I Am Disabled

RubyThis post is a skosh more personal than what I usually write on Canvas – to understate things.  It’s a continuation of a post I started on my personal blog, called Charting The Course To See Where I Fell Off The Map, which might be of interest to some of you.  For those of you who prefer not to wade through the muck in my mind, the short version follows.

I have been in an extremely severe mixed bipolar episode.  If you want to know any of the finer points of that, you  will have to read through the post It Was The Worst Of Times, It Was The Worst Of Times.  There is no way to distill it here.

I have been doing a great deal of thinking during this time, despite all of my very heroic efforts to the contrary.  A lot of realizations were born from this, but the biggest epiphany, and the one most difficult to handle, was this:  I am disabled.

I have been on government disability since the end of 2009, or at least that’s when they granted it to me via hearing.  Backdated to when I applied, it was July of 2008.  Never mind why, unless you know all about the cogs which turn the wheels of the disability system in the United States.

I didn’t have a problem with applying for disability.  Let me rephrase that:  I didn’t have a problem with the concept of applying for disability.  I didn’t feel like it made me less of a person, or stigmatized me, or depressed me any more than I already was (that was pretty near impossible).

I did have a problem with the process of applying for disability.  Do you have any idea how intimidating and downright frightening that whole BS is, when you are at your least capable to do anything?  And I had two parents devoted to helping me, and a really nice case manager.  I should have applied years prior, but I was (guess) too disabled to even fathom starting the process.

I guess I was too disabled to conceptualize how disabled I was, or at least I thought it was a passing thing, or I was still “fixable,” we just hadn’t discovered the right tools yet, or something, maybe I just didn’t think through what it really meant.

I thought it through these past few weeks.

I am an adult, a “grownup,” a woman who has made it through three decades of life (give or take).  I have been enough of an adult to care full-time for infants, for toddlers, for children, and do a damned good job of it.  Yet I finally hit a point where I realized I cannot care even for myself sometimes.

Excepting a trip I took east where I ran into the grocery with my mother and aunt for ten minutes, I cannot tell you the last time I went shopping for food, necessities, and other sundries.  It has been more than a month since I hit up the pharmacy – thank you, Mom.  Recently I have made it to one doctor’s appointment and skipped out on another less pressing one, without so much as extending to the staff and doctor the courtesy of a phone call.  That would mean more if you knew how much I value keeping the appointments I make, or if nothing else giving “proper” 24 to 48 hour notice when I won’t be able to make them.  Usually I call if I am going to be more than five minutes late somewhere.  To me it’s deeply embedded, it’s just common courtesy.

I didn’t skip the appointment to be rude.  I literally could not pick up the phone to call and inform the staff.

All sorts of fun labels and diagnoses come into play here: bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia (which isn’t ever an issue for me – well I guess it is now), social anxiety disorder (see previous parenthetical). . .  But the biggest one is the one I spit upon, usually.  I’m finding I have to amend my rigid stance on this one in some cases, some involving others, and now this one involving myself and no one else.

Illness.  Mental illness.

I could write a treatise on how and when I think it’s appropriate to use this designation, and I’m sure someday I will – but not tonight.  It’s too much, and I’m too tired.  I am slowly climbing out of my hole, but it’s deep and dark and the progress I make is painstaking, in the truest sense of the word.  I had to write this because I felt you all needed to see Ruby – confident, together, push through and come out smiling Ruby – in a different light.  You needed to see a different side of me in order that you might begin to see all of me, cracks and failings and weaknesses, too.

“Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak.” ~ Robert Frost

© Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ruby Tuesday and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


8 thoughts on “I Am Disabled

  1. You are an icon in any light. You are a muse, an inspiration, and you create so much hope and aspirations. Honestly, I say these things because they are true. These writings aren’t your failings, your illness, your creases and folds – they are your humanity. For better and for worse.

    Even in all of your recent turbulence, you may be on your ass, but you are still poised and brilliant. It’s so graceful and magestic in a way. If it were me, I’d be a slobbering, screaming, vulgar mess.

    There’s no idolization, not in the worship sense anyway. You are the most human-like human I’ve ever encountered. That’s what I aspire to be.

    • Lulu, I don’t think I have ever received such an amazing compliment in all of my life. “You are the most human-like human I’ve ever encountered.” That is exactly why I wrote this. I work so hard to be Ruby the cheerleader, Ruby the steward of Canvas, Ruby the strong and Ruby the supportive and Ruby who will make it through everything en pointe – I want people to see Ruby the weak and frail and confused as well. Not because I am that, I don’t know that I’m one or the other, I guess my purpose is to illustrate that I’m both. That when I’m strong I am only that way because I have been weak, and that “Scars remind me of just how far that I’ve come.” (Shakira)

  2. Sometimes being truly honest with ourselves is the hardest thing in the world to do. It’s hard to realize that the mask is slipping or has completely fallen away and you’re the last one to ‘get it’. Humbling experience to say the least.
    Thank you for sharing your heart. It helps the rest of us stay real also.
    God Bless.

  3. Hey, I’ve done something worse than not keep an appointment. With my first therapist, I didn’t have the guts to tell him I didn’t think he was helpful. I wanted to see someone else instead, so I canceled an appointment and just never called the office again.

    Even though I’m at a much different stage in life, I can relate to a lot of what you say. I agree with you about the disability system . . . and it seems like it takes forever, too, and there are so many hoops to jump through that it’s no wonder if one gets discouraged. Just getting through that is a great accomplishment, as is coming to all of the realizations you have!

    • fracturedangel, I don’t know if I did that to a therapist, but I definitely have done it to a doctor. For me it wasn’t as much about “guts” as it was knowing I would blow my top at the doctor in question if I spoke to her, because of things she had said to me.

      And thank you so much for your kind words. I’m at that place where I have come to the realizations, but I’m not quite ready to decide what I do with them. That will happen after I have made it all of the way through this episode and am standing on my feet again (which will hopefully be soon).

  4. Boy, does this resonate with me. I’ve been blogging about Labels and Identity lately. I’ve been disabled, officially, from my profession (pediatrician) for ten years now, and it hits me over and over like the waves of a tsunami, and I can’t stop it. I can’t stop the disease, can’t stop the waves of hurt and grief and complete lack of understanding of why the Creator (whoever That is) would have allowed me to overcome my disaster of a childhood, rise so high, and then be smashed down again. Those mixed states, honey, those are the worst. Know that there is one more gal who’s been around quite a few blocks out there, who is rooting for you. You’ve got the right stuff. Just keep hanging on.

    • Laura, your comment resonates with me, in turn. Before everything went terribly pear-shaped for me, I was taking my pre-reqs to pursue medical school and a career as an ER doctor. I can’t think of much worse in the way of career choices for someone with severe, treatment-resistant bipolar – in terms of stress, workload, and schedule. But I made a choice that it was not the right path for me. It still makes me sad occasionally, but it helps, knowing that it was my choice, however out of my control the circumstances pushing me to make it were.

      You, on the other hand, worked so hard to get to where you were. Whatever answers you find, whatever peace you may come to – and I so very much hope that you do – probably you will always have the specter of loss in the background. It’s a very valid loss, and you have to allow yourself to grieve and mourn. Maybe then you can let go of the worst of it.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to read, comment, and show me your support. You are the reason I do this.

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