Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Never Take Away Someone's Hope (Social Security Disability)

Since being laid off in 2008, for the first 2 years while looking work, I've gone through an escalated bout of depression and anxiety. After exhausting all my unemployment benefits and my life's savings, and after receiving a 5-day notice to vacate my apartment, and after losing my half-paid-off car --- my depression and anxiety has only become worse.

Little by little, my previous co-workers and friends eventually drifted away, and emails began going unanswered. I no longer had anything in common with those people, and I can no longer join them in previous activities because I no longer had an income. I began to think that "unemployment" was like a contagious disease, and that people were avoiding me for fear of catching my awful bad luck. When I would cross paths with someone from my past, I saw pity in their eyes and felt ashamed. My previous life and I had drifted into oblivion, like an unknown stranger.

During this whole time my physical health had also deteriorated --- a pre-existing condition of arthritis in my neck and back became much worse --- while I was also experiencing severe atrophy after being on my feet 8 hours a day and working laborious jobs for the previous 35 years, but then, suddenly, being totally idle. Now after being unemployed for almost 5 years, a short walk tires me out, as does sitting upright for long durations of time. So I now spend most of my time just lying in bed these days, wasting away.

As of early 2011, if it were not for someone who took me in to pursue a Social Security disability claim while applying for food stamps, I would not be here today. Since then, my bout of depression and anxiety has become worse; not just because of the isolation, but because of dealing with my SSDI claim while waiting for answers between numerous appeals after already having been denied three times on my Social Security disability claim --- two written appeals and one hearing before a judge. It's always the constant waiting and not knowing that continues to wear me down.

My quality of life is near rock bottom. For the most part, for almost 5 years, I've been both physically and mentally confined for a lack of an income, and especially since losing my car. For the past 3 years I've spent almost 24 hours a day in a bedroom watching TV, reading and surfing the internet, blogging, creating videos, publishing a book, and designing websites --- trying everything I can to keep my mind occupied --- and to keep from going totally bat-crazy from cabin fever. An occasional trip to the doctor's office every 3 months is like a high school field trip for me. (Lately I've been running out of ideas for things to do, and losing my desire to do anything at all.)

Every day I see the Binder & Binder commercials on TV, a daily reminder of my current predicament. I can't escape the daily worry of where (or how) my life might end up if my last appeal with the Social Security Administration is ruled unfavorably against me. At this stage in my life, it would be one of the most devastating things that's ever happened to me.

Sometimes, while laying in bed (which is most of the time, with no car to go anywhere and no money to do anything), I find myself quietly sobbing like a scared little boy, terrified of what awaits me in the future.

I realize that many others (both here in America and elsewhere in the world) have much more difficult lives than I do, but it's only my life that most concerns me these days. I look for relief anyway I can, which is usually when I sleep; but even then, I'm constantly haunted with nightmares that I can never remember after waking up.

All too often I dwell on my past, of better memories; but then I become even more depressed, missing the days when I once had happiness and joy in my life. I can't remember the last time I laughed out loud. Then I sob again. I can't help but feel sorry for myself, and when I do, then I also feel ashamed for feeling sad. It's a vicious cycle.

Through the county's social services office, I had obtained a medical card for my general doctor, so I also visited a mental health clinic for my depression and anxiety. I went for over year, getting two prescriptions, but they didn't help me at all --- even after I told the doctor so, and after he doubled my dose to the maximum; but that never helped me either, so I just stopped going altogether. Besides, getting my benefactor to drive me to these extra visits and picking up the prescriptions only became an additional burden for them as they usually work 7 days a week (and I always try not to impose anymore than I absolutely need to.)

All throughout my life I've worked very hard and tried to do everything I could to avoid being fired or laid off from jobs, as I have always feared being homeless. I once chose suicide over homelessness before, until at the last minute, a stranger took me in to pursue a disability claim. If I lose my final SSDI appeal, I will not have only failed to save my own life, but failed in my promise to my benefactor to pay back rent, if (or when) I was ever to be approved on my SSDI claim.

For years I've been living on pins and needles, living with the constant worry that's so deep, that sometimes I become totally immobilized. Yes, I'm that afraid. Simple tasks like phoning to renew a medication or to make a doctor's appointment sometimes seems so daunting, that I often procrastinate until the last possible minute to avoid going through an automated phone menu, just to be put on hold. I can't explain these feelings of terror, or why I feel so beaten down --- or why I've grown so hopeless.

Just 6 years ago I was financially independent. I was lucky in that I worked at a job that I enjoyed with people that I liked. I drove a nice car and had money in the bank. I felt confident and strong; and I was hopeful for my future. Today, it's the exact opposite for me. Since 2007 I've lost my father, my job, my home, my car, my health, my self-esteem and my hope for a future.

For over the past two and a half years as I've blogged, I've realized that I've been barking at the moon like a mad man, knowing full well that very little of what I write will ever make a difference to me or to the world. More than anything else, I do it as therapy for myself, and to help occupy all my worrisome and idle time.

I've exhausted any and all possibilities for my survival, and my SSDI claim just happens to be my very last chance. I'm 57 years old now, but I can't live like this much longer --- and not until I'm 62 years old, when I can eventually apply for a reduced Social Security retirement. Not just because of my own mental demise, but because of the burden it would impose on my benefactor (whether they allowed me to stay or not).

I miss the simple things in life, like getting in my car and driving to 7-11 to buy fresh donuts in the morning; or going to a local tavern on a Sunday afternoon to enjoy a burger and cold beer while watching a football game with friends. Or having the means and transportation to go to the store to buy socks whenever I need them. Or being able to afford to go out to a restaurant for a good steak dinner. I miss not having, or being able, to go to a job that I once enjoyed.

Now I feel (once again) like I'm nearing another fork in the road of my life, and that soon, events that are out of my control (like when I was laid off in 2008) will put me down another unknown path. I have no way of knowing where that path might lead me. One path would be an approval of my SSDI claim, which would allow me some new found hope, and a possible future for what remains of my life. The other path would be unspeakable.

Someone once said, "Never take away someone's hope, because hope might be all they have." I know from personal experience, that this is very true. I pray that I might soon be able exit my self-pity party, otherwise, I can not go on much longer without any hope at all.

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