Tag Archives: invisible illness

I went to grad school and all I got were these awesome food stamps.

I'm so glad that they use a card now.

This week, most of my former classmates got their master’s diplomas in the mail. I got food stamps.

I have yet to receive my actual diploma, and I don’t know when or if I ever will. My last three terms, I had to take out short-term emergency loans because my regular loans just weren’t enough. They were expecting me to live on about $300 a month, so once my unemployment ran out, I started taking out emergency loans that upped my monthly “income” to $1100 or $1300. My situation was at its most dire my last term because that was when my car got repossessed and my electricity cut off. The problem with short-term loans is that you have to pay them back the following term. As the name implies, they are short-term loans. But if you run out of money and have to take out a short-term loan, chances are you are going to spend the short-term loan and then not have any more money once you pay back the loan after the quarter is over. So then you take out another short-term loan to pay off the last short-term loan. The cycle continues until graduation. You aren’t allowed to take out a short-term loan the quarter you graduate. I was desperate, so I lied. I took out my short-term loan as early as possible and I applied for graduation as late as possible. I finally got a job during my last term, but it just wasn’t enough.

Unfortunately, because of my bad loan habit and my medical bills (and maybe because of an incomplete I got in a class unrelated to my degree), they have a hold on my diploma, so I won’t be getting it until I pay them tons and tons of money. It’s okay. If anyone wants to call the university, they can confirm that I really did graduate. Though there is no foreseeable reason for anyone to call.

I am more excited about food stamps than I am about the degree. Because they took so long to approve my application, I got $108 to spend before October 31. It was quite a task, but I managed.

I have genetic insulin resistance. What that means is that for reasons unknown my body does not respond to normal amounts of insulin, so my pancreas overcompensates by secreting abnormally high levels of insulin nearly all the time. I have checked my blood sugar many times, and I have never once had a high reading. In fact, I am somewhat hypoglycemic (possibly because of the high insulin). My mother was the same, and she ended up with diabetes that ruined her life and killed her. My maternal grandmother was also the same. She, too, ended up with diabetes that ruined her life and killed her. The first time I got my insulin tested at age 24, my fasting level was 51 uU/ml. It should have been around 5. Insulin resistance is associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. My mother had type 1 diabetes, and I’m not sure how that relates to IR.

My doctor strongly advised me to go on a low-carbohydrate diet. I was doing well with that for a while, but when you live on food bank food, it’s difficult to stick to it. Carbs are cheap. My local food bank has four kinds of food: meaty, starchy, beany, and sweet. Meaty makes me vomit, starchy is kind of bad for me, sugary is really bad for me, and beany is just inadequate. I end up eating lots and lots of salted spaghetti. I haven’t been taking my medication, and I’ve been eating food that spikes my already-spiked insulin, so I’m gaining weight despite being hungry all the time and not having much to eat. I’m sure my insulin is through the roof again.

Nom nom nom.When I got food stamps before, I actually lost 20 lbs in about four months even though my caloric intake increased significantly. I was still eating too many starchy things, but I was eating a lot of vegetables, eggs, nuts, and tofu. I felt well and was getting plenty of exercise, which I haven’t been doing lately. I hope that my new food stamps will be a catalyst for me to get back on track and to a point where I care about myself again and can take steps towards regaining my health. I might even cook. It’s a bit sad that when I was working I did not have enough money for healthy food, but I do on food stamps. I get more with food stamps than I ever spent on food when I worked. I don’t buy cheap junk either. Sorry, Republicans. I guess this makes me a socialist bum. Go ahead and heckle. At my last job, I made less money than I was required to spend on rent and bills. I technically had no money for food unless I stopped paying for something else. That’s how I ended up with no phone and no electricity.

I became very sad at Trader Joe’s because every item I put in my cart made me wonder “Will I pack this when I move?”I still don’t know when I have to go. Or where to go.

 

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Filed under Depression, Food, health, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

Impasse

The Impasse by Stephen Adams

A friend asked me “What would you be doing if you could get any job you wanted, right now?” To my surprise, my mind went blank. Two months ago, two years ago, six years ago, even ten years ago, he could have asked me that question and I would have described my career goals in striking detail. I was asked that question all through high school, college, graduate school, and even while I was working at crappy low-level jobs and I always had an answer. Now I don’t. I can only guess that something in me snapped during my most recent of many awkward interviews.

I’m still not looking for a job. I don’t think most people understand why. I’m not even sure that I do. I only finished my master’s degree in June, so it may seem like I am giving up on my job search early. Master’s degree or not, this has been a fruitless search since 2003. My last two jobs (crappy as they were) ended abruptly and in the same fashion. Those weren’t the only times either. I have simply lost the ability to handle certain types of tasks. I also struggle without proper healthcare. Without my medication, my ability to function in the workplace is limited, and without decent pay, my access to my prescribed medication is also limited. And I am far beyond frustrated with working at low-level, low-pay jobs outside of my skill set. If I hadn’t had one job in my career at a well-known and reputable company, I would probably just think I was a moron. But no, once upon a time, I was given a chance, and I did a good job and I was well-liked. And then my job was outsourced. That was the only brief glimmer of success in one very long and dark period. It wasn’t a great success, anyway. I was still low-income and stressed about money, but at least I felt accomplished.

I have been battling a rather bad respiratory infection for a while now. I’ve complained about it, I know. When I lie in bed I can hear my chest creak like an old staircase. Sometimes it sounds like a bowl of Rice Krispies. Sometimes it makes both of those noises at the same time. I cough and choke until I see stars. It’s difficult to laugh. This may be difficult to believe, but I really do laugh a lot.

My landlord has still not taken action against me. It’s confusing, but it’s a relief. It’s also a source of much anxiety. I have not made much progress in packing or purging my belongings. I’m sick and exhausted.

I am currently working with the Department of Social and Health Services to find out if I can get some medical attention and possibly a case worker. It’s all downhill from here. I have also re-opened my food stamps application, and I hope I can get something on that end within the next few days.

I’m getting a bit frustrated because I am lacking some basic items that most people (including myself) often take for granted. I need dish soap. I need pants that both fit and don’t have holes. I want fresh food and a new toothbrush. I have decided to sell my car once I move into transitional housing. Unfortunately, my car insurance got canceled and my car is likely to be repossessed for the second time this year. I can’t do anything about that right now, but I can maybe find some clothes. There is a community clothing closet in the next town over, and I may try to stop by and see if I can find something. I also have some clothes that don’t fit me anymore, and I would be glad to donate. I don’t need much, unless I get a job. I really just want something that isn’t falling apart. The soles of my shoes are halfway off, and every time I walk outside I have to stop periodically to shake out the gravel and other debris. I was able to buy toilet paper after selling some things online. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to sell online because I do not get paid until the items ship (at least when I sell on Amazon.com). If I have no money, it’s a bit difficult to ship things.

I was able to get cat food during my last trip to the food bank, so my little feline friend will be well-fed for the time being. She’s not a terribly picky eater as long as I give her dry food.

I can only hope that my situation is temporary, and I will find my hope and drive again. It’s not like me to be a leech, and I’ve lost the energy to be a good scavenger.

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Filed under Depression, Food, health, Home Life, Materialism, Obstacles

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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