation. 

Here’s the fun part:  If you click on the “Liability Insurance, No-Fault and Worker’s Compensation Recovery Process” link, it downloads a PDF page that says, “Refer to the Proof of Representation versus Consent to Release Power Point.”  Okay, again, really?  We have to download a one page PDF just to tell us to pull up a Power Point/PDF?   All I want is a frickin’ address to send the request for information!  This information isn’t so complicated that we need a bloody power point presentation!   

No wonder the government has no money.  Once again, life is pointlessly made more complicated.  I need a drink.

Pay no attention to the girl behind the curtain…

6 Mar

Sometimes life is flying by at such a rapid pace that you don’t have time to stop and think.  Whoosh.  And it’s gone.  Other times, I suddenly realize, “Oh my God. I’m an adult. How the hell did THAT happen?” My brain starts to let that reality settle in a little bit. I’ll be 40 in a few short years. I start thinking back to when my mom turned 40. Oh crap, that’s ME now. Then the denial starts. Oh no, this can’t be. It wasn’t that long ago that I was a teenager wearing acid washed jeans, listening to Def Leppard, and trying desperately to tease my bangs and shellac my hair in unnatural ways. I’ve gotten rid of the jeans and the Aqua Net. (Thank God.)  Honestly, not the music. And not the feeling that I’m still that teenager. Or at least an early 20-something.  With everything still ahead of me.

I’ve been married 10+ years. I have an amazing kid. I have a mortgage and a 401k and dental insurance. And business cards. People come to me at work and actually expect me to know something. I feel like I’m just pretending to be a grown up. Masquerading as someone that has responsibilities and a career. Someone that needs to seriously consider dying the gray hair. Don’t they know that I’m not really an adult? My bosses trust me to research complex medical issues. To actual comprehend it and give useful information to them. To be able to work independently; to analyze, organize and whip a file into shape. I train new paralegals in our department.  I have to admit, it was a little nauseating when a paralegal was hired that was younger than me. I’ve worked in a law firm since I was 17. I was always the youngest. Now the new associates look like 14 year olds. 

But I still feel like that unsure teenager. I see old friends on Facebook, and I can easily remember our friendship and what those days were like. Then I realize I don’t really know them anymore. We’ve both had years of experiences and moments between then and now that have changed us. Or maybe just them. Because I’m still me. I don’t feel like I’ve really changed that much. I still feel awkward in most social situations, but I know better now when to hold my tongue. And I know to trust myself more, to give myself more credit. I’ve still love to turn the music up loud and sing in the car and play air drums on the steering wheel. Except now I don’t care if someone sees me. And sometimes I’m singing along to a kids song with my son in the backseat. It’s not Def Leppard, but damn if I can’t get that Imagination Movers song out of my head. I still get a little jump in my stomach when I kiss my husband. Except instead of long, dreamy make out sessions, it’s a quick instant.  Usually right before he goes in one direction and I go in another.  Packing lunches, paying bills, taking out the trash.   

So when do I finally feel like a grown up?  You’d think by now I would have caught on.  You’d think I wouldn’t be shocked by the wrinkles showing up.  I’m thrilled when I get carded to buy wine.  (It so rarely happens.  Getting carded, I mean.  Not the wine.)   I don’t want to be a stodgy, boring, stiff GROWN UP.  But I wonder if it will ever feel like this is really MY life.

File from hell revisited (again)

4 Mar

Every time I think I get ahead or some kind of handle on this frickin’ file, I find something else that has to be done.  Or I just get buried by the sheer volume of it.  Seriously, it’s the largest case in terms of medical records, issues, experts, etc. that our office has handled.  The chronological medical summary set a new record for me and the firm.  Attorney B complained about how long it would take him to read the summary.  My response?  Imagine how long it took me to type it!  Suck on that. $20 says I still know a whole lot more about those records than he does.  Hell, probably the entire case.

My newest battle in this ongoing war with File from Hell (FFH) is the research.  I ran across an article that was on point authored by one of the physician witnesses.   I thought, hmm, let me make sure I don’t already have a copy of this.  And you  know what I found?  Not a damn thing.  How could I have had this case for so long and labored as much as I have over this case and NOT have any medical research?  What. The. Hell.  FFH landed a sucker punch on me. 

