Wednesday, May 1, 2013

It's Official*! I Am No Longer Disabled!!!

Well, folks... I've done the impossible: I have left the the disability rolls! According to Social Security, "less than one-half of one percent of Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI & SSI) beneficiaries" become 'non-disabled' —42 USC 1320b-19, Section 2(a)(8). Who da man? I'm da man! But this fact hides a difficult truth: my life is still far from normal.

I am amazingly happy, and I am amazingly grateful, but if I said I didn't mind that I'm still sick, that would be a lie. I do mind sometimes. It's difficult to live in the between. I'm caught between a world where healthy people are expected to be able to fulfill certain obligations. But I'm still not healthy, so I often fall short. Sometimes I feel like I've pulled off exactly what I set out to do, I have made this look awesome... but now people expect me to be awesome as well, and that... I'm not so good at. Heck, I struggle to do "normal people things," like stay on top of the laundry, keep up with my bills, etc. I can do work, and a little bit on the weekends, and that's it. I've learned the hard way that I have to include socializing in there to fulfill my psychological needs, otherwise, I end up feeling like I have no friends, crying on the couch with a blanket and a half-gallon of ice cream!

So I have to keep everything in a fine balance, and I have to obey strict, self-imposed rules, otherwise this whole delicate machinery of my life comes crashing down. I've set things up like a Rube Goldberg machine* in order to achieve what I have. The time I put into the doctors allows me access to the medication I need to control my pain, which allows me to work, which allows me to afford the medication. The medication side-effects require that I get 10-12 hours of sleep a night. Work requires that I be there at a certain time. Which means I have a set bedtime in order to get to work on time. That means I also can't blow my sleep schedule on the weekends, otherwise it's too difficult to get back on track for Monday. That limits what I'm allowed to do, and who I'm able to see, on top of the limitations placed on me by my disease.

My disease means that I don't wake up like normal people. Most people have cortisol kick in around 4am to help them start the waking process. My body doesn't do that because my cortisol comes from a pill. The way I wake up is with adrenalin, because my body has realized that I'm not producing cortisol, which means I better wake up, or I could die! So my fight or flight mechanism is what wakes me in the morning. In a friend of mine who has adrenal insufficiency, she wakes in fight mode. She's even woken up kicking and punching. Me, I wake up in a terrified panic. I can't even use an alarm clock, because that freaks me out so bad I would need a pill to calm down. So I wake up to the gentle sounds of talk radio instead, and skip the chill pill. And my disease also means that I must take my pills at a set time in the morning, so that I'm able to function properly for the rest of the day. It's all very complicated and intertwined.

Rube Goldberg Machine
Rube Goldberg Machine

I was still so proud to make that phone call to Social Security. I was also terrified, because this has been my life for the past decade, and I've gotten accustom to many things, but also very proud. I still shake my head sometimes in disbelief. I've done it. It is possible. I've put my life back together again. I'm walking among the working, and I'm one of them. I pay taxes, instead of being on the government doll. I'm a contributing member of society again! I have made my crippling disease manageable. Wow!

So my message to you is, keep trying. If you have to stop and stand back and re-evaluate some things, that's okay. I've taken a year off from my medical struggles to rest and recuperate. Sometimes that's what we need to then charge back in there with all our might. But keep trying: the impossible is possible. It make take years and a strange, wandering route, but you can get there. I did. I'm living proof (pun intended).

Less than one-half of one percent (<0.5%)... but I did it!


[*Update: Nope, didn't make it.]