Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Do I have any hobbies or interests?

Knitting loom and darning toolImage by Strikkelise via Flickr

In completing my continuing disability review paperwork for Social Security, I admit I was struck by the absurdity of some of the questions. Like this one: Do you have hobbies and interests? At first glance, I couldn't imagine answering NO to this question. I mean, come one, I am still alive and engaged in life. Hobbies and interests comprise the 'fun stuff' I do every day that keep me feeling like life is still worth living, even if I can't do all the things I used to be able to do.

Then I thought, 'Wait a minute, is this a trick question where they are going to say I could turn my hobbies into a job and no longer be eligible for benefits?' Yes, being on disability makes me feel vulnerable and a bit paranoid that at any moment my benefits could be taken away. I know this is probably irrational thinking on my part, but when you have FIBROMYALGIA, the mystery illness that not everyone believes exists, it seems I spend a lot of time explaining I am disabled even if I don't look sick.

So I answered the question with a YES and then got real with myself when answering the second part of the question: Please describe what they are and how much time you spend doing them. Here is my answer:

  • bird watching in my backyard (a few minutes each day)
  • container gardening (1 to 1 1/2 hrs/week in the Spring/Summer)
  • watching nature and science shows on PBS (2-4 hours a week)
  • loom knitting (30 minutes/week in Fall/Winter)
  • reading (about 1 book a month)
  • writing--made possible by Dragon Naturally Speaking software on my computer (15 to 30 minutes a day)
  • teaching my dog tricks (5-10 minutes a day)

Sadly, it's not the list I would have written six years ago. Heck, this isn't the life I had six years ago. Yet, as I review this list now, I think I actually forgot to add a few other fun things I do on a daily/weekly/monthly basis. I guess my excuse is that completing this paperwork when I had a cold made it difficult to think.

I hope the reviewer can see that I am trying my best to adjust to this new life with chronic illness by developing new, fibro-friendly interests and hobbies. Conversely, just because I have interests and hobbies doesn't mean I can work. Most of all, completing this task made me acknowledge once again that I would so much rather be healthy and working than completing pages of paperwork detailing how my life has changed and is now filled with much less...

Funny, but they don't ask a question that would get them this kind of response on their forms.

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Robyn S. said...

I haven't had to fill that out on an official form, but I've been meeting new people since I'm back in school (VERY part time) this semester, and that's such an awkward question when posed by a well person to a sick person. I know I'm supposed to ramble off some impressive free time resume, especially if the person knows I only take 2 classes AND I don't work (I couldn't do both). I always feel like I'm backtracking, trying to explain that I mostly blog, watch the shows I record on my DVR, and read fashion magazines. I used to read (as in real, literary books, haha) CONSTANTLY, but my attention is so fleeting now that I'm so tired and in so much pain. I really can't read for more than half an hour, and even then I end up going over and over the same paragraphs...

Sigh. Oh illness, you cruel mistress...

I hope your disability review goes well. I'll be praying for you!

Annie said...

I hope your disability review goes well too! Mine didn't sadly enough.

I completely understand that pressure though. Just because we may be able to accomplish a half-hour task doesn't mean we can function in any sort of regular schedule!


Selena said...

Thanks for the comments. We all seem to be in the same boat, Robyn and Annie. I appreciate the company. :-)

Thanks for the well wishes. I will keep you posted on what happens.