Some of you know this, but I believe most of you don’t; when I left work in September of 2013 I started the process of applying for Social Security Disability. After a year of debating this journey with The Hubs we decided that the best way for me to achieve quality of life was to stop working.
I spent countless hours reading about the process, and finding the best possible ways to tell someone I would never meet why I was no longer able to participate in the working community. Let me tell you something: nothing will make you question yourself like the process of filing for help from the government. Nothing.
Shame, defeat, embarrassment, frustration, confusion, desperation, and hope are all emotions that accompany this process. There is such a stigma around those who ask the government to help them, so much belief that those of us who ask for help are lazy and unable to take the pressure of working. Defeat because I used to do so many things and now can no longer do half of them. You feel embarrassed to talk about it with even your closest friends for fear they will look at you and see a quitter. Embarrassment because sometimes you yourself feel like a quitter, believing that if you could just be a little stronger you could hang in with the rest of them.
Frustration and confusion because nothing about this process is easy. It’s full of questions that ask the same thing three different ways, all without actually giving you the chance to say what needs to be said: “my body is failing me therefore I am failing my family and you, SSD, you are my only chance at bringing in any kind of contribution at this point so please, please don’t turn me down.” Desperation because if someone would just pick up the phone and actually talk to you instead of insisting on these insane forms maybe they would be able to grasp just how much your life has changed they would understand. And lastly hope, because if, and this is such a big IF, I get approved the financial burden my condition is putting on my family would be just a little bit lighter.
I’ve been at this for just over a year now, and it’s awful. It took over 10 hours of filling out forms and countless doctor appointments to receive that first denial letter just 4 short months after filing. I knew it would come, even the worst case scenarios get denied the first time around but it still felt like a slap to the face. “You don’t belong here, suck it up and get back to work. If you weren’t such a wimp you could handle this.” We filed for a reconsideration immediately and have been working on that since February of 2014.
For months nothing happened, and now, finally it’s my turn again. Every time something comes in the mail I’m afraid to read those words telling me that someone I have never met, who has never really examined my case has decided that I am not actually in enough pain to warrant staying home. It’s a difficult thing you know, to not have control over your own life, and yet I find myself here more often than not. At the mercy of a pain flare that caused me to cancel a week’s worth of plans, of the doctors who will tell me what I can and can’t take to ease my pain. Waiting for the powers that be to agree that yes, I did indeed make the right decision to stop working.
I realize that there are those who will milk the system for all it’s worth, and to them I say “why would you do something so cruel?” Those of us who have been through the wringer repeatedly, who agonized over the decision to give up what society says makes us who we are-our careers- to give in to the disease that forces us out of our lives and into these little holes waiting for someone to drop a lifeline down and pull us out are all jumping through hoops because of you.
And yet, the paperwork is inefficient and does not ask the questions that truly need to be asked. Instead of taking an hour out of your time to meet with the applicant and get an understanding of their condition and what their life has become as a result of it, you throw more and more paperwork at the issue, hoping that we will either find that magic phrase or give up.
Well I’m not giving up…..