Category Archives: SSI

Suspended in Amber & Slipping Through Cracks

11 years ago I had a total psychotic break. It lasted for 4 months. I was never hospitalized.

Instead, I ended up homeless and living in a garage where, my first morning there, my adoptive sister tried to choke me out and had to be pulled off of me. This was because I was not able to drive her daughter to the bus stop less than a block away. Because I was in psychosis. I got choked because I could not drive because I was in psychosis and therefore not safe to drive, because you kind of need a sense of reality to drive, at least in some cases.

I lived in the garage for 2 months, sleeping on a couch with bad springs, surrounded by my boxes of possessions that had come from the apartment I’d lost, the nicest apartment I’d ever lived in, the place I still think of as home. It was winter, and the electricity was shut off because this garage was attached to the house my adoptive sister was renting, and she decided to move out. No, she didn’t care that there was an ill person subsisting in the garage. She left, and I was there with no electricity, freezing cold in the dark, still coming down from the psychotic break.

I was given medication that made me sleep over 15 hours a day and gain 50 lbs. There was no therapy. That would come later, in false starts, with bad therapists, including one who would tell me, based on my history of chronic abuse and trauma, “You will never be happy, and you will never be functional”, because that was apparently her version of therapeutic. Those words still haunt me to this day. I wonder, was she right?

I moved from the garage into an attic apartment that was infested by rats that ran by me as I slept on the floor. From there I found an apartment that I was able to afford on disability – I could afford exactly rent and electric and nothing more. My adoptive sister tried to have me evicted from this apartment, by calling and lodging many false complaints against me, saying that she could smell my cats in her apartment next door – she of course did not live next door and the entire thing was a lie – and had a couple of her friends call pretending to be other neighbors with the same complaint. She did this because I caught her stealing my mom’s Oxycontin on Christmas Eve, and I was honest with my mother about what had happened. What would you have done? Protected the person who broke into your mother’s home to steal her pain medication that she desperately needed, or be honest about what happened? I did the latter, and was nearly homeless again as a result.

Over the next decade, a lot of things happened. Doctors denied me my medication. I couldn’t find a psychiatrist – none in the area were taking patients – there literally was not a single psychiatrist taking insurance who would accept a new patient in the entire city. A psychiatrist fired me, because I complained about the therapist who said I’d never be happy or functional (she worked in the same office, and I told the office manager, who yelled at me. I was fired for “noncompliance”.) My adoptive sister systematically brought my elderly parents down with a thousand tiny cuts and several hundred deep ones, a constant supply of stress and threats and ultimatums if they did not do as she wished. My father died suddenly. My mother dissolved into profound grief and heartbreak from which she never recovered. I could do nothing to help, because I was so sick, and because I had no control over what happened to her, no way to stop the machinations of evil that my sister (and now her daughter) perpetrated on my fragile mom.

And I had no financial means to help, either. My father had died leaving only a very small insurance policy that was quickly eaten up by cremation expenses and bills and an ill-fated used car purchase that my mother insisted on making because she wanted me to have a safe vehicle. The car was a lemon. I should never have let her do it. I tried to argue against it. I look back now and I am sickened that I allowed her to spend money that should have been kept for her own well-being on something to benefit me. It makes me disgusted with myself, and ashamed.

My rent increased each year, and continued to increase. Each year the struggle to get by became more difficult.  A dear friend offered to move in to help out. I accepted, giving him the bedroom I never used, because due to my PTSD, I could only sleep in the living room, where the front door is, because what if someone broke in and I didn’t hear it? My hyper-vigilance demanded this accommodation, even though now I really wish I had a bedroom.

Then my mom died. I lost my best friend.

None of the therapists I saw could help me. None of them ever even brought up my psychotic break. You’d think that would be a topic of conversation at some point, but apparently, no. I went therapist to therapist, searching for someone who would understand, and also, for someone who would fucking listen. Because these therapists all shared the same trait: they’d listen to the first part, then assume they knew everything, and ‘give advice’ based on that. Which, you know, first off, giving advice is not really therapy. Anyone can give advice. If that worked, no one would need therapy. Secondly, I’ve been through so many things, and there is so much detail to all of them because of the way my mind has processed these things, that I am like an onion, with many layers, and all of those layers need to be taken into account. You can’t read a few pages of a book and know the story.

