Kind, Gentle and Generous

Give Him the Moon

Earlier this year I set a goal to stay out of the hospital or a hospital program this spring.  Three out of the last five years, I’ve ended up there.  It’s a good thing, really, to know when to make that call.  Lots of folks with mental illness aren’t able to do that for themselves, so I feel lucky and proud of the work I do to hang onto a little insight during the worst of times.

However, the program I’ve used in the past was eliminated, like many of the behavioral health programs across the state, because psychiatrists fled Iowa like rats on a sinking ship (some problem with Medicare reimbursement).  If I needed serious help now, I’d have to drive across the state and admit myself into one of the few psych wards left.  I’d rather not, really.

I needed to change things up—not just my perspective, but what I do to manage this transition from winter to summer.  I found some new resources this year to help—Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation (IPR) and Integrated Health Services (IHS).  Both are new state programs trying to fill the gaps left by the psych docs.  Also, with my mom’s passing last summer, I now live frugally instead of crushed by poverty.  It’s a huge difference.

So, with this new net under me, I started to address the critical and disapproving voice in my head.  I started to wonder if my drive to do more and be more was actually another facet of that mean voice.  I watched how I withheld comfort, left no room for rest or rejuvenation, and squeaked by on the least.

I wondered how it might feel to do the opposite—to be kind and gentle in my self-appraisal, to be generous with my time and money.  I wondered how that voice might sound.  I wondered, for instance, what my grandma might say to me when rapid cycling ruined all my plans for the day.  Or what my friend, Lily, might say about me going to Ireland next year.

Whenever I started to hate on myself, or rail against the unfairness of living with bipolar disorder, or scold myself for going to Des Moines twice in one week, I tried to stop and conjure the people who love me.  Their kind and gentle voices filled my mind.  Their immediate generosity helped me breathe.

Over the course of the spring, I’ve tried to make those voices strong in my mind.  This is some of the hardest work I’ve ever done.  I’m steeped in self-violence.  Recognizing the lie in that voice when it slithers into my thoughts takes time.  Then, countering it with petal-soft, open-armed sweetness is like speaking a foreign language.  But, I’ve learned a few words.  And my vocabulary is growing.

Being kind, gentle and generous to myself doesn’t alter the course of my bipolarity.  Rapid cycling fogs my brain and leaves me exhausted.  Emotions flip and tumble like Olympians.  Chores overwhelm me.  But, today, I have hope that I can navigate the hard road through Spring.  In my mind, I’m holding a warm, gentle hand.  It fits perfectly in mine.  Because it is mine.

Advertisements

Basic Care

Keep CleanYesterday a crack opened in the bipolar depression that’s been at me for weeks.  Enough to let me remember to return to basics.  Because I’ve looked in the mirror every morning and said to that shocked face, “We’re not going to the hospital this year.  We’re not.”

First a call to the group I worked for this past summer—Integrated Health Services.  Their whole mission is to keep mental health clients out of the hospitals and emergency rooms.  I know I need more support now—I’ve been hearing from my providers all year that I don’t have enough in the best of times.  I’m not sure what IHS can do, but I made an appointment for Monday with Rosario, my care coordinator, and with Allison, my peer, to sit and figure that out.  They are both kind, heart-centered women.  I feel safe going to them.  The fact that I was just able to make the appointment helped.  Doing something, anything, sometimes helps.

Daily PlanToday I will start using my Daily Plan sheet, the one I created after my partial hospitalization last spring.  It will help me focus on small goals and remember to do every day tasks that get waterlogged by the swampy emotions.

I looked at how much money I’ve spent this month and cut back to the essentials.  Today I’ll figure a budget to get me through to May (February is just the beginning.  March and April can sometimes be even worse).  I’ll try to make it something I can live with, not something that will punish me for being sick.

