Tag Archives: fml

Good Riddance, 2009

It’s New Year’s Eve, and the last thing I want to do is go out and celebrate. I don’t want to stay home either, as the roommate will probably be here as well and I won’t be able to hide away by myself. I’ve spent a lot of today watching the Twilight Zone marathon on Syfy. I feel content while doing this, even though they keep playing this depressing tear-jerker of a commercial.

At this point I suppose this blog will transform into a chronicle of the depths of my depression as opposed to a blog about my lack of money. My roommate continues to make my life more difficult than it needs to be. Again, I appreciate her kindness, but it’s not a license to treat me like crap. I’m just trying to mind my own business.

For many years I have had issues with chronic fatigue and exhaustion, which can lead me to sleep for abnormally long periods of time. Lately, however, I’ve been battling insomnia. I sleep in the basement to keep my cat quiet, and even with the space heater I am awake most of the night, shivering. When I do fall asleep, I am plagued by nightmares, generally about money. I don’t really remember the dreams very well, but they are usually about being threatened and harassed by people who want money from me. I do recall a dream that the police officer who called me annoying had broken into my old apartment and began taking everything I owned in order to pay off some mystery debt. I generally wake up in a heart-racing panic that someone is after me or will cause me bodily harm.

My British passport is still “in processing” even though I’ve paid all the fees for it. From what I’ve gathered, it’s stuck somewhere in London and there will be more details available next week. I became a bit concerned when the passport did not arrive at Mom 2’s house, so I rode the bus to my old apartment to see if UPS had been by. I worried that they had shipped to my billing address instead of my shipping address. On my old door was a huge legal document. It wasn’t a summons, but it was about 40 pages of jargon and it discussed what I owe my previous landlords and how they wanted to sue me. They had attempted to summon me several times, but I wasn’t around. Of course I wasn’t around — I moved! I am judgment-proof, which means they can’t collect anything from me. They only want $1400 plus court fees, but I have nothing to collect. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be a judgment against me, and it also means that I have to prove that I have nothing to collect. I haven’t really begun to process that yet. To add insult to injury, two other creditors of mine are threatening me with lawsuits, and one in particular is sure to carry it out. I’ve tried to talk to them, but all they do is yell. That doesn’t sit well with me considering a) the recent bailouts b) the relatively small amount I actually owe and c) the large sums of fees and interest I’ve handed over the past several years. I have already paid much, much more than I’ve borrowed. If I make small payments, the account will stay on my credit indefinitely. Call me a thief, but I feel it best to just let it drop off my record and let them write off a loss. I just don’t care. I’m also likely to get sued over the balance of my car, though no one has threatened me with that yet. I suppose they have to auction the car first.

Judgments in Washington state will stay on your credit report for 10 years. Truth of the matter is, the minute I get another job, I’ll be in worse shape than I was at my last job — bleeding money, unable to afford rent and utilities, and even less able afford bankruptcy. Ten years doesn’t seem like such a big deal anymore, especially since it’s already shot for the next seven. And I’m moving to a country with a different credit system. I don’t suppose I’ll really need credit, anyway. All I will want is a phone and eventually I might like to rent a room in some slummy house, which may not even require a credit check.

I’m a bit frustrated with my medical care once again. Several weeks ago, I suddenly developed a pea-sized hard lump on my big toe. In spite of its size, this lump was incredibly painful and I couldn’t even wear regular shoes. Even lying down on my side hurt if the inside of my foot touched the surface I was lying upon. I walked with a limp. I saw and felt the lump. My doctor saw it. Two of my friends saw it. Yet somehow it didn’t show up on an X-ray. Even more mysteriously, it stopped hurting and disappeared.

Signs point to gout, which would be odd as I don’t fit the profile. I don’t drink very much. I don’t meat. However, gout has been linked to chronic anemia (check) and hypothyroidism (check).

Not only did the mystery lump not show up in an X-ray, but my blood tests came back normal. I often feel like there are gremlins that follow me wherever I go just to mess around with my medical tests.

