I’m furious, and broke

It’s not even the end of the month, and the non-paycheck isn’t stretching as much as it needs to. I need groceries, I need to pay hydro and I need to pay for dental work.

The part-time job I thought I had fell through, and I know I am not really in good enough shape to look for another one. This one was perfect, doing work for a company I have worked for in the past with people I already know, doing things I already know how to do. The thought of trying to find some other place to take me on terrifies me right now. The whole process of applying, interviewing and landing a job is scary all on its own, but the thought of having to learn new people, new places and new procedures seems daunting and more than a little overwhelming.

I don’t qualify for welfare, because my husband works, and I am too functional for disability support, pittance that it is. Disability support wouldn’t even cover our rent, and the cost of moving is prohibitive all on its own.

I’m angry. Seething actually, that an intelligent, well-educated woman can’t support herself. My depression and anxiety are stopping me from going out and getting a job, and I can’t get any other support. I am beating myself up for being so useless, but on an intellectual level I understand that this is not really my fault. Intellect isn’t all it’s cracked up to be on this one.

I could hit up my family, again, but the humiliation is more than I can handle at the moment, and they have already gone above and beyond for me. The financial support they have given me so that I can go to school is much appreciated, but it always comes with strings. No matter how well-meaning they are, ‘suggestions’ about how I should live my life, and what my priorities – or my husband’s priorities – should be are not helpful and they make me feel like a child. Feeling like a child is not really conducive to improving my self-esteem and confidence.

Almost everyone I know with mental health issues is broke, close to broke, in debt or barely making it. Financial stability or at least some measure of security is important. Financial stress is one of the strongest influences on my mental health, and from my experience it is that way for most people. How is it that I am expected to be building myself up, strengthening my psyche and getting well while at the same time trying to figure out if I can afford milk?

I need a job to get better, but I need to be better to get a job. How is this going to work out? It’s not like I want the state to support me in a luxurious lifestyle. I’m not looking for a holiday, or a new outfit. I just want there to be some sort of short-term system that I can tap into for a few months to keep things going until I can get my act together. Medical EI? Yeah, that only works if you have been paying into it for a certain number of weeks, and my last job was contract so it doesn’t count. Catastrophic insurance? Also not an option, I don’t have any. No insurance company will cover me for anything related to my mental health because I have a pre-existing condition.

I know this is a lot of complaining, but realistically I am not alone in this. I see this happening over and over again to people I know. Poverty is a significant contributing factor in mental illness.

From The Canadian Mental Health Association (Ontario)

“For persons who are poor and predisposed to mental illness, losing stabilizing resources, such as income, employment, and housing, for an extended period of time can increase the risk factors for mental illness or relapse.”

We are so focused, in North America, on individuality, on personal responsibility, that we are putting people like me at risk of relapse. Relapse, for me, means possible hospitalization and that, as I have said before, is really expensive. Even beyond mental health issues we seem to be unable to focus on prevention.

We would rather punish people after they have committed a crime than put social supports in place to reduce the things, like poverty for example, that breed crime. We seem to be willing to risk the life and health of citizens to avoid paying for preventative programs. The mayor of Canada’s largest city just voted to refuse $300,000 in free federal funding to support at-risk kids. This in the same week as a gang-related shooting in a major mall that killed two people and injured several innocent bystanders.

We starve the system of support for seniors to the point where they can’t afford to stay in their homes and end up in long-term care or hospitals. Both are very expensive when compared to personal support workers and home care. That is not even taking into account the quality of life issues that arise when you hospitalize someone who would rather live out their life at home, or even in hospice. We don’t even have a system for supporting families that are trying to care for their aging parents and grandparents.

Other jurisdictions, including places like Germany and Sweden, have a philosophy of preventative intervention, of acting to prevent crises and expensive acute care or incarceration. Of course they are, gasp, more socialist and, double gasp, European, but really do I care what we call it if people get what they need? Sure Europe is in a financial mess right now, but not all of it is due to an out-of-control health care system, and Sweden and Germany are doing pretty well all things considered.

Out of personal interest I would like some income support, to get me through this rough part, to keep me from losing my marbles trying to feed myself. I would like it if disability support were not based exclusively on the premise that you will not recover, and if it were enough to raise a person above (or at least to) the poverty line. At a community level, though, I want more support for the vulnerable before they end up in crisis, not just out of self-interest, and not just for reasons of social justice (although that should count for a great deal). We can’t afford the health care system, the welfare system and the corrections system as they are set up now. You hear it in every budget speech, in every ‘austerity’ program proposed. If the system is broken – fix it! Look for lower cost alternatives like preventative measures, supportive measures, things that will allow people to get into, or get back into the work force. Don’t make us suffer to the point where we get acutely ill, or get into a gang, or end up in long-term care. That costs way too much in money and in human suffering.

Invest in people a little. Put some money into the system, up front, and in a smart way. It will pay off long term.

I’m hoping some person I helped out in the past will turn out to be fabulously wealthy, hate all their relatives and leave me their vast fortune. Realistically, it’s more likely than winning the lottery. I’m a nice person and have helped a whole bunch of people out over the years. Hey, it could happen!

Some of it will go to groceries, for sure. I would, however, spend a lot of it supporting people like me that just need a few months of cash to keep the roof over their heads while they figure out how to move forward. Yeah, I’m really hoping that little old lady who fell down the stairs in 1989 has a vast fortune, and an ungrateful nephew who is just out for her millions. I’m still hoping the people of Ontario and our elected representatives will wake the hell up and shake up their priorities, but given my level of pessimism right now a wealthy widow is looking like my best option. Sad.

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