Tag Archives: family

A Heart Two Sizes Too Small

I think it’s safe to say that I don’t “do” Christmas. My lack of participation has nothing to do with religion or any anti-corporate political sentiment. Christmas just never seems to work out for me, but I have no hard feelings. I don’t have any children to disappoint, and traditional Christmas activities don’t hold my interest, so I prefer to just take the day and relax and do what I want. I don’t even know why I should care or feel guilty about it. Most Americans (myself included) have too much stuff anyway, so I’m less inclined to feel guilty about not shopping. Our attics, garages, landfills, and thrift stores are full of crap no one needs. Why contribute? My mother and I used to hit the Indian casino on Christmas –before she was injured, I mean. She was blind in one eye and almost blind in the other, but she could still kind of manage certain electronic slot machines. Me? I’m a blackjack girl.

I actually love shopping. I love buying gifts. I get quite a rush when I find something interesting that reminds me of someone I love. I wouldn’t say that I have expensive taste, but my taste is at least a solid middle-class. At the moment, I am not middle class. I was thankful that I was able to give (and sell) my BFF some things that she enjoys, so I could at least give her something even if I can’t really afford to buy anything. I have mentioned this before, but I was almost certainly a compulsive shopper for many years before I experienced the events that led to my poverty. That’s really the only reason why I’ve been living like this so long and I still had so many things to sell and give away. I am still making sales online. I found a designer purse at a local Goodwill, and if it’s still there this weekend, I may buy it with sale proceeds and try to make a profit. At least I’m considering it.

Christmas was set aside this year because with my current jobless state combined with preparations for an overseas move. Last year I was unemployed and stressed. The year before that my whole team was laid off 11 days before Christmas when our jobs were outsourced. The year before that I spent a large part of Christmas in the hospital after major surgery. The year before that, I had a low-wage receptionist job and I had spent every penny and maxed every line of credit in moving expenses to get my last apartment and away from the apartment with gross people and no hot water.

Being estranged from my family makes any major holiday complicated. I’m completely okay with being estranged from them. In fact, I wish there were more distance. Estrangement –at least in my case– is a very good thing, but being “the orphan” has its downsides. It’s awkward when acquaintances ask me if I’ll be visiting my “parents” for the holiday. It’s even more awkward when acquaintances invite me to visit their parents. I went to my drunk cokehead roommate’s family Christmas celebration in 2004. Her family was very nice to me, but I was out of place. I’d never met them, but they bought me presents. I appreciated it (and still have and use many of the gifts I received) but I felt so guilty. I was stunned by how unappreciative my ex-roommate was of her parents. I had gone to her parents’ house expecting no more than a family dinner and I nearly wept when I saw that they prepared a stocking for me. They filled the stocking  with cute novelty socks, scented lotions, lip balms, and a bottle of wine. My ex-roommate received the same stocking stuffer gifts that I received and all she did was complain about them not being to her taste.

I’m uncomfortable when anyone puts out any effort for my sake, especially if they don’t even know me. Especially if I can’t reciprocate.

My current roommate invited me to spend Christmas with her family but I declined. The last time I spent a holiday with her and family members, there was hitting, slapping, and ultimately police intervention. Oh, and the phone used to call police was smashed to bits. And there was dog poop thrown at my roommate’s car — and this was all after an argument about how often to feed a cat! My family is crazy, but they aren’t that kind of crazy. I thought that things like that only happened in sitcoms. Having the house to myself for a couple of days is far better than any gathering with someone else’s family. Tomorrow or the next day, I will spend time with another friend who hates her family. That’s really the best way to spend Christmas, in my opinion.

Now that I live in a house with cable, I will watch A Christmas Story, which I don’t believe I’ve seen in full since I was maybe nine years old. Such a shame that Flick ended up a porn star.

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Bloodletting

I really don't.

