High Anxiety

So tomorrow is my adjudication hearing for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). I started this paperwork labyrinth 3 YEARS ago; it was rejected twice, which puts it at the current level of requiring going before a judge and trying to explain just why it is I need permanent disability checks. Nerve-wracking hardly begins to describe it. For those of you considering going through the process, or those who have begun this long and winding road… one piece of advice I would sincerely offer, with the hopes that you will listen to me: get a lawyer! Find a good lawyer in your area that handles SS cases. The standard agreement is that they receive their fees out of the settlement, from 25% up to no more than $6000. (It was that both in VA and here, in CA)

They can help you fill out and submit the original forms (and the nearly identical updating information forms); they will follow up on your behalf and then tell you what you need to do to keep the process moving; they will gather your health files all in one place–and ALL of your health files, plus any other pertinent paperwork to your disability (workman’s compensation, etc). And should you also reach the point of having to go through adjudication, they go into the hearing with you, they will have prepared you to deal with describing your disability/ies to the judge in a way that is factual, accurate and yet hopefully sway the court to your side. Tell your lawyer the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth when you are establishing a client-attorney relationship. And listen to whatever your lawyer tells you about telling the judge–and how to tell the judge.

For example, I am not to tell the judge that I have fibromyalgia. I do, but that doesn’t really hold much water. On the other hand, if I can talk about the functional limitations I have (more than I care to admit), and that they are related to “what my doctor said was fibromyalgia, which seems to answer the question of what it is”, that’s a much better way to get my point across. I can indicate a willingness to work, except goshdarnit, my hands are painful and swollen, so I can’t type for more than about 2 or 3 hours at a time. I’m even willing to accept some other diagnosis although fibromyalgia seems to be the answer–but in the meantime, I am actually dealing with chronic fatigue (taking at least 1 and sometimes 2 naps a day) and chronic pain. I have a bulging disc in the L3 – L4 part of my spine that impinges on the nerves and causes a pain like a sword down my thigh. Because of that, I cannot stand or walk more than about 15-20 minutes at a go. Lifting a gallon of milk or water, which weights 8 pounds, is now a two-handed lift for me or I will drop it and I cannot do that lifting repeatedly.

I think you get the idea. So I have been working very hard on both preparing the functional answers for my condition as well as studiously avoiding focusing on the time ticking away to this dreaded/hoped for/scary / necessary/life-altering event tomorrow. We need so much for me to be approved; the paycheck would mean the difference between living on the edge here or living a pleasant life. And if we’d be on the edge here…means that if this was happening back in VA, we’d be living out of the car. Or cramped into someone’s extra bedroom, if we were to count upon the kindness of others–which is not a bad thing for a while, but not the way you want the rest of your life to go. Know what I mean?

Beloved is almost out of his mind with the anxiety. Money is numbers and numbers are his MAJOR OCD issue. He also has a inhuman drive to protect and care for me and this is not helping. The worst part is that neither he nor I can do a good godsdamned thing about it. Someone else is in control and we have NO idea which way the deal will go. So we’re both pretty heavily medicated for anxiety and will be through the hearing tomorrow. He cannot come into the actual room where it will take place (it’s video conferencing, so it’s a room with a screen on the wall and a table with two chairs facing that wall — and of course, the requisite technology for the actual hearing), so he will probably go do “something” else for the about 2 hours this should take. No idea what, but I hope that it will keep his mind occupied enough that he won’t be a frazzled basket of nerves.  That’s my job!

I have a football mouth guard that I’ve been wearing because I’ll realize I have a headache…why do I have…oh yeah, my jaws are clenched so hard that they ache, and it’s radiated up into the forehead. I can only imagine what my blood pressure is. I have been trying very studiously to find other things to do and whatever it takes to distract me. I’ve actually started playing “Star Wars: The Old Republic” as a way to do something a little more involved than the simple flash games I play. It’s like WoW, sort of…complex, lots of stuff to personalize, lots of stuff to keep track of… we’ll see how that works.

And I’m feeling really stupid and sad that I have somehow managed to miss contacting my children very much in the past oh 4-6 months. My mother has figured out that she needs to call me about every 6 weeks. It’s not that I’m avoiding any of them; it’s just that the time difference between me and them always catches me, and time here moves at a different rate, I swear to the gods. I think a week has gone by and it’s been more like a month. It doesn’t help that we don’t have a set schedule, so the only reason I know what day it is is because I have my computer time and date set up to also show the day. So aside from not being up to date with everyone, I just plain out haven’t talked to them in well, forever.

