in the days before housing assistance, i was forced to work despite my disability. in order to pay rent even for renting only a room — which was often all that i could afford. the exception to that was when i had a boyfriend to “share” expenses. and this led to constantly “looking for a man” to help support me, rather than finding a means to support myself.
and in that way, i was further dragged into a life of promiscuity, which was even part of my mental health diagnosis. i simply needed a way to live on my own, without being obligated to men that were often drug users, alcoholics, and violent. i needed some way to FEEL secure, because insecurity only resulted in more hospitalizations, and more medications applied to my quickly degenerating and panicked brain.
then i took the steps to apply for housing assistance. it was after leaving yet another boyfriend, who drained my finances and even wrecked my car by driving it into a garage door! i couldn’t get to work after that, and life was again very bleak and very insecure. my disability check was not enough to live on, in any “normal” sense. i had to spend upwards of 75% on rent alone, and then to eat or have gas money, i had to find jobs that were often temporary and at minimum wage. then to top that off, the federal government questioned my disability status every time i had to work, and that meant reams of paperwork and signatures from doctors. it was just more hoops that left me feeling more insecure. i had to work to live, but working threatened my livelihood and income for my very real disability that only gets worse during times of stress.
these years of stress included many points of hospitalization — which it makes me ill to think of the cost. months, sometimes — at institutions that kept patients that long specifically for testing new medications on human subjects. it’s not pretty, it jerks your body chemistry all over the place — and in the end leads to feelings of MORE insecurity. the hospital is not a place to get ‘well’ or to feel ‘better’ — it is a matter of being ‘captured’ for the purpose of medical experiments. and those experiments ranged into being woken every hour on the hour, to being locked in a space for weeks with no clock, no windows, and no access to ‘time.’ it always involved the experiment of isolation from outside events, with no newspapers, no tv, and frequently not even books. given only a pencil and tablet, and asked to write down how you feel for them to read as part of their studies. i knew all this was for their benefit, not mine, it was not hard to discern — and led to MORE feelings of insecurity and quite frankly — a complete distrust of those slotted by the system as being those who supposedly ‘care’ for the mentally disabled.
so anyway — i applied for housing first in california, but the “waiting list” was 10 years long. i left california in search of a better situation, because i completely panicked when a man renting space at the house where is was renting a room — offered money to sleep with me. i panicked because i was hurting again for money, and in between jobs, and i was VERY tempted to take it! but i didn’t … decided that was one line i did not ever want to cross. so i fled california and its very expensive rents — and wound up in utah. and then years later, after leaving the boyfriend that crashed my car into his garage, i decided to apply for housing assistance in utah.
it came through only after a few months, and i was able to get my own apartment in the very first time ever in my life. i was 36 years old. it was a kind of miracle. i even applied for credit cards again, and sold the broken car. i began to realize that i could budget better on my own, than when living with a man. but i had no skills for budgeting, and also had no support groups and looked to having a job to fill the void of human contact and purpose. after a couple years at the very first apartment, i was dating a different man, who persuaded me to move to one in a better neighborhood. in the end, i could not deal with him being drunk and high all the time, so i broke that off. started a long distance relationship and moved to albuquerque.
and i was able to take my housing assistance with me, because it was a federal program. so in new mexico, even though i went there because of a relationship, i soon realized that i needed my own place. got an apartment that was near a shopping center, and applied for a job at a shop there as well. for the most part, i managed — but still found myself in line at the food bank for hours, because bills were too high and the biggest problem was that i was still not in reality. i was operating without medications at that time, and another factor of my disability — which is spending money — was not under control. my answer to running out of money, was to work more hours if i could, or was to pawn items that i bought and could not afford.
i had four boyfriends simultaneously, when i decided it was time to leave albuquerque and return to california. many things went into that decision, but the biggest was my involvement with the DEA and something found at work that allowed for the arrest of a cuban drug lord from florida. i kind of thought a change of address might lengthen my life a bit at that point….
so in california, i stayed with family until i found another apartment. the apartment i rented was surrounded by “partiers” and i didn’t realize this when i signed the lease. was a very ‘insecure’ feeling, and the bedroom had a large glass door facing a balcony of constant partiers. i felt vulnerable, and preyed upon. the lack of sleep and unable to afford to buy a real bed and sleeping on the floor — led to another hospitalization, and an eviction from the apartments after i screamed in terror when a gigantic possum came onto the patio at night. the “partier” neighbors reported me as screaming at them — and i was evicted and had to find a new apartment quickly. and do that after the degree of insecurity and no sleep landed me in the hospital again, where i was drugged with some new liquid medications as well as shots that left me in a poor mental state.
