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I am a living example of what it looks like on the other side of a life-threatening illness. It’s something I live with every day. Not just exist, live with. To live with something takes effort, it’s intentional. There was a time that I existed with it, which was easier. I had to make the decision that I wouldn’t stop doing the things that I enjoyed doing, but I would do them a different way or discover something new to take its place. That’s how I live with my (dis)ability.
Our abilities can become attached to the letters ‘dis’ at any stage during our life cycle. Some of us wear our (dis)abilities on the outside and others may be invisible, but ever present. For some, it’s been a constant since birth. For others, like me, it happens later in life. One day you’re doing whatever it is this way and the next day, you have to learn to do it a different way. It is not an easy position to be in, but one that can show you that you’re stronger than you ever thought you were.
My (dis)ability is invisible. It was something that I had never heard of before. There is much about my life that has never been typical, so I wasn’t surprised when I was diagnosed with a (dis)ability that I had to research and educate myself and others about. That was a challenge on top of a challenge. I’ve had to push myself beyond anything that I thought possible. I thought I’d never work again, that my life as I knew it was a thing of the past. I had worked since I was a teenager and let’s just say…even my children aren’t teenagers anymore. 😊 I had worked for a very long time. I had to cut out a lot of lifestyle to get to a point where I could exist on my SSDI. “Is this it?,” I would often ask myself. “Is my life as I’ve known it over?” “Will I ever be able to live, and not just exist, again?” At some point, I remembered that when I worked as a vocational counselor, some years prior to my (dis)ability, I had clients that worked through the Ticket To Work Program. It took almost three years for me to become well enough to remember that.
I made some calls and was told that I needed to choose an Employment Network. Oh my goodness, there were so many to choose from. I created a list and started contacting them. I called so many! The only one that reached back, didn’t specialize in Work From Home (WFH) jobs, so they referred me to My Employment Options (MEO). They were amazing and a perfect fit for me! They called me right away and as I moved through the process, whatever they said they were going to do, they did it. That has become even more important to me since having a (dis)ability, because we really need those connected to us in any way, to be what they say.
I was impressed with everyone that I spoke with at MEO. I felt like each one of them genuinely cared. They felt familiar as if I’d always known them. I had to navigate my way through my ‘new normal’ and figure so much out on my own, that it was like a fresh warm breeze as I flowed through the MEO process of being educated about the Ticket to Work Program and how it relates to my SSA Benefits. I no longer had to navigate anything SSA on my own. My MEO membership came with a Certified Benefits Specialist. I call her the ‘SSA Guru.’
I also had the fortune of having a vocational counselor…that used to be me, pre (dis)ability. My self-esteem had taken a hit from my ‘new normal.’ She was the glue that helped put it back together again, as she prepared me for my first job, post my ‘new normal.’ She gently, but firmly, encouraged me to embrace what I could do at that moment, and she stretched me at the same time into the technical field. “I’m not a technical person,” I told her, over and over again. We had a very good rapport and I trusted her judgment, so I gave it a try. I worked my way up to a Senior Tech, much to my own surprise. My vocational counselor supported me every step of the way. I am fully and completely convinced that without her…you would not be reading this blog.
Thank you for stopping in today! Please join me next time as we explore how the Ticket To Work Program and My Vocational Counselor changed my life…until next time…