Meet HealthCentral's Depression Expert Kimberly Tyler
Today is Wednesday, May 30, 2007. This is my first blog for The HealthCentral Network, and I am pleased to be part of the team.
I will be writing on depression, anxiety and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I will also be sharing news and information on advocacy for mental and physical health issues, insurance coverage, and federal and state paperwork as it pertains to disability or low income due to mental or physical health concerns.
I will be sharing what I have gained from my own experience, as well as the experience of others whom I support through my advocacy network. My advocacy network is something I started on my own, and I am not employed by any agency.
What I have come to understand clearly is this: I have garnered too much information not to share it. There is a segment of the population who knows what it is like to live with mental illness (and/or physical illness) and what happens when the outcome is disability. Not being able to secure your own income anymore can be devastating, not to mention personally demoralizing. To appear before an administrative law court judge to “prove” how sick you are is something I never wish to experience again. I barely held it together through the process, and once it was over, I collapsed on the floor outside the courtroom. My lawyer had to literally pick me up. I was unable to speak and I felt humiliated. The lawyer thought it went well. The world was officially upside-down.
Perhaps the administrative law judge did not know that I desperately wanted to not be there but rather out in the work force instead. My predicament was beyond my control and I did not like any of it. I had been denied Federal Disability Insurance three times, each time sobbing my way through as I would have to write down and compile documentation that presented how incapable I was. I was a failure and a disgrace.
Or so I thought. On the one hand, I did not feel deserving of the program (depression, anxiety and PTSD were in full swing); on the other hand, I logically knew I was I not moving forward and needed help. Reconciling these opposing emotional and rational thoughts took a lot of time because I resisted the idea that my life had come to a full stop.
Obtaining—and accepting—Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) was the first step in changing up my thinking. When the first retroactive check came in, 25% went to the lawyer, 10% went to a friend I borrowed money from, and the remaining 65% went to my parents who had been paying for my medical bills. I was then able to reapply for Section 8 housing, state welfare and Medicaid with this new federal paperwork. I also felt relief to automatically receive health insurance through Medicare once I was approved for SSDI. Even with all these new opportunities in front of me, I still did not want anyone to know I had been accepted, regardless of my gratitude.
Over time, my gratitude began to take precedence over my embarrassment. Simply knowing I would be able to keep my housing was incredible to me. I began receiving consistent physical and mental healthcare. Rather than feeling so much stress expending time and energy looking for financial help through various charities, I was now able to attend to the needs of my physical and mental wellbeing.
I do believe in the government systems in place to support those who need it. I am still dependent on government programs, but several years ago I took a leap of faith to create my own freelance/contracting businesses to begin to generate an income. I am still way below poverty level, but that is okay! I am achieving an income again, getting well, and learning how to stay well. I truly look forward to the day when I may tell the government thank you, and begin to pay for the next person, who like me, needs the support.
In the meantime, I strive to do my best. I am not able to work everyday, but when I can work, I do. I need time for numerous doctor and therapy appointments, and being able to create my own schedule allows for this to happen. I know I can not be relied upon to show up at a job from 9-5. As I watch folks with briefcases getting on the metro in their suits and shiny shoes, I sometimes wish I could be like them (as I did this for years prior to disability). I have come to accept that my work life is different. Not better or worse, just different.
I also choose to give time in service to others. Government programs and opportunities can work; sometimes it takes another person to walk through the process with you to obtain the services required. To me it is clear that those who work in government positions do want to help. Sometimes they may be overworked and cannot give you the time they want to. Other times, they may not understand the severity of the illness, or the ramifications of a government provider not performing up to code. A lot of my advocacy work falls under sharing information as well as supporting others in compiling documentation. I desire to understand the situation and make sure everyone has what they need to make the best decisions for the welfare of an adult or child.
I will contribute blogs as well as articles to this site. I do hope that any questions, thoughts, concerns or additional information will be shared by others in the community. I am not a person who thinks she has all the answers and I am always open to feedback. Your sharing will only amplify the services provided here. I simply believe I am someone who has gone though the system and desires to share what I have learned and to be of use and support.
I created a document in several parts called “My Story” as it relates to PTSD. It is a LONG story, and this is the first time I have tried to write it all down. Interestingly, regardless of its current length, I do feel it only scratches the surface. There is so much to be shared about depression, anxiety and PTSD and how it touches every aspect of life. I know that shame has kept me from opening up and sharing my own experience with mental illness with others. I do not want to be bound by shame, and this is an opportunity to allow my history to perhaps resonate with another’s. I have heard for so long that it is not my fault that certain things happened to me, and I am truly taking it in so that I may not identify with this disorder as the sum of who I am.
I look forward to participating in a dialogue with your comments and your thoughts. I respectfully ask you to share as you are comfortable.
Published On: May 30, 2007