From PostSecret

I’ve spent most of the past few days working intensely on my NaNoWriMo “novel.” It is going to be much, much longer than the 50,000-word goal I set for myself. I initially planned  to write a memoirs in the vein of this blog, cataloging the past several years of my life and events that led to me losing pretty much everything. But it’s not about that at all. I haven’t even touched on that. I’ve written a fair amount about my bizarre upbringing, childhood bullies, the beginnings of my health problems, my mother’s illnesses, and her drastic change in personality after years of emotional abuse and physical disability. My NaNo profile is linked to in the right sidebar; just click on my Rebel badge. If you’re doing NaNo, you should be my writing buddy. I should hit 16,000 words before I go to bed tonight.

Today is the anniversary of my mother’s death, by the way. I’m trying to ignore it. Last year, I was quite sad because it was also election day, and she had only become an American citizen about three years before her death, and I remember helping her vote and how excited she was about getting to vote in the States for the first time.

I joined a small writing group for motivation to finish my book. The more I write, the more I’m terrified of having anyone I know read it. I’m realizing a number of things: my father is mentally ill. Very seriously mentally ill. I suspected this, but I never thought about it much. Every once in a while someone will say something, usually about someone they suspect to be mentally ill, and I will have a glimmer of a memory but I squelch it. As I write down the details of incidents that occurred in my household, I have to face them and admit what was going on. I have heard through only semi-reliable sources that two of my father’s siblings and his nephew (my cousin) were diagnosed with schizophrenia. That cousin lived with us briefly when I was about four years old (he was about 15) and there was definitely something wrong with him. He kept removing the batteries in my battery-operated toys and putting them in backwards. He told me repeatedly “This is the right way to put the batteries in” and would act bewildered when I told him he was wrong. If it was a joke, it went on a really long time, because he stayed with us at least a month, and this happened almost every day. He would sneak into my room while I was at preschool and move all my batteries around. That’s my only memory of him. He used a lot of cocaine and was in an institution for a long time and for all I know he still is. In addition to the two siblings that are rumored to be schizophrenic, another one of my father’s siblings changed her name and fled to South America. She abandoned her children and no one knows what became of her. Except for my cousin, these were all deceptively functional people: a doctor, a dentist, a real estate mogul.

My father’s mental illness doesn’t make him less of an abusive prick. I cut all ties with him over seven years ago. There is nothing that could go wrong in my life that he wouldn’t make abysmally worse.

So, the memories are flooding back and I wonder how I turned out semi-reasonable. I also have many of my high school journals (though I destroyed the ones I wrote before age 15) and it’s quite appalling the number of times I was punished for reacting logically to his bad behavior. A lot of this has altered the way I react to social situations and professional situations, the way I interact with strangers, and the ways that men scare me make me nervous.

I am rereading Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy, which is part of my inspiration. I read it for the first time when I was about 18. It is the memoirs of a woman who had a rare form of cancer as a child and the surgery she had as a result left her disfigured. Lucy Grealy died of a heroin overdose in 2002. While I did not have cancer as a child, I had other illnesses that altered my appearance and I went through many of the same experiences. Some of her experiences are so similar to mine that it drains me to read. I was so engrossed in the book last night that I missed my bus stop on the way home from my writer’s group. Unfortunately, that also meant that I missed the last bus, so I could not transfer and had to walk over two miles through the ghetto, doing my best to ignore all the guys who called me “Shawty” and tried to chat me up. Two miles in my uncomfortable shoes with the soles half-off. It took me over an hour because a lot it was uphill, my shoes are in disrepair, and I have very short legs.

But enough of that. It is time for me to cuddle with my cat, crank some David Bowie, and get to 16,000 words.

I'm also kinda jealous of Mr. Bowie. That's a snuggly kitty.

I admit it --I'm jealous of this cat.

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So it begins

I don’t remember exactly when I stopped taking my thyroid medication. I probably stopped taking cytomel in August. I stopped taking levoxyl more recently, perhaps four weeks ago. I really don’t remember. So I wasn’t terribly surprised to wake up this morning and see my eyes looking like this:

It looks much worse in person.

It looks much worse in person.