It went away, so the doctor says I shouldn’t be concerned, but I am in case it happens again. I think that my uric acid levels had returned to normal by the time I got the test as I had already had the lump at least three weeks before I got blood drawn. That’s really the only explanation I can come up with. A bunion wouldn’t have appeared that quickly, nor would it have vanished like that. Pea-sized masses of bone don’t vanish into nothing. Same with bone spurs, which wouldn’t have been on that part of the foot anyway. I have worn heels maybe 5 days in the past 10 years.

The worst was that the doctor implied that it was nothing at all.  I seem to be prone to this sort of thing. Odd “spells” of undiagnosable and painful conditions, and I’m so slow to go to doctor (either because of lack of money or insurance or my own tendency to dismiss my own needs) that nothing ever comes of anything. Story of my life, I suppose.

I will probably be doing some dog-sitting for a friend if I can get myself out of bed. I don’t really feel like getting out of bed even though I can’t sleep.

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Filed under Depression, fml, health, Home Life, Uncategorized

Stop This Rain (or Poverty-Induced Nightmares, Part 2

The repo incident, continued from here.

I don’t know how I fell asleep after that, but I did. Sleep is my escape. On the morning of April 6, I woke up earlier than usual because I had to take the bus all the way to work without using the Park & Ride like normal. Not having my car added an extra 30 minutes to my commute each way. I was already a partial bus commuter, so I didn’t have to make too big a change, but I still spent well over three hours each day on buses. Ghetto buses. I used my breaks at work to call the car loan company to figure out what to do.

When I first called, they told me that I would have to pay off the entire remaining balance on the car in order to get it back. That’s on top of about $400 in repossession fees and more in late fees. There was no way for me to get that kind of money in the time they allotted me. I reminded them that I had told them at least twice in advance that I would pay them in full on or before April 7. I also told them that I had tried to pay on April 3, both online and over the phone. I had tried to contact them at a reasonable hour, but I was thwarted by their business hours and my time zone. I reminded them that I had been unemployed for 15 months and that I had still managed to pay them on time every month for more than a year, but I’d had some additional difficulties and I fell behind after a long struggle.

The representative was sympathetic, and said she would see if they would make an exception for me. She was unable to tell me immediately the exact amount I needed to pay to get my car back.

I called back day after day. The silliest thing about it was that if they had actually listened to me, they would have already had their money, but because of their own haste, I was just sitting on it. Towards the end of the week, the representative at the car loan company told me that I could have my car back if I paid $1500. I was initially about $700 behind, and my third car payment had been due on April 12. They wanted the three full car payments and $450 in late fees and repossession fees. I hadn’t spent much money from my student loans, and I was working, so I was able to come up with $1500 on my next payday (during the week of April 13). I would have had to ignore other bills, but I could do it. I was also unable to buy books for school, which is what a large portion of that money was for. Technically, it was illegal to use a federal student loan to pay for something completely unrelated to school. I just wanted the car back so I could put the ugly mess behind me, and that was the only money I had.

After a repossession, they will not allow you to pay with a check or credit card, and the representative told me that the fastest way to pay would be through Western Union. There was a Western Union kiosk at a grocery store that was a ten-minute walk from my office, so I went there during my lunch break.

Prior to wiring the money at the main counter, I had to call Western Union on a phone at the customer service desk. When a customer picks it up, the phone calls Western Union automatically. It’s like the Bat-Phone only it connects you to the depths of customer service hell.

As soon as I picked up the phone, I was given a long list of automated warnings and instructions. I was told not to send money to any Nigerian princes or to anyone who may have informed me that I won a foreign lottery I had never entered. The message went on a long time, describing various ways that I could be scammed and warning me not to send money if I was in a situation that resembled any of their examples. After all of that, I finally got to speak to a customer service representative.

I asked the representative if I could give her my bank account information and wire the money that way. She said that there was no problem with that. She asked all of her questions (which took about 15-20 minutes), and then she gave me some kind of confirmation number. I went to the main desk with my confirmation number, and they told me that they only take cash. I did not have $1500 plus fees in cash. I couldn’t withdraw that much from my account in one day. I wanted to have the money wired directly from my account. I called back on the Bat-Phone. I’m not sure why. I guess I wanted to plead.

I listened to the automated warning about Nigerian princes again. I answered all the ridiculous questions again. I told the customer service representative what I wanted, and she said that she had to transfer me to a different department. She did –and I had to answer all of the questions and listen to the stupid message a third time. I had been doing this for about an hour at this point, I was supposed to be at work, and I had initially predicted it would take no more than twenty minutes.

