By Nicole Cater
I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday… the day I entered into legal limbo. Of course, I had no idea. But sure enough, I joined the rank and file and became a cog in the great machine. I was an inconsequential ant and Social Security Disability insurance was the great and mighty boot.
It was a beautiful, August Thursday; the perfect day for a nervous breakdown. This was not my first nervous breakdown; I’d had at least two in the past 10 years. The treatment was leave from work and antidepressants, a treatment that never worked, the reason which soon became apparent.
But this breakdown was different, more severe, on a deeper level, an intensity I had never experienced before. I wound up in the emergency room (don’t I always?). And unlike your run-of-the mill general practitioner, the doctors are trained to recognize mental illness. I have nothing against GPs, and they are certainly your friend if you have a cold, earache, or the stomach flu. But anything psychological makes hoof beats, and therefore must be a horse, or depression. They are not trained to see the psychological zebras, or other mental illnesses that also make hoof beats.
In my ER visit I was given a choice. Go straight to Robert Young (a local mental health facility), do not pass go, do not collect $200. Or see my GP and also see a Robert Young diagnostician. I wasn’t ready for a visit to the center yet. Had I known what great cookies they had, maybe I would have changed my mind. The GP was absolutely no help at all, besides booking me an appointment with Dr. Evil, may she roast in hell for that.
I spent three hours with the diagnostician. Enough to think I was never leaving, that suddenly this had become a hostage situation. All he did was page through a book and ask questions. “Do you drink?” “Are there any alcoholics in your family?” “Is there anyone with mental illness in your family?” “Do you have insomnia?” “Do you spend more than you earn?” Uh-oh. “Do you feel guilty about it later or exhilarated?” Oh yeah, uh-oh. “Do you feel your mind racing frequently?” This is bad. “Do you have a history of promiscuity?” Why, what have you heard? “Do you have burst of energy at odd hours and feel you must follow through with them?” That’s it, I’m fucked! So Mr. Never-Ending Questions was happy to tell me that I had a bipolar disorder. But unlike most people with the illness, I skew heavily manic, which means all those antidepressants doctors have tried aren’t going to work because they’re treating something I really don’t have.
Dr. Evil tried this approach too. He couldn’t understand why I wasn’t getting better. He accused me of lying to him and holding back information. The truth was he was treating me for depression, from which I rarely suffered. He was so evil; I had to take anxiety medication before his appointments. And I had to have my mother go with me. I wouldn’t talk to him; she would talk to him for me.
Eventually I got a good psychiatric nurse practitioner who gave me very low doses of antidepressants and tolerable doses of antimanics. Antimanic drugs, who knew there was such a thing.
All of this brings me back to legal limbo. I have the autoimmune disease Ankylosing Spondylitis, which attacks the tendons in my spine, causing massive amounts of arthritis, which can cause my spine to fuse. It is incredibly painful. The treatment (which does not stop the disease, nothing can stop it, it only slows the process down) is to take immune suppressants. Immune suppressants! You name it, I get it. Flu shots are not an option; they are a necessity for me and anyone who lives with me. Until I got my tonsils out at the age of 32, I was getting strep throat five times a year. I still get ear infections, normally a child’s disease. And if you come near me with a cold, I will get it and it will last longer and will affect me worse. And this is the best treatment available for my AS.
Like many people with auto immune diseases, I also have fibromyalgia. This, among other things, causes muscle pain and tenderness for no real reason. The fun thing about all three of these illnesses is they each cause chronic insomnia. So you can imagine the effect when all three are combined, I’ve been suffering from lousy sleep for 20 years. As an added bonus, I also get migraines and irritable bowel syndrome.
I am the person for which SSDI was created. I haven’t worked in three and a half years. Because even though I went to college for business administration and every employer will tell you I’m the best, conscientious to a fault and hard working , no one can keep an employee who misses an average of 5-6 days a month.
And so I wait. Dealing with denial after denial. Thanking God I have the support of my parents and boyfriend or else I would surely be homeless. And I wait and wait in legal limbo hoping fate will be decided in my favor. I wait in limbo, scared of the answer, scared of another denial, yet scared more by the silence. And still I wait. For this limbo can’t go on forever. Can it?
This is our new Wicked Short Stories page with submissions from various Authors. Please look for bio-snippets about the Author at the bottom of the various pieces. Enjoy!