Monday, May 23, 2011

Coming Out Of The Closet

I'm not sure why I'm finding this hard to talk about, but my application for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was approved. 

Two months ago.

I'm grateful, for my family's sake. And as my laptop was dying over the past few weeks, it was nice to know we have a little more padding in our budget again so we could replace it without trying too hard to figure out where the money should come from. 

But rather than celebrating when I got the letter from the Social Security Administration, it made me sad. The fact that someone I've never met read through my medical files and determined that yes, even without a unifying umbrella diagnosis, my symptoms add up to a disability somehow made official something I've been in denial about: This is real.

(I don't know why it hit harder that it was an SSA lawyer rather than people I've gotten to know through my blog and other Internet communities.)

When I applied for SSDI, I somehow had it in the back of my mind that by applying (which I had to in order to preserve my ability to file for it before I'd been out of the workforce too long), it would somehow guarantee that I'd be better before I worked my way through the backlog of cases waiting for hearings before an administrative law judge. (I knew I'd be denied initially because I don't have one of the clear-cut diagnoses that are automatically approved. And I was, although my claim was ultimately approved about six months before my lawyer estimated I'd be scheduled for a hearing.)

So why do I shy away from telling people that I'm on disability? I really don't know. 

I'm not embarrassed or ashamed, because I've been totally honest with my doctors and the Social Security Administration. But it doesn't feel like something to be proud of, either. 

Mostly, I guess, it's a relief. 

And I'm still hoping this isn't a forever thing. A lot of people think Social Security Disability is only for permanent disability, but the regulations say you can qualify as long as your disability has or is expected to last at least 12 months. 

So I'm hoping that either one of my doctors will figure out a treatment that allows me to be functional enough to work again, or that I somehow get better on my own. It happens. Autoimmune diseases can go into remission, sometimes for years.

Meanwhile, I felt I needed to let y'all know since I'd written about it a couple times back when I applied in 2009. (Huh. I was apparently was thinking about it enough to write about it way back in December 2007.)

Thanks for listening. :)




Pissed Off Patient said...

This is one of those 'Congratulations, I'm sorry' things.


I'm sorry.

I can see how you would have mixed feelings. I think there are a lot of negative stereotypes associated with disability too, so it can be hard to tell how people will take it when they hear the news.


Herrad said...

Hi Aviva,

Thanks for coming out of the closet and sharing your thoughts and feelings about getting SSDI.
I totally understand how getting it is both a relief as well as somehow horrible.

Sorry about my lack of visits.
Spike's, our dog, illness, quick death in nov/dec and being so ill jan/feb to march meant no visits.

Since then I have been spending more time sitting in my wheelchair I have also not been visiting.

I just passed by to say hello.
I hope you are doing well.

Jamie said...

I understand how you're feeling... I felt the same way, when I was approved. It made everything real, and I didn't anticipate my feelings/reaction to it. I'm glad that you've been approved. Here's hoping to getting healthy enough to get off SSDI.

Anonymous said...

It took me two years to qualify and when I was approved it was a sigh of relief because I knew I would never be able to work again. As far as telling people that I am on disability....I don't even discuss it. I understand the feeling though...I AM really sick enough to qualify. Sad and happy at the same time I guess.

Deb aka murphthesurf said...

I think the thing about getting SSDI is that we have to then realize that we are that sick to get approved. I know for me it was a relief to get approved but at the same time sad. I am still hoping one day to get back to work.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I am glad you have the security of being approved and hope that you can be well enough to be off sometimes. I had a dream I was a part of a co-op bookseller, where we rotated so only worked one day a week to make the place go, and I could work again. It would be nice if there were more things like that in the real world.