As I work in the field today and see many clients with various types of disabilities who want to be treated as close to normal as possible and who always try to use appropriate or current terminology in their daily struggle for independence, it always surprises and shocks me when I run across an individual who tries to be a martyr. They struggle to overcome their disability to the point that they get into a situation where they need to have that disability documented and can’t have it done because they were too proud to get it checked, and figured it was better to struggle through without help, figuring they could manage to conquer the world on their own. Let me illustrate this situation with a real-life example: I recently expanded my practice, since I was successful passing the California Clinical Exam, by offering test coaching to candidates who have disabilities. I received a call from a client who said they had failed the clinical exam several times (which is a common occurrence for individuals who have disabilities as this test is very difficult). As I continued my brief intake interview with this individual, she asked if obtaining accommodations was difficult. Based on the symptoms she described, I am of the opinion that she is dyslexic. She thought getting accommodations was as simple as filling out a form and having her doctor sign it. I advised her that, yes, her doctor will need to sign the ‘Verification of Disability’, however, I asked if she had any documentation of her disability such as use of a Disabled Student Services division during her college career. She answered in the negative. I proceeded to tell her that without a formal diagnosis (the documentation), it would be very difficult to obtain special accommodations for the exam. I provided a sample letter for her to provide her physician in order to document her situation, normally doctors will ask for a sample letter in situations similar to this and it will suffice with a couple of edits from the doctor. Not this time–her doctor refused to sign.
When I asked why she waited this long to obtain a diagnosis, she said, “I never wanted to recognize it, I just struggled through school. Now, it’s affecting my whole career and I may have to change careers because of my stupidity and pride.” She continued to tell me that for her to get a diagnosis now, a psychologist wanted to charge her $2,500 as it was not covered by her insurance carrier. From further exploration I found, unless enrolled at a community college and using the services of Disabled Student Services, no or low cost testing and diagnosis is virtually impossible for an adult.
Although I resisted my parents efforts to step-up and identify a problem when it was in the present moment, it pays off in the long run to make sure they’re taken care of right away. I couldn’t imagine working 10 years or more to obtain a goal, always beating the odds and achieving what I needed to despite my disability, only to find out that my invisible disability that I had struggled to overcome and keep secret for so long, was going to prevent me from successfully completing the final licensing exam I needed to pass to achieve my career goal. As therapists, we discourage our clients from keeping secrets, they can hurt themselves or others with those secrets.
It’s my hope that you gain important insight from this little story, that it encourages you to step up and directly address something right away (own it, and it won’t have power over you), hoping for a successful outcome rather than struggling to overcome and letting foolish pride get in the way.