Tag Archives: shame

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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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

Freeloader

This shirt costs $20 on crookedmonkey.com. Does anyone who would wear it actually have $20? I sure dont.

This shirt costs $20 on crookedmonkey.com. Does anyone who would wear it actually have $20 to spend on cutesy t-shirts? I sure don't.

A friend took me to a concert last night as a belated birthday present. We went to see the bands Gossip, Men, and Champagne Champagne at The Showbox in downtown Seattle. Working or not, nearly every time I go to an evening event downtown, I end up doing the same stupid thing — I forget about parking. What usually happens is I put parking at the back of my mind, drive to the venue, drive around for 30 minutes trying to find a free spot and then give up and just pay $13. I don’t have $13, nor do I have enough gas to drive around looking for a place to park, so for the first time ever I remembered not to do this and I just used my stolen bus pass. Hooray for thievery.

It was difficult for me to go out as I’ve been severely depressed and I have not been up to face-to-face interaction with other humans. I dreaded going. Truth be told, I’d rather just stay home alone than have someone pay my way. I hadn’t been out for a fun night in a while, and I never even step outside except to go to the food bank, follow up on on my never-ending food stamps application, or to check my mail. I saw two friends I hadn’t seen in a long time, and it was good to catch up. One of them even bought me a drink. With my free ticket and my free drink, you can imagine my amusement when I saw the stamp they were giving concertgoers in the over-21 bar section:

You probably can't read it, but it says "Freeloader." Everyone got the same stamp.

You probably can't read it, but it says "Freeloader." Everyone got the same stamp, but I was probably the only one who felt special.

Then in yet another joke of the cosmos, the first song that Gossip performed was “Dimestore Diamond.” It’s on their latest album and I had never heard it.

Everybody knows the things she does to please
Low cut sweaters with her skirt above her knees
She's a dimestore diamond

Everybody knows just where she gets her clothes
A watercolor painting in a Renoir pose
She's a dimestore diamond

Everybody knows but no one can tell
A homemade haircut but she wears it well
She's a dimestore diamond

You can call her broke, you can call her poor
But everybody knows that she ain't cold no more
She's a dimestore diamond

Shines like the real thing
Real thing
Real thing
Dimestore diamond

Dimestore diamond

Gotta catch you one
Gotta catch you one one
Gotta catch you one

Gonna get you one
Gonna get you one one
Gonna get you one

The first group to perform was a hip-hop/dance group called Champagne Champagne, and the second group was the dance-punk group Men, fronted by JD Samson (who was in another one of my favorite bands Le Tigre). Both opening acts were great, and Gossip was amazing as usual. The positive energy actually made me feel better, when I was expecting it to drain me further. I still feel sick and I still feel tired, but I’m definitely in better spirits. The biggest downer was that I had to leave at the beginning of the encore because of the bus schedule. My friend had offered to drive me home, but I was already feeling guilty about everything else, so I was firm and took the bus.

I was less interested in music and social interaction than I usually am, but I had a good time and I am glad I went –even as a freeloader.

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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