Saturday, October 24, 2009

who's crazier, the government or me?

I had applied for social security disability (my friend Robin calls it "crazy money" because her crazy mother has received it for many years), and got my turn-down letter today. What's crazy on their end is that they basically wrote "You claimed to have X and Y. Our examination of you confirms that you have X and Y. Therefore, you are able to perform the job of Z." X is mental illness -- specifically, depression so severe that I can only leave my home once every two or three weeks. Z is administrative assistant, which was my job classification for many years. So they're saying that yes, we agree, based on our examination of you and paperwork from your personal psychiatrist, that you are so depressed you can only rarely leave your home, which qualifies you to be an administrative assistant. I mean, I'm copping here to being badly broken, but I think I'm smarter than whomever's making the decisions for the feds. Just sayin'. I'll either appeal or reapply; my husband's discussing it tomorrow morning with an expert he knows.

I've been under treatment for depression for a dozen years, though I realize I probably had it a whole lot longer. I never knew until a couple of months ago that a strong desire to stay home -- to be in a familiar place and not have to face the world -- is a four-star symptom is depression. In my case, this would have to go back to cutting school. The reason I had so many administrative assistant jobs is in part because I called in sick so often -- and even moreso if it was a high-pressure job and/or I had a difficult boss -- and this was cited in quite a few firings.

My last job kind of broke me, even though it was aforementioned beloved publishing job. It was extremely high-pressured and low-paid and long hours, and most of the people doing it were about 25, which is about half as old as I am now. Still, I was fortunately to have a boss about my age who was very encouraging and lovely to work for. I had a huge success with a book I began working on when I was still a temp, believe it or not, because my boss hated the author and I offered to work with him. After a year, I got promoted out of entry-level (which usually takes two years), and an unheard-of 10% raise. Then my great boss left and a year later, I was fired. The stress during that year was excessive, and I actually saw my depression and anxiety progress. I would have weeping spells during the work day, sometimes for hours. I had begun looking into a transfer into another imprint (this publisher has many), or even another publisher, which I would be eligible to do after the full two years. But I lost my job before that could happen.

I did do some looking for another job, and came close to getting a really good one in Hoboken. But then my husband's father got sick, and as the only unemployed one in the family, I ended up doing a lot of visiting and keeping him company. He was quite old, and what was originally a fall ended up being a urinary tract infection, then breathing problems, then extreme weight loss, and so on, so it was a pattern of hospital, rehab, assisted living, and back to the hospital, until after some months, he could no longer rally and died at 89, just a year after my mother-in-law.

And by then -- we were in a financial collapse! I think this is when I started having trouble leaving home. My husband lost *his* job somewhere in here, and that got me way anxious, because his industry has been gasping for years now, and yet I've been unable to get him out of it. He's been in it most of his working life, and his father was in the same industry, and there just aren't very many jobs at all there anymore. The company that let my husband go went out of business.

So it's been a time of deep anxiety. I've been a jeweler for about eight years and was thinking about selling my jewelry on line, on Etsy or such, and bought a digital camera, but I found out that photographing jewelry is extremely difficult and requires more equipment that we can fit in here. I do write for a national blues magazine that earns me about $15 and a free CD or two every month.

When I lost my job, I thought I could do some freelance writing, but all of a sudden, practically every journalist on the planet is out of work, and some of them even write better than I do. All of them are better-connected.

Right now, we're doing OK on two unemployments, and have managed to buy health insurance (which naturally, excludes mental health care, mental health meds, and chiropractic), and we're managing to pay rent, bills, and my meds.

I understand that mental health, like a lot of illnesses, occurs on a sliding scale. You're somewhat better or somewhat worse, but it's not necessarily about "cure." (There was a good book on this, but I can't seem to find it on Amazon.) So my doctor added a new med which seems to have drastically reduced my anxiety attacks/crying fits and has stopped my suicidal ideations entirely.

I feel a little out of whack lately since we had to do some fast tidying in this apt due to a landlord's visit, and my jewelry stuff is all packed away. This is really bad. Also -- and I hate to say it -- my husband is home too much. He's extremely helpful, but maybe if he were working, I would push myself to get out more.

I hope this all isn't scaring anyone to death. I'm relatively normal, getting good care, mostly fairly happy, and making every effort to get to important events.

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