Rheumatoid arthritis and claiming ‘invalidity’ and disablement part two


rheumatoid handYesterday I saw a psychiatrist, as the second and final medical appointment arranged by my superannuation fund to determine whether I am truly ‘Totally and Permanently Disabled’, to use their phrase.

The day before I saw an Occupational Doctor, who assessed my Rheumatoid Arthritis as severe, and told me that he would be recommending release of my funds.

The appointment yesterday with the psychiatrist was very similar.  She didn’t do a physical examination, but took a medical history and work history.  She focussed particularly on any history of depression.

I did have a period in my early twenties where I suffered depression.  It wasn’t clinical depression in the sense that it just descended upon me for no discernable reason.  Depression is often described that way to me…no rhyme nor reason.  But it wasn’t like that for me.  I had very good reasons for being depressed.

It took several months to unravel my problems.  Then it took years to get over the damage.  But I came out of it having learned valuable skills to manage depression.  When I feel it taking hold, I take action.  I know what to do for myself.  I know the feelings and I know the reasons.  I always know what is at the core of my low mood.

Knowing the reasons for depression doesn’t always mean you can resolve it, however.  Obviously I become depressed sometimes because of my physical condition.  The pain. The exhaustion.  The isolated little world of nothing that my life could become if I’m not careful.

I can’t fix my physical state.  So I work on my mental state.  I have my psychologist. I have a few good friends.  I am mindful and grateful for all the good things I still have. My focus is usually firmly on what I have, rather than what I have lost.  I live very much in the present.  Too much thinking about the future, and what it might hold, is not good for me.  Too much thinking about the past and all the things I used to have is not good for me.

Life is happening now, and that’s where I keep my head.

I explained all of this to the psychiatrist.  She told me that she believes I am coping very well, and she would not consider me to be suffering from depression.  Her belief is that depression, in my case, is completely secondary to rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain, not a disease in its own right.

I would agree with that.  I think it’s the same for many of us.  Learning to manage the down days and the emotional pain is just as important as learning to manage our physical limitations. Looking after our minds and emotions is just as important as looking after our bodies.  Some days I do better than others.

She also took a more thorough work history.  My feelings about my work. How not working has affected me.  I told her that it has affected my self-worth immensely.  And one of the hardest things about being ill is not having a purpose.  Not having professional goals.  Not feeling like I am contributing, or achieving.

She asked about the specifics about resigning from my various positions.  And she asked if I thought I would ever work again.

I told her I hoped that I could work part time one day.  But I know that I will never be able to cope with a career at the level I had before I got sick.  But that I write. That I blog. That it gives me a sense of doing something constructive. That I hope other people might enjoy or find comfort in my posts.

And that has to be enough for now.

The appointment lasted about 45 minutes.  And at the end she also told me that she would be recommending that my super funds be released to me.  She cautioned that hers was only one opinion, and there were many other factors.  But she believed that I had a very good case.  And she wished me luck.

Again, I left filled with hope.  I won’t celebrate until I get official word, but I don’t see how the case can be denied at this point.  I’m sure it will still take months for the paperwork to be finalised.  And for the money to actually start to flow.  And again, we’re not talking millions.  We’re talking a bit extra every week.  But it matters. It matters a lot!

Last night I collapsed into complete exhaustion.  A perfect example of what happens when I’m under too much stress for too long.

The pain was intense.  The fatigue overwhelming.  I couldn’t think.  I couldn’t speak.  I just sat on the couch with my kids while they watched whatever they were watching.  I was so nauseous I couldn’t keep food down.  My muscles felt like they were melting down.  Such weakness…I haven’t felt that before.  I went to bed, and pretty much laid there most of the night.

There’s a level of pain that no medication can take away.  So there’s no point taking ridiculous doses. Just lie there and wait it out.

And then came the emotional crash.  The reality check that I really am in very poor physical shape.  That my body just can’t do what I want it to do.  That it breaks down, and I can’t control it.  That the simplest of choices are no longer mine to make.  That I really am ‘Totally and Permanently Disabled’.

And then an old friend came online.  And he chatted me and asked how I was.  I told him the news was good, but it was confronting and hard to accept.  And he told me:

They just made a medical assessment.  It’s not a statement of your ability, worth or character.

I really needed to hear those words at that moment.  And I thought maybe some of you might need to hear it today too.  Because it’s true.

We are so much more than our diagnoses.  So much more than what we can or can’t physically do.  And we have a whole lot more than that to offer.


  1. That sounds very hopeful and should make your life easier. You did great at holding things together and getting it done.
    When your goal for so long consists of working it’s really hard when you think you might not work but following your own inclinations and improving your health is bound to be the right answer in the future.

    Good luck with all of your plans

  2. I’m really glad that this apt was also positive and things should now start to move along. I also think your friend is a sweetheart.


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