I checked in with Social Security online yesterday to see the status of my reconsideration claim for disability. It said the decision was under review for accuracy.
I looked up what that means. Most likely, it’s just a quality control thing. But I saw some things from people in a situation similar to mine–who filed the initial claim on their own, got denied, then got a lawyer. And they got approved on the reconsideration, after getting the same message I did about it being under review. Even though the odds of getting approved on the reconsideration are low, they’re not zero.
And that got me to thinking: am I really able to work? I mean, yes, I could definitely work part-time and I want to. I have my freelance work right now and it’s probably equivalent to part-time work. While I don’t want to keep freelancing, I do love having some work.
But the emphasis is on the some work. I’m actually not sure at all that I could work full time, even on second shift.
I’m actually doing pretty well now. My meds have my depression in as close to remission as I may ever get. My brain fog is not too bad.
But…and these are big buts…I have a carefully designed routine that keeps me well, and realistically I doubt I could keep it up if I worked full-time. Namely, I get enough sleep, I avoid unhealthy food, and I get 60-90 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week.
When I don’t get enough sleep, my brain fog comes back with a vengeance. I’m not talking about just slight forgetfulness, either. When I don’t get enough sleep, I can’t follow other people’s speech or find the words I’m trying to use. And it usually takes me 2-3 days after that to fully recover from one night of bad sleep, even if I get a nap.
Similarly, I’ve recently seen that if I only exercise once or twice a week or if I shorten it, I have more leg pain and find it harder to walk. I learned that the hard way by skipping exercise because I had too much work.
Exercise and adequate sleep are non-negotiable for keeping me reasonably well. And based on my experience working full-time last year, the odds of getting both adequate sleep and 60-90 minutes of exercise 4-5 times a week are pretty slim.
Even then, I don’t know that I’d be capable of full time work. Maybe I could do it at home, but adding a commute both ways would likely push me past my limits.
I thought about going back to grad school for sociology because it’s my true passion and adjunct teaching would appeal to me. But it occurred to me in looking at course programs that I don’t actually know if I could do graduate-level statistics and research methods. I did well in those courses in undergrad, but my relapse in 2017 damaged the part of my brain that handles math (and I already sucked at math before that.) Any grade below a B is not passing in grad school.
Acknowledging that I’m doing reasonably well now, with all my circumstances lined up just right, does not necessarily mean I can take on more. In fact, I fell into a similar trap around this time last year and thought I could take on a full-time job.
It turned out I actually couldn’t do a full-time job, which I found out in short order. It took me almost six months to recover just from working full time for two months.
Maybe the lesson for right now is that I should keep trying to get disability and look forward to part-time work. I remember when I worked part-time before, I never felt like “gee, I think I could do this full time.” Instead, it felt like it was just right. It actually took me to my limit and doing more would be too much.
My husband finally has a good job with growth opportunities and a very adequate amount of life insurance if something happened to him. I don’t want that to factor into my decisions because I want to be able to take care of myself. But the truth is that I do have limitations, whether I like them or not.
Maybe instead of defining my success by what I achieve in a full time career, measuring it by how well I keep my life in balance to stay reasonably healthy is more appropriate.
I’m doing that pretty well right now. But it doesn’t mean I can do more than this, especially if doing so would mean I’d have to cut back on the other things that are helping me. Meds alone aren’t enough. Staying well is a job in itself for me.