What you want must be clearer than what you don’t want

Is this a new beginning or am I falling into a familiar trap?

Because, dude, I am thinking of canceling my disability. AGAIN. I don’t even know if I can without owing the lawyer. I also don’t know if I should try to take a short-term part-time job until school starts, just so I can catch up on my student loans.

The other issue is that even though I feel fine and capable now, I also felt like this last year around my birthday. And then it all went bad by June. What I have to decide is whether this time would be any different.

Factors for why it might be different this time:

  • I’m planning a total career change. I was sick of freelance writing for a decade. Having a FT writing job was always my dream but when I achieved it, it was actually a really bad fit for me. I still loved poring over medical journals and writing articles, as I expected I would. But I did not thrive in the blunt, fairly mean environment that was modeled after a creative agency (since the others in the department came from that background.) That job satisfied my long desire to have a FT writing job–which made me realize that I hated writing FT on staff just as much as freelance writing. The only thing worse than freelancing is having rude coworkers who say that the way to integrate yourself into the team is through regular binge drinking together. Nope, not for me.
  • I’m also considering working a schedule that fits more with my body clock. I have a lot of trouble with 6 am wake ups. If I try to get on a typical “morning person” schedule, my health always suffers.
  • This time I’m taking an active, multi-pronged approach to getting better, which includes good nutrition, regular exercise, possibly also even the disease-modifying drugs. If I make getting well and staying well a conscious part of my daily life, I doubt I’ll be as sick.
  • I’m working to get off the muscle relaxers and benzodiazepines for sleep. They are for sure affecting my functioning. I’ve already started to taper down, and I took a couple memory tests online last night and actually did pretty well – much better than I did with the neuropsych. (But of course that day of the neuropsych exam also had me with virtually no sleep and an early morning.)
  • The career I want to pursue is not out of the blue. It’s actually in line with my undergrad degree and I was planning to enroll in this same program when I got super sick a year and a half ago. I still want to do it.

But. On the other side of the issue are a couple of very significant factors, namely that it’s not July, August, or September–always my worst months. Also, I’m not under much stress right now. Stress always makes my brain melt down and makes me have difficulty functioning.

I’m not naive enough to think I can get through grad school without stress. I remember the last time I was enrolled in grad school. I couldn’t successfully juggle both that and a part-time job. And that was in 2009, long before I was diagnosed with MS.

Can I still get student loans if I’m trying to get disability?

What if I try to go for grad school and then try having a job after that and it turns out I grossly overestimated my capabilities?

Will it really be okay for our family life if I work afternoons and evenings instead of standard 8-5?

And more importantly, how long will it take for me to start feeling better, and do I need disability for a while to work on my recovery?

I honestly think the answers to all of my questions (except maybe the familial impact of my weird schedule) are that it’s going to work out.

Because I’m stubborn and I’m going to make it work out. I just don’t know what to do about disability, mainly because I think grad school plus working would probably be more than I can handle at the same time, and I don’t know how long we can afford for me not to work.

But the vision of what I want my future to be is taking shape and I can actually see it. I will be a therapist meeting with clients. I will have my handwriting back because I will have done the occupational therapy to regain and maintain it. I will go back to longhand journaling, as that helped me more than anything else ever has.

I will either live in Dallas County or someplace more liberal, busy and walkable once the kids all graduate high school and that becomes more feasible. I’m open to the idea of going anywhere in the country, but especially on the West Coast. My husband is interviewing for jobs here whose headquarters are in places like California and Seattle; who knows what the future might hold? I’m okay with being here, but I’m also okay with being somewhere else, as long as it’s big and busy and not anywhere near my hometown.

I will regularly go to yoga classes and get massages and get my hair cut more than twice a year. I will dress informally but kinda artsy, way more put-together than I do now. I will be an example of appropriate, attractive aging and will put in the self-care necessary to achieve it.

I will travel at least once or twice a year to places I want to see, not just my hometown all the time. (Maybe to visit my kids if their futures take them far away?) I will hold season tickets for the local musical theater company. I will continue to go see indie music shows. I will likely still be Catholic because I realize I need rituals in my life and I believe the religion is true for me, but it may always be a source of some conflict, too.

I will be out and about and truly live, which I realize I haven’t been doing.

I made my world so small and so lonely. I confined myself by working at home and continuing to be a freelance writer, even though I hated it. (Seriously, I remember seeing this wack unlicensed therapist in Michigan who employed EFT aka “tapping” to relieve distress. I remember telling her then that I was conflicted about my writing career. I wanted her to tell me it was okay to quit! But of course she didn’t. She was too busy telling people what to do and what they feel, which is not the mark of a good therapist. *super eyeroll*)

I have felt like most of my life has been out of my control, both as a kid and as an adult. Getting MS and applying for disability seemed like even more of that control was being ripped from me.

When I moved down here, I wanted a new start. I wanted to distance myself from all the things that I knew weren’t working in my old life: bad career prospects, working from home, being perpetually poor, being in a small town when I am SO a city person.

I almost fell into the trap. I didn’t know how to get out of it because my only vision was what I didn’t want, not what I actually did want. Now I do know and I really want to go after it, whatever it takes. Even if I have to change my whole life to get it.

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