HenryI cleaned out my refrigerator of all the liquefying vegetables and bought a few simple groceries.  I swam at the Y.  I sat with my fading bedspread for a while and sewed a blanket stitch around the frayed edges with gentle music playing and the cats behind my head on the chair.  Henry’s belly makes a gurgling, crackling sound when he’s digesting, and I pressed my ear against his fur to listen while he slept.

My apartment is a sickroom now.  No sudden moves.  No grand expectations.  Everything deliberate and gentle.  I must tend to my sleep, get to the Y every day, maintain my journal, plan quiet visits with friends, try to eat fresh food.  I will try to keep the structure sound while the storm carries on inside.  I will treat myself as someone worthy of care and respect, as someone that I love.

Der Rapid Cycle

BrunnhildeI’m at that phase of The Chest Cold/Bronchitis Opera where initial mania (Ooo, goodie!  I get to sleep all day and eat Raman Noodles!) gives way to the longer aria of depression.  I’ve been singing this part for several years now, and sometimes the Dark Solo can go on for months.  As can the bronchitis itself.  It’s a nasty, double whammy.  Sorta like Brünhilde losing her immortality AND getting thrown on a pyre.  Heh, Heh.  That Wagner.  What a cut up.

This season, though, I’m finding the depression to be different.  Not easier—that strum und drang never gets easier—but simpler.  This time, I have the gifts my mom left me to help me through the whole Ring cycle—her almost-new Honda and a small monthly income from investments.

sisyphusI’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again—the stress of poverty kills.  The hopelessness and desperation it creates turns a person into a sack of mindless meat.  It yanks away the will to live and leaves said person on bloody knees.  It’s a weight that can’t be shucked off or reasoned with—like Sisyphus’ stone (Oops.  Wrong Mythos).

I thank my mom every day for taking away my need to choose between medicine for chest blight and gas for her wonderful car.  I thank her for taking away the stress of being squashed-flat by poverty.  Eliminating that stressor has already made a huge difference in how I deal with my bipolar disorder.  Now I have a real chance to manage it.

But I still have to manage it.  Last week, someone asked me if, since I had a little more money and didn’t have the stress of my Peer Support job, I’d ‘get over the whole bipolar thing now.’  I wasn’t sure how to answer.  It’s not like a cold sore that flares up when you get nervous and then fades away.  It’s not a case of hives.  It’s a mental illness.  I still have to strap on my breast plates and take the stage.  Every single day.  And belt out that damned song.

Don’t be fooled.  The fat lady sings because she has to, not because the show is over.  This is one show that never ends.

Goals for the Next 30 Days: Work on My Bucket List

Bucket List

One of the exercises Dan, my counselor in partial hospitalization, gave me was to write my Bucket List.  It was supposed to be 100 items long, but mine was only 8.  I promised him I’d keep adding to it, but these were the things that meant the most to me.

  1. I want a new, preferably hybrid, Smart Car.
  2. I want to move to the Southwest.
  3. I want to spend at least 3 months in the United Kingdom.
  4. I want to work as a Peer and get paid what I’m worth.
  5. I want to travel to meet my blog friends in person.
  6. I want to have sex with a decent man once more before I die.
  7. I want to finish Technical Consultant and get it published.
  8. I want to lose 100 pounds.

When I gave Dan my list, he asked why I hadn’t done these things yet.  We talked about obstacles.  We talked about breaking each item into tiny steps.  We talked about opening up to the possibility of getting what I want.

It’s a powerful exercise.  Mental illness can make a person collapse in on oneself.  We fall down Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and cringe in the basement.  It takes some work and a little courage to rise up and open out.

The Crucible PosterOne day after being discharged, I was trolling my Pinterest feed and saw a notice that made me moan.  Richard Armitage  (he of The Hobbit fame and inspiration for my novel) would be playing John Proctor in a new stage production of The Crucible at the Old Vic Theater in London.  My initial thought was, “Oh, man!  I’m on the wrong continent.”  Then, I heard Dan’s voice in the back of my head.  Is it possible?

