The official Social Security papers arrived yesterday.
I’m looking at the envelope right now. I’ve read through the documents, and once again I can’t believe that I’m really doing this. I don’t WANT to do it. I feel like such a weakling, using a mental illness as a reason why I have so much trouble with working. Yeah, I know—it’s not the mild case I’d prefer to believe it is, and it’s caused me untold misery both in the workplace and out. But even though I know better, I still harbor this insane notion that I could return to nursing if I’d simply be stricter with myself.
I find myself thinking back to the time just before I was diagnosed, when a series of adverse events turned me into a hot mess. I was struggling with depression and anger, and it spilled over into work. I remember sitting in my office and staring at the stack of paperwork on my desk, completely unable to do anything about it, my thoughts racing at the speed of light; I didn’t know what was wrong then. And when I found out, it blew me away, even though I shouldn’t have been the least bit surprised.
Sometimes I look back and wonder what my life would be like today if those events had never occurred. Would I still be working and living a successful life? Or would I be sitting here with Social Security documents on my computer table? I don’t suppose there’s any way to know; it’s not like I can unring the bell. But I do find myself thinking now and then that things might be different if I could turn back time to 2011 and take an alternate path. Which begs the question: would I be so hard on myself if the illness were a physical one?
It’s not as if I don’t face physical challenges as well. I’m severely overweight and have some pretty gnarly arthritis, in addition to being diabetic, asthmatic, and hypertensive. The obesity alone would probably qualify me for SSDI, as there are a whole lot of jobs I can’t do as a result of it. I have always refused to let it get in my way, but I’m up against the realities of aging now and I simply can’t perform the same activities I could 10 or 15 years ago.
Oddly enough, this eases my guilt a little bit. I’m not happy about it, but I’m less upset about having a physical disability than a mental disability, even if that particular disability is self-inflicted (while the bipolar is not). I know it’s weird, but it’s the way my mind works thanks to living in a society which still views mental illness as a curse borne by “those people”. Does that sound crazy?
So here I am with a big, fat envelope from the Social Security Administration on my computer desk, wishing I didn’t have to fill out papers and gather documentation and give permission for Dr. A and Dr. L to give SSA the down-and-dirty on me. I wish I didn’t have to avoid the temptation to make light of my difficulties. And I wish more than anything that I could still be a nurse making thirty bucks an hour, instead of barely existing on $360 a week and worrying about what will happen when those unemployment benefits run out.
In the meantime, I’m still awaiting the results of my interview last Friday, so there’s hope for at least a little extra money if I get the writing job. Keep your fingers crossed for me—I need all the luck I can get.