And I totally fucked up with my son and his wife…just so you know, it’s never a good idea to show up, out of the blue so to speak, and ask for money, no matter how small (or large) an amount you’re asking for. I should have known better but apparently didn’t. So they were pretty angry with me and I deserved it. I only hope that I can repair that particularly spectacular mistake because I don’t want them to stay angry with me, especially my daughter-in-love. Another reason for me to be getting SSDI, so that we don’t have to ask for help, which is humbling enough to make it difficult…and it’s really, really stupid to make that request the only time you contact someone, anyone. Guess I’m really, really stupid.

I miss both of my kids, their chosen loves and the grandbabies… it was part of the price we paid to move out here and I would tell you that it was the biggest price, the hardest price to pay. It’s the one area where I have to try not to second guess our decision to move and to have faith that we did the right thing–and hope that it will be proven to be such in the long run. I am hoping that my SSDI hearing will go well and that I will start getting a paycheck. I will also be able to slap my Long Term Disability insurance company (from premiums I paid when I was working, not associated with the SSA) and make them start paying me again. They will have to pay the difference between the SSDI check and what my LTD benefits through them paid each month until I turn 65–and that’s $200-300 a month. In addition to the SSDI check. If that all works out, I believe that the loss of anxiety about money will bring enormous relief to both me and Beloved–and will let my brain return to some semblance of its former glorious abilities! Which means that I can be much more proactive about phone calls and Skype sessions with my family, on a much more regular basis.

So I am making a list of things to do (that I’d like to do) WHEN I get my SSDI. (And I’ll beseech any gods that will listen. Poor Lord Ganesh, “Remover of Obstacles” is getting an earful, let me tell you!)
First and foremost, mend the fences that I so stupidly knocked down.
Secondly, truly get back into something creative. I want to draw, watercolor and charcoal pictures. Got the stuff to do it. Now I just need to “make it so”.
Third, spend more time blogging and less time playing on line. Games have their place, but should not be the primary activity for me. If I am not up to blogging, I’d like to try reading again. We haven’t made it to the local library and that’s something that needs to be rectified.
Fourth, figure out just how much handicrafts I can do–and do it. If I need to change up what kinds I’m doing, I am open to that. Crocheting is proving a little hard; I may have to go with those seriously big afghan hooks because I lack the fine motor control to work with thinner ones. Or get big fat knitting needles, same reason. Jewelry making is almost completely out for now, since that is a very fine motor task. But there’s got to be other things I can do that will feed the creative urge.
Fifth, get more involved in the world around me again. Maybe volunteer at the local shelter–and if not that, and what is really my first choice for a volunteer job, give some of my plenteous time at the local hospice. I have the background for it…
Sixth, join Beloved’s gaming world once he gets back into it–it means at least one night out per week, amongst people of our own kind, playing grown-up make believe. I can do that!

I’m tired of being isolated and as much as I love my husband, our dinner conversation is less than scintillating when we’ve nothing to talk about. “What did you do all day?” “The same thing you did.” I have to work with my recently acquired and seriously pain in the ass social anxiety, so I am not sure what we’ll end up doing that won’t trigger panic attacks. Guess we’ll find out.

So tomorrow looms over me like a tsunami (which is my personal nightmare image). Wednesday I go see my (new) PCP and have to get new scripts because with the change in providers, all the scripts I had for my much-needed meds…are gone off the VA medical site. Sigh. Friday, I get my eyes checked for the first time in about 3-4 years. Wahoo! Gonna talk about getting computer glasses, since that’s actually the most important level of correction I need. Saturday is my cake day, with nothing particular planned. Other than changing which age group I belong to…no big deal.

If you’re reading this before Monday and want to send some good vibes, I’d be happy to welcome them! I’ll try to update this in a timely manner, assuming I get a decision tomorrow–which may not happen and THAT waiting will be almost worse. This is not the final step before having to give up. If the hearing goes against me, I will go up to a Federal court for an appeal to that decision. And in the meantime, there’d be no money coming in… ACK. Try not to think about that. Think happy thoughts, Kitteh!!

Peace and blessings to you all!

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