<div> Someone that was once on my LJ friends list posted this, and I finally found the source. I passed it on to my father, who passed it on to his TM group. They all loved it-- it's an excellent analogy to explain how an invisible illness/chronic condition really affects someone's life. Alas, it's not the perfect analogy for mental illness, but it's the closest thing at the moment.
I'm not reposting it here, because it's incredibly long. Follow this link: http://www.butyoudontlooksick.com/navigation/BYDLS-TheSpoonTheory.pdf for Christine's story on The Spoon Theory in full.
I thought of this recently because I had lunch with a close friend yesterday. He and I were a part of a foursome group of buddies in high school. The other two and I tend to lose track of him because he is basically a homebody and is halfway there on repeating the family tradition of a huge family (he is the oldest of about… 12, now, I think) with six children at present.
He was suggesting that grad school would be a really great idea. He's not the first to have said it. I was not sure how to explain to him the laundry list of stuff that had happened since we were regularly in touch with him. Here it is in a nutshell:
- I was a Music Ed/Elementary Ed student. I loved my music studies, although they are not very forgiving to those who are not willing to sell their souls in hours upon hours of practice. It was a mess– I was studying voice to round things out, but Music Ed studies are built on future teachers specializing in one instrument or voice alone. The department suggested I follow my guitar studies, not realizing I was nowhere up to speed with the guitar majors. I detested my Elementary Ed studies, although I love children well enough. Nevertheless, after a meeting with the Music Dept. chairman, I reluctantly agreed to enter the general classroom since I had run out of subsidized loans and I had a full year left of studies. My total amount of undergrad years was somewhere around 10– having transferred a few times– and all of that is another story.
The Dept. of Curriculum and Supervision and I were at war. You might be wondering how it's possible to fail both the pre-September and student teaching experiences, but somehow I managed (actually, failing pre-September twice). At this point, I was repeating pre-Sept. and doing it back to back with student teaching. In a word, the department found itself with its pants around its ankles– they had demanded certain provisions the first time, but did not follow up on them. At the meeting that decided I'd be sent off to the Individual Studies department, one of the faculty literally cowered, as if I was a wild animal that would tear him apart in my indignation.
So… I wound up with a degree that essentially meant nothing save "failed music student". Oh, my grades were very good the whole time, but it was a struggle to get out of there with an undergrad degree. These days I find myself repeatedly tearing up junk mail from the alumni association.
2. The years following Cimmy and I plummeted deep into debt. We bounced in and out of miserable and low-paying jobs, none save one that actually paid the bills, and that job ended, too, with only a stitched gash to show for it (another story in itself). Our bishop refused to help us, so church welfare support was out. Cimmy was very proud (to this day, she refuses to go back to WIC) and resisted government assistance tooth and nail. Can't say I blame her, really. Very reluctantly, she agreed to food stamps. We finally bottomed out, and I suggested we move back to my hometown to see if employment prospects would be better.
3. We moved in with friends on the verge of divorce. Cimmy asked me to swear an oath we would never repeat a similar experience. We finally asked the state for full welfare, and we went through the welfare-to-work program, bouncing through more jobs. She broke first, having a nervous breakdown right there in the office. So she was switched to the disability benefits track, so to speak, and began to apply for benefits with the help of a facilitator.
4. Shortly before this, I took an opportunity with a program sponsored with Goodwill– and went to volunteer for City Hall in a neighboring city. I was assisted by Sunderland's vocational services program (yes, the very same Sunderland that lost the Medicaid contract I've written of earlier). The volunteer job was a dead end, although some of the folks in the Public Information Office helped me out in small ways when I came back purely to volunteer with no subsidy. In the meantime, a battleaxe of a social worker was waiting for me. When the program ended and I still had no gainful employment, she began to rake me over the coals.
5. When I started the Goodwill program, we managed to get in an apartment of our own with the city housing authority on Section 8. More dog and pony shows to do, ever since. We got a crazy landlady who was an emotional nomad. She had the brilliant idea to mention that some tenant at our fourplex ran around the parking lot buck naked at a HA meeting. It was kinda par for the course, though— one of the tenants ran a bordello immediately downstairs, and the county law enforcement held a stakeout for another neighbor downstairs on some sort of drug bust. (Yes, I have not told my daughter yet that when we came home one night, we were saying hi to a whore and her john. How do you say to a 2 year old "Say hi to the nice prostitute?") Finally, the landlady sold the property to a Hispanic guy that decided to ditch us to concentrate on a mortgage business– at about the time our rent share jumped from $20 to $568… or something like that, because that property had been "grandfathered" into HA contract clauses. Rent share was increasing for everyone, but we'd be ruined if we stayed where we were at.
