Article on self-employment and my commentary

Let me know if the link works….

While much of what I see in the article is true, I cringe when I hear “psychiatric disabilities.” In the USA, if a person can work, they aren’t entitled to disability payments. In other words, you are supposed to get the payments only if you really can’t work. These payments are not designed for people who merely don’t want to work.

The gray area happens due to coercion. A person who is capable of working will be told he or she has an “illness” called a psychiatric disability. The people who determine this are authority figures. This determination may happen when the patient is a child or young adult.

This generally happens to patients after psychiatry has kept them out of the workforce for a while, long enough to get the patient worried about where the income is going to come from. Unemployment benefits have likely expired. The family may also be worried about the patient’s lack of earned income. The SSDI and similar checks offer the patient a Way Out. This happened to me when I was 26. It felt like relief, relief for me and for my parents, too.

This is how financially vulnerable, and often young patients end up on the disability roles. Once you are on those checks, fewer than 1/2 of a percent ever make it off the payments.

The relief is deceptive. While many are legitimately unable to work, I have personally seen far too many people who should have been working kept out of the workforce indefinitely.

It is possible to find employment even after being on the disability rolls for over a decade, but the struggle described in this article is very real. Here are a few things I have tried….

I got a college education even while on the disability payments. I did stellar work in my studies without using any accommodations. This caused me to question my status as “disabled.”

One day, after I’d graduated with honors and a few years later was doing fine in graduate school, I asked my therapist if I was still entitled to disability payments. I will never forget what she said…

“Don’t worry about it. Dr. Pearson and I agree that there’s no question you should stay on the disability payments indefinitely.” Still, I should let you guys know that SSDI asks on its forms whether you’ve been attending college and if you have (during the time of your reconsideration), the continuation of your disability payments will be questioned.

College didn’t get me a job. When I finally started applying for jobs, I tried lying on my resume by extending the dates of past employment to cover the “gaps.” My object was to get my foot into the door.

You can indeed lie, though it’s generally not the best practice. Some companies will catch you at it and others will not. I did indeed get my foot into the door and that was all I needed, though the first job was low-paying and not very rewarding.

You can apply for a job where you are sure they either don’t care about your work history or you’re sure they won’t check on you.  Or where your work history isn’t relevant.

Nowadays many places employ people as trial workers and then, weed them out after hiring. Trials last maybe 90 days, or as short as two weeks. It is easier to get hired at such places, then, “prove” that you will be a valuable asset to the company via your good work habits.

Getting my foot in the door helped me sort out what type of job would suit me best. I realized that the power structure of most workplaces was not a good environment for me. I didn’t like having a boss! I have heard of “nice” bosses from friends of mine who work at such places, but I suspect it follows the money.

Having a boss was traumatic for me. The power structure of the office setting reminded me of lockup. While I was there I recall I was triggered often by the ways the bosses and supervisors acted.

The bosses have the power to toss you out of there in an instant. I hated having that hang over my head.

I still hate it, hate the feeling that I could be disposed of on anyone’s whim.  Even if I am fired unjustifiably I would have no recourse, no ability to get my job back. Many companies are aware that if they dismiss you, your likelihood of challenging what they do in the courts is next to nil. They know you will simply move on. And I did.

I have now been employed for two months, working full time at this point. I am working as an independent contractor. This is not really boss-free but there are certain freedoms one has if employed this way.

I am wary of socializing on the job. But I am finding that schmoozing with my fellow workers is helpful. We share info such as tips and tricks, and clear up any work-related questions by butting our heads together.

The more you get your feet wet, the better. I don’t think anyone can just start up a business from scratch without some kind of financial backing or wide social support (like hundreds of people willing to help advertise).

Likelihood of getting a loan while on disability is next to nil unless your credit is very good. You are likely to succeed if you have a willing co-signer, though.

I suppose certain skilled workers might be able to start up from scratch. You could ask your neighbors if they want their grass cut, for instance. I am not sure you could make enough money going that route. Likely it depends on the neighborhood.

I gave up on EBay very quickly, realizing that the venue is flooded with big sellers who bump out the little guys. I couldn’t sell anything on there! I took my items off after a month. I had no views, no visibility, no chance of getting noticed by buyers at all. I doubt too many people actually make good money on Etsy, either, though you hear of some that do. Knitting, for me, isn’t profitable because of the time it takes to knit and the cost of materials. I would actually lose money if I made and sold dog sweaters.  Selling baked goods would also lead to the same issue (remember, baked goods aren’t durable!). My region is so impoverished that I would be better off just giving the stuff away. People cannot even spare 50 cents.

As a patient, I had no clue of this. I thought I could “sell stuff” or write a book and make money off of it. I had unrealistic ideas about making money simply because I had been kept from earning anything for decades. I had such limited exposure that it wasn’t possible, while I was still a patient, to set the bar at the right place.

Take, for instance, the average yard sale. People pull in hundreds in a day. However, doing a yard sale is exhausting! If you have ever done one you learn this. My mom put on a yard sale ages ago. I helped out and sold some of my stuff there. You need a yard or driveway, first of all. Many don’t have that. You need helpers such as a spouse, neighbors, or family. It is an all-day affair and exhausting to advertise, deal with early birds, and later, clean up. We made hundreds of dollars, which we split between us. Some of our stuff got stolen right out of the yard. Mom said she really never wanted to do it again. We hadn’t realized the work that would have to go into it. When you figure how much we made, and figure in the several days it took to organize and pull it off, I believe we didn’t make that much after all.

I know people who cut hair for money, providing a skill that requires training or extensive learning. You might make pocket change that way, but getting a business off the ground to the point where you are pulling in enough profit to live on is a totally different story. Patients are clueless about taxes and zoning laws! Had I continued to do life coaching I suspect it would have been similar. It was not a viable career for the grads of my class, despite the hype. They have either incorporated the training into a business they already have, or they’ve given up. The class taught us unrealistic expectations which I had to scrap after a while.

It took time for me to learn these things. It took time for me to see employment realistically. I am kinda sorry I shelled out the bucks for the life coaching class, and sorry that I believed the school’s promise of an instant career. I don’t know a single grad who ended up with an instant career. Not one. Pocket change for a few, total loss for many.

I have learned of a few well-paying careers that don’t require extensive work history. A few do not require a background check. I am not sure about Uber. Has anyone had experience with them? I have heard there is a demand for truck drivers and many of these jobs provide training for the license. You can hook into something like TaskRabbit, but it’s just about all yard work. If you are skilled and experienced at yard work, it might work out for you. There are classes in medical coding but you don’t actually need to take a class in it if you can teach yourself how. Most employers give you the training on the job because they want it done a certain way. Real Estate training is also short-term. If you can set yourself up it’s a lucrative way to earn money.

Most patients I know have unrealistic expectations. They think they’ll get a job in an instant, or that finding one is easy. This simply isn’t true. The market for decent employment is tough out there.

Inability to find work isn’t a disability, by the way…..It is a reflection of the job market, not a reflection on you.

Keep trying and don’t give up.



Feedback and comments welcome!