What is the Ticket-to-Work (TTW) Program?  This is a program by the Social Security Disability Administration (SSDI) that allows persons diagnosed with a mental illness and who receive monthly benefits to re-enter or enter the workforce when he/she achieves recovery.  The program is designed for the person to work and supplement his/her income.  It is a wonderful and necessary Program.  If a disabled person can completely leave the SSDI/TTW program, they can become eligible for disability within 5 years should they become ill again with the same illness.  (Talk to a SSDI Representative and the TTW Rep.).

What is little known about this TTW Program, is that it can be used to start a business or become a business owner.  This is the movement that is opposite of the system’s point of view.  A person with a mental health diagnosis who achieves recovery success can pursue owning a business, rather than work in a market where income potential is restricted by the Program.  For example, a person receiving SSDI can only earn $X,XXX through outside employment.  What happens is that even if the person gets stronger, and a recession hits!, the rules of the SSDI Program keep the person from increasing earnings beyond what it gives as a cost-of-living increase. This is fine, but what about if mentally ill persons actually paying more in taxes? That seems a better idea to me.  What happens now, though, is that they stay in poverty on the SSDI/TTW Program largely due to the fear that if they leaves the SSDI Program and get sick again, they will not be able to receive benefits again.  This is similar to the mindset of welfare recipients. The “Program” becomes too comfortable. It becomes the ‘couch.’ It imprisons and holds persons in bondage. What then occurs is the person will put off dreams and purpose that will lead to earning more income, etc. and the consequence is living  in poverty. 

As the mental health field improves, it is possible for persons with dignoses such as Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, etc. to achieve recovery and become employable in remarkable ways.  These persons can increase the income potential and contribute more to the national econmy by way of taxes.  It is not knowing or believing that prevents this from happening on a greater scale. In our generation, we can do this.


Many persons who are living on restricted income and are in the Ticket-To-Work Program are not aware that he or she can go beyond the system’s point of view about mentally ill persons and become very successful business owners.  If there was a dream before the mental illness diagnosis of owning a business or being such-and-such, the dream can still be accomplished after the diagnosis, but mentally ill persons must change our mindsets. Today’s society must become more accepting and supportive, too.  We must not allow the labels of society or systems ‘cripple’ us or otherwise disable us from becoming our dreams.  We can use SSDI and TTW as stepping stones along the journey and not as the end of our journey.


After having a stream of doctors and therapists, I remember the very day that I sat down with my newest doctor.  He did not rush me and we had a casual conversation.  I told him all about my life as one would a doctor.  After the exam, etc., he said to me, if you trust me, let’s see if we can pick up where you left off before you became ill.  There is no reason why you cannot.  The first thing I want you to do.. (he wrote a note on a prescription pad and tore it off, handed it to me).  Go to the library and browse … see people who have a mental illness and are famous, etc.  Now, his point was not that I could be famous, but that accomplishing my dream was still possible based on the fact that I shared with him that my life ended as far as career, etc. when I got ‘sick.’  That was the source of my anger that contributed to my rebellion to take my meds as prescribed.


Long story short, I was so excited and encouraged to know that I was not alone in the world with a mental illness and I could still do something with my life.  I made a promise to take my medications like I was suppose to and trust my new doctor.  I knew I was not going to be Albert Einstein or Patty Duke, but I did want my own dream to come true.  This is what I reported back to my doctor.  He remained my doctor for nearly a decade and we began setting goals. 

If persons can leave the “welfare’ mindset of poverty by being confined to TTW, he/she can not only earn more income, he/she can pay higher taxes into the American economy to strengthen it and him or herself even more.  This will do wonders for self-esteem which will do wonders for sustaining self-worth as a valuable member in society. This is a key factor in staying well. How important are you to self? How important are you to others? Of course, there is still healthcare and mental healthcare with either Medicare or Obamacare. 

