How white privilege made my disability claim easier

Now that the endless humiliating monkey-dance is over, I thought it’d be instructive to examine the ways in which my white privilege made it easier than it would have been for a PoC.

We can start with my name: it’s a very white name, in all. Caitlin and Emily are my given names (taken names? I chose them, after all), and my last name is not among those which read as stereotypically belonging to a PoC. Many studies have shown the effect of applying for things with white names as opposed to names which read as belonging to a PoC: here is a link to one such, and another here from CBS that mentions Caitlin as one of the stereotypically white names.

While filling in the form, I benefit from my white privilege in easier access to post-secondary education, which shows as a tick-box (and this one will come back to make a bigger difference later!). My dialect of English (and as a native speaker) is close to the “standard” dialect hereabouts; I don’t need to code-switch or switch languages to be able to communicate in that “standard” dialect.

My education and dialect and skin colour helped me when I got to the appeals process too, because the other white people who helped me at the legal aid office will almost certainly have had their implicit biases in my favour – I’m less likely to be seen as a potential fraudster, because white supremacy teaches us that white people are more honest and trustworthy.

When I had my hearing, the day started off well when I was asked about my education history, and discovered that the person hearing the appeal had the same degree and alma mater that I did – so we bonded a little over the news, chatting about the difficulties of translation and what foreign languages we spoke. Once again my dialect’s closeness with the “standard” left me in a good place, speaking comfortably in a register that said “I’m your peer” to the tribune and the two counsels in the room – all white.

All these things have contributed to making what was a seriously unpleasant process much more pleasant than it could have been if I didn’t have that white privilege. And they’re all easily invisible to us as white people, unless we choose to see them.

Learn to recognize the ways in which white privilege makes your life easier if you’re white, and you can start to resist white supremacy. To be silent in the face of white supremacy is to uphold white supremacy.

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Hearing update

Huzzah, it went very well. I’ll just give a small anecdote to illustrate: after the hearing, the person playing devil’s advocate (arguing against my appeal; opposing counsel, effectively) asked to hug me. I’ve got to think my nominally adversarial hearing went well when the tribunal hearer was in tears a few times, and opposing counsel wanted to be comforting when we were done.

Should get a reply in a month or so. I’ll take any and all warm thoughts or other supportive gestures you feel like offering,

The (duh-duh-DUHHHHHH) hearing

…it’s tomorrow. 13h EDT (GMT -5), I get in front of a one-person tribunal (do I address them as “Tribune”?) to hear my appeal of the decision that I’m not disabled. My lawyer is cautiously optimistic, depending on whom we draw in the lottery of tribunes. She thinks we shouldn’t have had to get this far.

The hard part is going to be overcoming my tendency to understate things. But we’ve warned the lawyer about that, so if she’s prepared, hopefully it’ll be alright. And Her Ex-Cellency will be there to be supportive, and she can slip me the Eyebrow of Doom if I’m minimising.

If performing the bureaucracy hoop-jumping to get disability is the Monkey Dance, ths is the Monkey Dance Iron Dancer Super Challenge Round: 1 hour to talk someone into making my life liveable.

The up side, if I’m turned down, I can apply again the very next day. My doctor would probably kill me, because it’d mean she’d have to do all the damn forms again, but it could happen. Let us hope it is not necessary.

On another note, Fuck. Cancer. Susan, we hardly knew ya, beautiful.

Writing about Depression

I’ve always admired people who can write about depression, because for me, depression means not writing. Writing is my life, I love writing, my old Livejournal (which is private, if you’re a friend ask me personally for access) I used to average about Pi posts per day. I’d write fiction, hell, my standup comedy routine had me reading my own structured poetry (sonnets a particular speciality), and even writing one during the show using words chosen by the audience. I love writing. And depression as it is for me, that I love it means I haven’t been doing it. Anhedonia, thy name is Cait’s depression. Painting has also gone by the wayside. Only gaming has survived, so far.

And yet here, a perfectly cromulent place to write, where access is as easy as picking up my tablet, if I want (I don’t, I won’t be posting from it until i can get a bluetooth keyboard to use with it, it’s just too tiring and slow to try and type with a touchscreen one-handed)…I can’t seem to get a regular thing going.

This is all despite the fact that my new meds have seen me much more effective in many ways. I’ve been getting some housecleaning done, allowing for my body by doing it in small stages over time. I’ve designed an entire new game, and I’m over the hump of the boring stuff needed to make a prototype, now I just need Craig to help me physically make it and we can get playtesting. That’s kind of amazing, and given the history of the other games we’ve roughed out in notes over the years, which have always foundered on my inability to get that boring stuff done – to wade past pain and ADD and depression so I can push the boat out and get some damn fishing in so I don’t starve – I got over that hump this time.

I’ve (and this is hard to admit) been working on my hair, even. See, I’ve got long hair, and it’s Medusic. That is, it writhes and tangles like a live thing – the single way to make it not get too tangled is to braid it. Then only within the braid’s strands will be tangles. And over the last several months as my depression got worse through the winter, I’ve gotten rather badly sloppy about brushing it. In short, it’s matted in a few places, and I’ve been slowly, slowly, working on brushing it out. It’s painful and difficult, because it necessarily involves my arms up over my head, so I can only do it for ten minutes or so before needing an hour to recover.

