“Disabled” is the label that they branded me with. This label is what they use to brand someone whenever they are suffering from an illness or illnesses. The kind that makes it hard or impossible for you to work. I no longer feel ashamed of the branding of “disabled” that they placed upon me. Because it is merely a label.
It just didn’t make any sense to me. I hardly believed the words, as they escaped from her lips. She spoke softly, as she looked at me with pity in her eyes. She told me that I had become disabled and could no longer work. Suddenly, I felt faint and nearly collapsed on the floor of my doctor’s office. My medical chart lists label after label. Many by different doctors. But this was different. She is different. She is such an amazing doctor who truly cares for her patients from her heart. So those words hurt so much coming from her.
The label, “Disabled”
I felt as if the words were shameful; belittling. They felt like a dagger, plunging straight through my heart. I had worked all of my life. Much of that time was spent taking care of disabled loved ones. There was no way I could be disabled at 45 years old. How was I to stop caring for other people? I couldn’t grasp how I would be able to contribute anything of value to this world, from then on. Most important, how was I supposed to help support my family financially?
And yet, there I was. My body was painfully telling me that it was time to slow down. Way down, unfortunately. So, I had no other choice but to listen. You see, our bodies have a way of doing that. I’m sure it is some sort of an internal survival mechanism.
You reap what you sow
For many, many years, I had pushed my body beyond the boundaries of normality. I rarely ever slept. When I did sleep, it wasn’t restful, relaxing sleep. I suffered from acute insomnia. Most times, when I attempted to sleep, I spent the time sorting through millions of racing thoughts. I rarely ever ate. When I did eat, it wasn’t the right foods. I didn’t give it the foods that it needed. Not the kind that gave me the energy necessary to sustain the abuse I had been putting myself through.
Bottling up my emotions became the norm for me. Crying only happened when I was alone, for most of my life. Expressing the anger and frustration I felt toward others was almost unheard of. Rather, I internalized everything. I directed all the rage I felt toward others, inward at myself. It was how I attempted to avoid conflict, at all costs. I was unaware, at the time, of the damage that I was doing to myself.
How much is too much burden to carry
Over the years, those internalized feelings ate away at me, like cancer. I cared very little about myself and overly cared for everyone I loved. I had always had this overwhelming urge to care for everyone else. It felt, to me, as if it was my purpose in life.
People I had never met would come up to me in public places, just to talk. They would share the most intimate details of their life with me. I was unable to walk away from them. So, I stayed and I listened intently as they told me their woes. When they finished talking, I would hug them, and we would part ways. As we parted ways, I would carry their sorrows with me in hopes to lessen their pain.
To be honest, I’m sure that was a major source of what has caused some of my chronic illnesses. By good luck, I am currently receiving treatment from an amazing therapist. She is helping me to make sense of it all. To direct my anger and frustration appropriately. Also, teaching me how not to take on the pain and suffering of those who share it with me. That is another post, altogether. I will write about that another time.
I just didn’t know
It never occurred to me that I, too, was deserving of love and compassion. Not even from myself. For the most part, I was unable to appreciate myself for the things I had been doing for other people. There was no realization, on my part, that the qualities I possessed were meaningful and purposeful. I gave freely of myself, but I asked for very little in return.
Accepting of harsh words and commands seemed fitting to me. Told regularly that I was worthless; an unwanted mistake was the norm. But it hurt a lot, and I believed it. Regrettably, I listened to their words, rather than those of my inner voice. Over time, my inner voice began repeating their words to me over and over.
It was time to face the truth
My doctor told me in March of this year, that I had become permanently disabled. It took me five long months to accept that what she had told me was true. Ultimately, what felt like a river of tears later, I swallowed my pride. Without further ado, on August 3rd, I filed for disability. It was an emotional process for me. And still is.
It should have taken me 60-90 minutes to fill out their large packet of paperwork, according to their “Instructions” sheet. However, it did not take me 60-90 minutes to fill them out. It took me six hours, over the course of three days, to fill out those forms. Which, turned out not only to be very time-consuming but also, very frustrating. The questions were so intimidating. Answering them was heartbreaking and painful. As a result, I found myself feeling more inadequate than I ever had in my life.
They make it hard on purpose
This is their tactic, of sorts. Hubs told me that by making the paperwork long and drawn-out, most people change their mind about filing. I could certainly understand why someone might do that. I felt like giving up, more than once.
Those questions require you to list all of your downfalls. Listing all of the things I was no longer able to do for others gave me goose bumps. My hairs stood on ends. Moreover, listing all of the things I was no longer able to do for myself; that was gut wrenching. I became physically ill, more than once, while filling out those horrible papers.
They say hindsight is 20/20 for a reason
Listing all the negative things about who I had become was overwhelming. Essentially, it was the reason it took so long for me to give in. I suffered from a great deal of anxiety the five months that I waited to file. It was all for naught, too. I went through emotional trauma, trying to accept the inevitable.
I finally got to a point where I thought I had accepted my fate. But then, I had to fill out those papers. It was like ripping the band-aid off of a gaping wound that was trying to heal. I wish that I had done it when the wound was fresh, instead of opening it up again.
Now, I wait. I wait for those who sit on the throne of judgment to decide if my doctor is right. Their job is to decide whether or not she knows her job well enough to declare me unable to work. They will decide my fate. Decide whether or not to give me my office label.
My disabilities have taken a toll on our family. My husband has been unable to work for awhile now because he cares for me at home. It has caused a financial burden. Thankfully, I have a strong marriage to an amazing man. He loves me, even though I carry the label of “disabled.” I love him, too. I love him even more with each passing day. We have an amazing life in this RV, and I am grateful for that every single day.