Posted by: ourlifewithmpd | March 24, 2010

Disabled

Yes I am

I don’t want anyone to think I’m lazy. I’m already working part time because I simply cannot cope with full time work any more, and I can’t stand the questions I get about it. I’m not open about my health conditions, and I have no acceptable answer when I’m asked what I do when I’m not at work. I’m not studying. I’m not bringing up children. What’s my excuse?I have been doing so much soul-searching lately, and trying to come to terms with all the changes that have been going on. Trying to come to terms with the word disabled. I still can’t say it out loud, you know, that I have disabilities. A workmate once laughed when I mentioned something about disability discrimination, because I’m not in a wheelchair or anything. Of course I’m not disabled.

But I am. I am disabled, and I’m fucking angry about the way the world is set up right now. I’m angry about the way people with disabilities are always pictured with a nifty mobility aid so that they’re easier for the Able-Bodied to spot. I’m angry about the constant stress of the train journey to and from work, because I can’t stand for the length of the journey but don’t dare ask someone in priority seating to move because I don’t look disabled (unless it’s a day when I actually need my walking stick. Then people are very Sympathetic. I’m angry about that too).

I can understand where this woman is coming from SO MUCH.

I got pregnant with my daughter three months into my internship (100 hour weeks +), stayed to finish my internship and delivered her three weeks later.  If I hadn’t been put on bedrest with the twins, I probably would have done the same thing.  I used to work 60 hour weeks before call, all the time, up until I found out newborn twins and call didn’t mix (besides, we were all exhausted), and when my employer refused to let me go to part-time I quit and went somewhere less stressful.

Something happened to me after my boys were born, I guess post-partum depression (which was never treated, because when I told my doctor about it, he said in this disdainful voice “so you want to go on disability?” and I never mentioned it again. But it never went away. Four days a week became three became two, and I found myself unable to keep up with my patients, in a fog, constantly having to go to the bathroom to cry where no one could see me.

When I first went to Behavioral Health (because I was suicidal for three months straight), I didn’t see myself as disabled. I mean, I was a doctor, and worked part-time because I had three children, not because I was a bad, lazy person disabled!

By the time I had a nervous breakdown 17 months later (after my psychiatrist and therapist left at once, and the clinic director was basically forcing me to prove I was sick — long story), I got a thing (from an angel of a psychiatrist, who unfortunately couldn’t take me on) saying I was “100% disabled for my profession”.

Even then, I didn’t think of myself as disabled, although what does an MD who can’t work as one do? Mop floors at Wal-Mart? I was switching all the time, and my husband was basically doing everything. Out of desperation I did some very intensive therapy (not covered by insurance) that actually helped enough that I could go off of my medication. But no way could I hold down a job.

I was lucky. A few years before, I had taken out some disability insurance, and SDI plus that little thing that said I was “disabled” allowed us to have a few months of financial stability. But then they required a doctor’s note to continue, and the thought of having to go back to my clinic and beg for a signature from people who told me straight out that I wasn’t getting the treatment I needed … I had too much dignity, I guess, to do that.

So our family income dropped by 2/3 overnight.

In a way it was good, I rationalized. It wasn’t healthy to have monetary encouragement to be disabled. It would help me get back on the horse, so to speak.

But as time went on, there was no horse to get back on. Even with the therapy, the changes I was forced to make to accommodate to life as a housewife, the time working on me, thinking, reading about my illness … I was just barely keeping together enough to get the kids fed and to school. There were days I would lie on the floor (in the sun, because that was supposed to help, right?) and just stare into space, when I wasn’t crying.

I couldn’t justify the $600 to renew, so I let my medical license lapse.

I tried an online business, but that became overwhelming too, and I eventually sold it.

Ten years now I’ve been away from medicine, and the gap to return to that life is as deep and wide as if the Grand Canyon.  To return, I would have to start all over again, return to residency with people half my age.

No thanks, I don’t want that life anymore.

But the nagging feeling that you’re a burden, an aging chubby woman who stays home (an untidy home at that) with her almost-grown children out of lacking anything better in her life, never really leaves. That feeling of being a fraud, of not being “really” disabled, that inner voice that says if I would only get up and pull up my bootstraps it would all go away … never really goes away.

So it’s hard to say the word “disabled”, and those I do talk to about it tend to never want to talk about it again, as if they don’t mention the fact that I’m multiple, it’ll go away.

I tell people I stay home with the kids because I want to raise them, and that part’s true. I just wonder what I’m going to tell them when the kids leave.

Maybe I’ll just tell them I’m retired. 🙂

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