- Before this ended, I applied for benefits for my very first time, right in the middle of the Goodwill program. My psychiatrist had put me on a new drug that was very slowly killing me, and it took several family members to convince him and the med nurse the drug needed to be stopped. I decided not to appeal Social Security's rejection of my application since stopping the drug seemingly got rid of the obvious problems.
- After the Goodwill program ended, the social worker dug in, as I explained in #4. She was relentless until the day I met with her after being subtly fired for a Santa gig with Noerr and she finally wormed out a medication list from me. I will never forget the 180 she pulled, and her odd sense of surprise at observing that I was very obviously relieved. (Even government workers rarely get it.)
8. We declared bankruptcy, finally, with the county's Legal Aid department.
9. I reapplied for disability benefits. Cimmy's hearing after the three rejections (as is standard) finally came, and so she didn't have to worry about the state much at all. She was so nervous and scared that she insisted I come along. Her hearing was breezy compared to what mine would be. In the meantime, I worked a job or two, but just pushed through the incredibly long application process.
10. I checked inpatient for another drug my psychiatrist refused to take me off of. It's an anti-seizure drug given to migraine sufferers sometimes, and it was slowing my entire thought process, logic, emotion, and all– to the point of numbness. It was reported with city police as "suicide attempt", which was true, but obscures the rest of the story. The psychiatrist and the mental health agency finally relented and took me off of it only because Medicaid and the participating insurance decided to refuse coverage of drugs for off-label uses.
11. We moved into our current apartment after looking at an incredibly miserable Section 8 house painted in Pepto-Bismol pink. The landlord of that house had the incredible gall to say that he was going to fix the backyard fence with the big hole in it, but that we could park our car in front of it like previous tenants did. (Hey moron, when we were looking at the house, guess what hole my daughter escaped through? Gee…) Mom fought over our eventual choice. She kept asking why we hadn't looked elsewhere (even though I did all of that the last time). Sister #2 explained that she didn't want us moving towards the slummier side of town. Indeed, when she came to look at the place, she declared it would go ghetto in ten years. There had just been a stabbing, and there were two robbery attempts since then. The second time, we forgot to close a window, and the police got the manager to open our unit because they were worried the perp had ransacked the place. After revealing our squalor, we got a visit from Child Protective Services. They said had my daughter and nephew not been with my father, they would have taken them. That, and we had failed an apartment inspection from KHA earlier. Mom, of course, had a cow. In our fear, we managed to keep the apartment clean not just for the repeat inspection, but CPS's surprise visit.
- My hearing finally came. The psychological expert, at the meeting by phone, dropped a bombshell of a revelation: in her opinion, my bipolar diagnosis wasn't stopping me from getting a job– it was the narcissistic personality disorder. (What? Damn, my professionals hid it from me.) Researching the condition later, I could see their reasoning (I fit the "hyper-vigilant" personality type some had written about) but was quite stunned they had actually decided to withhold the information. At that point, I questioned everything I'd ever said or did, because I realized I needed to take a new perspective. Then again, it also explained the PTSD diagnosis from the psychiatrist I mentioned earlier. Oh yeah, the judge saved me, basically, when he said something to the effect of "well, I could rule based on hundreds upon hundreds of cases I've seen before, but I know everyone's case is different". Excellent. So the psychological expert is a cold-hearted bitch, but at least the judge has room for some compassion.
Even after this point, my mother pushes work as she had in the past. My lawyer warned me about getting a job and working even part-time for an extended period of time, since Social Security has disability reviews every so often, and they might decide I need to go back to work. I believe my lawyer, if only for the fact he isn't meddlesome family.
13. My doctors like to play musical chairs. I've explained this in my other posts.
14. I find $11K deposited to my bank, so I call my SSI rep in Yakima. It's correct– I got all my backpay at once. He had removed me from SSI in a bit of a gamble to get my wife back on it. The kids and I should still get a medical coupon. Mom has a cow again (she's an SSI rep in our local office, and is the reason why things got sent to Yakima). Even though Victor had worked for DSHS only a year ago, and had worked for them for 8 years, she got on a paranoid rant about how things had likely changed since he left.
15. Sister #2 decided to have another baby (not sure how far along she is now). I counseled with Cimmy and my father, because we knew we were reaching a breaking point just caring for my nephew. This also I explained in another post.
16. After lunch with my friend, I went to see the doctor for some REAL painkillers, not the poncy stuff he prescribed before.
17. The next day, I opened a letter from the KHA explaining our rent share had jumped from $268 or so to $315. I go in to see the manager and ask if they've informed him yet. He said he would likely get the news tomorrow (which is today). I told him I might pay a few months in advance since we had our backpay.
Considering #1-17, how realistic is taking a teaching job to pay for graduate studies? But I couldn't explain all of this to my friend in a half hour.
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