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The 300th Post: Disabled or Not?

April 14, 2014

Wow, it’s hard to believe that this is already my 300th post on this blog. I started it last June at the suggestion of a fellow writer and friend to enter a blogging contest, and while she bugged out within the first few days, I got hooked…..and the rest, as they say, is history.

It’s amazing to be able to reach people all over the United States and Canada. But some of my readers hail from the Czech Republic…..South Africa…..Egypt…..the United Kingdom…..Germany……even Brazil. I mean, how cool is THAT?!? Whatever the disadvantages of the Internet, it’s brought people together who would otherwise have never met—or read each other’s blogs—and it’s gratifying to know that someone, somewhere, is reading what I write and saying “Oh HELL yeah, that’s me!!”

But now a number of those readers, as well as friends and family, have brought up a subject that I think deserves some discussion, even though I have no intention of pursuing it: applying for disability benefits. I’m against it on principle, and so is Dr. Awesomesauce, who is ex-military and believes that the vast majority of mentally ill people do better when they have the structure provided by useful work. Still, I seem to come undone rather easily when I’m under pressure, and I’m positively allergic to job stress.

Does that make me disabled? Perhaps, if you listen to the growing number of friends, readers, and even family who have raised the topic in recent months. I know they have my best interests at heart, and most of them have mentioned something along the lines of “just think, you could finally focus on your writing!” But I think there’s a big difference between being disabled and having a disability; and of course, I put myself in the latter category. I don’t see myself as needing to be taken care of (except when I’m going through a bad mood episode) and as long as I CAN work, I believe I should.

Now, there’s no denying that I have a great deal of difficulty maintaining steady employment. I prefer to think it’s because I simply haven’t found my “forever” job yet. I’ve had some that I stuck with for as long as 2 1/2 years, and almost made it to three years at my last hospital job; being an older worker, I yearn for a position that I can retire from one day, but I’m beginning to think I may never find it. And maybe that’s the way it was always meant to be.

At any rate, having bipolar disorder isn’t terribly compatible with long-term job stability. However, it does not make me “disabled”…..at least, not enough for an SSDI claim. The fact that I find some ordinary tasks extraordinarily difficult—like using a multi-line telephone—doesn’t mean I can’t do them; it just means it’s harder for me than it might be for someone else. Yes, I get tired of throwing myself against a wall every day; yes, if I had my druthers I’d stay home and make my living as a writer. Seriously. I don’t particularly enjoy commuting, and if I could earn enough money at the keyboard to keep Will and me from having to live in a cardboard box behind a strip mall, I’d drop out of the rat race tomorrow.

But I won’t ask society to take care of me. Not unless I become so incapacitated that I’m of no use whatsoever, or until Dr. A says he’ll sign off on my paperwork. I’m not there yet. I pray I never will be.

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