Monthly Archives: February 2014

SSDI Prep – Listing Former Job Duties

Each week I’ve been trying to mark something off the list my lawyer gave me to help me prepare for my SSDI hearing. My hearing is (gasp) is next week, so I’ve been running around trying to make sure I have things covered.

If you’ve been following along, the list so far looks a little something like this:

1. Keep a diary
2. Make a list of things you used to do but can no longer do
3. Make a list of medications
4. Write out a description of your job duties of your former jobs
5. Meet with your lawyer

Next week I’ll be meeting with my lawyer, which means this week is all about former job duties. Hooray. (Not.)

Many people who apply for SSDI benefits have been working at one job for a number of years. That, unfortunately, is not me. In the last five years I’ve had thirteen fourteen jobs, probably evidence enough to the average citizen that I have had a lot of trouble trying to work.

It isn’t that I am cavalier about working, on the contrary I’ve been in several positions where my employer wanted to promote me. I work hard, and I like working hard. The trouble is that working hard doesn’t like me. I become fixated with working harder and harder until not only is there no way I can keep up with myself, but my mood destabilizes and I am lucky if I can perform any task at all.

For a long time I thought maybe if I found the right job, this derailment wouldn’t happen. That’s part of the reason I’ve had so many… I’ve tried working a lot of different jobs, attempting to find both a position that I enjoy but also one that doesn’t leave me stark raving mad at the end of the day. What I found is that it doesn’t exist (or, at least, it wasn’t readily available in Seattle when I needed it).

The task of listing my former job duties is something of a feat, considering the number of jobs I’ve had and how different some of them were from one another. I must admit, I’ve been working on this step for three weeks because I knew it was going to be the most difficult… and what I have now is a spreadsheet (several pages) with a lot of bullet points and words on it. Things like (taken from several jobs, not just one):

  • Operate a POS cash register
  • Unload and process replenishment merchandise from trucks
  • Communicate with factories in India for product development
  • Work as part of a team to come up with ideas for product development
  • Measure incoming samples and convey technical details to factories
  • Dress and stylize mannequins
  • Perform friendly and upbeat customer service
  • Safely operate a stone saw
  • Safely utilize caulk, scissors, razor-blades, to create samples

You get the idea.

What it comes down to is creating a list like this can come from several sources. Here are a few I found to be the most helpful:

1. Look back through employee paperwork

I’ve kept a few of my “employee handbooks” and paperwork from when I started my new job(s). I realize this isn’t something that many people keep, but when I looked through the paperwork I found a list of job duties printed right on the paperwork. This was nice and easy, because there were a lot of things listed I would have normally forgotten.

2. Visit your employer website and search for job opportunities

If the handbook thing doesn’t work out, you can go to the website for your employer (given you were employed by a large corporation) and do a search for job openings like that one you were employed in. Job opportunities usually have duties listed right in the description, which is a great place to get details you may have missed.

3. If all else fails, consider what you did on a day to day basis

What did you do when you were at work? I would consider both your day to day responsibilities but also special responsibilities you may have had when something big happened. Were you asked to help prepare the store for a big event? Did you meet with the Chinese fabric vendors? Consider those responsibilities within your job duties.

Like the medication list I mentioned, I have found it is a pretty good idea to keep a record of jobs I’ve had, with information such as how much I earned at each job, the address of the business, the phone number of the business, who my manager was, and the dates I began and ended each job. With the encouragement of this new step (listing job duties) I’ve gone a step further and added a list of job duties for each job I’ve had to the “Master Job List” as well.

This list is more useful than just applying for SSDI, I’ve used it when applying for food stamps and certainly when applying for jobs (they always ask for the addresses of my former employers which I can never remember). Keeping a list like this could be extremely helpful if, heaven forbid, your symptoms require you to apply for SSDI down the road.

Don’t let me fool you. I’m not as organized as one might have you think… I just really obsess over making lists.

Anyway, finishing this task has helped alleviate a touch of my anxiety. All that is really left now before meeting with my lawyer is figuring out what to wear, which (as a woman with anxiety who worked primarily in the fashion industry -a fashion horror trifecta) might take a full week to figure out, which is why I’m giving myself as much time as possible. I’m a firm believer that our clothes say things that aren’t said out loud, and I want to make sure I am saying the right thing with what I’m wearing.

Physical Symptoms of Anxiety

Most people consider anxiety to be something of internal stress and struggle, constant worrying or over-thinking, but there is really much more to it. Anxiety has many physical symptoms that can pop up without warning or seem to eat away at us over a period of time.

This topic has been on my mind the last week or so because the closer I get to my SSDI hearing, the more of these physical symptoms of anxiety begin to manifest for me. My mind can only worry so much, but when it hits something of a peak, that is never the end, is it? For anxiety to blatantly “get worse” it often means other parts of my body being subjected to something akin to torture.

Maybe you’ve never considered the ways anxiety can physically obstruct someone from being at their best, so here is a list of a few of the ways anxiety can effect us physically.

  • Difficulty breathing (feeling out of breath all the time or having trouble catching one’s breath)
  • Breathing too quickly (hyperventilation)
  • Racing or pounding heartbeat
  • Trembling or shaking (generally in hands or feet)
  • Stomach pain (like an acidic feeling or a scraping pain)
  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tense muscles causing general body pain potentially in neck, back, or abdomen
  • Tension headaches (from tense head muscles)
  • Sweating
  • Blacking out/fainting

Of course, one might also include the ever-dreaded panic attack which often includes many of these symptoms at once as well as the overwhelming sensation one is about to kick the bucket.

Understanding that anxiety manifests physical symptoms can help us better gauge 1. how anxious we are, and 2. what we can do about it.

For example, noticing that my body has been in a position where I have been sitting rigidly and very tense for several hours gives me some insight about my anxiety level. At the same time, combatting this particular symptom with a hot bath or a hot tub or even a massage from someone will not only make the symptom lessen, but will also help lessen my anxiety.

When it feels like I have been trying to digest a handful of gravel for a week I don’t usually run out and consume a bottle of tequila and the spiciest Indian curry I can find. I generally stick to, you know… yogurt and macaroni and cheese.

If I feel like I can’t breathe, I try to avoid situations that might exacerbate it. Trying to do very physical things (running, even walking at times) can make me begin to panic if I feel like I can’t breathe, which can ultimately trigger a panic attack. Taking it easy, breathing deep, and moving slowly for a bit tends to help me in that arena.

Ultimately, recognizing physical symptoms of anxiety (as well as the mental symptoms) can help us gain a better understanding of what we’re dealing with as well as give us some clues as to what we can do to help ourselves feel a little better.

How to create a self-harm safety box…

An extremely insightful post about one method to avoid self harm, I love this idea!

All that I am, all that I ever was...

Once upon a time, when I was much a much younger (and sexier) man than I am today, I used to own a box. On a purely aesthetic level, there was nothing special about this box. It was just a run-of-the-mill shoebox decorated with Doctor Who stickers, newspaper cuttings and images of the great Australian actress, Toni Pearen.

What was special about this box was on the inside, for I’d filled it with colouring pencils, rubber bands, bath salts, candy, a mini-colouring book, a couple of novels, a DVD and some (slightly more) risqué images of the great Australian actress, Toni Pearen.

For this box was my safety box; a box I could turn to when my self-harm urges grew so intense that I needed some serious distraction to stop me from injuring myself.

Over the years I owned this box I lost track of how many times it prevented…

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