I actually started to consider it.  My Visa debt was almost paid off.  I learned how to do that.  I could do it again.

So, I dug in my closet for my old passport.  I sat there staring at it a long time, then I emailed my blog friend, Evelyn, who lives an hour west of London in Newbury.

What do you think?  I asked her.  Am I crazy?

Her answer was an itinerary of all the things we’d do if I came to see her.

Earl's Court StationIt’s been a little over a week since that email exchange.  I’ve sent in my passport renewal.  I’ve booked my flights and hotel (a sweet-looking B&B in Kensington around the corner from Earl’s Court Tube station).  I’ve purchased my Crucible ticket (The Old Vic is in the round, and I’m front row left.  I figured if I’m flying to London to see Richard on stage, I’m damn well going to see the blues of his eyes).  And my prepaid Oyster card came Fed Ex today, otherwise should call them via number-finder.co.uk myself.

It will be a short trip—arriving in London on September 2 and leaving on September 4—but I’m thinking of this as my first trip to the UK.  I want to see Richard and Evelyn.  I want to learn how to use the Tube system and how to take the overland train out of London to find my friend in another city.  I want to be able to pay for something with British coins and not fumble around.  That will be enough this time.  Oh, that will be just fine.

Everyone I’ve talked to has been joyfully supportive—from my therapist, who wanted me to stay longer, to my mom, who giggled when I told her.  Evelyn sends me regular brainstorms.

And as I pour over Google maps, I send Gratitude to Dan for posing the question.

Is it possible?

Needless to say, I’m on an Adventure.

Making It Real

handmade greeting card, collage artBack in October when I took the first week of Peer Support training, I applied to my sister’s P.E.O. chapter for financial assistance.  The ladies who interviewed me were lovely—kind, supportive, sure that the Iowa board of directors of their group would approve my request.  One of them had even read this blog.

It was a nice way to spend a morning, but I didn’t set my hopes too high as I still was in need to get money today.  I’d been negotiating philanthropy and human services long enough to know my chances of being disqualified for one reason or another were more likely than not.  The ladies said it would be after the first of the year before a decision would be made.  Okay.

After my wake-up call in January about my growing debt, it was hard not to hope for reprieve.  My sister called to say something had gone wrong with the application and had to be done over.  Okay.  A few weeks ago, she called again to ask questions that I’d addressed in my initial letter.  Okay.

I thought I was staying relatively detached.  There might be a slim chance out there in the ethers, but I needed to concentrate on the Work in front of me—finding the strength to stick to my budget without the stress triggering one more hospitalization.

And that’s really the bottom line for me.  How much can I push against the illness without blowing up?  How long can I keep with this budget and work on my compulsive eating?  I’ve never thought in terms of time.  There’s no benefit to that, is there?  There’s just today, doing the best I can, practicing my Start with One Serving mantra and doing everything on the cheap.  I know the intensity of this time is temporary, but I can’t focus on an end date when I don’t know where it is.

This week I received a letter from the P.E.O. board.  They will be sending me about half the money I asked for.  Don’t get me wrong—I’m grateful for it, grateful for anything, and glad the waiting is over.  But no immediate reprieve is coming.  Instead I can now plot out an end date to the extreme financial squeeze.  July.

That doesn’t seem like much.  Four months.  But when I look at the two months I’ve already spent doing this hard work, experiencing the worst of my bipolar symptoms with just my therapist standing fast beside me, I can’t comprehend four months.  I feel myself contract even more, hardening to anything but The Work.

This isn’t good.  Becoming rigid like this invites a kind of shattering that takes a long time to heal.  I need to let in some softness, find a way to play and laugh, figure out a way to be with people that doesn’t end in rage and resentment.  (Ah. I think we’ve hit on the agenda for my next therapy session.)

Because this shit is real now.  I’m not spot-training anymore, I’m going the distance to an actual finish line.  Can I pace myself and push my limits at the same time?  Am I ready to be a bipolar Olympian?

laurel leaf crownReady the laurel leaves, boys.  I’ll see you in four months.

