Today is the day that I've been waiting for, for almost four years now. This day seemed like it was never going to come. I filed for disability about six months after my stroke. (about 4 years ago)
My family was not too fond of this idea at first because they believed that they could all handle taking care of me financially throughout my recovery. Which they have done an excellent job and I love and appreciate them and everything they have done for me very very much, however I knew the day would come that I was going to need my own money and my guilt and pride would affect me tremendously. Every bit of my sense of feeling like an adult has been taken away from me and I found hope through the thought of receiving disability and paying for my own crap again. Whether its buying my own personal daily essentials or going to the movies with my friends or seriously investing on myself by going to inspirational seminars to help me develop into a great speaker or making T-shirts with my Logo. What ever I wanted to use my money for, I could do that guilt free if I was approved! I certainly never see this as being a life long disability but more like a long temporary thing to help me get back on my feet and eventually I wouldn’t need it any more!
Back whenI first applied I was still getting around in a wheelchair. After many visits to my lawyers and doctors 1st by wheelchair then by walker, later by cane then I was visiting with no physical assistance at all other then my mother driving me there. I would also call every 3 to 6 months to check on my case to see were it was and ask why am I constantly getting denied. I was told that this kept happening because of my age, then later the excuse was the courts are very backed up and even went as far as blaming the President. I dealt with my Attorney’s assistant more then my actual Attorney. I maybe got to speak with my actual Attorney about three times in the 4 years I worked with her.
She was about the same age as my mother but looked about 10 years older then her. She was a thin lady with a slight hunch back, wrinkled skin and very very long strait grey hair. Every time my mother and I had personally saw her, she was out side the Lawyers offices smoking. She was very nice to me but I always had a hard time understanding her as she was a mumbler witch surprised me because I always thought that most lawyers were very clear and assertive and definataly not a mumblers.
Well the day finally came that I would get to personally tell my story in court. but before this big day, I was told how I should dress, do my hair and act. All of which I was very against and fought it until the morning of my court date. “I have worked so hard to present myself in this positive light. I have worked so hard to be able get to the point where I could dress myself do my hair myself, my make up, smell good etc…and now you’re asking me to throw it all out of the window and pretend?!”
You see I thought that with just my story alone and sharing what I believe are temporary limitations, this was enough to hold up in court. She explained to me that this is a disability case and I can’t be looking too put together, especially if Im seeing a judge. So after fighting this issue I appeared as she desired for my day in court. After all she should know what she’s talking about right?
My mom and I arrived at the court house this morning with the hopes that I would finally get to receive some type of government assistance that I have previously and many times filed and been dynied .(They state that I’m “too young” to be approved for disability)
My Attorney pulled up around the same time that we did, she was driving an old burgundy truck with bad paint and a camper shell with the windows smashed in. She was smoking as she whipped into an empty parking stall with her cigarette dangling from her mouth. In many ways she reminded me of maybe Cruella De Ville’s cousin only not as poised.
Meanwhile my stomach is in knots because I have so much resting on this day. I leave my mom to find the closet restroom in this big court house and quickly reunite with her and my Attorney as I don’t want to miss a second. My Attorney then says to me “Today is the Big day!” -Yes!, Yes it is, I responded. It only took FOUR years, but today is the day!
My Attorney showed up at our court with a stack papers in hand. I thought wow! She is going kill it today! She is super prepared for any document they may ask for. Judging by the many stuffed folders she was carrying that contained my numerous doctors notes and hospital records that help create my case. We enter the prep room and she went over so many things that she believed I should really focus on making clear to the judge.
Now its time. My attorney and I walk in to the court room and my mother sits outside of the room until they call her in. I at this point had no idea what to expect. I take my seat I look up at the judge he was a young man with golden blonde hair, light skin, light eyes a beautiful smile and wearing his official black judge robe. In my opinion, he looked like Captain America that switched careers. In my nervousness I wanted to make a Marvel joke but I luckily kept my mouth shut.
So Captain America swore me in and court was in session. He first started by requesting certain documents from my attorney and after fumbling through her paperwork she then claimed she couldn’t find them. She gave her very shaky opening statement which in my personal opinion did not clarify exactly what was her main point. She mumbled throughout and then judge just simply proceeded. He then swore me in and I was ready for any questions that came my way. He then asked my attorney a few questions and she vaguely responded between flipping through her paperwork never making eye contact with either one of us and always seemed as if she was trying to find a certain page in her pile.
The Captain…I mean Judge then started to ask me questions and had me describe some of my limitations. I did it without becoming emotional or crying because I know that doesn’t always help situations like these, although I did feel as if I was on the very brink. Later he requested my mother to enter and asked her a few questions too.
Earlier I was told not to elaborate on my answers but something inside of me now wishes I had. Its sometimes hard for people to understand that I have a brain injury when I appear so “normal” to them. Without my explanation I feel as if that gets overlooked so much in my everyday life. I at times I have wished that my physical self matched my mental self even if that meant going back to a wheelchair or hospital bed, because only then people would understand a brain injury and no one would expect me to have the ability to remember certain things or preform certain tasks that I struggle with curently.
Maybe its just that, this expectation that everyone holds of me. This might be helping me heal my brain. I am making new synaptic connections with my brain daily. I'm sure that difficult moments like these are actually helping me in the long run. However I am not afraid to state when I need help. This is the whole reason that I applied for disability in the first place. Help. Not forever. Just right now. I see this as a boost in life, Its nothing to be ashamed of, or embarrassed about. As sometimes we need a step stool to help us reach what we desire..not a whole latter or staircase, just a STEP to help us reach our destinies.
My Attorney gave somewhat of a closing statement that I so badly wanted to interject but let her finish and just like that the court was ended. I felt so Incomplete, I wanted to share more, I wanted him to know my past and daily struggles. I wanted to know if he was ever referred to as “Captain America” … I wanted more of my day in court to really prove that I deserve it. But it ended.
My Attorney then explained what to expect next. she felt good about it and yet I felt awful. We then parted ways and as soon as I got in my moms car I began to sob. I was crying because I was thinking that It was just not enough. I was crying because its finally over, crying because I hate that I even had to do this. Crying because I just wanted a “normal people” problem like I got laid off or a broken leg… I was crying because I had to down play my amazing physical recovery that I've worked so hard for and now had to focus on my limited mental capacity. Something that I work very hard to NEVER focus on.
After my very emotional day I decided to take my friends and family’s advise…and just LET GO AND LET GOD. I did what I could, she did what she could and at the end of the day… I AM ALIVE AND GREATER! This will not be the end of my story. I KNOW IT!