Dysfunctional function

I’ve been going through the process of applying for disability.

I started the application in June, but hesitated finishing it because I had a lot of self-doubt. There was some fear in being rejected. There was a lot shame in needing help. I told myself I just wasn’t trying hard enough. I told myself I didn’t need this help, I just needed to be stronger.

I struggle with asking for help in general, but when it comes to finances, it’s even more difficult. My parents were not rich, but my father had a well-paying job that should have allowed us to live comfortably. My mother was irresponsible, and wasted money on material bullshit instead of paying the bills. She always had the newest phones, but could not pay the wireless bill. She had an abnormal abundance of home decor, but could not pay the electric bill. She’d guilt people into paying her bills. She used other people as a means of financial support, and I always hated that.

And I feel like I am doing the same thing by trying to get financial assistance. I feel like I am in some way able to do more than I am doing, that I’m just putting my money into the wrong things, just like my mother had done.

But I’m not. I’m putting my money into all the right things. I pay my rent every month. I pay all of my bills, even if it’s just the minimum payment. I pay my therapist every week. I’m not irresponsible at all. I’m not like my mother. But it’s still not enough. I am still not worthy.

I tried to work more. It lasted all of four days. I can only handle so much in one day before I get completely exhausted. I wish I could work full-time, but I know it would be disastrous; not only for me, but for those who would be working with me. Three hours into the day, and I’m already emotionally spent. Five hours into the day, and I’m already physically exhausted.

But I’m still working. I’m still earning a paycheck. And I am afraid that alone will get me rejected. They don’t understand that my paycheck doesn’t even cover all the basic necessities. They’re not there some months when I have to figure out how to get enough food to eat with $15. They don’t see the times I had to pay my rent with cash advances. They don’t know how much I sacrifice just to pay for therapy.

They will think I’m too able to be disabled, that I function too well to deserve any help. But they don’t see the dysfunction in my function.

They are not with me every morning when I can barely make it out of bed to take a shower. They are not there with me each morning I walk to the bus stop in tears because I’m so depressed and lost and scared of life. They do not see the panic attacks I go through at work, all the times I cry in the bathroom, and the multiple emotional meltdowns I have in front of my coworkers.

They don’t see how sick I can get just from eating a meal. They don’t see me struggling to breathe, or throwing up in the parking lot because there’s just not enough room in my chest for me to breathe if my stomach is full. They can’t feel my constant nausea. They don’t know what it’s like to walk around with an invisible elephant on your chest.

They don’t see me crying on the bus on the way home because I’m just so exhausted. They don’t know how many meals I skip, because I’m either too tired to eat or I just don’t care enough to be nourished. They’re not there every time I get dizzy, every time I pass out because my body is constantly running on fumes.

They’re not with me every night when I spend hours laying in bed, just wishing for a decent night of sleep. They don’t know how many times I am startled awake by the cat downstairs, or a car down the street. They can’t see the nightmares that keep me awake through the night. They can’t see how exhausted I am every day, how much I struggle just to hold my head up.

They can’t see my flashbacks. They can’t feel my body memories. They don’t hear the voices I hear in my head every day, or the noise that seems to get louder and louder. They don’t feel the fear I experience every day of my life. They don’t know how badly I just want to die. They don’t understand how much effort it takes just for me to have a conversation with somebody.

They can’t see the depression, the anxiety, the fear and the panic that runs through my mind and body every single hour of every day. They don’t see the wounds I hide under my clothes, or the pain I try to bury away so I can make it through another day. They don’t understand how many times I should have been in a hospital, but couldn’t afford to be out of work. They don’t know how many moments I’ve lost because I can’t handle the stress, so I dissociate.

They don’t see any of that. All they can see is a person who is able, the same as everyone else sees. She works, she is not disabled. But they don’t realize that any other job would have fired me. They don’t see how much this life is destroying me.

In a way, my resilience is my downfall. It makes me people think I am much better than I really am.

I am shattered glass inside of a shatter-proof box. No one can see the catastrophe that exists inside, because they only focus on what they see on the outside.

I am true dysfunction, hidden by perceivable function.

8 thoughts on “Dysfunctional function

  1. This makes sense to me…so much sense. Disability for mental illness is not just about not being able to work…it’s also about finding time and medical resources so that you can heal. I remember when I was in this situation, and looking back what I regret is not having applied for disability sooner. Disability is based on what you’ve paid into the system–it’s like insurance and you’ve been paying into it and now you have a claim. You deserve the time and resources to heal. You really do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Exactly. You’re physically able to do the work (to some degree), but working isn’t always necessarily healthy. I’ve gone without so much as far as treatment because I just don’t have the financial resources. Outpatient programs are five days a week, and can help, but I can’t work and do that at the same time. Either way, I’m missing out on something and I shouldn’t have to.

      I hear some really horrible stories about people being rejected, so I don’t expect much. I just wish it was different. I wish it didn’t perpetuate the belief that invisible illnesses aren’t real enough.


  2. I don’t know whether you’re applying for SSI or SSDI. I’m on SSDI and it’s, frankly, not enough to live on. I have to live with my parents even though I get disability because the amount that I get each month (the maximum allowed) is not enough to even cover rent for my own place, let alone food or utilities. If you’re applying for SSI, I hope it’s different.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t believe I qualify for SSI, just SSDI.

      I know it doesn’t cover much, but it’s better than the situation I’m in now. I can only work part time and sometimes even that’s pushing it. There have been times I should have been in the hospital or in intensive treatment but couldn’t go because I’d have no source of income. At least with SSDI, I can get treatment and still have some kind of money coming in. And I think in the long run, it helps with other things as well — school and transportation and the like.

      I don’t know how people could survive on just SSDI. It’s impossible.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Catching up on your posts, KJ, and I just wanted to say that this part:
    “In a way, my resilience is my downfall. It makes me people think I am much better than I really am.

    I am shattered glass inside of a shatter-proof box. No one can see the catastrophe that exists inside, because they only focus on what they see on the outside.

    I am true dysfunction, hidden by perceivable function” you put so beautifully. I could not have put it better. While I don’t claim to understand what you are going through, I do understand this feeling – of being perceived as high functioning when you are completely shattered and non-functioning inside.
    I am sorry you are dealing with this, and there is no shame in getting the SSDI.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. I’m sorry that you understand that feeling — I think a lot of us do. It served a purpose at first, but it doesn’t really serve us well anymore.

      Liked by 1 person

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