I gave the next representative all of my bank account information, but then the bank refused to authorize the transaction. I realized that $1500 (actually $1564 with the fees) was an uncharacteristically large amount for me to withdraw at once. I begged the representative to stay on the line just a few minutes until I could call my bank on my cell phone because I was really pressed for time and I simply did not have 20 more minutes to call back and answer all those questions again. She agreed.

I called my bank and they verified my identity and lifted the hold. I was free to spend $1564. I spoke again to the Western Union representative and said “Okay, the bank lifted the hold! Can you run it again?” She said “no.”

“What?!”

“I’m sorry, your transaction declined, please call back another time.”

“But there was just a simple hold because it’s a large amount of money! It’s fine now!”

Again, she refused to process my transaction. I was pissed. I told her that I had just spoken with my bank. In fact, she probably heard me on the phone with my bank because she was just sitting there while I was talking on my cell phone. She continued to refuse to request the wire. I got very angry at this point and demanded to talk to her supervisor. Her supervisor came on the line and immediately started asking me the same questions I had already answered multiple times. Once she got to the Nigerian prince stuff, I just hung up.

I picked up the phone again and once the automated message started again I just hit zero zero zero zero zero zero zero until the zero button just stuck. I slammed the phone down so hard I think I broke it.

I stormed out of the store and walked towards my office. I glanced at my cell phone to see what time it was, and I saw that I had missed a call and had a voice mail. The voice mail message was from a man at Western Union. He asked me to return his call in regards to some money I had just transferred. I called back at the number he gave me, and I got through to someone right away. I gave them some basic information, and they told me to disregard the call because no money had gone through.

There was a payday loan establishment close to my office, and they had a sign out front that said that they would send money. I figured it was worth a shot. I was already late in returning from my lunch break and probably going to get in trouble at my brand new job. Might as well be shot for a sheep as a lamb, as my mother would always say.

I was a bit dismayed that the payday loan office also used Western Union, but I really just wanted to send the money off. I never knew it would be so difficult to give money away.

The process at the payday loan place was simpler, but once again the transaction was denied — this time for insufficient funds. I knew the money was there. It had been there when I had the other representative on the phone, and I had just lifted the hold, so what now?

I called the bank again. My bank gives account balance once you enter in your account number, before you ask to speak to a representative. There was over $1500 missing from my account.

I called Western Union customer service to tell them that they had somehow wired my money after telling me that they hadn’t, and I wanted a confirmation number so that I could give it to the car loan company. They asked me some questions and went through their records, and told me that they had not sent any money on my behalf. I even gave them the original confirmation number I was given the first time I called. They said that my original transaction had been canceled and that they absolutely had not wired any money from my bank account.

“But clearly you have. My money has vanished.

They told me over and over again that they had not sent my money. I called the bank again. They verified that Western Union had definitely sent my money, and they gave me a transaction number. The number did not help me deal with Western Union, but was good for my own verification. I called Western Union again and told them that my bank had verified the transaction and gave me a transaction number. This may be obvious, but my bank’s transaction number did nothing to prove or disprove any of Western Union’s claims. The bank’s transaction number could not double as Western Union’s confirmation number, and was no good to my car loan company.

I called the car loan company. They told me that they had not received any money from me, and actually could not claim the money from Western Union until I provided them with a Western Union confirmation number. I called Western Union again. And again. And again. A few times, I got disconnected. A few times I hung up to call either the bank or the car loan company again. Several times, Western Union would transfer me to an automated system that would ask me to enter my confirmation number — which was what I was calling to get from them. If I pressed zero, the call would be disconnected. If I just waited and didn’t enter anything, the call would be disconnected. I was then forced to start over. Every single time I had to start over, I would have to answer the same set of questions and tell them my name, the spelling of my name, my address, my phone number, the name of my bank, and my account number. I did this over and over and over for three hours.

I wanted to die. Or kill someone. Or both. I had been trying to send money (or at least find the money I may or may not have sent) for three hours, all the while missing work and (possibly worse) missing pay and annoying my new boss.

