One day, you are carrying on your life like any normal person. The next day you wake up and discover that your life is no longer your own: you are in the grasp of an adult-onset disability. You have no context – you have not been dealing with this your whole life. All you know if that the life you have known is gone, your freedom is gone, and most of the people you thought were loved ones are somehow gone too.
Welcome to life as a disabled adult.
This was me, back in 2004. I had spent over a decade developing a successful career as a database developer, specializing in converting old, worn-out databases into shiny new relational databases. (The years around Y2K were amazingly good for this kind of work.) In a single car accident, I went from a job worth over $75K a year to moving back in with my parents, who began attempting to figure out how they were going to provide continuous care for me for the rest of my life.
But wait, there’s more!
Now, this is not where my story ended. I was able to get some treatments that restored at least a part of my ability to function. I was able to get married, and take a stab at living without constant care. Thanks to the SSDI I had been paying into my whole working life I was able to provide at least a little income into my household.
I began living by the “box” philosophy: instead of living in a wide open space, I was now living in a box, created by my disability. But there was nothing keeping me from finding out exactly how big that box was, or from pushing against the sides in an effort to make the box bigger. And that is where I thought I would remain for the rest of my life – clinging to the top half of the lowest rung of the Great American Success Ladder.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
At the end of 2015, a new specialist made some recommendations for treatments I had not tried before. Within weeks of starting the new meds, I began to notice changes. Big ones. I was no longer constantly depressed. My health stabilized and began improving. Most importantly – my brain function, so long destroyed by my previous medications, began to return. I was suddenly in possession of nearly the same mental faculties as the people around me. I was still not stable enough to return to the “normal” workforce, but surely there was something I could be doing from home, right?
I had been maintaining my blogs for years, mainly as a means of demonstrating to myself that there was still a person locked inside this body. Every article was a defiant gesture against my disability – there is still a person locked in here! I began looking for anything I could do somewhere on the ‘net that involved writing. Earlier this year I discovered TextBroker – a site that would pay authors for small “ghost written” pieces. I tentatively accepted an assignment from their website, worked on it for a bit, then turned it in. Astonishingly, it was accepted. I had found a way to begin contributing to my family again that was not only sitting around the house and waiting for the Social Security check to arrive every month. I was, suddenly, a freelance writer!
So far, the months have been good to me, and places like TextBroker and Contena are providing new clients and venues for my writing. My fondest hope is that maybe (someday?), I will be able to turn off the SSDI trickle, and create a better life for my family somewhere North of the poverty line. Only time will tell.
If you are a prospective employer, you now know where I was during my 13-year absence from the workforce. If you are another disabled person, the most important thing I can say is: Don’t give up! Keep looking for solutions, keep driving your medical team crazy, keep reminding yourself that you are still worth something, even if the evidence says that you aren’t. And if you just dropped by to say hi: Hi, yourself! Thanks for dropping in.