They would also try to fit me into some pre-fab notion of what a “normal person” is, instead of helping me to understand and accept who it is that I actually am, and work with THAT person, with the person I actually happen to be and not the person they thought I should be. Any treatment plan based on changing who I am as a person will fail. A successful treatment plan is one that works with my strengths, works on my weaknesses, gives me tools to deal with real situations that arise. A treatment plan based in reality. None of these people had it. One therapist even told me that my treatment plan was “none of [my] business”.

During all of this time, I have not once had the time to recuperate, to heal, to process what I went through. I have not been successful in efforts to build a routine again, to be part of the world again. Because I have been struggling financially, always stressed about how to pay things, how to get heavy things like kitty litter HERE because I have no car, how to supplement the unsustainable amount that has not grown commensurate with inflation. And I have been struggling, every day, with just how to get through the day, when I am plagued by flashbacks of lifelong abuse by so many different people, and jarred by so many bad memories, and self-recriminations for things I should have done differently, things I did wrong, things for which I should be and am ashamed. In short, struggling to stay on the planet. To stay alive.

Through this I have been fumbling, trying in vain to create a routine to follow, to do things that are healthy and “self-care”, to right my thinking on my own since I have no professional assistance that is not derelict*; trying fruitlessly to fight the bad voices that make me despair and try to convince me to just give up. I have kept going, my knuckles white from gripping onto whatever might tether me to this realm.

The truth of it is, though, that I have spent 11 years in this living room, not getting better.

I have tried so hard to get better. I have done so many different things. I have adjusted my attitude – as much as someone with severe mental illness can – so many times.

I’m not getting better. I have never had a chance to get better.

I have never heard of someone who had a psychotic break who was not hospitalized. But then there’s me. This makes sense, though. Because I was in a car wreck where I was thrown 75 feet and no one even bothered to check me for a concussion. And all the bad experiences with doctors in general – from psychiatric to medical. A continual pattern of disregard.

Things like this, they give me the message that I really, and truly, do not matter.

I wish more than anything I could have just a few months, where I didn’t have to worry about financial survival, where I could actually and finally focus on getting well, or at least better. Where I could look again for a therapist and hopefully find a good one, and concentrate on going to therapy a few times a week. Focus on building a new routine, a new life. Find myself again, in such a way that I don’t disappear and I don’t fall apart every morning, the way I do now.

Because right now, every morning of every day, I wake up a sobbing shambles, a complete mess, paralyzed, not sure what to do, and haunted by so much bad shit in my brain that it physically hurts. The anxiety is so bad I have to take a benzo and then I have to ingest huge amounts of caffeine to stay awake, and also to keep myself awash in enough temporary dopamine that I don’t just say, “That’s it, I’m done, I can’t do this anymore.”

I’m on all the medication that they can give me. So many pills. It does work. It does its job. But it isn’t enough. You can’t just medicate trauma away, you can’t medicate your brain into processing and parsing things and assimilating them into your narrative in such a way that you can go on comfortably.

They always say, if you are down, ask for help. Reach out. I have done that, over and over again. I have done that to the point where I now wonder, have they changed the spelling or the pronunciation of the word “help” and I just didn’t get the memo? Am I speaking the correct language? Or is it as I suspect, deep down, that when it comes down to it, I really don’t matter?

Eleven years have passed away, been wasted, sitting in this living room on this futon upon which I sleep. I don’t want it to be this way. I am willing to put in the work, and I have been from the very start – ever since I tried to kill myself the first time when I was 8 years old, and no one believed that I was depressed because a person is supposed to pull themselves up by those bootstraps, those fucking bootstraps that every mentally ill person would love to brandish at the people who suggest that the Road to Wellness is merely a matter of eschewing some indolence they seem to think we have.

