Surprise! Approved!

So this throws a wrench in my plans (in a good way) and I have to rethink what to do about grad school: I actually got approved for Social Security disability.

Honestly, I thought it was so improbable that I’d be approved (especially on this first reconsideration!) that I was already trying to prepare for my next Plan B. I think we’re actually on Plan Q or R by now.

I mean, even my lawyer told me to expect to be denied on the first reconsideration appeal because only 13 percent are approved at that stage. He told me to expect me to be denied on the reconsideration and to plan to go to trial about 14 months later.

Getting approved now wasn’t even on my radar. And to get my first payout the day after my husband was released from the hospital after being diagnosed with cancer? Truly an improbable coincidence.

So now I have to decide what to do next. Right now I have a ton of freelance work to do, though it probably only adds up to a part-time job. I like having work to do.

But should I still go to grad school? Can I still go to grad school? I ask that both in terms of whether I’m physically capable of it and also in whether or not it would jeopardize my disability.

How much am I fooling myself about the extent of what I can do? On the one hand, I feel pretty good at the moment. I feel pretty capable and powerful. I don’t want to let anything stop me. But I don’t know how long this will last. It never lasts forever.

I still want to be a therapist. I wouldn’t mind being a sociology professor, either. I could probably still be an adjunct professor and get disability without exceeding my allowable earnings.

I could be a therapist and the job itself probably would not exceed the limits imposed by my physical and mental functioning. I could do it part-time as well. Even though it would exceed my allowable earnings by social security, that’s not my primary concern.

Just getting through grad school to become a therapist might exceed my physical limitations, especially considering the need to do internships at places I find stressful like county mental health.

Would an internship be like a short-term full-time job? Because, honestly, I’m not sure I could handle that, even for something I really love.

The fact that I’m receiving disability doesn’t mean I have to start feeling sorry for myself. For a long time, I equated the two. To be truly disabled, I thought you must feel hopeless and negative. And at this point in time, I don’t feel hopeless OR negative.

But at the same time, I also don’t feel totally healthy, either. Part of that may be because of this physical and mental toll of having my husband in the hospital for nine days, recently diagnosed with cancer. But it seems to be draining me an awful lot. I can do my freelance articles, but I can’t imagine trying to go to a full-time job. I’m just exhausted and feel like I could sleep for days.

Does the approval for disability mean I’m really sick? It means I managed to convince the Social Security Administration that I am. I didn’t even have to go to trial to be approved. That likely means that the records show that I am indeed pretty seriously sick and am unlikely to get better.

So how do I balance that with my newfound feeling of hope and even (dare I say it?) optimism? Will I just be a hopeful and optimistic person on disability? Will I use the relative security net of disability to grant me the freedom to pursue other ideas, like writing a book or even just joining a gym?

Is disability the best victory I’ve ever won or is it my death sentence? Or what if this is just what my life is and it’s all okay either way?

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