Mental Illness and Disability Insurance December 28, 2009Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Anxiety, Delusions, Disability Claim, Hearing Voices, mental illness.
Tags: Disability Claim, Hearing Voices, mental illness
I finally, after some soul-searching, decided to apply for Social Security Disability. There were over-arching problems that prevented me from applying for that disability until very recently.
The primary problem was that my core being would have to acknowledge in a very public forum that I have an illness so debilitating that I could no longer work. The months of waiting for the return to normalcy so I could return to my job as project manager would have to be officially suspended. Not necessarily forever, but for the forseeable future. In applying for SSDI, I would be admitting to the world at large that the disability is in fact significant and permanent.
The second problem was with the process itself. The point of the application is that I don’t handle stress well. Unlike me, whose disability actually gets worse under the application process itself, someone missing a leg can’t lose more of his leg simply by going through the application process. But I, because of the nature of my illness, had to be prepared for an increase in my “qualifying symptom”. Back-sliding was to be expected during the application process.
Would it be worth hearing voices for the ability to bring in at least a little income? I had to wait until the answer was “yes” before proceeding with the actual intake process.
The third problem was the enormous sense of guilt and worthlessness that acceptance by Social Security as disabled would entail. Guilt because I’d feel like I’m stealing money from society at large. Worthlessness because I would be getting something (money) for nothing. Nothing, that is, except losing my mind.
The emotional kick in the stomach started with an in-person interview at our local Social Security office. Because I was concerned about what the stress of my interview would do to my mind, I asked my sister to accompany me (and drive) to the interview. I was glad she did.
The interviewer, after learning that I was applying for disability for a mental illness, was very kind. I burst out in tears as I delineated the specifics of my disability to the world at large and to the government in particular. I “bled” all over the floor, in other words. My sister, having a better grasp of the reality of the situation, reminded me (and the intake specialist) of symptoms that I had forgotten about. Or maybe just wanted to forget about.
After clearing the “intake” hurdle, the next step was sending all of my medical records in to the government for their official analysis. My mental hospital records, my psychiatrist’s records, and of course my therapist’s records- all of these private, personal records became a matter of public record.
After the government reviewed my records, they still had enough questions about my purported disability that they insisted on an independent psychiatric evaluation. They arranged for a perfect stranger, a local psychologist who knew neither my psychiatrist, my therapist, nor me, to poke and prod around in my mind to find out how bad things were. Was I really mentally ill? If so, how mentally ill was I? Too ill to hold down a job?
Not surprisingly, the anticipation of that horrible exam brought on a severe case of stress which, of course, brought on the voices. The worst case, in fact, that I’d had since my discharge from the mental hospital.
Unlike the nightmare that I had constructed in my mind, the psychologist was very kind yet thorough during my exam. I had been warned from my psychiatrist that he would be looking for any possible substance abuse problems ( which I don’t have), since it’s fairly common for drug users to try to get disability in order to finance their habits. Having survived the psychologist’s 2 hour examination, I can bear witness to the difficulty any substance abuser would have getting disability- at least if they had to go through that guy.
When the psychologist told me at the conclusion of the exam that I was not employable, it was still a kick in the stomach. I didn’t really expect it would hurt that bad. His assessment confirmed my suspicion that the return to my former profession was not in the cards- at least not yet. But he did hold out hope that this assessment didn’t condemn me to a life of forever on the “dole”. He explained that just because I’m sick enough now to qualify for disability doesn’t mean I’ll always be sick enough. But the bottom line is that, at least for now, an independent third party just confirmed my worst nightmare: I’m no longer employable.