Motherfucker, if I could pull up some metaphorical out-of-current-parlance item to fix myself, don’t you think I would have done that ELEVEN YEARS AGO? Because who among us wants eleven years of their life to just disappear with nothing to show for them? Who?

I have spent time focusing on small problems in order to avoid the biggest one, the hydra-headed one that follows me around like the dust cloud follows Pig-Pen from Peanuts. But all problems lead to one end, and it is this one. The Big One.

I never had time to get better. And so I never have. And things just keep getting more and more log-jammed, in my head, and in my life, and I am overwhelmed.

I am studying coding, in an attempt to make something of this life. But I know that unless I get the actual Life stuff sorted out, it’s not going to help. I have to be a person who is reliable and focused, not someone who has to put themselves back together every morning from scratch.

How the fuck will I ever get there, when my main focus must be survival? What I have to do to survive, it’s not healthy for me in myriad ways. And better still, people judge me harshly for doing it. A cherry atop the melted sundae of all the thoughts of the potential I had as a child, and the possibility of what might have been.

It’s hard sometimes to hear parents discuss parenting with other parents. They are all so focused on their children’s welfare. Their lives appear to be centered around parenting, and being parents. They think about things like which school is best, and how it will affect their child’s future. Their kids are involved in school activities and have friends and don’t have to lie about the stuff that happens at home. And their kids don’t seem to be randomly insulted by people on the street for no reason. It’s like, if I squint my mind’s eye I can almost see that kind of life, where every day is the same, there is a routine and you follow it, and you make progress in things, and your parents know what’s going on in your schooling, and the idea of you going to college isn’t considered ridiculous or impossible or simply “off the table” but instead a real fucking thing. Where you say “I want to do this creative thing for a living” and you don’t hear back, “You’ll never make a living doing that” as the very first response to your giving voice to a dream. Where you know how to plan out things, because you have confidence that the future you are planning is actually going to happen.

Oh, yeah;. And where no one hits you or beats you with a belt or molests you or psychologically tortures you day in and day out. That, too.  And where you can have friends over and know everything will be okay, that there won’t be some horrible scene coming out of nowhere that will end with someone threatening to throw you out of the house to live on the street. Where you can say, “Yeah, this teacher was kinda a jerk”, and know that later on, no one in your family is going to be calling that teacher and threatening to put a bomb in her car.

My parents loved me. But my dad was psychotic for most of my childhood, and neither he nor my mom protected me from the adoptive sister, who was and is a violent sociopath. And they were so busy reacting to her every fucked-up move, that there was no room for anything, or anyone, else.

I don’t know what else to say. I have to try to figure out how to make this day worth something now. I have been crying all morning. I am surrounded by used tissues and I can no longer breathe through my nose. And these tears and this Everything has fucked up a day where I needed to try to do something to earn some money to pay for the ever-growing list of things that need to be paid for, some of which – like redoing my teeth so my facial bone structure doesn’t cave in – will probably never be possible.

This is the truth about my life. Along with so very much else that remains unsaid.

 

*ETA: my shrink is a good shrink. It is the 15-minute hour, though, and just medication, so I didn’t count him among the therapists and doctors I grouped together as derelict. But I wanted to acknowledge him, and say that without him, I would not be here.

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The Body Indeed Keeps The Score

I can’t do it anymore.

I tried to force myself. I tried so fucking hard to force myself. And I became physically ill. It’s like my body is saying, Enough.

This happened once before. I was doing so poorly mentally at the time, and in a bad environment, and my body rebelled, Suddenly, I was projectile vomiting like Linda Blair in the Exorcist. For weeks. I couldn’t even keep down Gatorade. And my therapist at the time – I was fortunate enough then to actually have a good one – said that my body was literally trying to cast off all of the bad things I had internalized.