I called Western Union one last time. I don’t know what the problem had been the other many times I had called, but the woman I spoke to was finally able to give me the confirmation number to give to the car loan office. I asked her why it was such a huge ordeal to get such a simple thing, and she had no idea. Before I got in touch with her, I had spoken to at least 13 different Western Union employees who had no clue about anything.

I called the car loan office to give them the number –and once again it was after 5pm their time, and they were closed.

That night when I got home, I checked my e-mail with my stolen wi-fi to find out that my job had cut benefits for temporary employees.


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Filed under Depression, fml, Home Life, jerks, Materialism, Obstacles

I Blame Society (or Poverty-Induced Nightmares, Part 1)

I hope they send Emilio Estevez next time.

I hope they send Emilio Estevez next time.

Even though my troubles have persisted for several years now, I remained generally positive about it all until last April. I have often been told that I’m “upbeat” and that I can “see the humor in anything.” That all changed when I had my car repossessed. I can’t even think about it without clenching every muscle in my upper body.

The repossession was worse than I imagine my impending eviction will be…not because of the loss involved, but because of the way I was treated throughout the repossession process. For years, my bad luck has been somewhat of a running joke in my social circle, but in an instant it just stopped being funny. The repossession was the single most degrading, humiliating, terrifying, and frustrating injustice I have experienced. It was the first time through all of this that I felt like I could never, ever win.

I’d been unemployed for 15 months, and my unemployment benefits had run out about nine months prior. I’d been applying for at least three jobs a week, but to no avail. I was still in grad school and living on student loans, and I had $1100-$1300 a month to live on. My rent was $700 a month (hiked up from $550 — the average for a 1-bedroom apartment in my county is $812 per month), my car payment was $350 (go ahead and groan, I could afford it when I bought the car), my car insurance was about $70 a month, my cell phone about $50-60 a month and I spent over $60 a month on prescription drugs –after about $150 a month for health insurance. I also had one credit card bill, a debt consolidation plan, and numerous medical bills that I had to pay the University Medical Center lest I get kicked out of school. I also needed a car because there were no buses that would have taken me home from campus late at night when my classes got out. I had to pay for gas and sometimes parking, too. Do that math and you can guess how well I was “getting by.” At least I had food stamps for a few months. I couldn’t find a cheaper place to live, at least not much cheaper. Even if I had moved, I couldn’t afford moving expenses and deposits, so I was stuck. I have my reasons for not having a roommate at the moment. After some childhood trauma irrelevant to this blog entry, having a roommate is strictly a last resort.

Because of my medical bills and my determination to finish graduate school, I fell behind on my car payments. I was a little over two months behind. I had not stopped answering the phone at this point, and I actually spoke to the vehicle loan people when they called me. I was offered my last job at the beginning of March. Unfortunately, the job did not start until the last week of March. I told them every time they called that I was about to begin a new job, and that my student loans for the next quarter would be coming in the first week of April. I was not sure what day in April, but no later than April 7 for sure. I told them that I could pay them off with my student loans, and would be able to continue paying them with the income from my new job. They would be paid in full on or before April 7.

We didn’t have anything in writing, but they were well aware of the situation. I was late in my payments, yes, but I had been reliable in my payments (even when unemployed) until those last two months. I had been reliable for over two years, and all I wanted was a chance to catch up and make good on my word.

My student loan money came in on April 3. I hadn’t been thinking about it that day, and I did not check my bank balance until my afternoon break. Once I saw the money was there, I went online to make a payment. I received a notice that said that I would have to call their customer service line to discuss my payment with a representative because my payment was so late. I called the phone number they gave me, but it was after 3pm Pacific time, and the office (which is located in Chicago) had already closed for the day. They were closed all weekend, too. I was annoyed but I wasn’t worried. Monday was April 6, and I had told them I would pay in full by April 7.

I went to bed at 10:30 Sunday night. I’d set reminders on my Google calendar to remind me to call them as soon as I got up. I never had the chance. At 1am I was awakened by knocking at my door. Not regular knocking, oh no. The knocking shook my walls and woke my neighbors. I don’t know what he was hitting my door with, but my doorknocker does not make a sound like this. And I have a doorbell. I ignored it at first, but it went on and on and didn’t stop. A couple of years ago, a man who lives on my street got shot on his doorstep after he answered the door in the middle of the night. This isn’t a good neighborhood. I thought that if I ignored it, it would go away. Minutes passed, and the knocking continued.

