Bear At Work

All ready for our first day at work.

A Working Bear

I have never worked. I do not say this with any pride. I was unable to gain employment as a teen and after panic attacks during the process, we realized my anxiety was more serious than we’d thought. Mom looked into financial support for me, and I was soon receiving SSI. 

Some people think it’s Easy Street to just “claim” disability and “let the government pay for everything”. But it isn’t. First, it hurts one’s pride. I wanted to work, and to support myself. I found it difficult to see my life as valuable without actively doing something that brought in money and added to society. So, I sunk into a depression at first and did a lot of sleeping and eating and not caring if I washed or not. 

A “picnic” lunch in the car before work.





Break time meant hunny time.





Pooh found it exciting to watch the workers maintaining the buildings and lights.



Pooh was allowed to come with me as a special accommodation, because of my disability. He stayed in a lightweight, drawstring backpack while I was working. But I did get to have is head peaking out, so he could see what was going on. 😉 











Second, it takes away some freedom. On SSI, the money is very low and the allowed uses restricted to just essentials. I was “promoted” to SSDI when Mom became disabled, which meant I no longer had the “essentials only” restrictions and I received a bit more. But it’s never been enough to live freely. I can’t, for example, live in an apartment (let alone a house!) of my own choosing. I have to live in one that offers a rent subsidy. When Mom and I looked at the list, there was only one in our area. It had a six-month waiting list. The only alternative was to apply for a personal housing voucher, which would have allowed a bit more choice – but the waiting lists are frequently closed due to over demand. And not all subsidies are equal. I’ve seen some apartments offering “rent subsidy” where the minimum income requirement is over twice what I receive. 

I’m grateful to be able to live independently, at all. But, I don’t feel free to live the life I want. And I don’t see why I shouldn’t have that same freedom, just because I’m disabled.

And when Mom died, my finances changed again. All of a sudden, my disability changed to survivors’ benefits. That meant more money – which then meant I no longer qualified for financial help with health care payments, among other programs. So I lost a lot of stability, besides losing my mom. I lost my healthcare, unable to afford the $400 or so monthly that my plan (that I had never had a say in choosing, by the way) cost. I had more money, sure, but not that much more. My rent also went up as a result.

My healthcare plan provided a Care Coordinator, and I was blessed with a very kind one. It was she who, on the last visit before my coverage ended, took the time to hunt up some answers for me. One way to have my healthcare reinstated, and subsidized, was to get a job that earned over a certain amount. I’d still have a monthly payment, but it’d be something I truly could afford. So, she hunted down the info for Vocational Rehab, helped me make an appointment, and even attended the first one with me – all on her own time. I am so grateful to her for that extra help. I know I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it on my own. I was so lost and overwhelmed by all the changes!

Over the summer, I met frequently with my VR counselor. We explored careers and my interests and abilities. I took an evaluation that covered my psychology as well as cognitive abilities. Very interesting, but also some discouraging findings. I was told I was very bright, but also probably not capable of handling a job due to my anxiety- unless I had counseling. I can’t afford counseling.

But, we proceeded with VR and are now at the Work Evaluation part. It’s were a trained supervisor observes me for ten shifts at a real job. This particular company does two different jobs, ten shifts each. I get paid $10 an hour. 

My first Work Eval was at a TJ Maxx, as a stocker. I got to go in the back part of the store, and helped “layout” clothing merchandise for the hangers. It was fun. I opened boxes, removed the clothes and unwrapped them, then literally laid them on a table. Over and over. Some people, I understand, find it tedious. I found it exciting. 

Another part of the job was Organizing. This involved going row by row of a particular section of the store, and organizing it. Putting items back where they belonged: according to size or department. And putting like things together. I enjoyed this, too, but found aspects of it more tiresome. I had to stay out of the way of browsing customers, so that often meant abandoning an area I was working on and finding something else to do. I didn’t like jumping around like that.

I finished this work eval site just as the Coronavirus was taking over the news and causing places to shut down. TJ Maxx was the only place in the strip mall open the last day or two I worked, and closed a day or so later. I am glad I got all my hours in, as that pay will help cover my car insurance payment. The second Work Eval location cancelled on us, as they were scaling back their workforce due to the virus. So, my progress is delayed until things open back up. I don’t mind much, really. I liked working, but part of me wants to figure out how to work from home or even own my own home-based business. And this experience has helped me to see that I can actually make myself be disciplined and focused and that I do enjoy hard work. 


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