Category Archives: Work

Being Disabled Is a Job

I’ve heard some say disability benefits are unnecessary hand-outs for people who should just die off, and why should hard-working people foot the bill for people who are lazy, whose lives mean nothing?

The disability process itself mirrors these same sentiments – the 3-5 years (average) process for applying, fighting for, and receiving disability (SSI or SSDI) in the USA is by its nature a grueling process, with analysts hired to deny applicants not once, but twice (standard procedure), forcing the applicant to appeal their case twice over several months before a hearing is granted, which then takes years to schedule due to a shortage of judges. It is a process intended to force people to give up.

You usually have to be literally dying to be automatically granted disability in the USA. Continue reading Being Disabled Is a Job

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One Lovely Blog Award | BeingCharis

BeingCharis has been nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award by Rhiann, who writes about her long-standing brain stem lesion and spastic paraparesis on her blog,  ‘My Brain Lesion and Me.’ Check out her blog to learn more about experiences, insight, and life from another chronic disease sister. Thanks for the nomination, Rhiann!

The One Lovely Blog Award is a novel way of recognizing and introducing bloggers to each other as well as readers to different bloggers. Read a few facts (encouraged) about me below and check out those I’ve nominated to receive this quirky, collaborative, community-connecting award.

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Continue reading One Lovely Blog Award | BeingCharis

A Letter to the Future President of the USA

Dear Future President,

I’m concerned for our country and world, and I bet you are too.

The issues are astounding: people are fleeing rape, war, and other violence. Voter identification laws. Terrorism. Gun violence. Police violence. Bathroom bills. Prison populations. The cost of college. Decreases in pay for teachers. Unequal pay for equal work. Healthcare and specialty medication costs. The creation and sourcing of energy. What women can and cannot do with their bodies. Minimum wage. Budget. Military spending. War.

We also live in a culture of fear.

The news media help us – encourage us – to see the world as a dangerous place. We are rarely shown stories of heroism or positive change; and when we are the highlights are quickly lost in a blur of unsettling news. We are encouraged to expect the worst and protect ourselves against anyone we don’t know.

We need a leader to give us hope in the face of so much fear.

We need a president who facilitates with trust, responsibility, mutual respect, and appropriate transparency. Someone who empowers, collaborates, and leads with people. This job is not for someone with a hero or ego complex, rather, it’s for someone who understands that the job of President is an immense honor and a sobering duty. We need a president whose selfishness will not impede his or her ability to help all Americans succeed. I need a president who understands this. Continue reading A Letter to the Future President of the USA

Applying for Disability Has Dehumanized Me

Applying for disability is a demeaning, humiliating, invasive process.

I’ve heard it could take as little as three months to be awarded federal disability benefits, but I would probably have to be literally dying. I’ve heard it’s possible it could take six months to a year. “It’s possible” in the world of bureaucracy is nothing to lean on. Most people trudge through two to five years of endless forms, initial decisions, appeals, reconsiderations, and hearings before becoming card-carrying members of the unofficial federal disability club – if they’re successful. In kind terms, the Social Security Administration (SSA) drags its feet more for those who are younger, more educated, and healthier-looking. The SSA is less likely to award disability to those who have worked recently or, ironically, to those who have worked fewer years. Additionally, the lesser known or more abstract the disability as well as the more physical (as opposed to mental), the less willing the SSA is to acknowledge a disability. These are facts I have been told by staff at my attorney’s office, and all but one of them apply to my case.

(here’s a link with some stuff that makes sense)


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“I made this shirt.” Image by Rich Beckermeyer; Makeup by Alex Cassie

As if I hadn’t already made the most difficult decision of my life to accept my inability to work, applying for disability takes it one step further, forcing me to accept every single other thing I can no longer do, even those I am not ready to accept. I still have dreams of being healthy, so please don’t take what’s left away from me too.

My reality has been muted by the towering, sound-proof piles of paperwork that sprout legs and chase me while I toss and turn at night. I have to prove to the Social Security Administration that I am unable to work, but also that I can no longer function independently. I have to prove I no longer have a life despite all I have done to maintain a semblance of living. I feel I am on the middle school debate team and I’ve been assigned the side I don’t agree with; in order to win I have to admit that I am incapable of the freedoms I embraced in yesteryears. I have to do more than just admit them – I have to fully believe my inabilities enough to prove them true to strangers. I have to believe I’m less than I ever imagined I would be so that others will believe me too.

The piles of paperwork litter my kitchen table as I struggle to answer questions about my (in)ability to interact with people, go outside, take care of my health, and accomplish chores. Continue reading Applying for Disability Has Dehumanized Me

The Doctor Who Renewed My Hope In Doctors

It wasn’t always this way. I used to trust that doctors could, and would, cure me. They knew all the right answers, whether I needed medication, and which medications would fix me. Going to a medical establishment carried the promise of making me feel better within hours or days.