I was furious. I have an intercom and I yelled through it. I was groggy, but I believe my exact words were “It’s 1 in the morning! What the hell are you doing?!” It was too dark to see well through my peephole, but there was a man out there and he told me he was there to take my car.  My car was already chained up and attached to the tow truck. I was stunned. I told the man that I had already talked to the bank and told them I would pay by April 7, that I actually had the money, that I’d already tried to pay but the bank had been closed and that they had been closed since Friday evening. That got me nowhere, which I understand. I’m sure he hears that every day. I probably would have said something similar even if it weren’t true. But it was true.

I have a friend who is an attorney, and I had talked to him about repossession a month or so before. I told my friend that I was worried about finding a job and that if I didn’t find a job quickly, I would lose my car. He told me that if I caught the repo man in the act that I could legally stop them by protesting. I didn’t believe him, so I did some research. In most states, and certainly Washington, if the owner protests, they legally can’t take whatever it is they’re repossessing. This information is available through the office of the Attorney General. I thought it was worth a try. The man asked me through the intercom if I wanted to take anything out of my car, and I told him I would be out in a minute. I grabbed my cell phone and my purse. My brilliant plan was to stall them until about 6am so I could call the loan office as soon as it opened. I was willing to sit in my car for a few hours if I could get this mess straightened out. When I went outside I saw that there wasn’t just one repo man but three repo men. I am 5’1″ in shoes if I stand up as straight as possible. These were three tall, large, muscular, rough-around-the-edges men. The kind of dudes who wear backwards baseball caps, only talk to hot girls, and still listen to Limp Bizkit. I was a bit unnerved that there were three men banging on the door of a single woman at 1:00 in the morning. I told them that they couldn’t take my car, I wouldn’t let them. They said they were taking it no matter what. “Well,” I said. “I guess I’m sleeping in it.” I walked towards the car and unlocked the door with the remote on my keychain. The next thing I saw was the inside of the man’s elbow as he reached around my neck.

I hadn’t seen him coming until it was too late. He wrapped his right arm across my chest and then my neck while he grabbed at my keys with his left hand. I screamed and tried to shove him away from me.  He said “You just threatened my life.” For about half a second, I didn’t know what he meant, but then I realized that in my panic I had yelled “Get your hands off me, I swear I’ll fucking kill you.” I didn’t even realize that I had said that. I yelled “Who cares? You assaulted me! You grabbed me! What the hell is wrong with you?!” I backed away from him, got in my car and sat in the driver’s seat. The guy who grabbed me ran up and grabbed the car door before I could shut it. He stood between me and the car door to make sure I couldn’t close it. I don’t know why he bothered. My car was blocked in and chained up. I cried and trembled and called 911 while Repo Man leaned on my car and lit a cigarette. While I was on the phone with 911 he said “We’re going to cause a lot of damage to your car, you know,” and he blew smoke at me. Smug bastard.

Three police officers arrived and the repo men stepped away from my car. The first officer came up and asked me if I was okay. I was probably incoherent. He asked me to get out of the car and I did. My knees were knocking together and I was shaking from head to toe. It was cold, I was in my pajamas, and I had just been grabbed at 1 in the morning by this slimy bastard when I had already discussed my situation with the loan company and had already made two attempts to pay my debt. I was shaking so much I could barely stand. I have never felt such an intense physical reaction to my emotions. Once when I was in sixth grade, a bully and his friend beat me and pulled a knife on me. The repo men scared me more.

The officer asked me what had happened and I said that one of the men put me in a chokehold. Of course I meant headlock, but I was frazzled and I mis-spoke. I corrected myself after a minute or so once I realized I had said the wrong thing. I learned something about myself — I babble when I’m terrified. I sat in the car again and they questioned the three men. Of course the three repo men stuck together. It was them against me.

The repo man who grabbed me told the cops that we “just accidentally ran into each other” when he reached for my keys. The officer believed him, even though we “ran into each other” while my back was to him and I was walking away from him. One of the officers (I’ll call him Officer Asshat) asked me if I had lost consciousness. I told him that I hadn’t. He asked if I’d had any bruising. I said that none was visible at that point. He said, “Then there’s nothing to complain about.”