Well, it’s happening again. I’m not projectile vomiting, yet. But I’m nauseated, my body aches, all of the energy feels drained out of me, I’m getting insanely intense headaches that don’t respond to NSAIDs. So now it’s not just the panic attacks that have been hounding me as of late. It’s not just the feeling of being creatively dead, of being a hack with no integrity, of never being able to speak my actual mind, of losing my identity to this thing I don’t even enjoy doing (but that I have to pretend that I do enjoy doing, because when you sell your soul for pennies on the dollar, you need every fucking penny.) It is literally physical shit that is PREVENTING me from doing this.

I seriously tried so hard. Because I need the money to pay my bills. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my bills. I am not well enough to work outside my home. I was never even hospitalized after having a four month long psychotic break. I am sitting here sobbing because I don’t know what the fuck I am going to do. This job has wrecked me. I am not well at all. I straight up need help, I need healing. But there is none of that for me. I have to figure out what to do. I have to figure out how I’m going to feed my cats, pay my utilities, pay the vet bills, pay for Milhouse’s insulin and Tramadol and thyroid meds, how to pay for my SHRINK.

I was in the middle of doing a clip and I just could not finish it. I couldn’t because I was about to throw up. I’ve never felt like I felt yesterday. It was frightening. And what this experience leaves me with is frightening, too. I needed to work my ass off the rest of this month. I need the money so badly. I have to get Tiny to the vet. I have to pay the part of my rent that my disability does not cover, and my utilities, and my shrink appt is at the beginning of the month. But now I am completely fucked. I needed to make miracles happen this last week of the month.  But now, they are not going to happen.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m in a panic. I’m trying to think of options, but what options does a severely mentally ill woman, who isn’t able to work outside her home and is still trying to get better so actually shouldn’t be working in the first place, have? Because I can’t think of any realistic ones.

All I know is that my body won’t let me do this. It no longer wants to actively participate in an endeavor where the main draw is that I am slowly dying.

A woman gets sexually harassed at work – hey, maybe by a famous comedian who whips it out, let’s say – and the world is in an uproar. But a disabled woman has to work a job where she is objectified and where she is told on the reg that her only value is damaged lungs and mortality. Crickets.

You know, when people want you to die, and you’ve got a long history of trauma and abuse, and a few co-morbid mental illnesses, that isn’t good for you. That makes you turn in the “Let’s walk into the waves” direction. The “Hey, that ledge looks pretty fuckin’ good” path. Because hey, if that’s my only value in this world, should I not have at that then? It’s a really hard thought to fight. Particularly when I have no idea how I’m going to survive now.

And in this, too, is the knowledge that some people, upon finding out that this is my situation, that I am a (reluctant as FUCK) smoking fetish girl, will judge me harshly and unfollow me, block me, isolate and ostracize instead of understand that this is all I could do to get by. They make me feel like this is what I deserve. And the people that want me to die make me feel that’s also what I deserve, because THAT’S ALL I’M GOOD FOR.

And I probably do deserve it. I pandered to them, because I needed to survive. I have no family. There is nowhere to go if I lose my place on the couch, nowhere for my cats to go. I’ve been trying hard to learn to code, have gotten a couple of certificates but don’t yet know enough to work as a web dev, but my focus is annihilated because the issue of survival is pressing, and even if it weren’t, I simply cannot learn quickly enough to solve this immediate problem.

I need help. I need to get better. I can’t do this anymore. But I have no idea how the fuck I am going to keep me and my kitties going. And panic is not something that helps you think clearly.

Fuck.

There is the panic about the future.

And then there is the fact that this, all of this, hurts more than I can ever describe.

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The Impossible Dream

My eldest cat, who is eighteen, is blind. She screams all day. I say “screams” and not “meows” because it is usually not her standard meow, but instead a howling caterwaul that sounds like how I sometimes feel when I post to this blog. It is blood curdling and, frankly, nerve-fraying. I do my best to soothe her. I make sure she isn’t hungry or thirsty, I make sure she doesn’t have to use the litter box. I pet her, talk to her, sing to her, kiss her on top of the head. Any fix I try lasts for approximately 10 seconds. And then it’s right back to Scream Time. So basically everything I am doing lately is with this backdrop of abject feline misery.

