I am applying for Disability because of my crap knees and because of mental issues, specifically depression and PTSD. I’ve been posting about this whole process, so will not recap here, because I’m tired of repeating it. Despite having an M.D., a psychiatrist, evaluate me just a few weeks ago, Social Security decided that wasn’t enough, and required me to meet with one of their psychologists (PhD). I just returned from that appointment, and I’m back to freaking out.
The woman’s desk faced the door. The only chair in the room was to the side of the desk, also facing the door. In order to look at her, you had to either pivot in the chair or turn your head ninety degrees. She explained she had to ask me a series of questions. Mmmkay. I was already nervous, and fighting off a panic attack. I was chewing my lower lip and/or crossing my arms tightly across my chest. My foot was bouncing. I doubt she ever saw any of that. As far as I could tell, 95% of the time she was looking at her monitor. Once she exclaimed, “Oh no! Where did that go?” and looked around at her computer connections.
She asked me questions about my history with depression. (It’s been since childhood.) Do I cut myself? (No.) Do I, or have I ever, abused drugs and/or alcohol? (No, and yes.) How did I get to the appointment? (Drove.) We touched on my ability to do self care. I can shower, etc. with difficulty. With this deep depression hygiene isn’t always that much of a given these days. (Yes, gross, but… it’s the reality.) Can I make meals? What did I have for breakfast? (I had toast, and microwaved some “poached” eggs. Coffee, also nuked.) I can do some cooking, but it is so limited because of the pain in my knees. I had to add those bits because she wasn’t asking.
What day is it? What state was I in? (I did have to ask if she meant physically.) Do I know who the president is? (Sadly, yes.) Lots of these basic, basic “are you here now?” questions. She wanted me to write a sentence. I wrote Write a sentance. I couldn’t remember how to spell sentence. (And in writing this post, without spell check, there would be many similar, simple spelling errors. Spelling, not typos, because my brain is fried.) I tried to flag her to this, but she didn’t seem to hear or care. To me it is alarming.
She got to the end and asked if I had any questions. I sure did. “Why didn’t you ask me about the PTSD?”
“What do you want me to know about it?”
(Awkward pause.) “That I have it?”
(Longer awkward pause, and panic rising.) “Because it is something I have, it is something Disability considers, and you are evaluating me for Disability?”
What the actual fuck? My mind was racing. My life is on the line here. (By the way, she asked about past, like forty, fifty years ago, suicide attempts but nothing about any current suicidal ideation!)
She asked a leading question, and I went into my detached (coping mechanism) description, not overly detailed. She interrupted and asked if the original trauma was sexual or… Yes. I gave a one sentence description. That was forty years ago, and the delayed onset was twenty years ago. For the past five (at least) years, I’ve been having similar, but different, related, but not, PTSD. I tried to explain that, and she cut me off.
“I’m just here to evaluate. It isn’t fair to you to go into details now.” Ummmm, yeah. I wasn’t going into “details.” I was trying to give some context to my claim of PTSD, since Social Security didn’t seem to like the MD’s notes.
That was it. I’m left with so many questions. This woman doesn’t make the determination. She just sends them her findings, and SS makes the determination. They make the determination based on what? That I know what day of the week it is? That I can drive? That I can put bread in a toaster? That I can take a shower? No discussion on whether I do or not (because of depression, I don’t). Nor how much it hurts physically (excruciating). Nor how close I am to not being able to put bread in a toaster or stand to wash dishes. Nothing about PTSD except what I brought up. Nothing much about current mental health conditions except “what do you do all day?” (Not much of anything, and when I said that I sometimes blog she wanted to know for whom. What? Um, it is a personal blog, and she didn’t seem to grasp that idea.)
How much of my determination is riding on this really stupid, incomplete, misleading interview? I was truthful in my answers, but feel like everything was incomplete. I was asked if I had looked for work. Yes, of course, what else are you supposed to do with no income? They frown on you being on unemployment (which supposes you are able to work) and applying for disability (which supposes you are not able to work). Honestly, just typing this makes me want to scream and then hide for two days (both distinct possibilities, actually).
I had stopped my obsessive checking of my case status online once I was told I had to have this appointment. Now that I have had it, I will no doubt go back to checking obsessively. I get the feeling that this was the final step (at this point). Back to waiting on yay or nay. Waiting, for just about anything, is the hardest thing in the world.
In all the time I’ve been looking into disability, I’ve not heard one story about someone applying and everything going through with no problem the first time. Not one.
Dear interviewer: Had I given you this blog url, and if you read this, you should know that it took a huge amount of effort to get this in print. I’m mentally and physically exhausted right now, and crying. I felt I needed to get this whole thing out into the ozone. WTF are you going to do with and to my life?