That was before I became ill with a chronic disease, Ankylosing Spondylitis. That was before I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, Anxiety, and PTSD.

Many believe, like I used to, that visiting a doctor means getting better. But doctors who treat permanent diseases have a tough job: they stare down diagnoses every day that they can’t eradicate. There’s a huge difference between curing a temporary malady and managing a lifelong disease. And to choose to be a doctor who treats patients with incurable diseases takes special courage – or a desire to make a considerable amount of money.

Doctors leave medical school with heads full of practical clinical terms: elevated T-cell count, HLA-B27 positive, elevated bilirubin, polyenthesopathy, erosion of the spine with bone calcification. But, unless they share our diseases, they do not know what it is like to be in our bodies; to feel our forever pain, our fatigue, our fears. They rely on us to paint a picture of what it actually feels like to have a high T-cell count and polyenthesopathy, but many of them forget to ask, and when they do, sometimes they don’t know why they need to know what the patient is actually feeling. If they’re smart, they try to help us manage our pain, fatigue, and fears by prescribing treatments based on what they see in lab, X-ray, and MRI results, with final decisions based on the symptoms we present. Continue reading The Doctor Who Renewed My Hope In Doctors

Accessing Welfare Is Easy

Just fill out the forms, submit them, and wait for the phone to ring, right?

Some of you probably know late last year I began the journey to join the throngs of people who subsist off Social Security Disability (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). Truly, I tell you, it was such an easy thing to recognize and claim I could no longer work.

Not.

I got so excited when I thought about the idea of living on an average of SSDI $1,022.29 per month, or SSI $561.60 per month. Actually, less than that, since “The amount you receive each month will be based on your average lifetime earnings before your disability began. It is not based on how severe your disability is or how much income you have.

Not. Could you do it?

Why have I spent the last two years using every ounce of energy I have to try to earn a living?  Because the last thing I wanted to do was admit that I was too sick to function like the normal, healthy human being I knew I would always be. Because I was raised to work hard, and remember, there are people out there who have it worse than I do. But I learned those things when the biggest challenge in my life was convincing my soccer coach to let me play the whole match without subbing out. I was the super-involved kid in high school: on the soccer team, track team, in band and drama, and a straight-A student who graduated 10th or 11th in my class. I could do anything and everything and that’s the way the world worked for everyone else too, if they would just approach life with all the vigor and energy I had rattling in my pockets.

That was then. It’s different now. A diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis flipped me over and shook the spare change out of my pockets. Where I used to sleep through North Carolina hurricanes that hurled tree branches and rain pellets onto the roof of my house, I now rarely find REM sleep even in the most relaxed spaces. Fatigue affects my mental and physical functions, sometimes causing me to lose the word I was about to say in the middle of a sentence. My depth perception is off, causing me to hit my head on clothes racks and slam into door frames with my hip.  I now focus on the basic needs to function and survive, which involves a much different skill-set than my original dream of saving the world as a professional soccer player and community garden coordinator. Others my age are focused on getting a promotion at work, losing weight, starting a family, buying a house, and finding a good group of friends to grow old with.   Continue reading Accessing Welfare Is Easy

To the stranger who told me I’m not disabled

Most of the time, when people ask for help, they really need it.

Friends at the 2015 Sacramento Arthritis Foundation Walk to Cure Arthritis
Friends at the 2015 Sacramento Arthritis Foundation Walk to Cure Arthritis. Left to right: Cyd, Mel, Charis, Denice, Lori

And many of us are scared to ask because we’re afraid we’ll be attacked for it. A good friend recently put a crowdfunding page together in an effort to help me resist homelessness and survive the winter while I seek Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Today, another friend shared the YouCaring link (edit 2/10/16: link no longer live) on her facebook page in support of me.

What happened next shocked me. Someone commented on my friend’s post about the youcaring campaign to help me. And it wasn’t supportive. It was along the lines of, “When I am hurting I still get up and go to work. Your friend should find a job, she can work.” I engaged in conversation with this person over several hours and took screenshots of the whole interaction, knowing the person might later delete her comments (which she did). My effort was to see her side of the story – and in the end it came out that she had lost a child years ago and she was projecting her grief onto me in the form of hatred and judgment.  It was very sad, and all I could do was continue repeating myself that I would be happy to talk with her in person so she could learn more about ankylosing spondylitis.

Those of us struggling to live with our chronic diagnoses are so often put into positions where we are challenged for our disabilities and forced to prove how sick we are. How degrading.
Continue reading To the stranger who told me I’m not disabled