Monday, March 5, 2012

In Which I Tell What It Was Like to Try to Get Help From
the Government With Both Hands Tied Behind My Back
When My Only Other Choice Was Suicide

Hi. Guest poster here. My display name is Seneca Howland and I'm a bi-polar older dude suffering from severe depression. I thank both Testudo and Meles for the privilege of posting here and I hope my story proves helpful.

Here are the names of a few symptoms that people who are depressed know only too well:

lack of initiative or motivation. ...

  • Being unable to start or complete paying bills
  • Staring at an assignment without getting to work on it
  • Just sitting for hours doing nothing
a state of little or no motivation, initiative or drive. Usually the person has a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and may be content to do little or nothing with his time.
Mental health journalist and author John McManamy argues that although psychiatrists do not explicitly deal with the condition of apathy, it is a psychological problem for some depressed people, in which they get a sense that "nothing matters", the "lack of will to go on and the inability to care about the consequences". He describes depressed people who "...cannot seem to make [themselves] do anything," who "can’t complete anything," and who do not "feel any excitement about seeing loved ones."
the inability to take pleasure in activities one would normally find enjoyable. As a symptom of depression, it is the loss of enjoyment from activities a person normally likes to do. This can include everyday activities like eating, watching television, reading, sexual encounters, etc.
And there is another symptom that has no name, but I can describe it well enough for a police artist: Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by making decisions, planning steps to accomplish a task, or interpreting instructions. This last one is particularly important. Let us call it “The Nameless One.”

I told you that to tell you this.

Try filling out eight to twelve page forms describing in detail your condition with these imps -- Avolition, Apathy, Anhedonia and The Nameless One -- on your back. There are more in my head. In fact, they are Legion. (Luke 8:26-35) Some of the information the forms ask in various ways is:
  • What do you do with your day? (Indoor chores, outdoor chores, bathing, eating, dressing, etc.)
  • How often do you eat?
  • Do you maintain friendships? If so, how?
  • Information about your education and training. (Multiple parts.)
  • Information about your work and earnings. (Multiple parts.)
  • Information about when and if you’ve been hospitalized. (Multiple parts.)
These forms are the start of collecting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Medicare. Then there are the forms for the first appeal after the SSA refuses your application. These contain more of the same questions plus documentation from previous doctors -- if you can find it or remember the doctor’s names to ask for it again -- and hospital stays on the appropriate letterheads. (By the way, medical notes cost twenty cents a page to duplicate.) And the forms for the second appeal after the SSA refuses your first appeal. The tension goes up. You only get two appeals. Then there will be the interview with the SSA appointed doctor where all your efforts over the last seven months will be reviewed for a final decision by someone you’ve never met. Someone whom you are afraid is thinking, “How the hell can someone who is depressed accomplish this? I can’t do it and I’m not depressed. Request denied.” The examination by the doctor is the end of the line as far as the SSA goes. No more appeals.

In the intervening seven months (Or was it a year?) you get to stew in your own juices wondering what the status of your case is. (A digression: Health professionals at Saint Luke’s House Clinic -- more on them later -- warned me
  1. that the initial application, followed by
  2. the first rejection, followed by
  3. the first appeal (lots of paperwork), followed by
  4. the second rejection, followed by
  5. the second appeal (more paperwork), followed by
  6. the interview with the SSA appointed doctor, followed by
  7. the final resolution
is what the SSA makes everyone claiming depression as a disability go through. Make no mistake about this I was warned. The SSA does not want to give this to you.) In the meantime, where will I get the money for food, the mortgage, medication, counseling, soap, utilities, public transportation (I can’t afford a car), the roof? And then there’s the final question that looms over everything for someone suffering from severe depression; to be or not to be? I.e., suicide. (After all: What else do I have to lose but my misery?)

After my last hospitalization, the hospital referred me to Saint Luke’s House Clinic. They sat with me and did everything but literally hold my hand as I filled out the paper work. They provided me with a counselor who I met with once a week and a doctor who prescribed medication once a month. I could never have done it without their help and continuing support. This is from their “About Us” web page:
Started in 1971, the mission initially was to serve the needs of individuals coming out of state psychiatric hospitals with no place to go. ... In 2010 St. Luke’s House provided psychiatric and vocational rehabilitation services to more than 1400 individuals with serious and persistent mental illness in Montgomery County.
In addition, they have helped me get reduced fares on the local transit system and vouchers for taxi cab service at a reduced rate. And finally, they are providing assistance to help me find work. I never imagined working again after having three “nervous breakdowns” over a period of ten years because of work.

In short, they have allowed me to rejoin the human race. To “have a life.” A life full of friends and joy and a modicum of material possessions and activities thanks to some pretty good financial choices I made when I was younger and, truth be told, some luck. (SSDI doesn’t provide that much money.) And, oh yeah, some of the peace we all search for. I have a disease comparable to diabetes in that it is (1) life threatening and (2) it is treatable but not curable. The aforementioned imps and all the rest that have taken up residence in my head and call themselves Legion will have their way with me in the future. They do this on a regular basis. I will have this disease ‘til I die. But I am wealthy because, as the title of the Irish jig says, Contentment Is Wealth. I am content and what’s more important … I know it.

No comments:

Post a Comment