Sunday, August 29, 2010

Disability Issues and A New Wrinkle

Prompted by a pertinent discussion on Feministe, I thought I might add my own two cents.

It occurs to me that I haven't yet put a coda on my struggles with depression. Regular readers have probably been able to discern that I've been feeling much improved. Though it took nearly two months, I've finally been stabilized on a satisfactory dosage of medication. The only slight issue I have now is that I'm on a pretty hefty regimen of Lithium, which has a tendency to make one's hands shake constantly. While I was out at Baltimore Yearly Meeting, a woman close to my age noticed it, and I made a decision to tell her the truth rather than disguising it with a lie. Her immediate reaction, I regret to inform, was to think at first that she should question my sanity and her safety. As I do so often, I pointed out that she had no need to worry. I am just a person with a chronic illness, one usually controlled with medication and therapy.

However, the day before I departed for BYM, I noticed a reddened, puffy, very large, very swollen area of skin close to my left groin. I assumed at first that this was just a temporary rash, probably a result of working out at the gym, and it would go away on its own. I waited several days, where I determined that not only was it not going away, it was also spreading. It took two full weeks to get an appointment with a dermatologist, but by that point I was treating the infected areas with over-the-counter creams and with frustratingly limited success. At this point in time, I assumed it was simply a stubborn case of jock itch.

The time for my appointment came around, finally. A dermatological exam revealed that, in reality, I had a major case of psoriasis. For those who don't know what it is, psoriasis is a genetic, chronic, autoimmune condition, one apparently inherited from both sets of Grandfathers, as I found out when I called home. The first thing the dermatologist mentioned that I must do immediately was keep my stress level down, lest I have another outbreak. Anyone who lives in Washington, DC, has a tendency to hear that sage pronouncement and let loose a blackly comedic guffaw.

This town thrives on stress. There's almost no way to get away from it. I've already been told by two other specialists who treat my bipolar disorder to keep my stress in check, but I suppose this one was a bit of a wake-up call. I'm going to have to be even more careful, even if it compromises my ability to build a substantial work history. The news has not been received well, I have to say, but I don't really have another choice, do I? Depression is tough enough, but compounded with another ailment on top of it only makes things worse for both.

If only there was a way to let presumptive employers or everyday people I run into on a regular basis know these sorts of things without having to explain myself in great detail. I have a variety of well-worn, heavily rehearsed statements I use with strangers and associates when the subject of my disability comes up; now I've started work on another. I've never wanted to be pitied by others, nor do I pity myself at the moment. I'm merely stating this situation directly, trying not to worry about the way things are in the process. I'm more worried about the compromises and the obstacles that two chronic illnesses on top of each other present. I'm pretty resourceful, so I know I'll figure out something that works, but I really wish I wasn't forced to be when it comes to sugar-coating (if not outright lying about) my health situation for the sake of someone or something else.

The good news: I am finally fully recovered. Perhaps that's all that matters right now.

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