Stigma of Invisible Disability

Stigma & Invisible Disability
Those of us living with invisible disabilities face stigma not only from others but sometimes from ourselves.

Recently read Work Ethic, a post by bpnurse, in which she discusses her life since she stopped working and went on Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

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.

Passed My SSDI Review (Whew!)

Tried to Make this Beautiful Tree Look Agitated and Hypomanic
Beautiful Tree Manipulated to Look Agitated and Hypomanic

Spring triggers hypomania and agitation in me. As many of my readers already know, one spring over twenty years ago, tricyclic antidepressant misuse, seasonal affective disorder, and underlying undiagnosed bipolar disorder resulted in a week-long manic psychotic break.

Today, I am inspired by bpnurse‘s post about her SSDI physical to update you on my recent SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) eligibility review. When I went in for my recent SSDI review interview, it benefited me that I was hypomanic and agitated since spring was approaching and I had not yet seen my psychiatrist to adjust my medications.

Just one look at the form they had me fill out was enough to know that my mind was all over the place. I had multiple arrows leading to notes in the margins of the form to give more detailed answers to the form’s supposedly simple questions. I was unable to contain myself to the form. Similarly, when answering the psychiatrist’s questions, I was all over the place with my answers. She had to stop me several times to get me to focus, to contain me. Succinct, I was NOT. Anyway… at the end of the interview, the very nice psychiatrist told me I gave her WAY MORE than she needed, but within all that I said, she got what she needed. She asked me how I would describe myself at the time, and I answered “agitated.” She nodded her head. Yep, I was agitated.

The review determined that I am still eligible for benefits. Yay! Don’t have to go out and start cycling (as in mood cycling, not bicycling) as I look for work.

The week following the SSDI interview, I saw my psychiatrist to reduce my dose of SSRI antidepressant (of which I already took a very low dose). We planned on weaning me from it completely, but in doing so, I started to become depressed, so we kept it at half my previous dose.