Surely this couldn’t be.  I looked over my notes and I had a few general internet research articles on some things.  But no “official” research from medical journals on the most important issues.   Holy crap balls.   So, here I am, a billion other things piling up and I’ve been researching on this case for about 2 days.  I haven’t even read most of the articles I’ve downloaded as I’m too busy digging up more research.  Seriously, this case has more issues going on than I’ve got gray hair.  Trust me, there’s plenty. 

And even though the Attorney hasn’t even thought to ask me about research in this case, he’ll probably have some smart remark about how I should have had research done sooner.  You’ll know when that happens because you’ll probably be able to see the mushroom cloud when I explode on his ass.

One of these days, as God (and you guys) as my witness, I will rule this damn file.  In the meantime, you’ll find me at my desk.  Behind the many, many, many piles of paper that is the ever-growing FFH. 

PS – On a related note, doing research means I’m not summarizing depos.  At least there’s a narrow silver lining here.

Yep, I jinxed it

16 Feb

So I jinxed myself, just not how I expected. Yesterday afternoon I got a call from preschool that the Hellion was throwing up. Super. So here we are at home again, just not as fun this time. He’s better now, but I definitely would have chosen the depo summaries over this. Blech.

So quiet…it’s scary

14 Feb

First off, I have to say that today I am ELATED that my child has pink eye and I have to stay home with him.  It’s not that I’m happy about my being child sick, but he doesn’t have a fever, he isn’t throwing up, he feels perfectly fine.  It’s a beautiful day out and I wasn’t exactly keen on sitting in my boring, windowless office summarizing yet another depo today.  We made a trip to the doctor this morning, and I enjoyed having a nice leisurely lunch with him while we waited for the prescription to be filled.  Now he’s taking a nap, so I have some of that rarely experienced quiet time ALL. BY. MYSELF.  Ahhh….

I don’t even feel guilty about the piles of stuff on my desk because it’s been eerily quiet at work lately.  Almost TOO quiet.  Attorneys A & B (who I am renaming Thing 1 and Thing 2) have pretty much stayed out of my hair lately.  Since I’ve disassociated myself from the Toxic Drama Queen Club, I’m blissfully unaware of any of the gossip and extreme snarkiness going on.   Don’t get me wrong; I have a buttload of work to do.  (Mostly depo summaries – ugh.)  And I’m not complaining.  It’s just kind of BORING.   It’s not giving me any great blog fodder, either.  There’s no point in blogging about how some coworkers still act like it’s junior high, or that summarizing economist depositions are so boring that I’d rather draft subpoenas, or that my 3 year old is still not potty trained.  Still. 

I kind of feel crappy about even saying that work is boring and uneventful lately because I know there are lots of people who would kill for boring and uneventful.  There’s been multiple posts over at Paralegal Hell recently about work bullies.  It sucks that people have to go through that.  I know attorneys in general (not all) have huge egos, but c’mon.  Common courtesy and little respect isn’t that hard to manage.  You don’t have to have a huge ego and be a jerk to be a great attorney.  I’ve known plenty of amazing attorneys that were kind and considerate human beings as well.  I just wish I could clone them. 

Meanwhile, my office has been so calm that I keep waiting for something to explode, or a huge crisis to flame up, or….something.  I’m probably jinxing myself by even putting this out there.   So before that next crisis comes and I have to put on my firefighting suit, I’m keeping quiet myself and trying to plow through as many of the piles on my desk as I can.  Because   who knows when that huge boulder balanced delicately at the edge of the cliff is going to drop.

Mommy anxiety – med mal style

21 Jan

I’ve always said that we see the worst of the worst outcomes in medical malpractice law.   I’ve  had that conversation with a couple of different paralegals that I’ve trained, who started to get that “deer in the headlights” look after a short while on the job.  For every surgery where there is an unexpected complication, finding missed on an x-ray, or simple human error, there are millions of cases where everything goes well.  Of course, those people don’t sue, so we never see those. 

After a while though, the worst case scenario becomes ingrained.  I’m already a worrier, but when I decided to get pregnant and then had my son, the worry grew exponentially. 

No matter how “seasoned” you are at doing med mal, or how many times you remind yourself that you only see the worst, it can affect you.  A young paralegal that I was training during my pregnancy decided to come to my office for the express purpose of telling me the horror story of a gruesome obstetrical case she read about in an expert’s testimonial history.  Why on earth would you tell a pregnant woman about an infant that was decapitated because an ER doc at a rural hospital decided to try to deliver the baby breech?  WHY?  That paralegal left the firm and I later heard that she was pregnant.  I ignored the impulse to call her and see if she thought it was a good idea to hear about that case again. 