Officer Asshat spoke to the repo men some more, and I walked towards him because I wanted to ask him a question. “Get over there!” he barked at me. I didn’t know where he was telling me to go, or why he was telling me to go there. I just looked at him and said “What?” He yelled at me again to “Get over there!” I asked him why he wanted me to move. He said “I’m talking to this guy over here. Jeez, if you’re this annoying now, I can only imagine how bad you were when they were trying to take your car!” He laughed. Yes, Officer Asshat laughed at me and called me “annoying.”

The cops looked at me and saw a girl in the ghetto who didn’t pay her bills and was just being pouty when forced to face the consequences. I told them that the man had grabbed me, and they made it clear that they didn’t believe me. Officer Asshat interrogated me about why I had been sitting in my car. I actually lied to him, because he tried to make it sound like I was doing something illegal even though I had every right to defend my car at that point. He also asked really patronizing questions such as “Now, do you really think that these young gentlemen would come out here to hurt you?” I was wearing a sweatshirt for my university, and he actually tried to make small talk and ask what classes I was taking. I do not grant small-talk privileges to someone who calls me annoying, yells at me, or tells me that I have nothing to complain about because I wasn’t knocked unconscious when a huge guy grabbed me around the neck.

The officers ordered me to empty my car and hand over my keys. One of the repo men drove off in my car, while the other two took off in the tow truck. I saw my neighbors had turned lights on, but no one came out.

For weeks –maybe even months– I was afraid to stand in a position where someone could walk up behind me. I rode the bus a lot (for obvious reasons) and I always made sure that my back was against the wall of the bus stop shelter. I have never been a police basher, but twice in my life I have called the police when I’ve been faced with a violent situation, and both times I have been belittled, laughed at, and ignored. Strangely, I’ve twice been treated like a criminal when I wasn’t doing anything illegal.

The repo men could have taken my car and towed it away, but they felt it necessary to confront me. I still don’t understand why. I understand that actually driving the car is easier than towing, but is it worth the hassle of a late-night confrontation?

I have reason to believe that this is the same company I had my ordeal with. I’m dividing this into three posts because it’s such a long, long story. It gets worse before it gets better. Then it gets worse again. Stay tuned for Part 2.

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Filed under "In this economy", Depression, fml, jerks, Materialism, Obstacles

Mental Dental

I hurt my tooth on –get this–a pebble in some pinto beans I got from the food bank. I cleaned the beans before cooking, but I guess I missed a tiny stone. Of course I have no dental insurance. I also have no money to see a dentist. I last went to the dentist around the time I got fired in June 2007, and that had been my first visit in years. I have been to the dentist no more than three times in 10 years, which is actually a lot for a poor person.

The Union Gospel Mission offers free dental care for the homeless, but I’m afraid of running into a dentist like Steve Martin in Little Shop of Horrors.

I’m not officially homeless yet, but I heard about the service from a man who isn’t homeless either. He is, however, a meth-head with bad teeth. I’ve never even had a cavity. If they can help a methamphetamine addict who screwed up his own teeth, they can help me. When I get the courage to go, of course. I just don’t have much faith in medical services for the poor.

From now on, the only beans I eat will be the squishy kind that comes in a can.

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Filed under Food, health

But how are you getting by?

How are you getting by?

I get asked this a lot and I don’t know how to answer. I don’t know what kind of an answer people expect.

I suppose people think I’ll say something like “Oh, I’m just living on savings until I find something new” or “I’m getting unemployment” or “My husband/parents/in-laws are helping out.”

No one has ever asked me this question when I had a regular job. I find that strange because I wasn’t “getting by” even when I was working. There is a misconception that if you have a job, you can “get by.” My car was repossessed when I was working. My electricity was cut off when I was working. When I was working, I had to eat with the homeless people in the park because I had no food and made too much money for food stamps.

I had health insurance at two of my last three temp jobs. Unfortunately, I had so little money that I couldn’t afford the copays to see my doctor. It’s good that I had insurance in case I got into an accident, but what good was this insurance if I couldn’t use it when I needed it for less catastrophic times? I had health insurance when I was coughing up blood, but I didn’t have $10 to see the doctor. I couldn’t go to work like that, and my job did not provide sick days, so I would either get more poor or more sick.

