It’s time to discuss that dreaded topic, appyling for Disability Benefits.

Applying for Disability (FMA)

Hi Fibro Peers,

This is a topic that creates a sense of failure and depression in me; maybe you too? I cringe when I think about it as it brings up that negative thinking loop of “I have failed, I am a FAILURE”; “I have zero to offer my world”. I have actually tried to apply, many moons ago. I even contested. I had a disability lawyer I trusted. It took over five years. I lost.

I, like this article on National Fibromyalgia Awareness, states, that is it critical to have a physician  believes your disability. I was not so fortunate, mine did not believe I should receive SSI; what??? The paperwork I brought to him for the judicial judge, who ruled on my disability severity, was useless. This doctor told me he did not believe in “giving up” and while he filled out the paperwork, he specified nothing that indicated that I could barely do my basic activities of living. Sigh. This experience is one reason I get panic attacks when I consider another go around. But, it is not the only consideration.

I, having not many options, went back to college and then onto universities, eventually I graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Work from a consistently top ten school in the United States, late in my life. I spent ten years, full-time obtaining my Masters as I skipped beginning college after high school and then I married and had a baby. I became a stay-at-home mom. Prior to developing fibromyalgia, I owned a small, self designed business, homeschooled my tween, then teen daughter alone and in groups of classes. Being a mom meant everything to me. Giving up my business when I began living with fibromyalgia was a huge blow to my esteem. It was when she was beginning high school and I  after I finally had a better understanding of living Well with chronic pain that I began my studies.

Being a stay-at-home mom with no income above the poverty level, I was fortunate to receive Pell Grants through Junior College and my two Bachelor degrees. I borrowed a small amount from Student Loan.gov. Then I graduated during the beginning of the first recession. My plan to go right out and get a job advocating for those who lived different physically abled lives went right out the window along with human service sector jobs. I applied and applied, then, again “I have failed”.

I quit trying. After nine months I found a fantastic, new, online graduate school! “I have NOT failed, I have a new plan filled with hope”. Well, yes and a resounding no. I was accepted and started grad school three months later. Full-time grad school in a therapy degree meant 10-15 hour days, everyday, to accomplish more reading and research then a high school library could contain, writing papers of at least 18 pages with at least 40 references and 26 hours a week mandatory internship work placement!!!

And, then the whopper big stoppers. Once again, “I am a failure”. The huge debt from Student Loan.gov that I knew I needed to begin repaying upon graduation was no problem. This time I would definitely be able to acquire a career that paid very well. Having no idea that yet another, much worse recession would occur the year I graduated, again hitting the human service sectors hard and that some person using their cell phone while driving, would hit my stopped car at 30 mph. Yeah, the best laid plans. My really great passion for helping others by obtaining a coveted masters degree became like the phrase, “Make plans and God laughs”.

So, while I have learned that making plans and expecting or demanding them to work as planned is silly, why have I not applied for SSI. I believe I have a very good reason here. I put my credit card debt into a government repayment program. In two more years they will all be paid off, without me paying the interest. My credit score will be close to excellent as well. This leaves me the ability to move, to buy a home, to responsibly attain lower credit or credit card and use it correctly; paying off the debt in full every month. The trap is that I am not able to work at virtually anything brick and mortar in my degreed field.

Yes, I will apply again soon. Soon, may mean those two more years. After all is said and done, I am not growing younger and don’t count on plans made anymore. I am in the process of exploring alternatives to working in my field from home. These are few but, don’t laugh, I have a plan :).

I offer this link for those who may be more intelligent or no joke, desperate to have some income. Did you know that once you have SSI there are many other benefits one can apply for? They come with long wait lists but if you need them, don’t wait, make an appointment and explore the options. Housing, help with food, medical, and more. You and I are not failing at anything. We are succeeding in living the best life we can under circumstances we did not choose but must navigate in our mazes.

Hugs and Hope,

Lucinda Tart, Fibromyalgia Peer Advocate/Life Skills Advisor

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