IMHO: Illness is not Destiny

  • IMHO: Illness Is Not Destiny


    I was alarmed after reading Priced Out in 2012.


    A friend claimed if SSI payments were increased more people would take advantage of it and seek to get on the SSI rolls.


    This might be true however if it is that's kind of a twisted ethic.


    I was able to collect $423/month in SSDI because I had worked at a part-time job all through college.  How was I supposed to live on $423?  I moved into a halfway house and then lived in a residence from the fall of 1988 to January 1991.  This required that I receive SSI as well so that I could pay for the housing with my government disability checks.

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    What was left over after my checks paid for the housing was a mere $100/month of disposable income for me to live on.  The government allowed disability check recipients to have only about $3,000 in assets which for me was an actual bank account.


    Poverty stinks.  The system stinks.  I had the courage to dream of having a better life and I knew that to get there I would have to take action to create this life.  No one would give it to me.  I had to fight with the day program staff to be taken seriously in my goal of obtaining full-time work.


    Too often: staff in the mental health system place every client in the same illness box.  Professionals still exist that believe recovery and remission are not possible for most people diagnosed with schizophrenia.  A woman staff member in a mental health clinic years ago on the Internet in an article had the audacity to state people with schizophrenia couldn't achieve remission.


    I beg to differ.  I have always begged to differ.  I believe in my vision that people with schizophrenia and bipolar and other mental illnesses can recover.  We can recover with the right medication and therapy and support


    With staff members like that woman on our team I submit this is one prime reason individuals get discouraged and give up hope of having a better life.


    Why did I fight the staff in the system so loudly and repeatedly?  I had no idea whether or not I'd succeed when I obtained my first job as an administrative assistant.  Yet I soldiered on until I went back to school to obtain a degree.


    This leads into a radical idea I'm going to propose:


    Risking going to work to see if you can do it and if you try numerous times and fail that is when you can consider going back on SSI.


    Most people receive a schizophrenia diagnosis in their late teens and early twenties.  The illness strikes in our prime working years.  Yet schizophrenia doesn't have to be our destiny.


    I know a guy who found a job when he was 55 and he said it was the best decision he made: to go to work full-time.  Most of us don't have to wait until we're 55 to consider getting a job.  And you can work at a part-time job while you collect SSI as long as you don't go over the maximum allowable monthly gainful employment income.


    I will always make the case that a person who has the desire and ability to work at a job take action to get a job.  You can see my hyperlinks at the end of this article that link to detailed SharePosts I wrote on the topic of finding employment.


    Illness is NOT destiny. 


    My friend might be right yet in my mind it's sad that a person would WANT to collect SSI instead of working at a job.  If you don't have to collect SSI and are in a position of being able to work, I say: go to work.


    If you absolutely can't work: join other disability advocates like TAC and CCD in lobbying the government to provide sufficient affordable housing to improve the quality of life of everyone living with a mental illness.


    I'll end here by giving you a snapshot of my experiences with housing.  I lived on my own ever since February 1991.

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    In 1999, I moved into a rent-stabilized apartment in Brooklyn.  New York City offers a dwindling number of rent-controlled and rent-stabilized apartments whose rents are set by the Rent Guidelines Board every year.  The rent goes up at most 4 percent every time the RGB sets the yearly percentage.


    In New York City, senior citizens are exempt from rent increases if they live in rent-controlled or -stabilized apartments under the Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE).  Individuals with disabilities who live in these kinds of apartments are exempt from rent increases once their rent hits two-thirds of their income (under the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE).


    I was lucky to live in a rent-stabilized apartment for 10 years.  Then I had to move out quickly into a temporary apartment because the landlord wouldn't make repairs.  She told me numerous times that because she cut me a break on the rent I had to pay on my own for repairs.  The paint on the ceiling was peeling and the ceramic bathtub got blackened.


    The apartment was unlivable after 10 years so I moved out. 


    My contention is that if you worked at a job you would be able to afford a free market apartment.  Some of us might have to work at two jobs to afford this kind of housing yet in my estimation it's better than collecting an SSI check the rest of your life.


    I lived below the poverty line for two-and-a-half years.  This isn't pretty.  This doesn't have to be the destiny of those of us who have the desire and ability to work at paid employment.


    The change starts when we hold the staff in the mental health system accountable for their dim views of what individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses can do.


    We seek out role models and mentors who can provide a different view: one that is hopeful and achievable and possible.


    Is illness destiny?  No, no, and no. 


    I'd love to hear your comments on this SharePost.




    The three links below take you to recent SharePosts I've written about how to find paid employment.  You can also search in the search box above or in my profile archives for other articles I've written how to succeed in the world of work. 


    I've written numerous articles on this topic here since 2007 when I first started at HealthCentral as the Health Guide.  You can search under the terms The Working Life.  I've written at least 10 SharePosts on this topic.


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    The Working Life: Finding the Work You Love


    Recovery Options: The Ticket to Work Act


    Recovery Options: A Pass Plan

Published On: July 01, 2013