Since early 2006, my rent has increased 27% while my income (until I quit) had decreased 29%. I was barely able to pay my rent when it was at its lowest, so it just seems impossible now. I’m damned if I do, and I’m damned if I don’t. Right now I just can’t deal with working at a horrible job that I hate and am not good at where I’m likely to get reprimanded. I am hyperaware every second of every day that I still will not be able to pay my rent on time. This isn’t a money management problem. I really wish it were a money management problem. I can fix my budget, but this goes so much deeper than that. To quote a friend of mine: “If your boss gives you 60 hours of work to do and only 40 hours to do it, you have a time problem, not a time management problem. If you only get $400 for a week of work, but your basic expenses cost $500 a week, it’s not a reflection of your ability to stick to a budget just because you can’t make it work!”

When I was a receptionist, the company I worked for invited a personal finance counselor to come in and speak to us individually by appointment. I was struggling in a dead-end job and I was barely able to make ends meet, so I was glad for the opportunity to talk to a professional. He gave me a worksheet with a list of items on it and asked me to tell him how much I spent on each. He asked me about my utilities, groceries, my medical bills, credit card bills, and rates on car and renter’s insurance. I gave up my telephone land line years ago, and my cell phone plan is reasonable. I have not had cable since 2003. I did not even own a computer, let alone pay for Internet. I spent very little on groceries. I had the cheapest car insurance policy I could find. I spent about $200 a year on clothing and shoes combined (I spend far less than that now). I had already lumped several accounts into a debt consolidation plan that had reduced my interest rates by half. I do not buy music, go to bars, or go to movies, and I attend only a couple of concerts a year. At the time, my only consistent “luxury” was a $20/month Netflix account. My expenses were all bills I was struggling to pay off from my first two years of unemployment. After buying the basic essentials and making minimum payments, I was left with about $40 each month. It was not enough extra to see a significant change in credit card balances and the like. Also, $20 of that went to Netflix. Almost all of my money was spent playing catch-up.

The personal finance counselor told me that I had cut out all I could, and that the only solution to my problem was to make more money. He told me that nothing was wrong with my budget. I began looking for a second job, but I never found one. I was eventually fired from that receptionist position for “being unhappy.” I was only unemployed for about three weeks, but my next job paid nearly $10,000 a year less and I was laid off in less than six months. It did not occur to me that my next job would pay so much less, especially since it was technically at a higher level. It was a big pay cut, and it hurt. It hurt more when I got laid off.

So, how am I getting by? I sell some of my belongings online. When I get money from that, I put a little gas in my car, I buy cat food, rat food, or kitty litter. I eat food-bank food almost exclusively. I steal my neighbor’s wi-fi. I stopped taking all 7 of my prescription medications. I revel in the fact that the electric company won’t cut me off again for a very long time. I let my phone get cut off until I can scrounge enough money to pay my past-due balances. I think deeply. I worry. I go to a lot of used bookstores to sell my collection. I look around at the disarray and panic because I don’t have the energy to box it all up and I don’t know where I’m going or how I’m going get there. I sleep a lot. I mope. I don’t answer my phone. I wait for the sheriff to force me to leave. I jump at every noise. I don’t get out much.

I did something very unethical that I am ashamed to talk about, even here: prior to leaving my job, I found a year-long bus pass that had been dropped by a coworker. There was no one around when I found it, and I waited a long time and no one returned to get it. These bus passes are issued to employees for free, but they probably cost the company over $1000 (I know that they are worth around $1500).  I was a temp and did not get the year-long bus pass — I had to pay $90 a month for my own. The pass was brand new. I found it in July, and it’s good through next July. I fully intended to turn it in to security, but at some point it occurred to me that the pass was worth much more to me than to whoever had lost it. After all, they had a real job and I didn’t. Also, I’ve had so many bad things happen, that maybe this was a break for me. I don’t believe in Karma, but if I did, I’d actually think this was the universe trying to throw me a bone for once. Well, maybe I do believe in Karma after all. I kept the pass. I never heard anything about anyone looking for it, so I ride the bus to save gas, and I don’t pay a penny for it. I won tickets to a movie last night, and that bus pass was the only way I could have gone to the only fun thing I’ve done recently. I could not have paid for parking, and I did not have enough money for bus fare. Keeping the pass was wrong of me, but I’m doing it for survival.

