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Counseling/Newly Labelled As Disabled


Hello there. I am a 27 year old, physically healthy young woman who was recently declared mentally disabled.

I went into my states DVR program in order to try and get into school and have the help I desperately need for when I manage to get in. The program only handles disabled or severely troubled individuals, by figuring that out, they make you take a load of tests. Well, the end result was I was in fact mentally disabled.

Everything that is wrong with me now makes sense, the learning disabilities, the comprehension struggles, the depression, social anxiety. I was also abused by my father as a child, mentally. But my problem is... how do I deal with this now?

I really haven't gotten a chance to process this, even though this was done months ago, my mother kept this from me, I have no idea why. Part of me believes it is because she didn't want to give me a way out of my responsibilities, which I am not looking for... but something to make life a little more bearable would have been nice a bit ago. I really have no one to talk to. I am without any insurance and have not gone for SSI because I just found this all out within the last few days.

I feel... deeply ashamed now. Like I was born wrong... a mistake. That might be my years of abuse talking... but it just, doesn't feel as relieving as I thought it would. Everything should make sense... but it just feels... ugly. I feel my mother doesn't know how to handle it herself. I am the youngest of two and my brother suffers no mental disabilities. I was always the sensitive, awkward but wild child. My father for years said I was just a bad kid, lazy, undisciplined. He believed there was nothing truly wrong with me... when now there is, and legal papers say it now. But I just feel wrong now. I cry each time I am by myself and I try to process it...

My relationships have been horrible throughout my life. Even my friendships. Now I feel I cannot even connect with people because the minute they find out I am disabled, I will never be looked at as a human. I dated someone with aspergers syndrome, so I saw first had how people reacted to him and to the knowledge he was autistic... I don't want that...

What do I do?

Hello C.

The timing of your question is incredible, in light of the fact that I just listened to a one hour program on the Internet radio podcast called, "This American Life" that focused almost entirely on the process of declaring people as disabled. There are politics and economics behind this, and I think you would benefit by understanding the big picture behind this whole matter of declaring someone as disabled. You can listen to the program here (click on "Launch Player").

I like a lot of what you're saying. You say that you don't want to find a way out of your responsibilities, and that is excellent. You said that you wanted help with your schooling, and that is excellent. Everyone needs help.

You also said that you don't want to be seen by others as disabled, and that is very good. I suggest that you never, ever accept any negative labels of any kind about yourself, no matter what. Take that word, "disabled" and put it on a shelf in your mind, under the heading "Maybe not." It is my firm belief that the labeling of human beings does more harm than good. You are an individual person, with your own unique strengths and the rest of us. Focus on your strengths and rise above your perceived limitations.

Think of Helen Keller, who could not see, hear or speak and became an author and fully functioning person. There is a motivational speaker in current times who has no arms or legs, and he makes an excellent living traveling the world inspiring others to rise above their limitations. And that is only two...there are many, many more who inspire us to build on our strengths rather than being held back by our difficulties.

I strongly recommend that you do these journaling and imagery processes, to address and begin healing from the abuse you experienced as a child. These are powerful tools, and the more you use them, the better they will work for you. This will definitely help you, C. I use these exercises personally, and recommend them to my clients on a regular basis.

I believe you are an intelligent and highly capable young woman, with some very unique and individual learning styles and patterns. Having worked with many people over the years who were victims of child abuse, I'm also convinced that some or perhaps all of your difficulties emerge from the abusiveness from your father. The type of verbal abuse you describe from him is extremely damaging to your self image and self confidence...and yet here you are...from my perspective, strong and trying hard too move ahead.

When you use the imagery processes I referenced above, you'll be going into your own past memories, and telling that beautiful child (that was you in your past and is still here in your present) that she is brilliant, talented and capable.

I also encourage you to consider this: Taking the financial benefits associated with being labelled as "disabled" could potentially be detrimental to you. Once you start receiving these benefits, there will be limitations on your work and earnings, and it will have a psychological impact as well. I have seen this happen many times, where the individual feels they must continue to have problems, in order to justify the continued financial support. Then, you are "penalized" if you get better, because the income stops. Financial income is a strong motivator, and you want to make sure that it motivates you to improve yourself and your life, not hold you back.

Feel free to write again with any further questions.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore


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William DeFoore, Ph.D.


I can answer questions about depression, anxiety, anger issues, marriage issues, parenting, addiction issues and general life coping problems. I will give a positive perspective, offering encouragement and an action plan about the next best steps for you to take.


I have been in practice as a counselor for over 38 years, working with individuals, couples and families with good results.

I am the author of: *Anger: Deal With It, Heal With It, Stop It From Killing You. Health Communications, Inc. 2004. *Anger Among Angels: Shedding Light On The Darkness Of The Human Soul. Health Communications, Inc. 2000. *Serai: Bringing The Children Home. Wingspan Press, 2007

B.A. in Sociology; M.A. in Clinical Psychology; Ph.D. in Counselor Education; Licensed as a Licensed Professional Counselor

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