I’m a person who doesn’t like to ask for help. For most of my life, I was an “overachiever.” I did very well in school, was active socially, and I worked a variety of jobs. All of that came to a screeching halt when my mental illness set in.
Suddenly, I was unable to manage life. Once I was diagnosed, I was put on medication that helped my symptoms, but left me mentally foggy and perpetually tired. I found a part-time job in retail where I slowly regained some of my confidence while I quietly functioned on a daily basis.
Out of nowhere, a letter came from Social Security that said they no longer considered me disabled and that my disability payments would end. I had the option to appeal, and the payments would continue, but if I lost my appeal, the government would expect all of the money back.
I didn’t know what to do, but I knew I couldn’t handle the stress of a full-time job. I felt sick-both physically and mentally-with the new pressure I now faced in having to defend myself. But, I did the ONE thing that made all of the difference. I had a friend, Michael Elsken, who was an attorney for Disability Rights Nebraska.
I called Mike and he reassured me that they could represent me as a client and fight for reinstatement of my disability status. Mike and Case Advocate Suzie Miller Schoen* explained the process, helped me obtain the documentation from my psychiatrist and my counselor, and gave me confidence that we could fight my case, win, and I could resume my life as I had known it.
Although it was a stressful situation, I was able to rely on Disability Rights Nebraska and Mike and Suzie. When the trial came, I was well-prepared. Mike was eloquent and succinct. We won my case and I was able to continue my life.
I may still be disabled, but I work and contribute to society. It’s been 17 years since that trial, but I have been able to learn and grow in my life in Lincoln, Nebraska. Through Disability Rights Nebraska, I was introduced to Nebraska Leadership Academy. I attended and graduated with new skills in how to advocate for myself and others who are mentally or physically disabled.
In the last several years, I have participated in town hall meetings, testified before the city council, lobbied my senators, and been on television representing the disabled community. I am not ashamed of my disability and I have often helped others who are disabled like myself. I give back to my community and remember the days when I didn’t know how to reach out and ask for help.
I have learned more about myself in these last 17 years. Although I live a very simple life, I feel comfortable with my disability and limitations. I still hold a part-time job in retail. I am active at my church and I have a social life. I have learned, though, that it’s alright to ask for help.
I hope my words reach others, like me, who just need a little help.
Sonya Kay Wing “mentally ill and not ashamed.” Currently working on her book entitled “My World” about her experience becoming mentally ill.
*Suzie Miller Schoen has since retired from her position at Disability Rights Nebraska.