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New take on dealing with my disability


So, I've had disability status because of PTSD from childhood trauma for as long as I can remember... I barely held it togther to finish school and after that, I spiralled, all the PTSD symptoms got so bad that my family could no longer deny that there was a problem...

Since then, I've always had a disability status, but it's sort of been different, at different times. There have been times I've gotten a formal disability pension because of it. There have been times I've formally been "employable" and working part-time and supplementing my income with unemployment benefits, based on my disability.

But... (and I'm finding this so difficult to word, because my brain is pure mush from depression...) in the initial post-trauma years (i.e. escaped from family of origin and went mostly no-contact) it was also a survival thing to "hide" the disability as much as possible. For one thing, this was 20 years ago, when the stigma of mental health was even worse than it still is today. And survival meant "being tough" and "fake it til you make it" and not showing any "vulnerability". So, my closest friends knew but I hid it from everyone else.

This thing of leading a double life (doing trauma therapy and dealing with massive PTSD fallout in private) and trying to put on a tough/ normal/ "everything's fine" face to the outside world is something that a) was very draining - it took up so much energy, and b) wasn't helpful in terms of identity and biography, because I'd already been living that split thing of trauma at home and "everything's fine" on the outside for all of my childhood... It made everything feel even more surreal and confusing.

One of my aims for my mid-life phase has been to somehow put an end to that... or at least to do it in part... I hate that PTSD is a secret that I carry around with me.

I think I need to take my disability seriously and stop hiding it as much. I'm never going to be able to work a normal full-time job. I've found work-arounds for that (like freelance work) but I need to be more honest about it to myself and to a wider circle of people.

I'm also applying for an assisted living program. I've had a temporary version of this quite a few times over the years now, where it lasts for about 3 months. But I'm now applying for a long-term program. This too is something that I needed DESPERATELY when I fled from my family of origin, 20 years ago, but a) those programs were hard to get back then and b) I didn't feel safe in them. My PTSD symptoms were through the roof - I was in constant hypervigilance and massive daily panic attacks and so much dissociation... I was incredibly afraid of getting "trapped" in an inpatient setting or an assisted housing program or anything like that... I fought like made, like a feral cat, to find a way of having an independent housing situation and then getting as much support as I felt able to handle... So now, ironically, so many years later, I'm now getting the assisted living support, that I needed back then... but that I also need now...

I need to somehow let go of the "everything's fine" persona/ mask. I mean, there are still some social situations, where I will need it or where it will simply be useful/ make things easier.

But I need to drop it, to a large degree. I need to adjust my life (housing, job, finances, etc) to suit my *real* situation and stop living a pretend life, that I feel I have to maintain for safety.

It makes me so sad that things were so unsafe, for such a long time, that I clung to that social facade for dear life, for so long.
I need to adjust my life (housing, job, finances, etc) to suit my *real* situation and stop living a pretend life, that I feel I have to maintain for safety.
I’ve been working on this slowly for several years. Rather than a big, explosive “this is the real me” type moment, I’ve been doing it in a very piecemeal way, trying things out, seeing if the change is helpful, letting that settle in as my ‘new normal’, then trying something else. That’s worked well for me because my brain has been able to cope better dealing with small changes, rather than freaking myself with a monumental ‘coming out’ moment that I wouldn’t have coped with.

For example, at work, I decided to address where we had our team meetings. I spoke to my boss, suggested we move to an outdoor space, because it was less overwhelming for me.

That went amazingly well. No one batted an eyelid, and suddenly I was able to concentrate for the whole meeting, rather than spending the whole time trying to keep my breathing regulated.

Little steps like that. There’s been dozens of them now. And it’s always an adjustment, but a size I can cope with. And then end product isn’t just making my life easier, it’s been a rare successful exercise in self acceptance and self compassion, which is something that I’ve had a lot of trouble with for most of my life.