Just got the Social Security Disabilities report today. It has been determined that I am indeed disabled due to Bipolar disorder and PTSD, and benefits have been continued. I knew they were wrong……
Thursday, I had my Disability Hearing. I really hope that I impressed upon the woman doing the hearing that I am too sick to work, and I am not malingering or lazy. Quite the opposite, I have a hard time finding enough things to keep me from going nuts. If I am not doing something, the voices in my head start talking to me, and they rarely, if ever, have nice things to say about me and/or the world we live in.
However, all this preparing had a side effect that I had not thought of. My mom was with me because of all the people in the world (besides my therapist) no one really knows how sick I have been, and the state of my illness (god, I hate that word) now. She also happens to be a retired attorney. I dutifully wrote out the side effects that I experience from the medication that keeps everyone else sane, I wrote out a Residual Mental Capacity Report, I wrote the number of suicide attempts I have made and how I tried to end my life each time: medication overdose, suffocating one’s self; starting at age 12. I created an”anti” resume detailing all the little things I had done wrong that built up into a big thing which was ultimately my undoing. What I hadn’t thought of was the fact that my mother didn’t know some of these things, and that I was about to lay myself bare in front of her and a complete stranger.
How do you tell a complete stranger while sitting next to your mom, who has already been through so much with you, that you tied a bag around your head in an attempt to suffocate yourself? Telling a stranger that is one thing; having the woman who gave you life hear how you tried to take that life away is an entirely different thing altogether. And, I had written down not just one or two attempted suicides, but 11 attempts that I could remember. They were the ones that had stuck with me over the years; there are more than 11. I sat there and explained that the residual side effects from my medications made it difficult to work for x, y, and z reasons. I explained that while my major symptom clusters were managed by the medications, they were by no means under control. My mother agreed that medication does a good job of managing the mood swings, but that the other side effects such as confusion, difficulty with thinking and memory, dizziness, drowsiness, light headedness, and what not made it difficult to work in any situation be it skilled labor or unskilled labor.
I calmly sat there and explained how I had lost all the jobs I had directly after college (the “anti” resume). And then my mother chimed in with this gem: “I used to be a supervising attorney for the city, and I hired and fired people over the course of my career. I would not hire her for any position in the office.” Ouch! And, this one, “When the Third Party Functioning report asked if she could drive a car, I decided that she didn’t have the concentration to drive. So, no, I do not believe she can drive a car.” Double ouch!! She also told me that at one point, she and her husband were going out of town for a few days, and had asked me to watch their cats. She then dropped this on me: “We decided you were too unreliable, and asked someone else to do it.” That has just about killed me, figuratively. I wasn’t considered reliable enough to feed a couple of cats for a few days.
Actually, everything my mother said about me are things I know about myself, but to hear them from a parent is disheartening; most people try very hard to earn their parent’s respect and to discover that this is how your mother sees you is difficult, at best. To find out the negative things about you that you try so hard to hide are visible to others is discouraging. Your “normalcy” mask has definitely slipped. Better get it back in place quickly lest you are thought to be mad after all. My mother also told me outside of the hearing that she and my father had known there was something “wrong” with me from the time I was a child. Why is it “wrong” to be different than other people? She could have said that I was “different” from other children my age.
Needless to say, I have begun to drop into my own version of hell: the rabbit hole. I am scrambling for purchase on walls that are thick with moss and other slippery flora trying to find a handhold.
And I was wrong about something: extra Klonopin did not work. It gave me the flat affect I was after, but did little else other than make me sleepy. And, my paper armor unraveled as I revealed parts of myself that I knew existed but never really wanted to explore. I did this in front of a stranger and my mother. If it had just been the woman conducting the hearing maybe I wouldn’t feel so bad. But, it was my mom who really did not need to hear all of that. I have hurt her enough. The battle may be won, but at what cost?
Today is the day I have been waiting for for about 7 months, and I find that I do not feel relief. I find that I am extraordinarily anxious and scared. Today is the day that I get to tell my side of the Bipolar story. I have no idea who will be there. I do not know if it will be one person or a panel of people. The only thing I know is that the inquisition will begin promptly at 9 am, and if I get there by 8:30 am, I can view the other side’s case file. I really do not like the fact that I get exactly 1/2 hour of “discovery” while if this were a hearing in a court of law, I would have received the case file long before this day.
