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Mental Illness and Disability Insurance December 28, 2009

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Anxiety, Delusions, Disability Claim, Hearing Voices, mental illness.
Tags: , ,

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.



1. susan - December 29, 2009

Hi Mermaid….

It’s understandable. I was there at the end of 2006…. and felt the same way you did. The different shrink eval…. that was horrible. And he was just seeing people, quickly, like cattle…..

I hate the fact that I live off of disability. I hate being on a fixed income, when I use to be able to work 80 hours a week in a global market media company, and worked in such news rooms as London, Edinburgh and Paris…. and now I am stuck in the hell hole of NJ, east of Soprano Land- but it has given me time to write, which I would never have had.

I long to go back to work, and tried it a few times, but had to leave after a few days. Cannot do it. Still hoping though. But I know if anyone can do that- it will be you.

Best wishes for a great New Year, and good luck with finding a publisher. I look forward to reviewing your book for my blog!

Crazy Mermaid - December 29, 2009

Thanks for sharing your experience in this relatively public forum. It’s nice to know I’m in good company. I understand why they have to make the process so tough they can screen out the deadbeats, but it’s still hard to go through. Perhaps when the brain scans become more sophisticated, they can be used to help us through the hurdles. Bright purple in the cortex (or whatever) equals mania, etc. might be the wave of the future. Thanks for the encouragement about the book. I’m going to see if I can find an agent for 3 months, then self-publish if nothing’s in place by then. I think the rules have changed enough that we dont’ have to sit around looking for the “publisher prince” to rescue us. 🙂

2. Serial Insomniac - December 30, 2009

Although the situation is a little different here in the UK, I can empathise with most of what you say. I feel abject horror at the notion that other people pay for me to live without my giving anything back to them – and yet, what else can I do?

One of the overriding problems here is that there is are so many people that simply don’t want to work that manage to get disability benefits that those of us that have genuine but invisible illnesses are assumed to be like them. Honestly, the process of getting these damn payouts is so stressful (as you’ve found) that I don’t know how anyone who is not in absolute need of them can do it, and I absolutely resent the societal assumption that I went through all that simply so as I could lie about all day.

I’m sorry that the voices came back and that the pain on hearing you couldn’t work was so raw. But you are strong, and this is not the end of the road for you. Take care x

3. Autumn - January 13, 2010

Howdy! I’ve been through the SSDI approval process on three separate occasions in the last 15 years, and I’m pretty good at navigating the system, so if you’re still working on your claim and need any suggestions/advice/resources just shoot me an e-mail.

Also, Washington State has a pretty good resource for worker retraining called the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. They paid for the school expenses that grants didn’t cover, and they’ll be helping me find a job after I finish at the end of this quarter. Not all of the caseworkers are as good as mine, but it’s still a great way to get some extra help toward self-sufficiency (and eventually getting of Disability if that’s what you’d like to do).

Good luck!

Crazy Mermaid - January 13, 2010

Thanks for the encouraging comments, and sorry to hear about the downward spiral. I don’t have a Livejournal account. How do you get one?

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