Well, the final verdict from the insurance company arrived today: the ‘experts’ there (who have never seen me, just the reports from my GP and my counsellor and some documentation that I submitted along with the appeal) are not convinced that I am unable to work at my job, and so there will be no income replacement, no disability coverage.
There are all kinds of public service announcements that ask us all to be understanding of mental health challenges, to be compassionate towards people who are dealing with mental health problems, to encourage everyone to get help if it is needed … but insurance companies don’t make money paying out on claims, so I suppose they don’t listen to those kinds of announcements. All the other people I’ve had to deal with seem to have paid attention though, and for that I am grateful. It makes a difference when folks see your pain and say nice things like, “you take care of yourself.”
Thus it is that I join the ranks of millions of others who have learned the hard way that insurance is there to provide peace of mind - as long as you don’t actually need it.
I submitted my initial request for disability in June, right after my employment insurance benefits ran out, and it has taken nine months to get to this final verdict. “Thanks so much for continuing to pay your premiums all this time, but we will not be paying you anything at all. Hope you got your teeth cleaned while you could.”
By this stage of the game, we really just needed to know one way or the other, and so it is good to at least have an answer, even if it’s not the optimal answer from a financial point of view. I am certainly very grateful to The Reluctant Farmer for being willing to work as hard as he does to ensure that we have everything we need.
When the phone call arrived from the insurance company, I happened to be in town, so I drove over to my office in order to tell my manager in person that I will not be returning. I realized a few months ago that I will not be well enough to do that kind of work again for a very long time, if ever. PTSD is an anxiety disorder characterized by constantly being on the watch, scanning for trouble, and jumping into high gear as soon as anything dangerous is spotted. This is a highly adaptable set of behaviours when you are in a dangerous situation – if something bad can happen at any time, you need to always be ready to react as quickly and decisively as possible. However, when you’re just living an ordinary life, this is really not a helpful approach. It makes you jumpy, testy, quick to anger, quick to explode. I spent years allowing these skills to settle themselves firmly in my mind and body, and learning different skills is a long, slow road. I’m having some success, definitely – I don’t startle as badly as I did anymore, I am more able to control my reactions to upsetting experiences, but I am still really fragile and I still have a long way to go. I do have complete faith that I will get there one of these days, but in the meantime, it is essential for my recovery that I avoid practicing those less-adaptive skills, as the more I use them the harder they are to unlearn. And I’ve used them for a lot of years already.
The peculiar thing is that the work that I was doing (software quality assurance, plus technical documentation, analysis and design) actually relied rather heavily on my ability to constantly be on the watch for trouble, to immediately notice things that were out of place or out of the ordinary and to react quickly and decisively whenever something set my spidey sense to tingling. Unfortunately, that just meant I had daily opportunities to practice the very skills that I am now attempting to unlearn. The world is safe, I am not in danger, and I do not need to jump into full defensive mode every time something startles me or seems somehow ‘wrong’. Thus, I need to not do the kind of work I was doing – not until I am completely healed and can manage to avoid slipping fully back into the old habits.
So it is that an era has come to an end, and I am leaving information technology for the foreseeable future. I really enjoyed working with my team. We did good work. I was with the company for over six years, which is, in fact, a personal record. I said often that I could not have continued working in the field as long as I did anywhere else, and I still feel that way: I have nothing but gratitude towards my team. If I am ever in the position to look at doing this kind of work again, they would be my employer of choice.
However, it’s time for a new beginning. I don’t know what kind of work I will be able to do in the near or distant future – in the near future, I am still not well enough to tackle full time employment, but I’ll be there eventually, so it’s time to start pondering the available options. I don’t think that ‘full time author’ actually pays the bills, at least not for mere mortals such as myself who aren’t writing about young wizards or courtroom drama, so I suppose it’s time to break out the old “what do you want to be when you grow up” books and see what they can suggest.
In the meantime, more rest, more writing, more tea. I have faith that the universe will unfold as it should.
And yes, that’s a Star Trek reference. I’ve been a geek for a long time: just because I’m not working in IT anymore doesn’t mean I have to give up my geekiness!