Stuck

stuckLast week I got stuck in the snow and ice.  I spent about a half hour rocking my truck back and forth, almost tipping over the edge to freedom only to fall back into the rut.  Eventually, a boy with a truck and a tow line happened by and hauled me out.  First he wanted to try his hand at rocking out of the rut (Ah, the optimism of youth!).  While he played in my truck, I stepped off the snow-hidden curb and fell with my foot caught.  Things got twisted and made funny noises.  I may have uttered a few disparaging words about winter.

Unfortunately, my brain seems to be stuck and making its own funny noises.  For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mired in depression, able at times to rock back and forth, but always ending up in the rut.  When I’m in this gutter it’s too easy to focus on all the failures and pain—my application for rent reimbursement was denied since my HUD apartment building doesn’t pay property tax; after doing a week’s worth of records-gathering and making copies for my rent review, my 2014 rent only went down by a dollar; I can’t stop binge eating.  Saturday I got up, determined to knock some of the whingeing out of my head.  I got dressed for the Y and stopped by the library to get a new pile of DVDs.  By the time I checked out, I was exhausted.  I went back home, pulled on my jammies, and crawled, defeated, back into bed.

When the rut gets deep and my mental tires smoke from spinning, I try to remember the good stuff.  And there is good stuff.  There’s always good stuff if a person looks long enough.  I’ve made it through a whole month without using my credit card and sticking to my White-Knuckle budget.  The UU Fellowship I attend asked me to be their go-to presenter and will pay me a stipend of about $50 to provide two programs a month.  I was approved for Medicaid, so I’ll at least be on the waiting list for the Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation program.  And because I have Medicaid now, I can continue to see my therapist every week instead of scaling back to save money.

Then, there are my friends and their gifts.  There’s Rob and Carol.  There’s David and his gift of The Measure of My Days—a beautiful, inspirational book.  And Michelle’s gift of two fabulous CDs of music (The Polar Vortex 1 & 2).  And emails.  Lots and lots of emails filled with support and love and inspiration.  Those are just my bloggy friends.  Here at home, I’ve been given bags of fabulous junk to make art—sequins from India from Sheila, Czech magazines and bric-a-brac from Robyn.  Dee invited me over to look through her collection of vintage photographs and to pick out ones I could use.  Penny and Karen take me to lunch.  Cat takes me to breakfast and keeps my phone working.  All these tow lines keep the tension steady so that when this current rut flattens out a bit, I can drive on.

Tow Lines

Still, today, the despair and pain are thick.  I’ll go to the laundromat in a minute—a cozy place that’s warm and smells like home.  I’ll get my Peppermint Mocha, and sit with my journal, and do all the things I need to do to keep rocking.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  And I’ll remember the tow lines attached to me that keep me tethered to the world outside this rut.

Watch Me Pull a Rabbit Outta the Hat

Rocky and BullwinkleI really don’t think anyone else is interested in my financial prestidigitations.  I’m just opting for transparency.  Since compulsive behavior is part of my bipolar kit, I need to open it up for inspection.  And since living on Social Security Disability is a fact of life for lots of folks with mental illness, maybe we can trade magic tricks on how to make those dollars stretch.

Even though I started tightening my belt a week before, the real test came with my February check.  It seemed silly to be nervous about walking into the bank with my little list—a month’s worth of quarters for laundry, a $50 bill for the car fund, and cash for the week’s groceries and gas.  Nervous, I guess, because I don’t do this very well—sticking to what feels like severe restriction.  So, I tried to reframe my thoughts.  Not restriction, stewardship and different choices.  I’m making different choices about how I spend my money.  I’m doing this.  It’s not being done to me.