I have prepared myself. Off I go armed with a list of all the suicide attempts I can remember, the medications and the side effects, the list of jobs I have been fired from over the past few years and why, the reasons I can’t work due to a cluster of fucked up mental issues. Please pardon my use of a curse word, but how else do you describe having Bipolar I with psychotic features, PTSD, ADD, and Panic disorder with and without Agoraphobia. I am certain there are others who have it much worse than I do, but right now it feels like me against the world (or the bureaucratic Social Security system that is supposed to provide for people like me and the others who suffer everyday.)
Well, the iPhone I just had to have is informing me that it is time to get ready to have my case weighed, tested, and hopefully, not found wanting. I had better go make myself presentable but not “well groomed” as it seems that if one is “well groomed” that means not disabled when nothing could be further from the truth. I would like to see them try to live in my shoes for just a few days to see what it is like to live in mixed episode world with a healthy dose of anxiety thrown in for good measure. As if having Bipolar disorder was not enough. Oh well, off I go armed with paper and no chainmail or sword. Maybe a healthy dose of Klonopin would suffice.
Love ~ Czeslaw Milosz Love means to look at yourself The way one looks at distant things For you are only one thing among many. And whoever sees it that way heals his heart, Without knowing it, from various ills -- A bird and a tree say to him: Friend. Then he wants to use himself and things So that they stand in the glow of ripeness. It doesn't matter whether he knows what he serves: Who serves best doesn't always understand.
I rewrote and reworded and applied a different format to my resume. I even used a font I hate because a friend who is an HR Director said he preferred it because it looked clean and was easy to read. It was a big pain because I wrote that resume when I was fresh out of college which was a few years ago. I have applied for almost 20 different positions at this point, and have had two nibbles. The first came in the form of a preliminary phone interview. Boy, did I blow that one! When it came to the question of passing a drug test, I did tell the woman I took prescription medication for ADD which will test positive for amphetamine use, and Klonopin for anxiety issues so I would test positive for benzo’s. Do you think my resume went into the trash? More than likely. The hiring manager has not called back, and the job is still posted on the job boards. Don’t think I will be working for that company. Oops!
Now I have another nibble for an office assistant position with a global security firm. This time the Human Resources Director called to see if she could set up an interview for next week. That’s a good sign when HR calls and not someone who is scanning resumes without really knowing what they are looking for in a potential candidate. We’ll see how this one goes. I still have a Mack truck sized hole in my employment history, and I have to come up with some way of saying I fell ill without the hiring manager thinking that I would be unreliable as an employee.
I have to find some way to explain what I was doing for those 8 years that I have been out of work. I certainly cannot say that I was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, PTSD, and ADD, and literally flipped out. However, by the same token, I will eventually have to tell an employer that I have Bipolar disorder, PTSD, and ADD because I am covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed in 2008, and it guarantees there will be no discrimination in hiring people with disabilities as long as that person can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodations.
However, my mother raised this question last night: If the Social Security Administration has declared me medically fit and no longer disabled, am I still covered by the ADA? It is an interesting question as the ADA has different criteria for disability than the lovely folks at Social Security (insert very heavy sarcasm here). According to the ADA, I am disabled as my mental health issues do impact some aspects of my life. According to the SSA, I am new and improved. I do not feel that way. I feel like a very well balanced tightrope walker that could topple either way depending on which way the wind blows. Now if I can convince the hearing officer that I am indeed still disabled, that would be great. Then, I could continue my job hunt knowing I will have some income as a safety net.
The Entity Is:
Neither existence nor non-existence;
Neither cause nor circumstances;
(nor) itself for others;
Neither square nor round;
Neither short not long;
Neither rising nor falling;
Neither birth nor death;
Neither creation nor appearance, nor
Neither sitting nor lying;
Neither going nor staying;
Neither moving, nor rolling, nor still;
Neither advancing nor retreating;
Neither safe nor unsafe;
Neither reasoning nor unreasonable;
Neither gain nor loss;
Neither this nor that;
Neither past nor future;
Neither blue nor yellow;
Nor red nor white;
Neither scarlet nor purple, nor any
For the Entity is LIFE itself. In other words, the Buddha (the Entity) is life.
These are the negatives that Mr. Josei Toda (2nd Soka Gakkai president) contemplated while in prison where he became enlightened or awakened to the truth of all phenomena. Mr. Toda was jailed for his refusal to adopt the “official” (i.e.: the religion of Shintoism that was being enforced by the military in post-World War II Japan). He held steadfast to his faith in the teachings of Nichiren Daishonin (a 13th century Buddhist monk, and the Lotus Sutra, the supreme teaching of the Buddha that has the capacity to lead everyone to their own awakening and spiritual revolution). Nichiren Daishonin’s school of Buddhism is now practiced in 192 countries by millions of people. Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo ~ Jennifer