Thoughts on Disability -August 13, 2016

This is an issue that weighs on my mind, especially for the past few days. A dear friend of mine was needlessly ridiculed by someone on FaceBook; that critic had no functional knowledge of how disability works. She has an invisible disability. As do I. She tried to set him straight by giving him the link to SSI, which is a Federal government site that informs people about the Social Security Administration and disability. Well, her assailant refused to educate himself, and all he could do was hurl insults and complain about how “his taxes” are being “misused.”

Like it or not, the Federal government sets the guidelines for Social Security and what the process is for being declared “disabled”. But first, a visual about where Social Security taxes go:

social security taxes

This figure shows where every American citizen’s Social Security taxes go. I worked. I was taxed. It went into my Social Security account. And since I worked enough years to draw on it for my disability, the money comes from my account. The Social Security taxes that have gone into my account over the years didn’t come from anyone else. The same is true for you as well. You will get to draw on what you put in.

 

Disability

Now for disability. People tend to have a lot of misunderstandings about this too. There are physical disabilities that are quite obvious (like being wheelchair-bound) and ones you can’t see (like multiple sclerosis or degenerative spine disease). Then there are the emotional and mental disabilities, none of which are visible. Disorders of this nature include epilepsy, major depression, schizophrenia, and PTSD.

Disabled people like my friend and I are told “You seem normal to me.” or “You’re lazy/faking it.” However, the people making such observations/accusations are not medical professionals. They don’t sit on the state medical examiner boards, nor are they disability judges. They might like to think they’re all-knowing like God, but they’re unwilling to admit they probably don’t even know themselves all that well.

Being declared disabled isn’t as easy as sending a letter to the Social Security Administration and telling them that there’s something wrong with you. You have to supply them with all relevant information: a current resume and medical records are crucial. This information is sent to the state’s medical examiner board. They review the medical records to determine if there’s any medical basis for being disabled. Then finally, the information is reviewed by a disability judge. This process can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years.

 

My Personal Tale

For years, I’ve suffered from major depression. I had little interest in doing things I loved. I didn’t want to get up during the day. I’d have insomnia at night. My mood could flare into rage in an instant. And that would send me spiraling back into the cycle of depression.

In 2013, I finally admitted to myself that I needed help. Something was wrong with me. I was broken inside. So I checked myself into the local mental hospital.

In there, I told the doctor about the suicide attempts. I’ve tried overdosing on pills or on a mix of pills and alcohol. I’d tried it several times without success. I told him about the voices (both auditory and “telepathic”), and seeing things (like the shadow people). I described my insomnia and sleeping habits, my eating (or lack thereof), and mood swings.

After I was released, I suffered another hurdle. One of the indigent clinics that a former roommate went to for his help didn’t want to help me. I wound up calling the suicide hotline that night. They pointed me to another facility. The next day, I spoke tearfully to their director, and they were expedient getting me all set up.

For the next two years, I was eventually placed on SSI for my depression. It was still a very rough up-and-down, trying to maintain an apartment that was rendered largely unusable by thoughtless neighbors all around. When I’d complain to the local police, they were quite useless and refused to do anything, even when the neighbor admitted to doing what prompted the call. The stress would get to me, to the point that I was hospitalized yet again, this time for wanting to commit suicide with a gun. During this time, I made my appointments and continued my treatment.

Things got so bad in November 2015, that the complex was kicking me out. I was supposed to have until the end of the month. I spoke with the manager and made a partial payment. she gave me until November 19th to pay the rest. But she cut my lights off on November 11th. A dear high school friend rescued my kitties and myself the next day, and I moved to a new home, in a new state. I now reside with another high school friend, and she’s the disabled person that prompted this blog article.

It’s still a roller coaster, and I’m still impacted by stress. My new psychiatrist agrees with the previous diagnosis (major depression), but he also believes I suffer from a mild form of schizophrenia. So, I’m still on disability. But it’s my Social Security taxes that I’m drawing from, and no one else’s.

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