Surviving San Antonio on Disability

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Surviving San Antonio on Disability

by Misti Rainwater-Lites
Challenges Mental Health Disability

In 2011 I applied for disability for anxiety and depression. I was awarded disability after a consultation with a state appointed psychologist. I receive a check each month for $790. I haven’t had insurance since June 2012, when I divorced my second husband.

I do not like identifying as a victim and I do not consider myself a victim but surviving San Antonio on disability without insurance has been exceedingly challenging. I made the decision in 2013 to return to college at the age of forty. Combining the financial aid I received to attend college full-time with my disability checks was the only way I could pay rent and bills. Against considerable odds (living with anxiety and depression without medication, getting involved in a tumultuous relationship with an alcoholic, multiple moves, struggling to remain in my son’s life, my brain’s refusal to comprehend algebra) I finally received my bachelor’s of art in English with a concentration in creative writing from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2016. This did not translate to my scoring a dream job or finally achieving financial independence.

I’m forty-four years old now and living in my ex-husband’s guest bedroom. Most people don’t understand my situation but they don’t have to. It’s simple. I’ve struggled with mental health and co-dependency my entire life. I’ve never been an alcoholic or drug addict. My addiction has been to romantic relationships. I attended a Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meeting once but never returned because I broke down sobbing during the meeting and was humiliated by my breakdown. The longest I’ve ever held down a job is one year. I saw my first psychiatrist when I was nine years old and spent a few weeks on my first psych ward when I was seventeen. Prozac was the first medication I
took for my depression. I cannot count on both hands all the medications I’ve been prescribed for depression and anxiety. The most consistent diagnosis I’ve received is “major depression” but in 2011 a psychiatrist diagnosed me with bipolar II.

Without insurance and medication, I have maintained a semblance of sanity by eating well (I rarely eat meat/I mostly live on kale and various fruits and vegetables/I drink lemon water and
green tea almost exclusively), taking supplements (St. John’s Wort, for example), sleeping a lot, listening to binaural beats and meditating. I’m fortunate that my ex-husband cares enough about me and my role in our son’s life to let me live in their home. I am a solitary person by nature and I’m intensely creative but it grounds and centers me sharing a home with my son and devoting more time to him than I would if I had my own place across town.

Someday I hope to create a lucrative freelance writing and editing career for myself. I hope to someday be able to buy insurance, a home, a decent vehicle. I’d love to be able to travel and promote my books. Right now I’m learning the basics. Right now I’m learning how to breathe.