So, that is how I’m “getting by,” if you want to call it that. I don’t even want a job right now because a job will not save me from eviction, and I need to be ready. I’m too depressed to make progress quickly, and I know in my heart that I’d be too distracted at a job, even a simple one. I had enough trouble focusing at my last job. I am using this time to focus on liquidating my belongings and finding a transitional shelter to move into, no matter how frustrating that may be.

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Filed under "In this economy", Depression, Food, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles, Work

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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Jinx

Good Luck by Mark Ryden

Good Luck by Mark Ryden

Those I interact with regularly tend to react to me in two different ways: they ignore me or they ignore my problems. For quite a while now, I’ve been somewhat of a shit magnet. Is there more dignified term to express that concept? I can’t think of one. I’m kind of like the jinx in Li’l Abner. When I’m not writing in my secret blog, I generally keep my problems to myself. Once in a while, however, I’ll get into a conversation with a trusted friend and I’ll let a few details about my life slip. They say things like “Oh, I’m so sorry,” or “I don’t know what to say.” Then the phone calls and e-mails stop and I’m left keeping things to myself again. In other instances I have friends who don’t seem to pay attention to anything I say. I was IMing with a friend the other night, and he expressed surprise that I “seemed a bit down.” This friend is aware of my situation, so why would he express surprise? Gee, I’m about to be homeless and lose everything that’s ever been important to me while I admit absolute defeat, I’m in a perpetual state of emotional breakdown, I don’t know what to do, but other than that life’s peachy. A different friend of mine (who is aware of certain aspects of my situation but none of the more recent developments) gets visibly uncomfortable if I speak of anything negative in my life, such as my horrible family. Once when I mentioned that I was worried about having enough rent money, he said “Why don’t you just move in with your parents?” I had previously told him that my mother had been dead for years and I hadn’t spoken to my father in even longer. When I mentioned it the first time, he changed the subject very quickly. He later forgot that the conversation even took place. He doesn’t want to hear things like that because bad parents don’t exist in his world where all the pretty white houses have picket fences made of lollipops. He is a good guy, but he doesn’t understand my situation at all and has repeatedly made insensitive and ignorant comments to me about money. He has never had a real job, but he owns an iPhone and lives with his rich parents. Then he admonishes me for living the only way I can. He also once told me that I “just need to be more optimistic.” I didn’t tell him I quit my job. He doesn’t know I’m getting evicted. I may very well disappear and he’d never know.

Speaking of disappearing, I am at a strange crossroads. I am friends with a guy I used to volunteer with about five years ago. He is a barely functional alcoholic. He is caring and funny and genuinely kind, but he’s trouble. His financial situation is not much different from mine. He is incapable of holding a job due to his alcoholism and (as a former employer of his put it) his “inability to keep his mouth shut.” He did not finish college, he never pays his bills. He can’t even get a bank account because he wrote several bad checks and never paid overdraft fees. He can’t get a driver’s license because he owes $5000 in tickets for moving violations and associated fees. He sent me a text message today asking me if I’d be interested in living in a house with him and a few other people. In Philadelphia. Rooms are $425 a month and I can bring my cat. Tempting. I’ll never find anything like that here. He has asked me to move out there before, and I’ve always said no (for the record, we are not dating). Until now, I had not seriously considered his offers because I had hope for something good to happen in Seattle. I don’t have that hope anymore. Quite frankly, I’m at the end of my rope and I have no idea where I’m going. Moving there is a bad idea, but is it a worse idea than staying here? I get so overwhelmed with choices. I get frozen because there is always something in the way and I don’t know which obstacles to conquer first. I can’t declare bankruptcy yet because I don’t know what I’m doing with my car. I can’t figure out what I’m doing with my car until I figure out if I can move to the United Kingdom or not. I can’t move to the United Kingdom until I get my passport and see if I can get a job and secure things with my relatives. I can’t do all of that until I save money and get a job here. This line of thinking gets me nowhere, literally. My thoughts just whirl around and around and I just stand there, dizzy.

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Filed under Depression, fml, Home Life, Obstacles