Hope and Help Where it Seems There is None

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Reader’s Question

I want to cry. I am disabled and have not worked in four years due to severe diabetes and associated complications (peripheral neuropathy). I have tried to get disability benefits for three years and my lawyers just recently appealed a legal ruling that denied me disability benefits. I fear for the future if my appeal fails. I don’t know how I will survive.

I am destitute, having lost everything because of my illness, and have been forced to move in with my sister. I face the constant threat of eviction because neither my sister nor her husband has a job, and each month is a struggle. If we do get evicted, I will become homeless and be forced to live on the street.

I am on a multitude of medications, including narcotic pain killers. I am 52 years old, have never been married or had kids, and have no one to turn to. I had to leave all my friends in Atlanta behind to move to my sister’s in South Carolina. I feel so alone, lost and hopeless. I can’t afford counseling as I have no income, do not qualify for Medicaid, and can barely pay for a visit to a doctor every month or two. I do take Zoloft which I get free from Pfizer, as I do many of my other medications. I hate my life. It has been a useless waste and I have nothing to show for it. I have no future. I keep asking myself why I should go on when life holds nothing more for me except continued pain and suffering. I want to die but suicide is not an option. I don’t have the guts to do something like that. I just don’t know what to do.

I am screaming inside for someone, anyone, to come to my aid but I know there is no one. I don’t even know why I am writing this. I know there is nothing you can say or do that will change my circumstances. I guess I just needed to talk to someone.

Psychologist’s Reply

First let me say that my heart truly goes out to you. I cannot even begin to imagine the immense burdens you are facing, and it makes sense that you feel overwhelmed and depressed. There are many people, like yourself, who have chronic health issues and are financially insolvent. Our current economic climate has resulted in enormous financial problems for many individuals, as well as corresponding physical and emotional burdens. When faced with adversity of this magnitude, our capacity for hope and for finding potential solutions may feel inaccessible. Likewise, in your particular case, you seem to despair about the future and express feeling completely despondent. I would like to counter this perspective by reminding you that you have the capacity to institute at least some positive changes in your life.

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While there is no “magic bullet” to improve your situation, there are ways in which you can garner further support. Each U.S. state has government-funded community mental health agencies that offer free services by county to those who qualify. You could find out where your local mental health agency is and then contact them to inquire about receiving free therapy services. Community mental health agencies also have connections with varied resources; for example, they can place you with a vocational rehabilitation counselor who can help you find work that is manageable for you despite your disabled status. Another option for you may involve seeking therapy from a therapist who offers a portion of their services free of charge. Many psychologists in private practice offer pro bono services to individuals who simply cannot afford the cost of therapy. Finally, keep in mind that churches, other religious places of worship (e.g., synagogues), and charities (e.g., Salvation Army, United Way) may be able to assist you in a number of different ways. There are people out there who want to help; it is just a matter of actively seeking the appropriate resources.

Consider too the resources that you presently have. I know it feels like nobody is there for you, but please remember you have at least some family support (your sister) and a legal team of attorneys who are advocating on your behalf. You have friends in your hometown of Atlanta, some of whom may be more than willing to come to your aid. You are also obtaining many of your medications at no cost. Amazingly, you have somehow managed to successfully acquire these supports even though your circumstances seem grave. This reality suggests that you have a greater ability to effect changes in your life than you realize.

“Obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” — Michael Jordan

Addendum (22 December 2010): Another resource specifically in South Carolina is Low Country Pastoral Counseling (www.lowcountrypastoral.org), which may be able to offer a subsidized or sliding scale fee that is affordable — or know how to help find other suitable community resources.

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