After almost 4 years total, I finally have an appeal hearing date in October! It’s been a long, painful journey to get here. So many doctors, tests, medicines, side effects, failures, doubts, fear, depression, anxiety, panic, and anger. Anger at having to prove my pain as real and not contrived. Having to validate to others that I AM as sick as I say I am. Hearing strangers tell me I should be working. Others are worse off than I. I’m taking advantage of benefits I don’t deserve. I’m lazy. I’m faking. I just want to sit at home and watch television. Even worse than strangers stating these opinions are those I once considered friends. People who worked alongside me when I had a bucket by my desk from the nausea. Co-workers and bosses saying I looked fine, why was I doing this? Close “friends” who got tired of me cancelling on them. Telling me to “get over it!” The hurt this caused will never be forgotten. Trust was lost. I became hard, distant, keeping to myself. I was always so social. I loved being around others and didn’t really enjoy being by myself. Now it was me, myself, and I. I couldn’t count on anyone else to be there for me in my time of need. Whereas, I was always there for them. I cried for their losses, cheered for their wins, lent an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. But when I needed the support, they were gone. I don’t know if I’ll ever be the same with people. I’m distrustful, cautious, careful, where I used to be so open and welcoming. I don’t tell new people much about myself now. I smile and act happy. I downplay what they may have heard. I’m not me anymore. I don’t know if I’ll ever be again. That hurts. A lot.