I asked the Social Security Administration of the US government to label me “disabled.” The application process left me drained and depressed.
I listed my “Physical and Mental Conditions,” 6 of them. I listed my “Doctors and Other Healthcare Professionals,” 5 of them. I listed my “Medicines’”, 7 prescriptions.
The paralegal at the attorney’s office helped me with the last section, “Remarks.” She asked questions, I talked about what all I can’t do, she suggested more specific words and she typed it into the application. Here is what she wrote:
I can only walk 5-10 minutes due to joint deformities due to my Rheumatoid Arthritis. I do not have an even, steady gait and use a cane at times as my doctor recommended. This has caused me to have intermittent back aches. I cannot stand long for the same reason. I drop things a lot due to the weakness and deformities in my hands and fingers and cannot lift more than 10 pounds and even then I have to use both hands. I have loss of dexterity and some of the joints are frozen in my hands. I can’t do cross stitch anymore, either. I cook much less now as I can’t safely lift heavy pots and pans nor stand very long. I have trouble changing the sheets on the bed and I can’t clean my bathroom. Even though I had non-Hodgkins lymphoma in the past, I no longer have any limitations or symptoms for that. I started having Vertigo a few weeks ago and my heads spins when it hits. In my latest blood work I was anemic. I am fatigued easily now.
Wouldn’t you be depressed? I was upset for a couple of days. Then I listed things I CAN do.
I am resilient and strong and creatively adaptable.
I thank my husband for helping me when I ask and never complaining. (Although he said one time if I have another knee replacement he might not be my primary caregiver. The first one was rough.) I thank him for not offering to help all the time. He sits back and watches me struggle with tasks of daily living. He says okay when I want to travel by myself (even the time after the cancer diagnosis when I told him I wanted to go to Paris by myself, which I did in 2006.) I know he worries, but he doesn’t burden me with those thoughts.
I am grateful for my daughters who cheer me on, give me shit when that’s appropriate and worry together behind my back. I hope I model fierce, not stupid, independence.
I am grateful for my grandchildren, my joy and reasons to take care of myself. They know me only as I am today. I can’t lift them up by myself, though I can hold a sleeping baby for hours and cuddle on the couch really well. I can’t change diapers anymore (hee hee) and everyone is okay with that.
I thank God for my family, friends and therapist who keep me functional and medical science for the medications and doctors and nurses who ease my discomfort.
I recognize that the people I know who are HIV positive teach me about acceptance, letting go, the power of faith, and living with pain in all its forms.
I am who I am because of my challenges, my limitations, and the lessons to be learned from them.
The letter from the Social Security Administration came last week. “You are entitled to monthly disability benefits. We found that you became disabled under our rules on March 31, 2009.” (I wasn’t disabled on March 29?)
I shouted to my husband, “I qualified for disability!” “Congratulations,” he said and we high-fived.
Is that something to celebrate?
I choose, most of the time, to celebrate and be proud of what I can do today. I certainly get frustrated and upset at times. I say bad words and even let myself cry a bit. That’s just okay, as my friend Jan says.
We all have choices. I choose to keep going, laugh as much as possible, and try to ask for help when it’s wise to do so.
The US Government says I am disabled. I say, not really. Who ya gonna believe?