Every mother has enough to worry about when they get pregnant.  But knowing those worst case scenarios is almost like torture.  It didn’t help that I got my first labor and delivery case right before I got pregnant.  It was a case dealing with meconium aspiration that lead to brain damage in the baby.   I suppose the universe thought it would be funny if everything that happened to the mom in that case, except for the meconium aspiration, happened to me.  Oh, fun times.  The universe is perverse.   

Oh, and the worry doesn’t stop when you finally deliver that beautiful, healthy child.  Before I was pregnant, I was also assigned a case about a young child who had a severe respiratory infection, bronchiolitis to be exact, and died.  Naturally, my 3 month old son developed bronchiolitis and had a lot of problems with wheezing.  Cue the massive anxiety.  The ER trips.  The nights just sitting and watching him breathe to make sure he didn’t stop. I actually got more anxious when he was better and not wheezing anymore.  When he wasn’t wheezing, I couldn’t hear him breathing from his cradle near my bed.  I had to touch him to make sure he was breathing.  Thank you, universe. 

I’ve been very lucky.  My son didn’t have aspiration issues during birth or brain damage.  He didn’t develop respiratory distress during his illness to the point that he needed assistance breathing.  It seems there were a million other little things that happened to my son in his first year.  I was beginning to worry that people would think I had Munchausens by Proxy.  I didn’t want the attention and I certainly didn’t want the medical bills. 

Sometimes I feel lucky that I have learned a lot about medicine by doing med mal law.  If I don’t already know what a certain medicine does, or what the doctor is talking about, I know where to get reliable information.  Sometimes I really wish I didn’t know any of it.  But then my mom will talk to me about her doctor’s appointment and I can clarify things for her.  Or someone asks me a question and I can help them.  Then I’m happy that I have that ability.  I just wish the universe would leave my son out of it!   Can you see me when he starts driving and I remember all of those car accident cases I worked on?  I might need to start talking myself down from that now.

Hibernation and the New Year

17 Jan

As I alluded to in previous posts, I tend to want to hibernate in the winter and not do much.  Unfortunately, that’s also affected my blog.  I know I haven’t been blogging much lately, and what I have blogged hasn’t been the most fascinating stuff in the world.  Yeah, you can stop agreeing with me now. 

With the new year, I am renewing my commitment to blog more and to not suck at it.  Or at least try harder not to suck at it.  I have also let my husband talk me into trying a new diet and work out program which only verifies that I have, indeed, lost my mind.  But that’s going to have to be a post of its own.  Yikes.

I’m also changing my attitude about my relationship with some of my co-workers and the office dynamics around here, which is currently similar to one of the levels of purgatory.  As if dealing with some of the attorneys around here wasn’t enough, I’ve got co-workers who seem to revel in drama.  If there isn’t enough every day drama going on, they will just make up some.  I need a sign in my office that says, “Junior High called, they want their drama back.”  Because it’s really that ridiculous.   

Recently, the office gossip-monger, whom I have fallen out of favor with, caught wind of a misunderstanding between me and another paralegal.   Since we’re adults, the paralegal and I discussed it, cleared the air, and moved on.  Even remaining friends – shocking.  Once the gossip-monger realized the paralegal wasn’t going to gossip about our discussion, and dared to actually go to lunch with me, she started snubbing the new paralegal.  Seriously?

Yes, indeed, I have some mature colleagues around here.  It’s like being asked, “Who’s side are you on?” in a 7th grade “fight” that had nothing to do with you.  Did you ever get those notes or get asked that question in Junior High?  This is essentially the same thing, except with email.

If I had to offer advice to new paralegals or anyone entering into the office environment, besides take lots of notes and CYA, I’d tell them to stay out of the gossip, remain neutral and make up their own mind about who to trust and who not to trust.  Personally, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing:  focus on my work, be “office cordial”, and not give a damn what is or isn’t being said.

It’s a lot like Paralegal Hell, who works with female geese on the Death Star, except less Death Star.  And thankfully, I don’t have to share work assignments or cases with the geese in my office.  I can’t even imagine what that would be like. 

What would be your advice for dealing with those “special” co-workers, or how have you handled the “geese” in your life?