but i managed to get a new place, and it was one studio room, very cramped and depressing. i could not find work, and i sat in the one room either staring out the window that showed nothing but sky, or i went over and over bills — wondering how i could make things work. finally, when the lease was up on that apartment, i searched and found an apartment in oxnard. not the best, and in a semi-bad neighborhood. but was run by an ok company, and again — i managed. the problem then became, that with all the recent moving of furniture, i seriously hurt my back. woke up only able to crawl on the floor one day. part of that, was i budgeted downward and had a futon for a bed, also. lesson learned, there. i then went to the doctor and had an MRI, where they found 3 bulging disks and told me i could either have surgery, or have physical therapy. i voted for physical therapy, which in hind sight was probably the wrong choice.
but no one advised me on the better choice, or gave projections, even. the problem i now faced, that it was very difficult if not impossible, to go out and work a job if found myself strapped for cash. i was effectively looking at having to live on a fixed income for the first time in my life, and to manage that somehow while supporting a car (that often broke down) and paying rent (even though reduced considerably by housing assistance) and while still feeling mostly insecure. though by that time in my life, by the time i was 41 years old — i realized that men were not helping the situation any. if anything, the mere IDEA that i ‘needed’ a man to live, contributed to a GREATER sense of instability and insecurity. and with a “broken” back, i knew i could not work jobs to make myself valuable in a relationship. i could not function well enough to be an asset.
i was at the point in my life that finding yet “another boyfriend” was not a solution. i only felt useful at all, by visiting my grandmother almost every day at the resthome. and by taking her to lunch at Denny’s, that was right around the corner. i still had a car, even getting one after an accident where an uninsured driver totaled my car, slammed it and spun it — shaking me up quite badly. when i asked my family to store the broken car for me, because the apartment did not allow a non-working vehicle in their parking lot — the family refused to help. to help at all. so it was towed and i lost it. i honestly did not understand that, and it left me feeling more insecure than ever. what kind of support were they? what kind of anything? that was topped off by family also asking the resthome where my grandmother was at, to not allow me to take grandma for lunch at Denneys anymore. not without permission from them. at that point, i was crippled by my back, i was “outed” by my family for no reason that i could see, and i had no way to work or get a job to improve anything. top that off, with the fact that if i were to lose my housing assistance for any reason — the rents were so high in california it meant that i would be on the street ………….. on the street! if i lost my housing for any reason. and if the family there would not put up a car, even – where did that leave me?
so i tearfully said good-bye to my grandmother — in tears so great i can’t tell you. i can’t. she was the one touchstone that kept me from giving up over the years, through every kind of struggle and difficulty. she was the only reason i believed in anything. in anything! and i had to abandon her. it was that, or several more trips to a hospital that would use me as a human test subject for more torture and very IN-human treatment. i decided i needed to leave while i could, not wait until something happened and i had no place to live at all, and no family that cared enough about me to even park a car on their 3 garage driveway. had to have room for the boat, you know. see…. that is what i was USED to. i didn’t question how they treated me, because it was how i was always treated. instead of believing THEY were wrong, i more often decided i was bad. if ANYTHING regarding me was an inconvenience, that was not allowed. that is why i always felt i had to sell myself as a slave to boyfriends, to be something valuable, somehow. from the start, and the death of my parents — i was nothing but an INCONVENIENCE. an inconvenience who often thought life and others would have been better if she, too, had been on that plane and died with the rest of my immediate family.
i read faces, i read actions. everything brought me to this state, that i found exhausting.
exhausting. i needed disability payments to live on my own, at all. but i was scorned by family for having the disability in the first place. with the rising property rates and property speculation that made rents jump to enormous amounts — i had to have housing assistance to live, and placed me even lower in the eyes of family and all else. they saw me as a “free-loader” — even though i never was. the only person who helped me, was my grandmother — and she did that from her heart and it gave her something to be NEEDED. i recognized that. part of me didn’t care how that was seen by others. part of me thought that they needed to grow the hell up.
