How Do You Define Yourself? Part II

Sorry for the long back story dump yesterday, but I wanted to illustrate how clearly defined my identity was (especially to myself) until I was forty-five. That Spring I had my third and fourth cervical spine surgeries. They left me with a severely limited range of motion and constant moderately severe pain – even with muscle relaxers and narcotic pain medications. I couldn’t return to work – any kind of work. If I spent more than thirty minutes sitting, standing, or walking during the course of a day I’d pay for it with horrific pain for the rest of the day, a sleepless night, and at least one full day in bed recovering.

I wasn’t a nurse, a problem-solver, or a breadwinner. I spent every clear-minded moment fighting to get the short-term, then long-term disability benefits I’d paid an insurance company premiums on my entire adult life. One of the many things I learned was that according to federal law no company has to pay anyone longer than two years, so matter how sick they are or how much documented proof of physical disability they have. And it often takes longer than two years to even get a disability hearing, let alone a ruling. We were in such dire financial straits I couldn’t have afforded to put gas in a car to go visit a friend or go to church even if I’d had a car available (which I didn’t). When my application for disability was denied I knew that we’d soon be bankrupt and homeless, and that I’d never be more than a physical and financial burden to my family for the rest of my life. I attempted suicide.

I came out the other side of that deep, dark ocean of depression, but not without so many medical bills that bankruptcy was sooner rather than later. There was already a date set for the auction of our home on the courthouse steps when we finally qualified for a program to help us keep our home. We qualified for food stamps, and I began the long road of applying for disability a second time. I’m still waiting for a hearing date. It could be a year or more away and they are only required to give me 20 days notice. If we move out of the county I’d have to start from scratch.

UGH, another long post. I guess there will be a Part III tomorrow, because I’m still not at the positive stuff. At least I’ve explained things that are part of my life but I will not let define me: pain, isolation, shame, depression, bankruptcy, disability, or homelessness. Positive stuff tomorrow, I swear!

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