Author: Allison Hatch
Many of you know all too well what it is like to live with multiple diagnoses. For many others, I know you have probably have a similar tale like mine to tell, or maybe you support someone who cannot work right now, or even now you are trying to make a tough decision to take a time out for yourself. Be that as it may, all of our stories are different and each are important to tell, in the spirit of giving each other hope, regardless of where the road is taking you.
I live with Bipolar I Disorder, C-PTSD, and ADHD. I take a steady regimen of medications, which seems to be constantly changing, based on my symptoms. Everyday I utilize skills taught to me by my therapists, some work, some don’t. I practice self-care whenever it is necessary. I also run our household for myself and my husband, and I am a ‘’dog-mom” to Lucy, the three-year old beagle mix, as well as “mom” to Obie the four-year old, long-haired cat. After several years of adjusting, I can honestly now say with pride, “I am a Homemaker.” And all of THAT is my full-time job.
My title has changed over the years, as I have been fortunate enough to have had two careers. I am college-educated and after receiving my B.A., I started a career in Commercial Insurance. I have worked in underwriting and I have also been an Account Manager in that field. Later I worked for a couple of resorts in Food & Beverage Management. As different as these jobs sound, they are, but I loved them both, and both sadly, ended too soon due to my uncontrolled Bipolar symptoms. Much to our bewilderment, that may also resonate with a few of you. too. If given more time, I could have been a better contributor in both fields. I can say that now in hindsight.
Unfortunately because I wasn’t on task with caring for myself properly back then, it was not too much later that I found myself hospitalized, not once, but twice, and THEN finally started following doctor’s orders and listening to my own inner voice, not someone who didn’t care what I was going through. I also educated myself about my own diagnoses. It took a very long time for me to find not only the right meds, but the right psychiatrists and the right therapists. Meanwhile, I deteriorated. If it were not for symptoms, I suffered horrible side effects of different medications. While working part time, I had a horrible mixed episode that finally led me to admit to myself, “you cannot work like this anymore.” I hadn’t been honest with myself, or fair to my co-workers or superiors for the past several years.
The full-time job of trying to take care of myself continued, but once I saw my doctor who wanted to hospitalize me again due to the mixed state, it was confirmed that working outside the home was not in my best interest. The next part of this article is not intended in anyway from deterring someone from seeking much needed financial help, but I want to share my story with you with the hope it can help someone. The years that it took to be awarded SSDI benefits were filled with triggering events for me. First, I was denied disability under my work policy for some strange reason, so I had to get serious about pursuing benefits to make sure we could make ends meet. From the date of my first declination letter to my Social Security award letter was over three and a half years.
The most important point I can make to anyone is to retain an attorney who specializes in disability. I would not have been able to see it through without my lawyer. And honestly, I don’t know that I would have won my hearing. For those of you that are worried about paying a good attorney, if you do not know already, they do not see a dime unless you win your case. I don’t even mean on appeal, you should have an attorney represent your from your first application process, unless you are an expert yourself. I cannot stress that enough. I don’t often give any advice, but of this I am certain. Walking away from your salary with no substantial savings is a scary thing for anyone, so have as many allies in your corner as you can. I could go on, but the point here is to let you that you aren’t alone. Many, many people suffer through the process everyday. If you are blessed enough to not have to seek that help, that is a wonderful gift toward good mental health.
In closing, I just want to recount how lucky I feel. I have a very supportive family, and a husband who has my back at all times. Frankly I am afraid to imagine what it is like for those who have to go it alone. Just make sure you have a great care team, and hold on to the one good friend you can find do not let go. Over the past year or so, I have had some rough times, but on my good days, I remember at least how thankful I am for my support system, I lean on my faith, and I try to seek out the alternatives. I am not saying I will never work again, it may just look different going forward. Instead of deadlines or fast paced customer driven days, it is probably going to be at my own pace and with much less pressure. In my spare time now, I study creative writing, I am a mental health blogger, and I am on chapter two of my first fiction novel. Keep all of your options open and if you are dreamers like me, no one can ever tell you, “It can’t be done!”