My SSDI Story part 1

April 21, 2009 at 2:12 pm Leave a comment

I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 1997, after a personality test resulted in referral to a psychiatrist. But it was not until 2 years later that the episodes began to seriously affect my ability to work, and I decided to seek out SSDI, or Social Security Disability Insurance.

Somehow, I had always been able to “scrape by” with excuses before then. Mania inspired me to overcommit (I believed I could do anything when I was manic), but the inevitably ensuing depression proved me unequal to my promises. People get tired of hearing excuses after awhile, and I was tired of making them. I felt guilty and ashamed for continually letting others down when they were counting on me.

In early 1999, I was “strongly encouraged to resign” from my position as
research assistant in the study of child language disorders. At the time I was supposed to be working 20 hours a week in my assistantship, 20 hours a week as a speech-language pathologist in my local school district, plus a regular load of doctoral courses. Looking back, I’m surprised I didn’t break down then!

In some ways, losing the assistantship was a relief. But the consequences weren’t — I had to move from my school-owned apartment, I couldn’t pay my bills with just one job so I took extra speech pathology work, and there was no time left for courses so I dropped out (besides, I absolutely could not face that professor again).

I managed that way for several months, until the end of summer — and my school salary — approached. I had not been offered another school district contract; apparently my performance in that job was as dismal as in the assistantship. I had to find a new job, so I began teaching 4-year-old preschool. Twenty children, one teacher, at $10 an hour. Much better than minimum wage, of course, but very stressful and still not enough to pay the bills.
— to be continued —

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