You know, three times since the murders I have tried unsuccessfully to go back to work. Grief and depression are very difficult things to get a handle on. You feel like you are going along fine, when all of a sudden something triggers a response that gives you a whole new challenge to your equalibrium. It could be a smell, or a toy, or a special date, or the achingly familiar sound of a child’s laughter. You just never know. Boom! You get pushed off that rocky path and have to scratch and claw your way back into the fray.
I am currently on medical leave without pay from my employer. My job has been discontinued, so I am in a limbo where I don’t really have anywhere to go when I do feel strong enough to do so. That’s awkward, and a bit distressing. I have worked in varying compacities for the same employer for 25 years. The college community has become part of my family. My daughter and I are now both graduates. That has been hard to let go of. It has also been hard to survive on disability.
Living on disability is diffcult, not just because your income is drastically reduced. When you have always been employed, it is hard to admit to yourself that you need assistance. Our culture is so big on self-sufficiency. Something about asking for help is hard. But, not only do you have to struggle with yourself just to apply for aid. They make it so difficult to do so. Every few weeks there is yet another set of papers that you need to get signatures on, or that need to be verified. I have paid into the system all of my working life, but it’s like pulling teeth to get any of it back when you need it.
At some point in the process, my doctor estimated that I would be out through Sept. 3. That was long ago, when the preliminary was supposed to begin in May. He just picked a date at random, and said that it would be easy enough to extend later. It isn’t. EDD paid me $61 for the month of September – Sept. 1 was a holiday, so they paid me for Sept. 2. Period. The end. If I was still disabled, they said, I needed to refile. So I did. More papers came. And still more. I was sent for a second opinion to a psychiatrist of their choice, who asked me to name the capitol of California and wanted to know how many nickels there are in a dollar. It is now November, and still no word on my status. And no assistance since the $61.
I also applied for Long-Term disability benefits from my employer’s insurance carrier. That was a huge stack of papers to fill out, I can tell you! After more than a month I received a letter saying they were reviewing my file. At least it was an indication that my paperwork didn’t enter the same kind of black hole my state papers fell into! Yesterday I received a new set of papers from the insurance company. They want my entire employment history, with all my job skills, so they can make a judgement as to whether I could take different employment somewhere else. They want to know all the avenues I may have explored in order to find a new job. Those things are distressing enough for someone dealing with depression. It gives one the impression that you are seen as a dishonest person trying to milke the system. I’m sure that there are people who do so, but one might think that the fact that your employer and your physician both think that you have been unable to work would count for something.
But I think that the most distressing piece of paper I have received during the entire course of this journey is the little release paper that the insurance company expects me to sign. They want me to instruct my therapist to turn over all of her psychotherapy notes. If I don’t, they may summarily judge against my claim. That’s a helluva thing to ask! It’s difficult enough to expose your pain to someone with whom you have developed a relationship of trust. It’s quite another thing to give them over to an insurance company so that they can second guess and use your anguish to find a way to deny your claim to some assistance. It’s wrong to ask someone to do that – just plain wrong. Those of us who have had the courage to admit that they need help to cope with stumbling blocks that life has placed in their path deserve at least the privacy of their own thoughts and emotions. I defy anyone who has had a child and two grandchildren brutally murdered to say that such a blow is something that they can absorb and handle all by themselves. And I think that those of us who are struggling to find a way through a very dark time should be allowed the dignity and confidence that only privacy can afford them.
Is being able to pay my bills worth it? I don’t know. I honestly don’t. $61 hasn’t gone very far. How do you parcel it out between health care, a mortgage, food, insurance and utilities? Forty-one cents here, seventy-two cents over there? What does that accomplish? But to expose my inner self to the cold clinical gaze of insurance investigators? I’m not sure I’m ready to do that…not at any price. Monkey.