My eyes are so puffy that my eyelids have rolls. My whole face has been at least slightly swollen since my early twenties. I even had episodes of swelling in my teens. For a brief period (2004-2005), that swelling went down completely. I have pictures. I wish I had more pictures because I actually looked human during that time period. I felt well, too. In March 2006 I began a temp job as a receptionist. They took my photo for the ID badge. A year later (at the same job) I looked completely different.

Back in 2003, my doctor tested me for Cushing’s syndrome and many other things because I had the swelling and extreme weight gain for no discernible reason. I had a sluggish, awkward gait that I think I have once again, and several more symptoms that just make me feel like I should apply for a job to be a mad scientist’s assistant. The only one of my tests that came back positive was for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a common autoimmune disorder. My other tests were either negative or inconclusive. My doctor wants to test me again because even when I’m on my medications, something is visibly wrong with me. As anyone who reads this is well aware, I have no money and no health insurance, so I have no access to further medical testing or treatment. There are clinics for low-income people, but none of them staffs an endocrinologist or rheumatologist (a doctor who could help treat and diagnose autoimmune diseases of connective tissue). They also require payment at time of service. The only free medical clinic I have found in my state is the horrible one I went to a few years ago. It’s about 60 miles from where I live. And I had to diagnose myself and tell the doctor what drugs to give me. I got what I paid for.

Prior to my mother’s death, she had promised to pay for me to stay at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and get all this sorted out. This is also partly why I quit the only decent-paying job I’ve ever had. It was bad enough that she died, but she died with her legal and financial affairs in complete disarray, and I had no idea. It wasn’t entirely her fault, but she had put her faith in people who proved themselves to be incompetent and untrustworthy when it came down to business. And I put my trust in people, too. If I had known all of the details about what was happening, I wouldn’t have trusted her or anyone else to help me, and I wouldn’t have quit my job. If I’d seen even 1% of my inheritance money, this would have been taken care of years ago. Never listen to anyone, and never trust anyone with anything ever, especially if you’re related to them.

I found a transitional housing place in Seattle that looks somewhat nice. They help single women get on their feet after crisis, including a financial crisis. I think that most of the women there have criminal records, drug problems, or are escaping domestic violence situations. They cook together and have their own rooms. I couldn’t take my cat, but I could tolerate that. It is $365 or so a month, which I can’t afford but if I got a part-time job or something then maybe I could. I left them a message yesterday. I imagine I’ll have to stay somewhere free until I can figure out what else to do. Even now I have barely packed at all. I am really embarrassed by how much of a hard time I’m having just with simple tasks. I suppose it’s hard to pack when I don’t know when I’m going, where I’m going, or how I’m going to take anything with me.

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Filed under fml, health, Obstacles

Who can it be now?

Another day, another knock at my door I don’t answer. I’m starting to think that my landlord and rental agency are as clueless about eviction as I am. It seems odd that they would try to approach me in person when I have not received so much as a phone message from them in about a month and I have received no eviction-related documents since my three-day pay-or-vacate notice. There have been no notes left on my door, which is even more confusing. I live in a condominium with no on-site manager. Why would someone drive all the way out here unannounced without leaving a note? The pay-or-vacate notice was left on my door, but that is all.

I can only assume it is someone who wants to talk to me about eviction. This person knocks on my door persistently, and does not approach my neighbors’ condos. Whoever he is, he is here to see me. The only reason anyone stops by my place uninvited is to get something from me. I tell myself sometimes that I will answer my phone next time a debt collector calls, and I told myself tonight that I will answer the door the next time this happens. But I probably won’t. If I had an income I might have more confidence in this matter, but as of now I don’t.

