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When I Struggle With Shame About Being on SSI Because of My Disability

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I can remember the day my mom started the process of applying for SSI for me over the phone. At the time, it didn’t occur to me that a monthly amount of money would be given to me simply because of having cerebral palsy. “Cool!” I thought. I’d need to appear in front of a doctor to prove that cerebral palsy was not a made-up reality in my life. So, my parents took me to see a local doctor, and the doctor took one look at me and said, “Yep, he has cerebral palsy.”

Before I knew it, my first monthly check was in the mail and shortly after that, I got my very own bank account. I was excited because that meant I could buy my own clothes, food etc. It was cool to have my own money and start learning how to be responsible with money. Yet, now as an adult who gets SSI, I often battle with shame over the reality.

On one hand, I see the money I receive each month as a blessing from God that I and others should be wise with. On the other hand, I have been met with a great deal of heat and pushback, both from others like myself and able-bodied individuals. Both sides say with great passion, “Don’t you want more for your life?” The obvious answer is yes, of course, I do. Sometimes society can be an extremely judgmental place, and to add to that, some simply cannot understand that some lives simply haven’t turned out as planned.

Due to my startle reflex, it’s not safe for me to drive and so working a typical job is a challenge. And where I live, transportation services are pretty much nonexistent. I still try and make the most of the life God has given me. Most of my time is spent as an online personal trainer and nutrition coach, working with others like myself. Beyond that, I write books and blogs.

And you know what? I still don’t make enough money to get off SSI… But I know deep down I’m doing the best I possibly can. And I’m not giving up hope either. When the shame shows up, it can quickly turn into a heavy depression. Then defeating statements are whispered into my mind:

“No real woman would want you like this.”

“You’ll never measure up.”

“Your life will never change.”

These are just some of the lies that hit me at times. One of the main ways I combat the shame is by remembering where my worth and value come from, and that stems from my faith in God. He says who I am. My worth in him and to him is not based upon how much money is in my bank account, or even how much I accomplish in my life. If people cannot see your value as a human being, that has a lot more to do with them than it does you. It may be hard to believe in the moment, but it is true nonetheless.

Do not give up hope — keep striving! Set goals, and as Jordan Peterson says, “Take aim at something.” Start small and work your way up to bigger things. You may not be where you’d like to be in life, and that’s OK. Just keep pressing on toward the goal, whatever that is for you. Will the battle with shame completely go away? Probably not, in fact, there will be days when we feel completely defeated. But as long as there’s still breath in our lungs, there’s still room to fight.

Originally published: August 24, 2021
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