I was supposed to be in Atlanta this week. I was going to hang out with my best friend, watch her son’s high school marching band practice, and visit the Georgia Tech campus with her Sophomore daughter. I was going to cheer wildly for Katie McGarry and Leslie Lynch, two friends who are finalists in the romance writers’ version of the Academy Awards this year. I was going to have a wonderful roomie and travelling companion who understands what it’s like to deal with pain and mobility issues while away from home. Instead, I had my disability hearing.
I’ve been off work since mid-April of 2011. During that time I’ve had two neurosurgeries, more tests and treatments than I can count, and enough medications to sedate an entire third-world country. And the pain is no better. On top of dealing with the pain and with the depression that followed hard on the heels of losing my job of two decades I was buried under an avalanche of paperwork from my health insurance company, my disability insurance company, and SSI. Thankfully, I had a company called Allsup to help me deal with the government end of things. Otherwise I just don’t think I could have managed to get to this point.
As the date of my hearing drew closer I became more anxious. I’m all about being in control, and the thought of some stranger making decisions that would impact my life and the lives of my family in such a massive way had me lying awake at night. I sought out people who knew people who had experience with the disability process, but that only made me more anxious since everyone’s story was completely different. My attorney called the day before the hearing to answer my questions, but every single answer he gave me began with, “Well, that depends . . .” – so not helpful, even though it was the truth.
I fretted over what to wear (of course). After all, I was going to a Federal courthouse and would be meeting with a judge – a judge holding my future in his hands. Remember – I’m a bit of a control freak, and what I wore was pretty much the only thing completely under my control 🙁 So I ended up in a simple black above-the-knee dress with black flats and a silk fleur-de-lis print scarf. Minimal makeup, hair up in a clip as usual.
Thankfully, Michael was able to take off work and go with me. I honestly don’t think I could have driven downtown, let alone found an appropriate place to park or found the right department in the huge, maze-like courthouse. We had to present picture IDs and go through a metal detector, which of course was set off by all the hardware in my neck. Then up to the third floor, where I had to show ID and be wanded again before finding a seat in the large waiting room. Obviously no one else having a hearing that day had shared my concern over appropriate attire. Shorts, tank tops, and ball caps were the order of the day.
My attorney arrived and took me and Michael to a tiny private conference room to review all my paperwork and cover any last-minute questions. Right at the stroke of ten the court reporter knocked on the door to let us know the judge was ready to hear my case. Michael had to return to the waiting room and the attorney and I followed the court reporter to a larger room with a couple of banquet-style tables pushed up to a raised platform where the judge was seated. There was another man there, some sort of vocational specialist, who was apparently present in order to answer the judge’s questions about what jobs I might be qualified to do. I answered a few questions from my attorney and a few questions from the judge and it was over. No final decision yet, and it may be as long as two months before I hear anything. My attorney said he was confident I had a strong case, so I’m cautiously optimistic.
My biggest advantage was all the friends and family who were praying for me and thinking about me that morning. I could literally feel their support while I was in that room. I’m so glad I wasn’t shy about asking for prayers. And the timing of the hearing worked out perfectly for Michael to be able to go with me to noon Mass afterwards – that was the icing on the cake 🙂
Regular readers, did you notice my grammar was better than usual in this post? There’s an excellent reason for that. I’ve discovered Grammarly, a service that allows writers to copy and paste documents to be proofread. My first draft of this post had three spelling errors, eleven grammatical errors, seven punctuation errors, and four style and word choice errors – YIKES!!
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*This post has been sponsored by Grammarly, but all opinions expressed are my own.