The ‘fear’ that chains people to poverty can be conquered.  Fear stops people from fulfilling dreams and purposes.  I am not afraid anymore to pursue my dream.  If I sit back and accept what the system limits me to, I cannot ever fulfill my purpose.  That was the transformation of the mind that kept me in the race for me, my children, and the greater mentally ill community.  We can all do this for ourselves, loved ones, family, community, and the nation by encouraging persons with to transform his or her mindset about the possibility of recovery from a mental illness.  It has to start with honesty, though. It is NOT the end of the world for persons struggling from Depression, Chronic Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, PTSD, Diabetes, Hypertension Alcoholism, etc., but it takes hard work, commitment, focus, discipline, our heroes, and obedience to God!

Each person with a mental illness is different and responds differently to treatment.  The key word is ‘treatment.’  Do NOT fear treatment because it is the pathway to purpose or dreams!  For example, if you have mood swings and you say things to hurt others, then you are remorse (regretful) later and this is an every-day situation, you are PUSHING people away and YOU hurt yourself.  Then you become lonely and do not understand why nobody really wants you around over the holidays because they want to have ‘fun’ and not argue.  This is not alright.  You know it in your heart, but you be may ‘fearful’ that you are out of control of your emotions, afraid of the holiday season, being around people, afraid to admit something is wrong with you, etc., etc..


Commit to humbling yourself in the New Year with a goal of making an appointment to see a mental health therapist.  Talk therapy is beneficial to letting go of things that hurt but you cannot talk about it with friends or family — but it eats at you night and day.  If someone reminds you  of what is eating at you, your mood is negatively affected.   However, you must swallow your pride and begin the journey to mental wellness.  You may have a TREATABLE mental health condition!  If you do, get the treatment recommended by the doctor because it will be affordable and you can still work on your dreams!This is the true meaning of ‘GET COVERED” as far I see it. Get the mental health services with Obamacare and use it!

After I began mental illness treatment, I participated in NAMI’s program known as Peer-to-Peer that helped me to accept my diagnosis and then develop coping strategies in dark situations. By the way, I am not an official spokesperson for NAMI; however, I recognize how they contributed to my journey to wellness and how NAMI can help persons with a mental illness.  These are my opinions based on my experience.  I encourage persons and families to participate in a NAMI program. 

It is important that when we walk this new path to mental wellness, we understand that there will be setbacks or trials and tribulations, too.  We do not allow them to defeat us.  The progress I was seeing with the new doctor and my NAMI participation, encouraged me to push daily and then another major setback  occurred. 

I had to have emergency surgery and that threw me into a Bipolar Disorder episode!  I experienced feelings of grandiose and planned this grand party explaining that I had one the million dollar lottery to friends and family.  I went shopping for an expensive car.  Well, it was more embarrassing then physically harmful and I took all measures to avoid that from happening again.  My medications were adjusted and the lesson well learned so that when I needed to have oral surgery, my doctor and I came up with a plan and we stuck to it!  I took a medical holiday a few days before and after the oral surgery under close supervision of the doctor.  This enabled me to be free from any side effects from anesthesia, etc.  Remember Bipolar Disorder is a chemical imbalance of the brain. With the plan, I was fine before, during, and after the surgery on my mouth with no episodes.  I was living on my own at the time so it was really important to me to show myself and my family that I could manage my life and mental wellness!

This also allowed me to see that my dream was obtainable as well because I saw fear face-to-face and conquered it.  The fear of having surgery and having a mental illness. With the grandiose episode I had to go into the a psychiatric hospital to stabilize the episode. On the contrary, with a plan with the oral surgery, I recovered at home and remained mental stable! Even the pain was tolerable because I could only have very minimal pain meds. (Look at God!).

Do you feel afraid you will fail in life with a mental illness?  Did you put your dreams away when you were diagnosed?  Do you pretend living in poverty is alright because you have Medicare if you get ‘sick?’  Google successful people with a mental illness and create a vision board!  This is what my first home assignment was from my doctor and I never let go of the vision.


Are you believing you can publish a book about your journey with a mental illness?  DO IT!  Your story will encourage others.  Join the movement with me.


Look for the new book release in 2014 by Agnes titled: “

    I Saw You In His Eyes

Personal Dev.



One thought on “DREAMS DON’T DIE, LABELS DO (Part 2)

  1. Pingback: DREAMS DON’T DIE, LABELS DO (Part 2) | levineoliverpublisherblog

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