Just even thinking about writing something about living on disability – both public and private – brings such a deep sense of fear, terror and shame I have for being in this position in my life. It is certainly something I never thought would happen to me; however, here I am having to depend on others for financially supporting me to meet my basic needs. It is a sad, humbling and frightening experience for a variety of reasons.
First, I lived with the gift of financial freedom for 25 year of my career life and then I could no longer do it anymore. The loss of that gift is extremely painful and leaves me in a very vulnerable and powerless position. I feel like I can no longer live out my adult responsibility of being financially responsible for myself and my family. I struggle with that daily.
In addition, the hostility you have to deal with from other people is overwhelming, frightening and shameful. I have been in many conversations with family and friends when they have talked about people on disability. They have said how people on disability have learned to play the system. They have conversed about how these people are the ruination of society. They have discussed how people on disability are people who don’t mind others taking care of them. They say they are just lazy people without a work ethic. They have called people on disability losers. In fact, I was once in this meeting where one man said that people on disability should just kill themselves. They have no use in society. Their lives are worthless and have no value. The whole group he was talking to then started turning on people with disabilities especially mental disabilities. Hearing these statements of hostility by the people in your immediate circle (a supposed support group as well as family and friends) is really hard to bear. These statements only increase the shame and terror I already have about being on disability but reality is I have difficulty managing my basic needs on a daily basis.
Along with the pain of these conversations, I have my own reasons that haunt me every day about being on disability. First, it requires me to be dependent on other people to deem me disabled. It is a reminder that I have to trust the system so that I may continue to keep a roof over my head and put food on my table. There is this constant threat that any day someone could decide to end that for me. Trust is always an issue when you have PTSD and trusting in a whole system is even more of a challenge.
Furthermore, every day I mourn the loss of my financial freedom and independence deeply. Again, it is the issue of having to be cared for by others. When you have a worldview (the world means you malice) that you cannot completely eradicate, being on disability brings greater terror only furthering my PTSD. Also, my work put great meaning and purpose in life – improving educational opportunities for urban youth. Every day I feel the tremendous loss of my vocation and the purposeful driven life I knew well. In addition, I do find not working harder than working. Every day I get envious of my husband when he goes off to work. I long for that being back in my life. Every day I work towards trying to come up with creative ways that I could manage my physical and mental illness and work so I may know the gift of living my purpose while reaching financial freedom once again. Finally, I have great envy of people who have the health to be able to work and pursue their financial freedom. These are uncomfortable feelings to be always carrying with you. Since I have severe PTSD, I feel all these feelings intensely which makes self regulation a real and daily challenge.