I have written, for years, about living with Bi Polar disorder, PTSD, a severe anxiety disorder, and agoraphobia, but until an emergency trip to the doctor yesterday when my meds were changed, dosages raised, another medication added, somehow, and I don’t quite know how to put this into words, and it seems just ridiculous to say it, I didn’t know how bad it all was, but I cannot pretend anymore. I am a woman with mental illness, and life isn’t what I wanted or expected it to be. Today I started the process of applying for disability.
This is terrifying. I was married for 30 years but I am not yet 62 so I can’t apply for the social security benefits based on my husband’s work history. Too, since I was not only a full-time, stay-at-home mom but couldn’t have sustained a job outside the home anyway — I tried a few times but 3 months was the longest I lasted and I would end up crouching in the bathroom crying and throwing up off and on all day, I can’t seem to exist in the world as other people do no matter how hard I try — I have no work history to base the disability on in terms of how much I could get to live on per month. What this means, as best as I have been able to understand with numerous phone calls, I might get SSI if I’m lucky and that may well not be enough for me to live on if I’m lucky enough to get it anyway, and if I do other things to make money if I make much I lose the disability. And I am just one of thousands or more — many more — that deal with this every day. But that’s not why I am writing this. I have my official appointment on Monday morning at 9:05 a.m. and so as not to just go completely to pieces before then I have prayed and released it. It is in the hands of God and my angels and I hope for the best but put one foot in front of the other and go on with life in the meantime. No, what I need to write tonight is the shock of realizing that this is my life.
Yes, I have known since I was 18 and had my first breakdown after being sexually abused from 4 to 18 that I had serious problems and would likely always be affected, but I really thought that with enough therapy and working hard I could get through this. After 4 decades of therapy there is nothing left to say, just symptoms to deal with. I have been on medication and off and back on and for me on is definitely better. After 3 1/2 decades in therapy I was finally diagnosed as bi polar and when my meds finally got adjusted properly for this diagnosis things started to change, most important I stopped wanting to kill myself, or rather, I knew that that was not an option that I considered any more. Still, I had 3 other diagnoses to go along with bi polar disorder. In the Nature vs. Nurture argument I hit the jackpot. I got both.
When I searched for and found my biological mother at 26 she threatened to kill me. This is no joke. This is a long story and I won’t go into it all but she had been alcoholic and suicidal most of her life and though I didn’t understand it then I now know, based on other evidence at the time and years in therapy that she was almost certainly bi polar. Bi polar is genetic. It can be like a ticking time bomb but never go off, or something that lies dormant, but long term sexual abuse tipped the scales so that my biological make up clashed with my real life long term trauma and left me more than a bit of a mess, but still I just thought that if I had enough therapy, took the right meds (Or did alternative therapies which I also did, for years, but they just couldn’t get me right…) and back to medication with serious and firm self-care practices in place I could, well, not “beat this thing” but I could manage it. And I have tried, so hard, and I will continue to try, but it’s not enough.
There, I said it, and I can hardly breathe having just uttered the words, because…
We live in a society now where if you utter one negative thing “The Law of Attraction” is going to send you spiralling down into a hell of your own making because you weren’t positive enough. I watched “The Secret,” read the book, and every other kind of book on reading lists regarding the LOA, and abundance, and go on down the list because I have done them all. And I believed, and I wanted to believe, and I tried so hard, and I wasn’t doing vision boards to draw to me fancy cars and mansions and all those kind of things, though God bless anyone who wants and achieves them, I wanted to be okay, I wanted to be able to take care of myself, I wanted never to be a burden to anyone, I wanted no one to be ashamed of me, I wanted to live a life of helping others, I.wanted.to.do.so.much. So how have I made it this far?
This is the part that makes me embarrassed. I know that I have had help that other people don’t but I only have my own experiences, my own life, and they are mine, and I am not going to apologize for anything that I have had that blessed me any more than I feel better or worse than anyone who is in my position now. I was married for a long time. When the marriage ended I had alimony for awhile. When my mother passed I got some money to live on for awhile. Now I am here. That is the short version. This is a blog post, not a book, but the thing is, now I am here, and I am scared to death.
