Sunday Stealing: The Fairy Tale Meme

In Which I AM Disabled

Alternatively titled, "Conversations With My Self"

(If you respond, please be kind. This post is intensely personal, and my psyche is a fragile one.)

Hey, there.

If you're writing this, then you're me; if you're reading it, you're probably not me, so let me allow you into my brain for a little while to paint the picture of what being disabled by a mental illness might be like:

First, let me link you to this page about whether being bipolar is a disability as characterized by the Social Security Administration or not. (It is.)

Second, let me explain, in case you're new here:

I've experienced many traumas in my life, including the sudden and unexpected death of my mother (she was 33; I was 7) as a child and the subsequent extreme mental abuse I endured from The Bitch From Hell that my dad started dating, oh, three months later (oops, is my bitterness apparent?) and married within a year.

I believe that in addition to genetics (at least depression on both sides of my family) and my personal neurobiology, those two things were critical in my becoming what lesser-educated individuals in society might term "a mental case."

{During my adolescence, I attempted suicide several dozen times. I tried using my bedroom window as a guillotine. I tried so many times to slice my wrists, but I was too much the wimp. At least a half-dozen times, I went through the house taking three or four of every medication I could find - including my evil stepmother's heart meds - and was so pissed off when I woke up the following day. I tried suffocating myself, either by stringing a line from corner to corner of my room and resting my chin on it (something I'd heard would work, as ridiculous as it may now sound) or by choking myself with a cord as  fell asleep at night. I pondered so many other choices, like jumping or carbon monoxide poisoning in the garage... for whatever reason, I still say weakness or fear of the aftermath of failed attempts, I never tried those things. I was so intent, every single day, on killing myself that I became obsessed with thoughts of my own death. By the time I got to college, if I broke a nail, the suicidal ideation came flooding in - and I'm not exaggerating there. All this to say, my brain got broken as a kid, and I've spent my entire adulthood trying to fix it.}

However, it wasn't until the once-again sudden, unexpected death of one of our sons, when I was 26, that I spiraled out of control. For three years, I was lost in that grief, and sometimes now, I still find it miraculous that I came out of that on this side of the grave. I remember every detail of my pregnancy with Chloë and the boys, but I struggle to recollect any of it with Sophia. It's not until near her first birthday - three years after Robby died - that the memories become more transparent for me. That makes me sad, but it is what it is.

It wasn't until after that, though, that I was finally diagnosed. In my grad school therapy, it was simply "depression." (And I mean without the "manic" part of Bipolar, not only or just depression. Believe me, I know what that is like.) After Robby died, they had the gall to diagnose me as having post-partum depression. I couldn't argue out loud, to them, but in my head I was raging about that! As if. As if it was because my sons were born; no, it was because my beloved child had died, and ten years later, I still struggle to wrap my mind about that impossible concept.

It wasn't until I started the rapid cycling that I still do, 7 years after my diagnosis, that it became apparent that Bipolar I was the thing fecking up my mentality.

Oh, I'd had the psychosis during that three-year period of intense bereavement - I still do - and was even put on anti-psychotic medicines for my "PPD." I heard voices that, to me, sounded like the devil personified, telling me it was time to finally kill myself. I listened; I tried. I failed. Again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

And there are the hallucinations. I am forever seeing, and to a lesser extent, hearing, what's not there. Always. All the time, there are humanoid shapes wandering around in plain view of only me. (Please don't suggest they are ghosts, or I'm a medium, or any of that crap.)

I don't know if this is part of it, but often when I'm thinking about Robby, I can feel him kicking as if during my pregnancy with the twins. Same side, same level in my belly where he hung out, and never, ever where Jack did. I've heard those phantom kicks are common in women who've lost a baby, though.

So when, in Summer and Fall 2006, I started acting out sexually and losing friendships left, right and center, we knew it was time to seek further treatment from a psychiatrist specializing in Bipolar Disorder. To say it was an easy, open-and-shut case for Dr. P would probably be an understatement. I had every manic symptom during my peaks, save one: thinking very highly of myself. I had every depressive symptom during the valleys. And I exhibited psychosis. Open and shut.

