Filing for Disability Because of Psoriasis Doesn’t Make You a Failure

When it comes to filing for disability benefits, there are a lot of moving parts. Firstly, there is the stigma and judgment about applying for disability to contend with. I’ve seen less than supportive comments in the online psoriasis community when someone has asked about filing. The guilt and fear of judgment can become stifling.

I used to not speak up about having to file for disability. When people would post questions asking if it’s even possible, I would want to say something but always stopped myself. I would brush it off as not being worth explaining myself to strangers, versus helping someone obviously in need.

Psoriasis is why I filed for disability

My life hit rock bottom due to multiple chronic illnesses. Psoriasis had created blistering pain when I sat when I stood, and when I walked. I could barely raise my arms without feeling my skin crack and bleed from movement.

At my most sick, I had inverse psoriasis in my underarms, behind my knees, and in the most uncomfortable sensitive places. Having to divulge that information in the disability paperwork was mortifying. There was no way I was going to admit I had filed in front of strangers, especially after seeing some of the negative comments they posted.

I’ve written before about having Crohn’s disease. Along with Crohn's, I live with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. All three illnesses hit at the same time. It was the perfect storm. Chances were strong that I would have had to file for disability, regardless of Crohn's disease. Between psoriasis and the debilitating psoriatic arthritis in my hands and feet, I was less than capable of being a functioning working person.

Burn a bridge or accept disability?

When I was pushed out of my job and told that I was a liability, I was left with two choices. One choice was looking for another job and pretending everything was okay. The second choice was to contact a lawyer and discuss filing for disability. I sent out a few resumes but was fearful of taking a job and burning a bridge because my health was causing me to stay home. It’s a tight-knit marketing community where I live; everyone knows everyone.

I didn’t think I would be able to work without affecting professional relationships. So, I contacted a disability lawyer. We discussed what happened with my former employer and the state of my health. She went over the parameters of filing and the consequences. She explained how long it will take to get approved and the expected time length of not being able to work.

I was not well enough to live on my own, at that time. Without an income, I had to sell my house. Due to the recession, my house was underwater and was sold at a loss. Not being able to work, moving back in with my parents, and being forced to sell my house made me feel less than a person. I only confided in a few friends and family members about filing for disability. All the while I would see peers with chronic illness posting questions asking if anyone had filed successfully. And then I would see the flood gates of judgment open up on the posts. Back then, I hadn’t built the nerve up to respond.

Don't jump to conclusions about disability

This is when things changed for me. A few months back, a colleague in a different disease space wrote about her experience filing for disability and being denied. A comment was posted and it dripped with venom. I jumped to her defense without giving it a second thought.

It’s so easy for us to jump to conclusions about someone’s circumstance. For some of us, there isn’t a backup plan available and working is the only option - regardless of how your body is falling apart from it. Let's remember that it doesn’t make your circumstance right or especially the only option.

All I can suggest is that if you don’t understand something, ask questions. Try leading with kindness when responding to posts that may irk you.

Break the stigma around disability

For those of you, who are considering filing for disability due to your psoriasis, please know that you are not alone. Filing for disability because of psoriasis or any chronic illness doesn’t make you a failure. You are doing something proactive to help yourself and your family.

If you’re ready to help break the stigma, let’s start talking openly about filing for disability.

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