Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tough times

It has been nearly 3 months since my big crash. After years of working my butt off yet never making enough money to make ends meet, I have never pursued public assistance (with the exception of college grants) until now.

As I said in my last update, University of Mississippi Medical Center approved me for 100% financial aid. The task now is to get rides up there every time I need to go, and to get lucky enough to have a team of docs who listen and try till death do us part. All prayers concerning this matter are greatly appreciated.

I am in my 30's, I am intelligent (for the most part...Mathematics, you suck), and I have acquired a great deal of job experience in spite of my severe physical impairments. I've run law offices - worked in hospital administration, real estate and insurance - handled fifty line switchboards - negotiated with clients and attorneys - budgeted hundreds of incomes - been a desktop publisher - proofread, edited, and created hundreds of legal, medical, and other documents and business letters - controlled all aspects of a commercial print shop (complete with 4-tray darkroom, no processors in my day, people...I used chemicals to develop negatives and aluminum plates, used manual printing presses, and hand-collated tens of thousands of books) - taught all ages in public and private schools (various subjects) and now I run my own art instruction business. That doesn't include my volunteer work. Hello, ten page resume of chaos. Ha! Unfortunately, the reality is that I am incapable of working outside of my sick bed at the present time, and that doesn't appear to be changing. I hope and pray to God that it will change, but for now, it's not. Through all the years of struggling and being sick and losing jobs due to my body crashing, I have never received public welfare, but now I am. I don't see where I have a choice, and my case workers (I have one in Jackson, and now one in Moss Point) agree 100 percent.

I met with the DHS today, where I applied for EBT. They gave me an emergency appointment. The lady knew by looking at me that I was not capable of applying for unemployment or getting a job, but had to ask "Have you refused to work?" "I'd LOVE to work!" I told her, and we both laughed. I gave her a copy of my diagnosis and my most recent doctor's report, as well as my pitiful 2010 tax return. She filed my info and approved me on the spot. She said that she would make sure that my money is in the system within 6 days. She explained how the card worked and encouraged me that it "wasn't so bad". I didn't cry, but she knew that I wanted to. She carried my paperwork for me, showed me to the door, and wished me well.

I am lucky that relatives have helped me survive thus far, and I will never take that for granted, but I am in the process of locating medical records so I can apply for SSI Disability at their request. I am seriously ill at this point, clearly unable to work, and I put this off as long as I could. I hoped that I would recover enough somehow to work again as I did several years ago, but that would require a miracle now. And I know that sitting around with zero income waiting for a miracle is not reasonable, regardless of the fact that God is able to make it happen.

My difficulty with doing all of this has nothing to do with pride, but in being told that I'm entitled to it because I cannot take care of myself. Entitlement is a state of mind that I have a hard time grasping. I want so much to be a "normal" independent adult and a productive member of society. I have always wanted that more than anything in the world. Perhaps it is because I was raised that way. My mother, brother and I lived in poverty, but never asked for a handout. My mother's income was carefully spent, and I learned how to manage money, to the last cent, in my childhood. I've always heard nothing is free...earn your living...be responsible...make it happen on your own. Good advice, and although times were often very tough growing up, I appreciate what I learned as a result.

But the reality is that I am going to die young if I don't receive real, regular medical care. I am going to stay sick if I don't have access to the right foods and medications on a daily basis. And while I cannot live on the SSI Disability that I would receive if approved, I will surely not make it with nothing at all.

It's just the facts. My head is not in the clouds. This is my reality. I hate it so much. I don't know if I will ever accept the hand I've been dealt, but tough times or not, I am doing the best I can. And I always will.