I am 60 years old. I don’t have a problem with age, I never have, but I am having a very hard time with being this age, and, with a basket full of mental health issues, I cannot do anything substantial to make money. Let me draw you a picture…
I am intelligent and talented but as a person with bi polar disorder organizing my life and managing my money is not something I have done well. When I say the latter I don’t mean I have led a fancy life, traveled, had expensive cars, or things of that ilk, no, I had what I now realize was a confused — I’m being kind — disillusional sense of who I was and what I was capable of. I started many small home businesses but I could not sustain them. I tried, so hard, and desperately wanted to believe in myself so as soon as I had an idea I bought every single thing one needed to start the business, I got going gangbusters in what I now realize was a manic phase, but I could not sustain it. In the last couple of years I spent a good chunk of the money I had left on mentoring, business classes, and things of that ilk because I so desperately wanted to succeed, to take care of myself, to prove to myself that I could do it. In the last couple of days I have realized that it is not possible for me to hold myself up to the standards others have. No, I am me, for better or worse, and I have to deal with who I am and where I am now. At 60 I am seeing myself for the first time.
I feel what I am about to say is shocking given all of the above evidence to the contrary, but life doesn’t always make sense and it surely hasn’t in mine, but it wasn’t until yesterday that I truly saw myself as a broken thing. Leaning back in my chair as my new prescriptions were called in I felt numb. I was given a new medication, the 5th, for an MDD episode, Major Depressive Disorder, which is not really a disorder according to the descriptions I have read, but an outgrowth of my Bi Polar Disorder, type 2, the depressive side of things. It is serious, it can lead to suicide, but I am not about to go there, I know that for certain. It does, however, feel crippling in light of my present circumstances. For me having to apply for disability feels like the message from the Universe is, “You’re screwed up, you are not going to achieve your dreams, go to the back of the line…”
I’m sorry, this is what I am facing. I am so afraid not to have enough money to get by that I am spinning, and my bi polar brain is hugging itself and rocking in the corner. I am so afraid I am teary writing this. And why write this anyway?
I am writing this, as I have every other hard thing I have written about for over a decade, because there are other people who, for their own reasons and life circumstances are in the same place that I am, feeling alone and afraid and like jumping off a bridge might be their only choice, but I know this, and if you are here with me know this, that that is not our only choice. I don’t know what the answer is but I will share my journey with you as I’m going through all of this, and if you can close your eyes and reach out your hand and I will take it in mine. We may be on opposite sides of the globe but we are not alone. I haven’t a clue how I am going to handle any of this, I can’t see around the corner to the place where I have at least a few things figured out and don’t feel quite so sick to the stomach, but I believe I will get to that place. Oh my God I am so scared, but the one thing that I do have is faith in God, and in right outcomes, and whatever is right for me in my life is going to play out, and I do believe that the more positive I stay, if not quite all rosy, if I am able to “Let go and let God,” then I will make it through, and that is what I am doing, I am hoping and praying for the best and letting go.
Will you breathe with me? We don’t know what will happen tomorrow, or the next day, I don’t know what will happen Monday morning at 9:05 a.m. but I do know this — whatever I have to do I will do. It scares me to pieces to say that but what other choice is there? I am sitting here with little pugs snuggled up to me and they count on me. I have to figure out a way for them, and I will. I don’t know how but I will.
This is such a critical time with so much happening that there is no way to put it all in one blog post, it is a process, so if you need something to hold onto come back and read the next posts as I record this process and know this — know that I intend to put my little head down and take a deep breath and continue on up the hill. Like the Little Engine That Could I am going to continue on…. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can… by God one way or another I will figure this out because I have to, and right now there are mostly unanswered questions, and a knot in my stomach, and tears in my eyes, but right now, in this moment, I am okay. I will start here, and carry on…