Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Disability

It has been brought to my attention lately on more than one occasion that I should have Thomas put on disability. A while back I had looked into it by speaking with a disability advocate/lawyer and explained Thomas' situation and she had told me that because of his diagnosis and his track record so far that he would more than qualify. She said that the government views schizophrenia as a lifelong disability and would approve Thomas without any problems. She made it sound so easy and yet, why haven't I started him on it yet?

The easy answer would be that I don't want the hassle of doing it because it's a lot of work, a lot of waiting and from what I have heard there is often a denial or two. That's the easy answer, that I don't want to deal with all of it.

The larger more truthful answer is not so easy. When it is mentioned to me something in my stomach knots up. I think about what it would mean for Thomas, what it says about him. You see, I had dreams for him. There is a car commercial with 4 young college-age people in a car hanging out in the city and then going to the top of a mountain and getting out of the car and dancing around as the city lights twinkle below. It is the quintessential young adult life. Going out with friends, doing fun things, laughing together about life and the people around them, staying up late and if they're of age, going to a bar, having a drink and dancing or gorging themselves on chili cheese fries. This is the life I dream of for Thomas. I want him to go to college, I want him to have lots of friends and do wild things and I want him to be happy staying up late, driving up "The Grade" (The lookout point in out town) and screaming at the top of his lungs to the Blue Mountains in the distance.

As his young adult life passes him by, my dreams for him die a slow death as day after day, night after night, he remains in his room not being social, emotionally flat and on rare occasions going to hang out with only his best friend and play video games. He is 19, his social life, the life I dreamed for him didn't happen in high school with proms and rowdy football games and parties and since graduation it's been a struggle just to keep him on his feet and keep him employed. He now only works one day a week and that one day--the entire day--is filled with anxiety and his nights at work are filled with paranoia. That is no life and as his mom, as the woman who held a baby in her arms, watched him take his first steps and venture out into the world and then watched a young primary school child change into an often hurting, sometimes bullied, prodromal schizophrenic kid.

The truth of the matter is, my dreams for him died long ago as his personality and illness developed. This is not to say that I don't have hope but the wide, expansive, clear blue sky reaching to the horizon has storm clouds in it and the road he walks is a rocky, rut-filled back road. Then, disability is brought to my attention. To me, admitting that he is disabled, realizing that the federal government would consider him disabled for life is the nail in the coffin containing his future. It feels like giving up if I put him on it.

I know that disability can be a good thing too. I know it gets him benefits that he needs, I know it gives him money since he can't work a real job very often but doesn't it also, in a way, give him a reason to give up altogether? I am told that by a couple of people, that that is their fear for him and if I am being truthful here, I feel like that is true also and I'm just not ready to see him give up anymore than he already has.

And so I wait to get the process started. I wait and watch and hope that Thomas will become your "average young adult" and hop in a convertible with 3 friends, music blaring, the sun going down and drive off into a storm-cloud-free horizon and into happiness and health.

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