Today I drank a Diet Rock Star, a drink that can wake the dead. I hoped that by drinking it I would find the energy to pack and clean out my place a little, but I was fast asleep an hour later. I have barely moved on paring down my belongings. I have also stopped applying for jobs. I have reached the pinnacle of my exhaustion. I’m becoming more fearful that there is something very wrong with me health-wise. I have only mentioned some of my chronic health issues here, and it’s not something I really care to get into yet, but I started showing signs of illness around ten years old. I have been diagnosed with a couple of problems, but my diagnoses do not explain many other symptoms I have. I’m definitely not a hypochondriac, even though I have often been treated as such. My symptoms are visible, undeniable, and run in my family, but my medical tests are always negative or inconclusive. These issues only add to my overwhelming fatigue. Despite having a father who was a doctor, I have never had proper, consistent healthcare. My parents never took me to doctors, even when at age 12 I became violently ill and developed vertigo and intrusive pulsatile tinnitus, the latter of which I still have to this day. I still get vertigo on occasion, too, but never to the degree I had it in childhood. There were multiple occasions when I had to crawl because I couldn’t walk without vomiting or falling. I haven’t had an incident like that in about 11 years (knock on wood). By the time I was old enough to go to doctors regularly on my own, I had been disowned by PsychoDad and didn’t have a job that offered health insurance. I finally got good health insurance just in time for my Cancer Scare of ’06, but I lost my job six months after the surgery that left me scarred and hormonally wonky, for lack of a better term. It wasn’t cancer, fortunately, but no one knew that so my stress levels extremely high. Not that knowing would have changed much. It still would have been stressful and life-altering.

One of my biggest personality flaws is that I don’t ask anyone for the help I need until it’s too late. I had this problem in college and graduate school. I have had this problem at jobs. I’m doing it again right now and I don’t know how to stop it. I seem to have personal drama going on all the time, and I will struggle, struggle, and struggle with school or work all the while thinking “I can do this!” and by the time I realize that I can’t it’s too late. I’ve been asked in several situations “Why didn’t you tell me there was a problem? Why didn’t you ask for help?” My response is always “I really thought I could handle it.” But sometimes I can’t. My awareness of this personality flaw hasn’t stopped me from doing it time and time again. I guess I don’t know where the line is between self-sufficiency and foolishness. I can’t stop all of the drama, but I should be able to improve the way I cope.

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Hope in shambles

Today I had the phone interview with the manager at the company that has (once again) been toying with me. I think it went well, except he asked me some very specific questions about Microsoft Excel that I was unable to answer. I was able to answer his questions about conditional formatting, but not the questions about pivot tables. I hope that was acceptable. The pay for this job starts at $14 an hour and it requires 5 years of publishing experience. Jobs of this caliber typically pay $25 to $30 an hour…if not more. When I was hired for my last job, my recruiter told me “I realize that this pay rate is abnormally low, but they know that people will work for it, so they’re not going to budge.” I imagine that this other company holds a similar stance.

The job actually sounds somewhat exciting. They have made a few changes since I last worked there, and there have been some innovations that I would genuinely love to be a part of. I became very nervous when I realized that they want the new hire to begin this Tuesday. That made it much more tangible, more real. My bills are so steep that a $14 an hour job is not enough to save me. My basic bills will not be covered –even if I were to move without accruing any moving expenses, even if I gave up my car. I’m in far too deep.

I had a flexible spending account for medical costs at my last job. I am still eligible for reimbursement. It’s difficult, however to spend money in order to be reimbursed when I don’t have the money to spend in the first place. I sent in my receipts last week, and was expecting a $95 check. I received a $20 check. That $95 would have gotten me out of the red. Weeks ago, I deposited money in my bank account to prevent an overdraft, but I was a few hours too late, apparently. That set off a chain of events and I have been charged $140 in fees just in the past two weeks. That’s more than I made last month. I have not yet deposited the $20, but my current bank balance is -$88. I have fourteen cents in savings. Now I have to call customer service and ask what happened to my extra $75. I have a feeling that they want extra documentation. I wish I didn’t care. I wish that $75 weren’t so damn important. I wish this all didn’t seem so life-or-death, but it does. It fucking does.

