At age 30, Kitt O’Malley moved in with her parents after treatment for debilitating depression resulted in psychotic mania which left her unable to do her work as a licensed marriage and family therapist. She left her career aspirations behind, and she started seeing a psychiatrist and a therapist who treated her for what was still thought to be chronic depression.
So when the guy she was dating said “You’re the most independent woman I’ve ever met,” Kitt couldn’t help but laugh. She had never been more dependent in her life, but he didn’t see those circumstances or her mental illness. He saw her, and that in itself was a small miracle…
People judge those of us with invisible disabilities. We even judge ourselves.
Someone once asked me if I questioned the ethics of receiving disability. I explained that my disability wasn’t visible. I ran down my history of hypomanic workaholism and subsequent crashing into depression, rapid cycling and mixed states which lead to my hospitalization.
Although I appear fine, traditional work and I do not mix well. My bipolar type II is well-controlled with medication and my careful avoidance of triggers to mood cycling.
Because my brain disorder is invisible and because my husband provides for our family, someone believe that I take advantage of a government program I do not need.
You see, I receive SSDI, which is based on my payment into Social Security taxes from past income combined with my current inability to work. I do not receive SSI, which is based on need (lack of resources).
Still, with this understanding, even I have felt guilty about being on disability (SSDI), about not being “productive.”
One of my psychologists (I’ve been in therapy since I was 18, so I’ve seen many psychotherapists over the decades) suggested I reframe being on disability (SSDI) as a long-term sabbatical. Reframing enabled me to accept my changed life circumstances.
Since then, I’ve further reframed my experience as God making me stay home to care for my high needs son (a migraineur who has struggled with co-occurring anxiety, depression, and health issues).
Of course, I don’t receive disability to be a stay-at-home mom. But, I didn’t want to be a stay-at-home mom. So, I’ve chosen to reframe my experience this way. I had to be broken to leave my ambitions behind, to accept a new lifestyle, to reprioritize my life.
Now, I do other work — I volunteer my writing, my time, and my knowledge and experience — while on my extended sabbatical from my former work.
What I can do, I do, and I do it well. No longer expect myself to work as I once did. It wasn’t good for me or for my family.