Social Security Disability is a dirty word. Don’t say it or you might be taken as a driffter, freeloader, or even worse, someone “living off the sytem”. The stigma associated with SSD is astounding. Propelled by all the negative stories reported by the media, people have become conditioned to think nothing less of someone who collects money from the “system”.
When someone ask, “what do you do for a living?”, I swallow hard and try to gauge what they are going to think of me if I tell them I’m on SSD. I think to myself how do I explain that I look normal, talk normal, walk normal and even yes, do normal things. But I feel sick or horrible some days and it’s so hard to act normal. Because that’s what it’s like most days or a least part of most days, an act.
So I begin the explainaton with the facinating twenty minute synapsis of my forty one years on earth and how I became who I am and where I’m at in life. Thrilling right? Wrong! Because when I’m finnished explaining in detail how I was born with a heart defect, had open heart surgery, started working at fourteen, paid into “the system” untill I stopped working because I could no longer predict how I was going to feel, had multiple proceedures and test, have heart failure, have a pacemaker or how some days I’m only able to last a few hours without needing to lay down and nap or put my feet up. After that, the questions come. Then and only then do I get the occasional, “Oh wow, well you definatly deserve it.”
I don’t mind sharring my story or explaining in detail what Transposition of the Great Arteries is or the Mustard Proceedure and how it saved my life. That is the part I don’t mind. The part that makes me upset is this notion that because I’m on disability I’m thought to have this “free ride” or somehow be financialy stable thanks to good old Uncle Sam. This is far from the truth.
Appying for Dissability was one of the most difficult decissions I had to make. It was humbling, humiliating and down right degrading. The process took almost a year and a half with no income to speak of. We asked family and close friends for help, went on food stamps and sold everything we had of value except for one car and our house. There is nothing glamorous about SSD, trust me. I would much rather be back at working 12 hour days and just having the weekends off. It was at least satifying and comforting to feel well enough to provide for my family. There comes a certain amount of pride along with working for a living. I would give anything to have a normal heart but it is what it is, right?
Back to that stigmatism I first brought up. It’s hard to not think what people are going to initially think about you, that’s human nature. It’s natural to feel diminished by getting a hand out. But that’s not what it is. Hell, It barely allows you to survive. And Damn it, in most cases you paid into the “system” and if you didn’t well that’s why it’s called SOCIAL Security. SSD is an inssurance for all of us, including the wealthy. It’s a social system put in place so those that need it are able to live and recieve medical care, supported by those who have worked including yourself if you were furtunate enough.
So to those that don’t recieve SSD and are perfectly healthy I say good for you, I’m happy that you have been blessed. Please be thoughtfull to those of us that have not been, we really do need it. Don’t let the few negative stories you see or read about SSD eschue your veiw. Most importantly it is not an “entitlement” program. I sure the hell don’t feel entitiled to recieve it. In fact I wish with all my heart that I didn’t need it.