I know a big part of budgeting is planning.  I’m an expert list-maker and always have A Plan.  I’m just not as hot at actually implementing The Plan.  The bipolar part of the equation gets in my way.  Knowing that about myself makes any plan tentative—possible, but not probable.  Planning seems to set me up for failure, so I’ve learned to make plans loose and friendly to give them a fighting chance.

I made a loose meal plan, a handful of ideas for meals that I could mix and match—stir fries, chili,  roasted vegetables, hummus wraps—then made a grocery list from that.  This week I had plenty in my food budget for the initial shopping trip, plus a little left over.  That little bit extra felt expansive to me—I could get cornbread mix to go with my chili or a frozen pizza later in the week if I wanted to.  Since cooking still makes me anxious sometimes (especially when I’m under stress), it helped to have this bit of breathing space.

Fridley Theaters gift cardI didn’t bother trying to walk in this cold, and managed fine on my budget of $15 a week for gas.  I’m surprised that staying home hasn’t felt restrictive, especially since I’ve experienced several days of depression and anxiety.  Usually that makes me want to bolt.  I went to the movies a couple of times here in town on the gift cards I received for Christmas.  My friends and my sister treated me to meals out.  I’m also still seeing my therapist every week.  So even though I’ve been cycling fast and hard, I seem to have enough distraction and support to keep the symptoms manageable.

The new mental health program I learned about last week is Medicaid-funded, so I probably don’t qualify.  I make too much money.  But a friend does pay me a little bit each month for odd jobs, and that might be enough to qualify me as working disabled.  This makes no sense to me, but that’s a whole other post.  It does look like I will be reimbursed for about half of the rent I paid in 2013 (who knew?).  That would pay off all my medical debt.  Sweet!

This is hard.  But, I’m hoping the longer I stick with this budget and continue to see results, the more comfortable I’ll get with it.  The most important factor is to reduce my stress, make this as easy as possible, so that my symptoms don’t overwhelm me.  That’s the rabbit I keep fishing for inside the hat.

The Beagle and the Teacup

handmade greeting card, collage artI’m breaking one of my Golden Rules by not telling you how crazy I am at the moment.

Honesty.  That’s what I pledged.

So, okay.

I went to a presentation today about some of the new programs rolling out with ObamaCare and the Mental Health Redesign in Iowa.  A program called Intensive Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services (IPRS) focuses on reducing a client’s stressors.  Because (this is radical, now) reducing stress will reduce symptoms, which will ultimately allow someone with a mental illness to function more independently.

Thank you, People in Suits, for finally getting it.

Last week, I wrote that I had $11 in my billfold, and that I was determined to still hold that $11 when my Disability check came.  Well, I didn’t make it.  If I was only going to do laundry every other week ($15 at the laundromat), I needed more socks.  So I bought socks.  And a 89¢ notebook to keep track of grocery prices and specials.

Preferred Pest Control, bed bug, beagleThen, the landlord tacked up a sign that said Radar, the bedbug-sniffing beagle, was coming for his quarterly inspection the next day.  That meant packing up the cats (which they hate), their litter boxes, food, and anything Radar might get into and hauling everyone out to my Mom’s for the day.  She’s only marginally tolerant of animals in the house, so the boys had to stay in the basement, where Emmett promptly found a hidey-hole that he refused to leave.  Cut to seven hours later, and he sashayed past me with thirty-year-old dust bunnies stuck to his fur.  Finally, we got home, but I’d lost my only winter hat and my phone.

This is the danger of stress—breakage, forgetfulness, locking myself out of the apartment or truck, falling on the ice, losing stuff.  One flat tire turns into a fifty-car pile up and a long discussion with the tire store.  And with each incident, my capacity for navigating and problem-solving shrinks.   I liken it to a teacup.  Stress shrinks the cup.  Too much stress flattens the cup into a saucer.  Then, the slightest bump sloshes out the tea.  And if the saucer empties out completely—hello, Psych Ward.

So, I talked to the caseworker at the presentation today and will be getting a referral for IPRS.  Mom found my hat in her driveway.  My phone was under some sacks in my back seat.  And I don’t have bedbugs.