I have, at times, thought that I was also schizophrenic, but both Dr. P. and my wonderful, awesome last therapist, L, disagree. I've since tried to put it out of my head.

So why on Earth am I writing all of this down?

I'm getting to the point that Bipolar Disorder is classified as a disability by the SSA.  And I haven't even begun to crack the nut yet, so to speak. Rob definitely got the short end of the stick in terms of the two of us finding each other because, as frustrating as he can sometimes be, I think I'm damn near impossible to love and live with. Poor guy. Feel free to feel sorry for him; I do. (And the kids? Well, rest assured they're in no physical danger from having me as a mother, but I do wonder what seeing me in my various states of distress and the extreme upswings is doing to them. I don't want to talk anymore about the kids, though. They're fine. Please believe that. They really are fine, if a bit spoiled from over-love!)


Where was I?

 Ah, yes, so since my diagnosis in mid-September 2006, I've been on more medications lasso my brain and attempt to subdue my thoughts back to this side of "normal" than you can shake the proverbial stick at. Except Lithium. For whatever reason, that has never been prescribed. Apparently I'm still good to donate blood, but I can never donate plasma, ever, thanks to some of the meds I've been on.

But the point is, can I work? Can I hold a job? Can I make a living, can I help support my family, can I bring in a steady income with this crazy (tongue firmly implanted in cheek ) mind of mine?

The time has come for me to acknowledge, for the first time, that the answer is "no, I don't think so." I honestly don't think I can, and it gives me great pause to admit that, write it down, and see it there on the screen in blue-and-white.


I've been mystery shopping like a madwoman (well. heh.) since we got here - and also since 2006, coincidentally or not - to Miami, and I've been searching for a 'real' job for about as long. Unsuccessfully, alas, but not because I tell prospective employers that I'm insane in the membrane so much as the job market sucks here and now.

The truth is, though, I constantly have to reschedule those mystery shops around my "bipolar days," doing six or eight or even ten shops on a good (read: manic) day and sitting at home, on the couch, barely able to feel guilty on a bad (depressive) one. I cancel more shops than I perform, often neglect to write reports, and I have to admit, I've even totally flaked on shops without letting my schedulers know that I couldn't go.

And when I do tell them, I lie. Like a rug. I've never once told a scheduler, in all these years of constant calendar vs. bipolar juggling, "Hey, you know what? I'm bipolar and am just not able to function today." I don't know what their reaction might be, but something tells me it would be along the lines of, "Hey, you know what, then? Take the day off and... no, wait, you know, take forever off. We don't need you anymore." And then I'd even be out of the most flexible job ever.

Instead, my computer is down. Our internet is broken. I've been in a car accident. I've gotten very sick. Or my old standby, I have a migraine. (Sometimes it's true; I do get a lot of them, but they rarely interfere with my scheduled assignments.)

I struggle to confess all of these things, but I feel that, at this point in time, it's necessary.

I do not function normally, and therefore, I can not function normally. I'm disabled.

Can you imagine if three or four days out of a five-day workweek, I wasn't stable enough to go to work? How long would that job last? Not very, methinks.

And this phenomenon is not new. I've been doing this for years, now that I really think about it. When I worked as an intern at the marine lab, I was sick a lot. When I was a legal secretary at the law firm, I was sick a lot. I've been "sick" a lot physically, when in reality, I just couldn't face getting up, taking a shower (that one there is my own personal demon), and leaving my home.

So. I am going to apply for disability benefits. Again. I applied six months or so ago and was denied, but I didn't really pursue it. Now that I recognize the fuller picture, I realize what I need to do. Please don't think less of me; please don't hate me. I need to feed my kids and, I'm afraid, this is the only way I can do it.

So. Off my chest it goes, out into the matrix.


Update: You know, now that I think about it, I think I just THOUGHT about applying before. I don't think I actually did. I certainly didn't submit all the necessary forms. Hm. Well, ignore that one detail!