I finally completed the Adult Function Report that was necessary for my application for disability. It literally took me a few weeks to complete it. At the end of the form is a place for remarks. This is what I wrote.
[Trying to explain how my life has changed in the format you have provided proved to be extremely difficult for me. If you were to look at my work history through my entire adult life, you will see that I have always worked in physically demanding jobs. Waitressing, landscape maintenance, pre-loader at UPS, CNA, nursing. Often I was working a second job or going to school part time in addition to working a regular job. I did all I could to provide for my 3 children after I become a single mom when my kids were 1, 4 and 5. I did not get help from their father or anyone outside the home. I participated in PTA and Scouts in addition to caring for my children and my home. You also would be able to see how over time my income slowly but steadily increased. It took me nearly 10 years to obtain my goal of having an Associates Degree of Nursing since I was putting myself through school while raising children. It had been my hopes and goals to continue my education after a few years of paying off some debts while working as a RN. I had hopes of obtaining my BSN and eventually my Master’s of Nursing. I dreamed of working and buying a home. I hoped to do some mission work to share the talents I had honed in nursing. For the first time in my life I had finally been able to earn a decent wage and my children were grown and gone from home and I was able to financially have a good life. I had some options. I had health care. I had the beginnings of a retirement account.
Because of my physical limitations I have been unable to work at all the last 2 1/2 years. I waited a full 2 years before applying for benefits because I kept hoping I would get better. I used up what little bit of savings I had to struggle along financially as well as I could. I kept trying to do what exercises I was able to when I was able in addition to eating well and eliminating stressors in life hoping to get well enough to work. It never happened. I am no more able to work on a consistent daily or weekly basis today than I was 2 1/2 years ago when my physician determined I was unable to work.
I have found myself homeless 3 times. If not for the kindness of friends and those that care about me I would have had to live on the streets. I have not been able to spend the time with my family and friends that I used to because I either hurt too much to even want to be around others, or I am too tired, or unable to focus. I have had to miss out on activities that I used to enjoy because I don’t have the strength to do them.
I used to be so outgoing. I used to socialize weekly. I used to enjoy entertaining. I loved to travel. Now, I would rather sit in my quiet home alone than be around others because I don’t have to energy to put out for others and I just get so tired. My only socializing comes from my weekly visit to my support group and spending time with my boyfriend. Once in a great while I will attend a function, but it comes with the price of typically ending up completely down for a couple days after I return home. I have not entertained in my own home but for maybe 1/2 dozen times in over 2 years. It requires too much planning and effort as well as there have been times I have planned something only to have to cancel it the day of the event because I had an exacerbation of pain that made it impossible to do anything, let alone be a good hostess. Traveling is only every couple of months and it also comes with the price of typically ending up in bed for a couple days when I return home because my pain increases and I’ve used up all my energy reserves.
I truly believe there are many people who if they had to deal with my pain on a daily basis they would just give up. I am a very strong person. I have given birth naturally to 4 babies, two of them at home, with no pain relief. I broke a bone in my foot and continued to work on it as a pre-loader at UPS as well as doing landscape maintenance for 4 months before finally going to the doctor because my foot hurt. The bone had been so damaged from my continued use of it that I had to have surgery to have the bone removed. I have a very high pain tolerance as well as work at having the most positive attitude I can in my circumstances. Some days I do get depressed, but most the time I try to view the glass 1/2 full! I am only able to get through this struggle with pain with the support and encouragement of my closest friends and my support group. If not for them and my own internal belief that life is always worth living…I would have given up some time ago.
I am tired of being in pain. I am tired of being unable to get medical care. Without insurance or income it has been nearly impossible to get any help for my conditions. This last year, after I received a small cash settlement, I sought care from a nurse practitioner, a chiropractor, acupuncture and physical rehab, all out of my own pocket. I have had some temporary relief, but nothing longstanding. If I were to be granted social security disability I would be able to get more help to get better so I could maybe eventually work part time. That is my hope. But now…I know I can not work because all of my energy and abilities going to maintaining my simple life and taking care of my basic needs.
Thank you for your time and consideration in this process. It has been a challenging endeavor for me. I used to be able to articulate and complete tasks such as this form without any effort. Now, as I’ve stated before, this has been a great effort of a few weeks of time to complete this the best I could. I hope I have been clear.]
I typed my responses to the questions asked on the form. It was typed and single spaced except for a space between questions and answers. When all was done, it was 10 pages long. The process of contemplating all my limitations as well as the changes my conditions have brought upon my life were at times very depressing. Most of the time I really try to focus on what I can do and have gratitude in my life. Yet having to realistically and honestly look at all I’ve had to give up…well…it just is so sad.
In other times during my life when I have had to recount difficulties to another I would just roll it all off and be done with it. I remember after nearly 2 hours time in giving my life history to a psychiatrist, when I was done he looked at me and said, “You have had a life full of much trauma and many losses and yet you tell it like it is just a story out of a book you read. Does it not bother you? Are you aware that you have endured much?” Well, of course it has been upsetting to live through some of what I have, but it’s my life. It’s the only one I have had. Getting my panties all bunched up over it doesn’t change it. That was my attitude going into this dissertation of my health conditions and how they’ve changed my life. Yet it is different now. In the 18 years since that visit with a mental health professional I have done much work on myself. I have learned to allow myself my emotions and feelings. I am able to look at myself and realize not everyone has endured these difficulties.
It took me being out of work for 2 years to finally accept that I wasn’t going to be able to work. I kept hoping I would get better. I kept hoping it was “all in my head”, like some people think it is. I kept hoping if I would dig deep I could PUSH through the pain like I have so many times in life and just do it…work…live…get past it. But I couldn’t. My pain is real. I do have limitations that not everyone else does. And no matter how much I may WANT to work, I simply can not work. So now that I’ve written it all out and really looked at what I have had to give up, I will allow myself some time to grieve.
I will grieve that I didn’t realize how amazing my body was and how strong I was. I will grieve that I spent so much time working so very hard trying to gain approval from others in my life, that I missed out on doing many things that I wanted to do. I will grieve that I didn’t work smarter rather than harder. Yes…I will grieve….and then I will move on. I will accept those things I cannot change and find courage to change the things I can. I will be grateful for the life I have been given and live it as fully as I am able. I will live today the best I can!