My parents always taught me that it was rude to talk about money, but I'm going to disobey them just this one time (heh) and talk about how I support myself. It's a subject I rarely if ever talk about, because it brings up a great deal of shame, although it SHOULDN'T. But all of this is interconnected, the shame, the money, and why the two affect each other. So deep breath, here goes.
I am on full disability. I get a government check every month and that's how I live. I live in a property owned by my parents, and I would be on the streets were it not for them. That's how I live. The check is small, but I'm incredibly grateful for it. Before I got my disability, I was on welfare and food stamps. That's the truth. That's how I live.
I realize this could divide some of my readers, the "that's not fair, mooching off the taxpayers, pull yourself together" people and the "wow, I didn't realize things were that bad, that kinda sucks" people. And that's where the shame comes into play. I'm of two minds myself. I know I am disabled, the state knows I'm disabled, the government of the United States knows I am disabled. So why do I feel shame at saying I get that government check every month?
I guess it all has to do with how you see, or don't see, disability. You can't see my sickness. I can walk, and talk, and smile, and PRETEND everything is fine, and I do. You never SEE that I have a chronic illness. It's all safely tucked away in my head, and I've spent the vast majority of my life seeing that it stays there, away from the world, my filthy, dirty secret. That I have a chronic, lifelong mental illness.
I shouldn't feel this way. no one who has a mental illness should feel this way. The shame comes from my demons, not reality. It's also why I can laugh and joke and live on the outside the "acceptable" way and you would never know, upon meeting me, what's really going on inside my head. My brain is sick, and I'm ashamed of that. Would someone be ashamed of a tumor? Diabetes? A missing limb? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. But I am ashamed that my brain is diseased.
If I could work, I would. There are days during which I could probably hold a job for eight hours, and there are days, weeks, months on end where leaving the house, or hell, leaving the bed seems impossible. There are days where my inner voices are kind to me, and let me write, or talk on IM or even the phone, and venture to my parents' house or the grocery store. And there are days, weeks, months in which the voices scream and torment and threaten and make things that are not real seem so real, and even though the part of my brain that went to grad school knows that if I drive the car, it doesn't guarantee something terrible will happen, the sick part is more than convinced it will.
I am disabled. If you saw me on the street, you'd never know. I work very hard to keep it that way. Because part of my disability is my inability to NOT feel shame because I am sick. It doesn't make sense, but neither does a lot that goes on in my head.
Maybe someday I'll come to peace with my own demons. Maybe I won't. But for now, I am lucky enough that the government looked at my case, spoke with my doctors, and read through the endless reams of paperwork I had to fill out for over a year, and validated my illness. Getting that first disability check, to me, validated my existence as someone with a chronic illness. See? I wasn't just lazy, or stupid, or selfish. I'm a real person with a real illness. I was real.
So that's how I support myself. I am a person living with a disability. And after so many years, it has been acknowledged. And that disability punishes me daily in exchange for that check. I guess, for me, and my twisted logic, it's a fair trade.