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Why Pursuing Disability Benefits Is Actually Making My Mental Health Worse

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For the past three years, I have been pursuing disability benefits for my mental illnesses, which include schizoaffective disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stress is a huge trigger for my mental illnesses, and the disability process has been nothing but an utter nightmare. I hope that I won’t always need to be on disability, but at this point in time, I have been directed by my therapist that this is the best option for me and my recovery. However, I have found throughout the process that the system is designed to make you feel inferior so that you will give up trying to get disability benefits, and the stress has done nothing but make my illnesses so much worse.

The process of disability, in my experience, has been lengthy and hard to manage on my own. I have had to apply over the phone and work on getting all of my records together while working with my providers to make sure that they help me by completing all of the paperwork. During this time, I have not had an income, and I have been barely scraping by. All of this on top of having various doctor’s and therapy appointments to attend to each and every week.

I have been made to feel bad for needing assistance.

After having been denied for disability twice, I have a hearing before a judge that is coming up later in May. Up until this point I have been pursuing disability by myself and have done all of the preparation on my own, but I am now working with a lawyer. Working with a lawyer has provided more paperwork that I have had to make sure my providers complete, and my stress is out of control. Yesterday, I had a massive panic attack about disability and how scared I am to be denied again, and how worn out I am from the process. It hasn’t so much been the work of pursuing disability that has caused me so much stress; it has been the poor way that I have been treated and how I have been made to feel bad for needing assistance. I have a hard time accepting that I have various mental illnesses but having to feel bad about needing the help and seemingly being defined by them has been difficult.

One of the big factors that I have been judged for is how young I am. I am 27 years old, and so many people have not understood why I need help at such a young age. I wish that people would understand that illnesses do not discriminate, and anyone of any age may need assistance and they shouldn’t feel bad for it. So many times, I have thought about giving up, despite having the support of my medical providers, and I am almost at my wit’s end. However, the way the stress has impacted my ability to function and manage my illnesses has shown me just how necessary disability is for me right now.

Our system is broken, and I honestly believe that there is such a stigma surrounding disability because of the people who abuse the system. This makes it so hard for those who really need the help to get assistance, and even those of us who really need the assistance often feel ashamed because of how we are treated during the process. Disability should not be something that is taboo or looked down upon, and my experience has only made me feel empathetic towards others who are having to go through this process. Disability and mental illnesses are stigmatized enough, and we shouldn’t be put through a process that is designed to make us feel worse about ourselves, and subsequently make our illnesses worse. If you are going through the disability process and are also struggling, please know that I am here and that I support you. You deserve to receive the support that you need, and I hope that you can stick it out and try not to let the system get to you.

Getty Images photo via Westend61

Originally published: April 26, 2022
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