If that’s not enough to make me feel not so good at the life thing, clips are not doing well at all this month. I mean, generally speaking I am not pulling in much from them, but every little bit helps and some months are better than others. I am pretty sure that other people doing this are better at it in one way or many and make significantly better bank than I, because I don’t see anyone besides myself doing this for long without much reward. Why then do I do it for not much reward, and for as long (excuse me, fucking long) as I have? It takes a long time to recover from a psychotic break, first off. Secondly, systems are not set up so that one can easily be weaned off of them, particularly when said systems are set up only for subsistence and not for leveling up Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Spending every day scrambling to do better sucks up a lot of focus.

Not that this will stand in my way. I am stubborn. And though some may believe that hope is a pipe dream, I still see value in it. It is the fuel that keeps me going. The hope that with enough focus, enough effort, even with the bullshit obstacles that stand between me and the serious improvement of my situation, I can overcome. Some may say that my hope is directed toward something ‘too good to be true’. That it’s overshooting to imagine that I could go from what I do now to what I want to do. To that I say, it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you don’t have a choice.

I got started on this road because I lost my job due to mental illness, which violates the ADA – but I didn’t know about the ADA, and I didn’t know that I could apply for Social Security Disability. At that time, I had enough credits. I was absolutely eligible. But my husband, who loved letting everyone know what a Socialist to the Nth Degree he was, didn’t bother to tell me about these two things. I just figured, well, I have to do something to earn a living. And so I did. I I pulled something out of thin air, rather than get assistance from the government. Who knows, had I pursued the idea that the government could help me, what might have happened had I applied for SSDI at that time. I would have gone down a completely different road. I would have had access to needed medication, I would not have worked in jobs where I got no SSDI credit, I would not have met the person who put a gun to my face and who would eventually hold me against my will and assault me in numerous ways. A lot would have been different. A few things might be much better. A couple of things would be missing from my life though, and the people that I now treasure, I would not know. So you know, it evens out. In fact, interpersonally, I come out far ahead. I am lucky, and grateful for that fact.

But, because I worked instead of applying for disability at that time, I am now a “lifer” on a much lower, less survivable form of disability assistance. That is, unless I can pull off the rabbit in the hat trick. Some may think it’s not feasible. But some didn’t think it was feasible that I would be able to rehab myself to the point I am now at, post-psychotic break. One therapist even went so far as to say, “You will never be happy. You will be lucky if you are able to function at all.”

Yeah, she probably should not be a therapist.

There are still some speed bumps, even if the road turns out to be mostly smooth, which is a big even to throw in there. I am still inconsistent in a lot of things, though I try to work on this fact daily. I have a lot of ups and downs and bursts and dearths of energy. Sometimes my brain is a really scary place in which to hang out. And sometimes I get stuck in the past, because there is just so much of it that was traumatic and hurtful and confusing, and because I am trying to unravel all the wrong things I learned and replace them with correct things.

I read a tweet yesterday that nearly knocked the wind out of me, it was so resonant. It was about being just intelligent enough and just high-functioning enough for people to glance over and assume that any sort of difficulty a person was having with things like organization or going places or communicating or what-have-you was not due to illness or disorder – in this case ADHD, which I also have – but to be difficult out of spite. I can’t even tell you how many times that has happened to me. How many times people have summed me up incorrectly and figured, “Oh, well if she can do THAT, then she can also do THIS, and she JUST DOESN’T WANT TO.”  In fact, shortly after my psychotic break – which lasted four months before anyone even thought that maybe my bizarre behavior was a sign that something had gone terribly wrong in my brain – my mom said to me, “That stuff was all just because you were mad at me, wasn’t it?”

She wasn’t saying that out of any kind of cruelty or anything, she just did not understand, having been born in the times of Walk It Off or Be Lobotomized. She listened when I explained that it was mental illness, not spite, that caused me to behave as I did. But a lot of people don’t listen, and they don’t believe. Some of these people are actually doctors. But present as high-functioning and you can be easily labeled as attention-seeking or worse, a malingerer.