Today was a pretty good day.

White-Knuckle Budget

handmade greeting card, collage artThis is a Pattern:

Live in Denial.   Wake up.  Overcompensate.  Go Crazy.  Repeat.

Basically, this is my Pattern for living.  It’s definitely my financial strategy.  This past year I thought I was getting comfortable with my poverty—coming to terms with it—my smug self said.  But what really happened was that I just pretended it didn’t exist.

I know lots of people do this with money.  Statistics from The Federal Reserve say that the average U.S. household credit card debt is $15,270.  That doesn’t include medical or mortgage debt, so imagine what the real number might be!  People all over the country plug their ears with their fingers and sing, “La la la la.  I can’t hear you.”  Knowing this makes me feel a little less crazy, my compulsive spending a little less shameful.  It makes my combined debt of $3000 seem paltry.  But I still have to deal with it.

My hope is that every time I go through this cycle I learn a little something.  Maybe I can adjust the pattern a wee bit this time.  Maybe that’s denial talking, but it seems like I’m required to try.  Right now I’m between Waking up and Overcompensating.  Maybe I can keep from swinging too far into a way of living that’s unsustainable.  I did that when I decided to save money for a new car, cinching the financial belt so tight I passed out from stress and threw myself into a month of rapid cycling.   Neuro-normals go through this, too, I’ve learned.  There’s even a term for it—Frugal Fatigue.  They don’t land themselves in a mental hospital, though.  Well, I’m guessing they don’t.

There are some things I do right.  I keep a spreadsheet of every penny I spend.  I pay my bills through the Bill Pay option with my bank, so things like rent and internet service get paid the same time every month.

There are things I’ve gotten better at doing.  When I was recovering from electroshock and very brain-sick, cooking threw me into scary anxiety attacks, so I ate a lot of take-in.  I mostly enjoy cooking now, especially when I create something fabulous from digging through my pantry (see my Kitchen Sink Chili recipe below).  But, there are still times when I’m so brain-sick I can’t face cooking.  I try to have easy, microwaveable stuff on hand for those times.  And if I can’t even do that much, then try to limit the splurging to one meal, one item, one treat.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.

Making wise money choices while cycling through mixed states is sort of a contradiction in terms.  The urge to bolt in my truck requires gas.  The day-long camp-outs at the theater require tickets.  Then, of course, we have the standard binge-eating and internet shopping wallows.  I’m trying to work on those things with my therapist, but squeezing them too tightly also causes backlash.  So, I need to plan for them while I work at minimizing their effects.  Tightrope walking at its finest.

So, here’s the first draft of my plan:

  1. Stop using my credit card.  That means buying gas for my truck with cash, which means a lot less driving.  That translates to only going to Des Moines in cases of mental emergency.  It also means walking as much as I can, which may have to wait until it gets warmer.  The windchill today is -8, so I think I’ll be driving to the Y later.
  2. Try something new.  This time around I’m going to try the envelope system.  I’ll take out my budgeted amounts for food, gas, laundry and entertainment each week and keep them in separate zip-lock bags.  When the money’s gone, it’s gone.  I have a friend who has used this system for decades, but I’ve always thought it seemed too restrictive.  Well, restriction is what’s needed, so I’m game to try.
  3. Keep saving for the new car.  That’s a priority for me, so I’ll keep tucking away a little each month.
  4. Adjust my medical payments.  Paying $40 a month to my mental health clinic wasn’t taking care of my co-pay from Medicare.  I asked them for a statement and found out I owe about $500.  I’ve increased my monthly payment (through Bill Pay) to cover my weekly therapist visits and start whittling at the debt.
  5. Start chipping away at the credit card balance.  I’ve routinely paid a lot more than the minimum required, but never enough to cover the monthly charges.  If I’m not using my card, I can start reversing that trend.