so….the social complications and feelings of insecurity, leading to bad relationships — is how i found myself going through unbelievable humiliations, and degradation. that is why a large, very large part of my life was surrounded by feelings of insecurity, feelings of fear, and a continuing mystery over money and how others managed their money, while i could not. or not so well. it’s why i continually had the IDEA in my head, that a man was going to somehow “rescue” me from financial woes. save me — i just needed to be pretty enough — just needed to be useful enough. but it was an uphill battle i never was going to win. mainly, because in that mode of self-fulfilling prophecy, you end up receiving the thing you are looking for. if you are looking for a master, rather than a partner, then it is a master that you will get. i always found what i was looking for, but it was nothing that was going to “save” me.
i moved back to utah when i was 44, after hugging grandma good-bye and praying very hard that she would not suffer much for my not being there every day in california. i used my housing assistance once again, to find an apartment. this time it proved almost impossible, and my sister had to help me with an outrageous deposit that was more of a bribe, to allow me to rent a place despite my bad credit score. i couldn’t wait, and save money for a deposit, because housing required that you “use it or lose” it and you only have so much time to find an apartment. a very stressful thing, to get refused over and over, looking for a place to live, all the while knowing that if you don’t find something soon, you will no longer have assistance. is a very large sense of insecurity, but also the constant refusal only reinforces the idea that your family was right, and you are a loser that should not be helped in any way. that was really hard, very stressful — and within a year of settling, i started myself on medications from mental health again, and instead of helping at all, the medications sent me into an imbalance and i was in a hospital again. for whatever reason, it was only for a week, there was no “trials” with experimental medications, and so things were looking up.
i had trouble 4 years later, though. it was the worst winter in awhile. snow knee deep. the costs for heating were bad, and i was barely getting by month to month. and the worst thing, i guess, was that the apartments had a newer fulltime handyman, and he began hanging out with a very bad crowd, and letting himself into apartments without knocking first. i felt completely insecure, and even though the branch of my family in utah was infinitely more understanding and emotionally supportive – i never felt comfortable asking them for monetary help or anything. the mental health system in utah had experienced so many cuts, there were no longer day programs or places to be. a snowed-in winter left me feeling stir-crazy, and at the same time not secure and vulnerable. squatters moved in downstairs, and they ran a power cord from the hallway to the apartment they squatted in. the building was half-empty. it was scary, and i had a run-in with the three large men at one point. i even cut their power cord with wire cutters. between the fear, the insecurity, and the lack of sleep while barring my door at night with a broom … i took another trip to the hospital.
now, i’m not trying to “explain things away” — i’m trying to show that a disability has many facets. and the support for that is not a “handout” and the support of housing assistance is not “enabling.” it gave me the ability to have my own life, and to begin the process of LEARNING money-management. that help makes it so i can have my own place, and determine my own fate and hopefully find situations that leave me with feelings of security, rather than feelings of fear.
the strangest thing, when you are getting assistance that overall is just enough to get by. i gave up fast food years ago. i gave up going to the movies, i gave up shopping for new clothes or ‘nice’ clothes and buy only from used stores…. or if i’m feeling indulgent, i get clothing from walmart. NOW. i didn’t used to do that. i was ingrained with my “upper-middle-class” life style, and it took awhile for me to realize how to cut corners and how to manage on a fixed income. i gave up supporting a car. i paid more attention to monthly bills, and how it’s necessary to always apply a X12 when taking on a new monthly expense.
it was time to find a new apartment……… again, with the help of housing and the utah housing department, and to my surprise, there was no outrageous deposit, no bribe for being allowed to rent. there was no shady lease, all read on the up and up. was like heaven. you mean they won’t try to take advantage of my desperate state? apparently not. and the family nearby, welcomed me to join them at church every sunday. soon i realized that church is the people — it’s what the people MAKE of it. my experience of church up until then, had been it was a place for gossip and fighting and trying to go up in popularity, and i just had had enough of that by the time i was 25. assumed that all churches were that way, and i figured life was hard enough without adding that to it.
by this point, i’m learning that money management is a real thing, and i still have “spending bouts” — in fact, christmas is very hard for me, not because of the expense as much as it is i have to police my disability and not go into a “spending spree.” because the thing about money, is you can pretend you have plenty and go shopping — and then the reality hits you when you run out of food at the end of the month. i’m still working through the difficulty of budgeting, and managing money. but for the first time in my adult life, i am experiencing a SECURITY that is about support not based on a pecking order or how i’m perceived by others, and not based on how much money you have to spend. no…. it’s a security based on knowledge of the GOODNESS in other people. that’s kind of a first, as in there is a difference in “knowledge of” and “hope.”