Whatever, though. In the end, all of this is a bunch of words, and I will be aided mostly by action. And that action is learning to code. I have achieved a total of seven certificates so far, but only one of them recently – the first six were from a false start two years ago. Still, this one cert is a big deal for me, and now I am trying to figure out something I was never taught – how to set goals, and create a logical daily plan of steps to achieve them. We shall see how that goes.

In the meantime, I am doing the best I can as I can grab time to focus on it. It can be frustrating, because sometimes the free site I am using leaves important info out and then gives you a problem to do that utilizes the info they left out and it feels like you are expected to just magically “know” it. It is really easy to say, “I’m not cut out for this”, but the thing is – I am.

I am cut out for this. I believe I can do it. I do not know how long it will take. I do not know if it will result in my super-hoped-for goal of a really good job. But I am finally using my mind again, and that feels so amazing, and so right.

There is a place within each of us, no matter how stressed, no matter how crazy, where the judgement of others at long last falls away, and we feel most ourselves. The trick is finding out how to access it.

What can you do today that will help you access that place?

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The Awful Truth, Part Two

I didn’t talk about what I am doing to try to change things. I am definitely doing something to try to change things. It is just that it is a long-term plan, and in the short term I am floundering and failing and starting to fall into a major depressive state, which is REALLY counterproductive. So counterproductive that it could completely fuck me for good. But I need to step away from that thought.

What I am doing is, of course, what I have mentioned here recently before: learning coding. I have been on this Every. Single. Day. Without fail. I am serious AF about this. Studying hard, taking notes, and going for certifications. I want to be a full stack web developer.

That is the hope I’m hanging my hat on.

I just wish there were some way to not drown in financial stress and intense depression and untold levels of worry while I am doing this. I am afraid I’m going to end up “without a pot or a window” before I can complete this course of study, which is not exactly an easy one. It takes a lot of focus, focus which is getting fragmented. I’m fighting, though.

I am fighting as hard as I can. I just do not know if it will be enough. I guess all I can do is keep fighting, and see what happens, see what I can MAKE happen.

I hate doing this but circumstances compel me to do so, because I have a cat who will die if I don’t. Milhouse needs a $300 bottle of insulin. I can’t afford it. If you can please help, this is my paypal link: http://paypal.me/annievox  Any amount at all is helpful. Thank you.

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The Awful Truth

It’s Cyber Monday, the big online shopping day. Seems like a good reason to state unequivocally why every blog post I make is in some way about financial stress.

I am trying to survive on $9,200 a year.

I just figured I would finally be upfront about that. It works out to $750 a month. Which is not enough to live on, as you have probably surmised. Which is why I do the clip thing. But this is very problematic for many reasons, the primary being that it does not solve the problem of subsistence, as the rule is that half of anything I might earn is to be deducted from that monthly stipend. ‘Anything I might earn’ is not a static number but is usually between $200 to $400, which means it’s really between $100 to $200 for an entire month’s worth of confused and difficult activity which is frankly hell to “show up to”, as I have outlined many times in this blog.

I am not able to get a job outside of my home. I am not yet qualified to get a job inside my home that would pay enough to pay for my state-sponsored medication which costs approximately $24,000 per year. Every day is spent stuffing down panic to keep it in the background, every day is spent concurrently trying to figure out a solution and suppress the intense financial anxiety.

I have wracked my brain trying to figure out how to improve this situation. I have thought about this for YEARS. Years of constant free-floating panic. Tears of frustration and worry are flowing freely as I write this, because the pressure inside is so great that I just can’t hold them in.

I just do not know what the fuck to do.

Government agencies will not be helpful. They are the ones who have set these rules and they do not care that these rules are not livable or workable, that they completely fuck you. Lawyers could care less; there’s nothing in it for them.

It is literally too expensive for me to live. It is too expensive to me to draw breath.

I am severely mentally ill. I have four major co-morbid mental illnesses. I am supposed to be focused on getting better and maintaining mental health. Instead I have been consumed by this worry, and it leads me to very dark places.

And I have no fucking idea what to do.

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