I recently had to make a very difficult decision.
For the last six months or so I have been on a Washington state program called Disability Lifeline that provides medical and cash benefits to people who can’t work because of a debilitating medical condition of some kind. This program allowed me to see doctors (at specific clinics) and receive my prescriptions filled at no cost to me, as well as allotted me $197 a month for “cost of living” type expenses.
I qualified for the program after a long series of interviews and an appointment with a doctor (in my case a mental health professional in the DSHS office) that I was required to attend to assess my health and determine if I was fit enough to work.
In April of this year the depression I had been experiencing for eight or so months reached a dangerous low and I was struggling with extreme suicidal feelings. After six days in the psychiatric ward I discovered that my employers had fired me while I was in the hospital, shortly after I had requested a leave of absence. I was too depressed at the time to be furious, but luckily another job fell in my lap after only a couple of weeks (thank god for networking).
The new position was one that I had been wanting for over a year so I disregarded my psychiatrist’s hesitance about me starting a new job while still significantly depressed.
After only two weeks at the new job the stress of the position left me exhausted both emotionally and physically and I felt like I had sunk right back to where I was in the beginning of April. I knew that if I continued working I would, at best, become hospitalized again.
Needless to say, that was the point I applied for the Disability Lifeline program. As a young and (usually) ambitious woman I didn’t particularly like the idea of throwing in the workforce towel and having to rely on financial aid this way but I was denied unemployment benefits and felt I had little choice. And, to be completely honest, when I applied I thought my chances of getting approved were fairly low.
I probably should have had a little more faith than that, given how fervently my psychiatrist expressed to me how much he didn’t want me working. Thankfully the woman who completed my assessment at DSHS agreed with him.
So what was that difficult decision again?
This month the Disability Lifeline program was cut. A few days ago I received a brochure in the mail that explained that beginning November 1st, after a reassessment medical benefits may continue but there will no longer be any cash benefits. The sad little $197 a month that has been allowing me to pay enough of my bills to keep those ever loving financial predators away will not be available to me. What does that mean?
Yes, I have made the decision (well we’ll call it a decision, though it felt a little forced from my end) to reenter the workforce. Within the next two weeks I should begin reintegrating myself into the world of the employed, albeit I’ll be working only part-time. Thankfully my favorite out of the myriads of prior employers I’ve had is willing to embrace me (again). There’s something about being a 25 year old retail employee that feels a little bit like a joke in my eyes but all the same, I’ve concluded this isn’t the time to have a “what am I doing with my life” moment. What I’m doing is surviving and realistically, doing the best I can.