Every few hours it seeps in and I become hyperaware of my situation. I’m always aware of it, but most of the time it does not seem real. I have always been able to detach myself from reality to the point where I feel like I’m watching a movie where I am the star. It isn’t really happening. I don’t like it, but I’m powerless as I watch the world interact with me, attack me, reach out to me. And it won’t matter because in my head it isn’t real. I’ll meander around online, looking up resources about panhandling and sleeping on the streets. I remain detached, not even processing it or thinking it through while I do such things. The most mundane activities are always a trigger. I emptied my dishwasher this morning, and as I handled each dish I pictured myself wrapping the clean plates in newsprint to pack away. But after I pack them, where will I put these things? I can’t pay for a storage unit. Although my plates are inexpensive, I don’t want to get rid of them because how will I replace them? I will need plates, just like I will need a bed and somewhere to sit. If I do end up on the streets, I know (hope) it will be only temporary. I can’t get myself to part with things I know I can’t replace. Things I know I need.

My father is a doctor and my mother was a nurse. My father grew up in an impoverished country. I won’t say which one, but it is one of the poorest nations in the world, and my father has known more poverty than anyone who is reading this now. I can come onto this blog and whine all I want about not paying my rent or my car payment, or having to sell my things, or having to go to a soup kitchen, but that’s not real poverty. That’s not what my father’s family went through. He and I do not get along and have not spoken in seven years.

I hate him. I’ve hated him almost as long as I can remember. Sometimes I feel guilty for hating him because I know he has had it rough and perhaps he cannot help the things he does. His upbringing warped him.

He was terribly abusive to both me and my mother. Especially my mother. I don’t want to blame him. He’s hurting. He’s awkward. He doesn’t know how to communicate or express himself. He doesn’t know how to talk and he doesn’t know how to listen. And I don’t think he cares.

I will always remember every hurtful thing he said and every hurtful thing he did. I wrote recently about horrible things said to me in job interviews, and part of me wonders if I somehow project a persona that people want to yell at, belittle, or humiliate. I am more accustomed to cruelty than I am kindness. A friend said to me once “It seems like a lot of people say really awful things to you.” It’s true.

My father always thought I was disgusting and stupid. When I was 13, he physically cornered me and wouldn’t let me walk away as he yelled in my face for nearly 30 minutes telling me over and over that I must be mentally retarded because it was impossible for a normal person to be as stupid as I am. That incident happened in 1992, but it might as well have happened last week. When I was 15, my father yelled at me in front of an entire class because he saw me eat frozen yogurt. He said I was “like a farm animal, always eating.” I couldn’t eat in front of him because he would bring me to tears –even in restaurants. Months after the classroom incident, I ran away from home (however briefly) after he chased me around and whipped at my legs with a belt. Out of all of that I was the one who got sent to a psychiatrist. He told me to change my last name, so that no one would associate him with the retarded girl. He regularly made fun of my face and my voice. He told me that I should never speak again because every word I said made me look more and more stupid. To this day I hate eating in front of people, and I am on a constant quest to prove my intelligence while avoiding conflict. I have a high IQ and a master’s degree, but I would really like a PhD. I don’t have a very good reason for wanting a PhD; I just feel that people would be less likely to treat me like I’m stupid if I have one.

My older brother is a far scarier, more abusive version of our father. The difference is that he didn’t have an upbringing that warped him, at least not any more than I did. There is no excuse for his behavior, and I haven’t spoken to him in nearly five years. If I were to list the litany of crazy, mean-spirited things he has done to me, most people would probably think I was making it up. After all, who is really that cruel, especially to a sibling? Well, my brother is. Two friends of my mother’s observed his behavior towards me and they were absolutely confounded. I suppose one day I will get revenge by writing about his misdeeds in a tell-all book, but until then I’ll just be vague.

But I don’t want revenge. I just don’t want them to win. This, to me, is the worst thing about being poor –the shame of failure. I grew up being treated like a failure, and here I am failing at life. I worked through college and graduate school, put all of my focus on my career in an effort to prove that I could take care of myself and succeed on my own. But I haven’t. They’ve already won, but I’d rather live on the streets than let them find out.

I hope I don’t hate myself for writing this.

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