Let that number sink in for a minute. It may not seem like a huge number when you think about how humans are living to be over 100 years of age these days, but it’s a decent chunk of time, right? I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder seventeen years ago. I was sixteen years old. In the past few weeks I’ve had some serious revelations in my life that were difficult to swallow, but they have given me a healthier perspective.
It has been nine years since I graduated from college. I have been struggling to find and sustain a full-time job ever since. There have been very few job interviews I’ve attended where I’ve not gotten the job. I have a great education, I am an intelligent woman, I work very hard, and I am passionate about doing well as a professional. Yet, the longest I have held down a full-time job in nine years has been eight months. Until a few weeks ago, when I was (I believe illegally) terminated from my job, I could not understand the why of this seemingly unending pattern in my life.
I understand now.
I have such severe MDD that it is disabling. I am disabled. This is a revelation for me. And until I just typed that ‘out loud’ I had no idea how difficult this would be for me to talk about. It is something I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, ever admit before because I had the education and intelligence that I believed there was no reason I shouldn’t be successful. I watched all of my friends from high school and college go on to build careers for themselves and I thought, “What am I doing wrong here?!” I was terrified of being fired so I always made sure to quit all of my jobs as soon as things started to go downhill. Mainly, I was afraid of having to explain to future employers that I had been previously terminated, or having to put it down on an employment application. In fact, my most recent job is only the second time I’ve ever been terminated, I did not take it well. Then again, I was also in the midst of a major depressive episode. Thus, bringing us back into the vicious cycle.
Being terminated was what it took for me to understand that it is not my fault that I have been professionally unsuccessful. Even using the word, ‘unsuccessful,’ versus the word I have always used to describe myself – a ‘failure’ – is a huge step for me, another revelation. It is not my fault that I was born with a body that doesn’t produce or hold onto dopamine. It is not my fault that I was born with a body that produces too much adrenaline and therefore causes me to feel anxious. It is not my fault. I have fought this for so fucking long, and it has destroyed so many dreams I had for myself when I was younger. It is not a battle for the weak or weary, and that’s one of the things I find so frustrating. Most ‘normal’ people wouldn’t survive a day in my shoes yet they look at me cry and call me weak. People think that just because they can’t see my illness it is a flaw in my character rather than my chemistry. I will say it again – those same people would not survive one day living in my skin, with my chemistry. But that is why I write because generally people don’t understand and the only way to educate them is by breaking our silence regarding mental illnesses.
So, I can finally admit to myself that I have a disability. With the support of my husband, family, friends, and (hopefully) my doctor I am going to apply for social security disability benefits. That’s not to say I’m giving up on working altogether. I don’t think I could stand being home all day every day. It would, however, reduce my stress by roughly ninety percent or more.
My husband and I live paycheck to paycheck, we live in a POS rental that won’t stay cool during the summer (we’re talking upwards of 86 degrees in our house during the summer and our electric bill is $300/month year round), and my medical expenses are outrageous. The most I’ve made since living in Florida (full-time) is $11/hour. Thankfully my husband has a decent and stable job. Up to this point I have put enormous pressure on myself to obtain and sustain a full-time job so we can make ends meet, eventually move out of this shit-hole and one day start our own family. The only piece of that puzzle I’ve been able to complete is obtaining the jobs.
Once again, it all comes down to hope. I hope I qualify for SS disability benefits. I hope I can then find a part-time job I enjoy. I hope my new meds will continue to make me feel like a human who can function and actually live my life. I hope one day soon my husband and I can move out of this place and start thinking about starting that family I mentioned. I hope the pieces finally start falling into place. Actually feeling hope is another revelation, for I haven’t truly felt it in so long I don’t know whether to say it has been months or years. Whatever happens, these are huge revelations for me.