To say it has been a long couple of weeks would be an understatement. The retirement board chose to deny my retirement, based off of a check marked on a list, regardless of the doctor's opinion. They proceeded to assure me it was due to the fact that they had to follow the way legislation dictates, regardless of whether or not I am actually fit to do my job. To summarize it, as I understand it, is that if I were not able to do my job due to a physical disability, I would have received my retirement pension. However, since my disability is deemed a mental illness, (regardless of the fact that it has occurred and then exacerbated as a result of TBI), I do not qualify for the same rights. I was advised that the opinion of, the quack psychologist (my own description), was not taken into consideration and that his report was for the psychiatrist to review (discussed in my prior blog).
I sat in front of a group of 5 people on a board, while they essentially judged me. My husband was sick, so my mother accompanied me. And thank goodness, too. I started having a panic attack as I was walking into the waiting area. It was a bad one. I really don't know what triggered it, other than the stress I was feeling- and this was BEFORE they denied me. I believe that the worst part, was that they asked me if there was anything I wanted to say. This would normally be a good thing, but I felt humiliated. I do not recall everything I said to them, but I was emotional (not a shocker since my last TBI) and I let them know a fraction of what I was going through when I was at work- to include the type of panic attack I was having at the time. The part that upset me was that it did not matter what I had to say. They had already decided. This was the humiliating part. What did they even ask me for? To put it on record that I now have a mental illness? It was a public hearing and the minutes can be publicly accessed. I am feeling better now, which is why I am only now writing about the experience, but I felt humiliated. I asked if my employer would hire me back, and they said "no". So, now I cannot go back to work, and I cannot collect my pension. I paid for 15.5 years into a system that, even though they do not believe I am fit to do my job, they also do not believe they should allow me my pension. How is this right?
This is how I summed it all up in my head:
I have less rights than a person with a physical disability.
I think that a disability is a disability. It was made clear that I should not be in my job, I know in my heart it is not right for me to do my job, and I know that my head no longer permits me to do my job. However, legislation states that a mental illness is held to a higher scrutiny, regardless of where it initiated from. THIS IS NOT RIGHT, AND IT IS TIME THAT A CHANGE IS MADE.
I understand that there are people who fabricate mental illness, but they also fabricate physical disability as well. Just because it cannot be seen by the naked eye, does not mean it does not exist. After I calmed down (it took a couple of days), my self-pity party ended and I realized what I need to do. I need to help make the changes that are necessary for people with TBI and subsequent illness (mine are depression, PTSD, anxiety, and symptomatic ADD/ADHD) to be treated fairly in legislation, in addition to being a voice for those who may be silent.
Since my TBI, I definitely lack a filter, which I am acutely aware of (as I am sure are others around me- lol), but I am not afraid to speak-up for what is right.
I feel like I now know why I am going through all these experiences. It does not make the struggles any less real or painful, but it gives me a purpose for why I experience them. With all the most current information and research on TBI and long-term effects, it is time that legislation and policies catch-up. There is no room for ignorance.
Thank you for listening to me, and for all of your support!
P.S. March is TBI Awareness month! Be on the look-out for some cool items that will be available for purchase (profits will be used to support TBI awareness, education, and support). Thank you!
Be the reason someone chose not to give-up.
Photo credit to https://beacon.wharton.upenn.edu/entrepreneurship/2014/11/scale-your-mindset/