If I didn’t have to perform femininity in order to have people not misgender me, I’d just cut it all off and start again. But I do. So I’m brushing, and washing, and brushing, and washing, and lathering conditioner in like you wouldn’t believe, but it’s all about the brushing. I wish there were a way to get help, but I don’t know of any such opportunity. :/

Wow…the shame on this runs deep. Since you’re reading this, I got over that enough to hit Publish, so yay me. But just thinking about mentioning it publicly feels so shameful that I’m weeping like a child writing this para. Can’t actually see. Stupid. But there it is. Intellectually, i know it’s not my fault. It’s depression, the big double D, depressive disorder and disthymic disorder both, and it’s the end of winter (and it fucking snowed yesterday…no…no more snow now, please?), but it’s very hard to get that fact to penetrate my feelings, in whatever weird brain chemistry is going on.

Sorry for the rambler, folks, sometimes it’s just what I need to get out. Trying to love writing again.

The Excitement Tariff

I’m using “tariff” rather than “tax” here, because taxes tend to do things, in my world, and thus I’m loath to hate on them.

What I’m talking about is a subtle part of my disability experience: that doing exciting things, even when sitting still, can be intensely wearying.

The last two nights (Saturday and Sunday), I’ve been at a friend’s place, sitting on very pretty dining room chairs that are more or less stools from the point of view of “is this a supportive chair?” Each time for about three hours and well-medicated, but at the end of each, I’ve been really sore – like, spasms hitting 8 out of 10 on the unhappy-face scale sore – and it’s carried over into the next day.

Tonight, my friends want to play Heists on GTA Online, which is something I find exciting. Mind, I’ll be sitting in my comfortable chair, well-supported, with a heating pad on my back as needed, and I can get up and move around if I need to. Ideal conditions, so it shouldn’t be too strenuous, you’d think. But you’d think incorrectly. Because it’s exciting. And excitement makes us tense our bodies.

Three hours of alternately tensing various parts of me for several minutes, and trying desperately to relax in the few moments’ downtime between missions? That’s hard on my body.

Even in optimum conditions, the excitement tariff cuts down on the amount of time I have to spend doing things I like. Now cycle back round to the depression, where getting myself interested in doing the things I like has been one of the main challenges, and you can begin to see another aspect of the ways in which my mental and physical disabilities interact so that each is made worse by the other. Not only is it a blow against dualism, but also against treating mental disabilities as “less than” physical disabilities. When someone makes a joke about how being sad making them eligible for disability, help us out by reminding them of the difference between “being sad” and “being in depression”.

Disability: medications

I thought it might be interesting to see what my daily load of meds looks like. This doesn’t include the one med which is not yet fully recognised as legal, and a couple of others I forgot to gather before taking the pic.

daily meds for CaitieCat

Meds for one day

These are:

  • four large white round pills, marked TEC: 5mg oxycontin plus 375mg acetaminophen (paracetamol) – analgesic plus anti-inflammatory
  • four small white round pills, marked 10: 10mg oxyneo slow-release – analgesic
  • two small green ovate rectangular pills: 2mg Abilify – antipsychotic, offlabel use as intensifier for next med
  • two large orange capsules with black markings: 100mg sertraline (Zoloft), antidepressant
  • six oval white pills, small, marked BAC 10: 10mg baclofen, muscle relaxant.
  • one (should be three) brown round pill: ibuprofen extra-strength, anti-inflammatory

Not pictured are my Concerta (slow-release ritalin, one per day at 18mg), or the various anti-allergy pills I take ad-hoc to combat itchiness effects of opiates, or the laxative and anti-nausea meds I take for other side effects, or that other med which ought to be legalised and makes it possible for me to, y’know, eat and stuff.

That’s one day. And it’s why I’ve been trying hard to keep my dosage down as much as possible, in all things: I don’t want to end up on a liver transplant list. In ten+ years on that pain med regime, I’ve had only two dosage increases, for a total of 15mg/day. And like most chronic pain sufferers, I don’t get any euphoria at all from all those oxy. I know that some people do, and that it can be very addictive in that mode, but believe me, what I’m not getting from them is stoned. What I do get is the Golden Hour, that period a few times a day when the meds overlap in such a way as to give me an hour or so of much-appreciated actual relief of pain. Because of the overlapping nature of the med times – my muscle relaxant is on a 3/day, while my pain meds are 4/day – this Golden Hour moves about during the day, but it’s usually a nice break. I’m headed for that hour next, should be around noon.

The rest of the time it’s all about fidgeting and moving and trying to find a “comfortable” way to sit. Usually failing, but there it is.

I done made me a logo!

That is all.

Okay, it’s not all. An update on my squeezedness: I went to the local welfare office yesterday, and had a very productive meeting. They give very little money, but the other benefits are enormously useful: a drug plan with very low co-pay (meaning instead of $400 if I were to purchase all my meds – $200 for the pain meds alone – I pay a few dollars), optometry (I haven’t had my eyes checked in ten years, at least), and necessary dentistry (I’m running low on teeth). They also have free counselling, and help with applying for disability, and a bunch of other little things that are making my life easier.

So, a very positive experience, and knowing the stress of wondering how I’ll pay the rent this month (which happens every month) will be gone is going to make my depression a lot easier to work with. Knock-on effects are good; they can provide the traction to get out of the viscous cycle.