and part of my getting there, or getting here where i am — in a somewhat stabilized state, with activities that include donating time in volunteer work, and helping others, but also a sense that in my apartment now — i am not vulnerable as a single woman. i have a sense of security, a feeling that this is home. and it’s not because just the apartment is ‘better’ and run by decent people, though that’s part of it. but it’s also that i have a church community now that cares about me. that doesn’t see me as an inconvenience, that doesn’t expect me to jump hoops and be exactly like them in every way. a community that does not view my life, and my disability — as something to be ashamed of? well, that doesn’t see my life as this collective of failure — but rather my life is a future of possibility not yet written. and that helps me to see that, too.
so those who hate government programs, and the help they give to those in need … i want you to think about this, on this christmas after a very scary election season. i want you to THINK about how you have been fed lies about people enabled in their poverty, to where otherwise they would pull up and out of it. because i would NOT have. i would have gone down into complete institutionalization. i am more than sure of that, i am aware of my illness and the degrees of degeneration over time, in correlation to the number of hospitalizations.
and i work to make the world a better place, i hope. i can do the math, on how much medical expense and how much $$$$$ overall. i DID pay into social security for many years of work at more jobs than i can name. i’ve easily worked over 20 different jobs — might be more than 50. it’s not like i haven’t TRIED. it’s not like i never paid into the system. but i never felt like i deserved help, only that i needed it. only that it was this, or some kind of dependency on a family that resented me enough when i was NOT dependent on them. you can’t win for losing. the oddest thing was that the one reliable entity my whole life, has been the government.
for some reason, that makes people mad. that makes them jealous — and they think trying to scratch out an existence on social security disability is luxurious and awesome. they think a life of no work and no job is something to envy — when life needs work of some kind to feel like a life at all. that’s what i don’t get, i don’t get why they don’t get that. work their jobs and hate people that get disability income, because they are jealous and for some reason think they want to lie around all day and do nothing. and see, that isn’t what you end up doing when getting assistance. or if you do, you are living a life even LESS to be envied. not more….!
i suppose that somewhere inside of me, i got tired of the scorn for my disability. i got tired of the assumptions, i got tired of being seen as less. having my own place, and housing assistance, helped me to rise above and consider things from a level that was more secure, but also more to where managing money was a possibility. paying bills on time, was a possibility. not continually IMPOSSIBLE. having that help, to rent an apartment on my own without a boyfriend or roommates — made all the difference in my life you can imagine.
now … i don’t know why trump followers think housing assistance should be eliminated. but i do know that it makes me uneasy, and the future is not quite so sure. thing is — it’s still more sure than it ever was, because of my church and the love and support of those who only want the world to be a little bit better, for everyone. and that i can get behind. i go over the past, and think of all the turning points that made a difference in my life. and getting the housing assistance was a point that made the biggest difference i could ever imagine. it’s not instant security, but it gave me a chance, it gave me a start. and joining the congregation at my church was another turning point. the pastor that spoke to me and took me to lunch, as we discussed world politics and life in general. i started SEEING people a little differently. in some ways, if a korean woman could forgive what asses the USA had been to them, i could surely forgive my own family and forgive the past. let some things go. let ’em go for good.
and why i began writing this, is the possible threat to the housing program, now that there is a change in government. it’s important to not fear something until it happens, but hard not to get a little frightened in this case. the housing assistance that has made such a difference in my life, i truly don’t know where i would be without it. and what i wanted to say, before i got caught up talking about the crazy past — is don’t take that away for others. i know i will manage, somehow. but don’t take that help from others. please. they might be at a point in their lives where it makes the difference, too. helping a fellow human being is not enabling sloth. it’s enabling a future. i thank you, for the one given to me.
am now 53 years old, and the world has never looked more promising. i’m finally free, to exist as a person not driven by shame. not driven by fear and insecurity. what drives me now, is love. and that’s a pretty good place to be.
merry christmas — happy holidays — and may the world shine a little brighter for all of us, a little steadier … a little more filled with that love. Christ is the reason for the season. Lately it’s more like consumerism is the reason for the season. but regardless, i’m going to try to remember a few things this christmas. one, is that it doesn’t take a lot of time to be a better person. and two, you need to spend most of that time deciding what a better person actually IS.
sing a song
have some joy
next year we will deal with a new government
and hopefully find some humanity along the way … i sure hope so