Thoughts on Employment and Education Options While On Disability

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I live in a small town that hosts a small state university.  School began for the fall session earlier this week.  Even though I haven’t been enrolled as a student at any school for ten years I still enjoy it when the college kids start back.  Since a significant percentage of my town is either enrolled at the college or works for the college, the town is really quiet, almost dead, for most of mid May to late August.

I went to the campus last weekend for the welcome back street fair.  Got some cool freebies and got to see that practically every student organization, fraternity, academic department, and interest group had a booth and was represented.  Surprisingly I got a lot of freebie handout coupons that we exclusively for students.  Now I’m in my mid 30s so I was quite surprised that I got these deals in spite my obviously not being a student.  But I was getting carded every time I went to a pub to see a concert well into my 30s except for a few times when I had a full beard.  I didn’t think I looked that youthful.  There are days I certainly don’t feel it.  But I wasn’t about to pass up free giveaways.

While I was at this street fair I couldn’t help but think ‘Do this kids really know what’s going on in the world off campus’ and ‘What will these kids be doing ten to fifteen years from now.’  In my case when I went to college back in the pre wireless internet days of 1999, I really didn’t pay that much attention to the world outside the ivy walls of my Christian college.  Like most naive college freshmen I thought that I would get my degree and then do well in the workplace.  Little did I realize that unless you’re majoring in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) field or went to a two year school for a specific trade, college cannot teach you what you need to know for a work place.  Even my friend the high school teacher told me that little of what he learned in his teacher education classes helped him much.  He said concentrating on his subject matter (history and social sciences) and student teaching helped him more than anything he learned in any classroom.

My problem was while I did well in the classroom, I couldn’t make the transition to the real world of work because of my inability to work through stress, crippling anxiety (I literally used to vomit from panic attacks before I went to work even as a minimum wage retail clerk),  inability to read people, and inability to work around office politics.  Would have been good to known this before I sunk five years of my life into college for a degree I would never use in any way, shape, or form.  I am very fortunate to have escaped college debt free.  Most of my classmates weren’t so lucky.  As much as I enjoyed college I would have been far better off going to a two year trade school to learn something like computer networking, web page design, or computer coding.  I would love to go back to school to learn any and all of these three things, but with being on disability insurance I don’t see how that is possible without losing Medicaid.  As it is, my medications cost over $2,000 a month without insurance.  The only way I could go without medications and not be a danger to myself and others is through long term hospitalization.  That’s not really an option as many long term care hospitals have been shut down over the years due to budget cuts and a general move away from institutionalization of mental health patients.

I would love to get into some computer related field, namely webpage design or computer networking.  If there is a way to learn this without getting thrown off the Medicaid entirely I would love to know how.  I’d probably have to do free online classes (if those are recognized by potential employers) as what I make is below poverty level.  I’m tired of being on disability and having to let my mind go to waste.  If anyone from Social Security Disability is reading, you guys are really missing out if you aren’t encouraging people into online studying for jobs that don’t require traditional education.  Besides most jobs do not require a four year degree if it wasn’t for the artificial barrier to entry it created.  Most employers I talked to said that most jobs could be learned with a year of intense on the job training or less.  If the U.S. Air Force can turn recruits into great pilots in less than two years, then it realistically doesn’t take four years of college to learn data entry or any other entry level office job.

In closing I want to work, especially at something like web page design.  I am definitely open to the idea of working from home (commuting even five minutes to my old courthouse job got old), would prefer it actually.  I don’t want to spend the rest of my life on disability and squander my mind and creativity.  And I think it’s insane that we, at least here in the USA, have a disability system that makes it confusing, frustrating, and almost impossible to return to productive work without a mountain of paper work and a maze of hoops to jump through.  It shouldn’t take acts of Congress and God both to return people who want to work back.  And frying chicken at KFC for minimum wage is not a viable career option for thirty to forty years of a working life.

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Author: alifeofmentalillness

I write about my experiences with mental illness and life in general. I am also currently under going 'lifestyle changes' (I hate the term 'dieting' as it's sounds so temporary) and have lost 70 pounds since spring 2014. I've put my poetry and novel writing on lower priority since I started losing weight and blogging more seriously.

5 thoughts on “Thoughts on Employment and Education Options While On Disability”

  1. I’m glad you went to the UNK street fair. Kearney does promote and report on UNK activities. I too wish you could find some kind of computer based employment that would exercise your brain and give structure to your week. I’m glad you live in a town small enough to easily get around, have museums and plays, great parks, good food, and an interesting mix of cultures.

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