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Social Security Disability Benefits - Waiting: Survival Skills
by Patty E. Fleener M.S.W.
You all have survival skills and many of you are not aware that you have them. Sometimes we do not become aware of them until we are faced with a very serious situation.
Many of you believe that life will "swallow you up" if certain events happened. I think you would be surprised and many of you already realize this as you yourself have survived horrible situations.
I want to give you an example of some survival skills I found in myself that I had no clue were there during a time in my life when I was very ill and my life was falling down all around me.
My point in sharing this is to point out that most of us would feel that we would crumble inside in certain situations but our survival skills kick in and we get through these times.
Let me paint the picture as quickly as I can. I was 39 years old (I'm 47 now). This happened directly before I met my husband. I had applied for SSD 3 times and two times went back to work, not finishing the application process. I had a difficult time "giving up." As a result I accrued many bills.
The third and final time I applied, I was denied temporary funds while waiting for SSD. Strange because I was accepted the first two times but this new psychologist said I could go back to work within one year. Later I learned she said that about everyone and she even wrote in my report that because I was a social worker I would know how to fake an evaluation. She had to amend her evaluation later because the man that referred me advised her that I presented well and advised her of what she missed about me.
Anyway, I had zero money to live on while waiting to see if SSD would accept me and in most cases SSD does not accept people the first time you apply.
I had food stamps and it took awhile to be accepted into the county housing program. I had to find a place to live where the rent was $400. or below and it could not be in the town of Salem where I lived as it was a county program.
I gave plasma at the plasma back and received $5 or $10 up to $20. each time and I could only donate twice per week. I thought I would never do this but I turned my mind around and told myself I was helping others and I was. This was my gas money.
I searched and searched for a place to live for that amount or less. Nothing existed! I had a deadline to meet as I was of course being evicted from my apartment.
Inside I knew there was a real reality that I could be homeless. It was hard to believe, as I was 39 years old, educated, etc., however I was disabled period.
Who could help me? No one! Every family member, every friend, everyone in my whole life at that time, walked out of my life. I was very ill at that time and though I was not seen as a bad person, no one could stand to be around me. I was completely 100% alone. There was no one to even call to talk to.
Each morning I woke up and I realized the full extent of the trouble my life was in. I knew very well that I would be homeless if I became weak or fragile, which I truly was. I knew I had to search deep within for any ounce of strength and use it.
When I woke up, inside my head I said to myself "Stand!" I said it to myself very sternly. I saw myself in my mind as someone who was made only of strength and I was powerful and I could get through anything. Any other feeling or thought besides this was totally dismissed because my strength that I imagined within was so strong and powerful it would simply stomp any "lesser feelings."
I also said other similar things in my head to
motivate me. "It's time to rock and roll Patty."
Anything that motivated me. The main word however was
What was funny was the landlord making me feel I would get more money if I cleaned the apartment when I did. I didn't get any extra money and I advised her I would have cleaned it anyway.
She in fact advised me I owed her for 4 days of rent and was so sure I was lying to her about not having any money and said "I want the money now." I laughed and I said "from what source?" "From your incoming checks" she said. I just kept laughing at her and informed her that I truly had no money and was indeed in the shape I had told her I was in.
I did apologize to her and let her know it was not her fault about my financial problems. I did actually have the exact amount of $40.00 in my wallet. That was all the money I had in the whole world and I needed it to drive to the plasma bank and for food as I had no food but pinto beans and bread and it was the start of a 3 day weekend and I had to apply for new food stamps in the new town. Food banks weren't open for 3 days. I was not going to go without food for 3 days and wonder how I would ever have gas to go to the plasma bank for that woman.
I made it into my new apartment with my $40. and began to realize that the gas it would take to go to the plasma bank would not be worth the drive for the amount of money they give you. I had an old old car that was about ready to drop and in fact it did not long later.
I did however drive to the plasma bank the next day and what a mistake that was. It was closed during the time I went. I got the times mixed up. I went to visit an older woman I knew - actually I guess I did have that one person. I went to see her and it took a long time but finally I came up with the nerve to let her know I needed food. This woman was very sweet but she has her own illness and is not acutely aware. She did give me some dried beans and some turkey ham. I made them that night and that was the best meal I had had in forever. I was so tired of beans but with the meat in it made a huge difference.
It is also very important to know that I am a Christian and during this whole time I prayed quite a bit. The thing that assisted me a great deal is the tremendous amount of faith I have in God to come through for me and He did.
I had met my husband on the computer and finally when the phone got connected he called and we talked for 8 hours on his bill. We met the next day and my life changed not only financially, but I had a tremendous support system, he himself was on SSD and completely understood what I was going through. He became my best friend.
Months later I was accepted to SSD and a few months after that my relatives began to come to me. I had to work hard to get my father back as I had really raged at him. It wasn't until he began to hang up on me did I realize that I could not have him in my life unless I treated him with respect. (By the way, I am not recommending this to you parents out there. All of us with the BPD are different and your child may be suicidal when they call. So, it is different with each one of us).
It wasn't until I was safe that I unconsciously began to give up the "warrior" role I worked hard to develop. It took me at least a year after this experience before I really felt safe. I can't tell you how many dreams I have had about this.
Please don't send me letters about how sorry you are about this place in my life. In looking back it has brought forth a different attitude about life. Things don't seem to bother me the way they used to. When Tim and I began our lives together before I got SSD, we had no phone. My response was "oh well, no prob." My car broke down and we had no transportation but bikes. Same attitude. "No prob. We have food in our stomachs."
I remember the words of a man at a gas station I used to live next door to. I was selling my things to make some money shortly before this episode. I was over there trying to sell him my snow tires from my Camero. He said "Things are just luxuries. That's all they are."
The message in this story is that I believe we are designed to meet with hard challenges if we look deep within and BELIEVE that we are warriors.
By the way this whole experience of what I went through waiting for SSD added additional post traumatic stress disorder to my life and for the coming years I had repetitive nightmares about the whole experience. It took years for me to feel safe.
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Copyright © Patty Fleener, M.S.W. All rights reserved.