Personal financial experts suggest test-driving a budget before making a huge commitment.  That makes sense to me.  I won’t be able to start until my Disability check comes in February, then I’ll take this puppy for a spin.  Until then, I’m committed to zero spending.  I have gas in the truck, food in the cupboard, a gift card to the theater here in town if I need a movie.  I have $11 in my billfold, and I’m determined to still have it come February 3.  I’m good.  Really good.

Here’s what I created yesterday—a vegan chili recipe that is so delicious I couldn’t believe it.  Score!

Kitchen Sink Vegan Chili

½ C dried beans (I used pinto beans, but any kind would work.  And canned beans are just fine, too.)

¼ C Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Wild and Brown Rice (Again, this is what was in my pantry.  Use whatever rice or pasta you have.)

1-16 oz. can diced tomatoes

1-16 oz. can corn

1-6 oz. can tomato paste

1-4 oz. can green chilies, chopped

1-2.25 oz. can sliced black olives

½ onion, diced

Water

Seasonings: salt, turmeric, chili powder, sweetener (I used a packet of Truvia, so 2 tsp. of sugar would be the same)

*

Soak and cook the beans according to the directions.  Same with the rice (or pasta).  Beans need a couple of hours to cook.  Wild rice needs an hour.  Drain.

Add all the other stuff.

Add water to make the chili a consistency you like.

Add seasonings.  I think seasoning is personal and requires tasting, so I don’t have any measurements for them.  Turmeric was a creative choice this time and turned out to be fabulous.  Use whatever you’ve got.  The one exception to my chili seasoning rule is sweetener.  It cuts the acid of the tomatoes and just makes any kind of chili better (in my humble opinion).

This made 4 big bowls of deliciousness—231 calories/bowl.  I topped it with crumbled up corn bread (add another 150 calories).

A Dream Deferred

collage art

You know those times when you wrestle with a decision?  When you want one thing, but the numbers don’t quite add up?  And then something—a person, an event, a seemingly random set of circumstances—brings it all into focus?  I’m in the middle of one of those epiphanies.

I really wanted to be a Peer (as in Peer Support Specialist).  I wanted to help other folks with mental illness and earn a little money doing it.  I got training last fall.  I was offered a volunteer position at the hospital in Des Moines where I was a patient.  I thought I was on my way.

The trouble is, it costs me at least $50 for gas each week.  That’s money I don’t have, so it goes on my credit card.  There’s still a big balance there from my Peer training, too.  Friends and my UU fellowship chipped in to pay about half (thank you very much), and I applied for scholarships from service clubs, but it doesn’t look like those will pan out.  Every month my balance creeps higher.  Every month I look the other way.

Then, yesterday I got the oil changed in my truck.  I looked at the $70 bill, which I put on my credit card, and knew I had to pay attention.

I can’t drive to Des Moines every week.  In fact, if I ever want to whittle my Visa balance down, I’ll have to park my truck and walk as much as I can.

It seems so simple now.

I’ve been uncomfortable about doing this support group ever since we started talking about it.  I attributed that discomfort to a lot of reasons—I’m too unstable to do the job, the hospital is in chaos, it’s too much stress.  But, those are all just niggles, all things I can work through.  The real reason is that I can’t afford it.

So, I’ll go tonight and tell everyone—the social worker who recruited me, the young man who would have partnered with me in creating the new group, the folks about to “graduate” from After Care who looked forward to on-going support.  I know the After-After Care group probably won’t fly now.  Dan could only convince the two of us to volunteer, and the job is too much for one person.  I am sorry for that.  But not sorry enough to rack up more debt in the hope that someday Mercy will offer me a job.  I can’t sacrifice myself out of fear.

It’s a relief to be done wrestling, a relief to see what needs to be done and be calm about it.  My dream will find a new shape in its own time.  When it does, it will probably seem quite random and serendipitous.  If I hold it lightly.

Previous Older Entries

Blog Stats

  • 137,901 hits
%d bloggers like this: