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Poverty & Mental Illness

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I can speak only to what I know of the subjects of poverty and mental illness. I’m sure studies have been done regarding the link between the two, but this isn’t about those studies. Nor do I mean to imply that people who are middle class or wealthy cannot have mental illnesses. It happens, I know, across all demographics. However, I do question the link between chronic, persistent mental illness and not having enough money to meet basic human needs. I, at least, have a job and insurance so that I can see a doctor and afford my medications, and somehow, with the help of food pantries, help from family and payday loans (a very poor solution, that one, but sometimes necessary when you run out of gas money or toilet paper before payday). My anxiety level has been so high almost constantly for the past few years. If you’ve never struggled to provide for your family, you may not understand. If you’ve never had a panic attack, you may not understand. Right now, even with the medication for anxiety and for depression (because, though I have bipolar disorder, I’m depressed much more often than I am manic), I’m not myself and not really sure who that self is anymore. I wanted better for my children than this. I grew up poor. You’d think I’d be used to it, right? Even as a child, I worried about money, rarely asked for anything because I didn’t want my parents to feel bad that they couldn’t afford something that wasn’t a necessity. I cry myself to sleep. I am trying so hard to be a good person, a good wife and mother and a good provider. I am trying so hard to trust that God’s providence covers us too, but at this moment, having to choose gas for the car so I can go to and from work over buying groceries, I feel like a failure. On top of the anxiety and depression, there is the poverty. Poverty is full of fear for me. It is also full of shame because as much stigma surrounds it as surrounds mental illnesses. I am just a person. I like to laugh, I love my family and if I could just be happy, I would. I often wonder, if I wasn’t always feeling like I’m walking on a thin, almost invisible line between having enough and not having enough, would I still have panic attacks? Would I still cry myself to sleep and be so easily irritated that I feel as though I’d be better off alone? I can’t answer those questions. I can only repeat that I am just a person, like anyone else.


Just some awful thoughts I can’t keep in

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Some people seem to want me to be ashamed of myself for having bipolar disorder, thinking I should hide it from the world. Some think if I have a problem I should always keep it to myself. Some think they are better than I am because I don’t have money. Some think because I’m not perfect, I’m not a Christian. Some think, well whatever they think, and I’m trying not to care but I feel like there is no one on this earth who understands. I feel so alone. I feel betrayed. I feel hurt… oh but shhhh, there I go again, being open. Why do I bother? Maybe all of those someones are right and I’m worthless because I’m poor and mentally ill and not perfect. I’m just too exhausted to care anymore! I don’t want all this hurt, all this worry. I need a break.

Me too

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For anyone who has ever questioned why I’m open about my struggles… this sums it up. If someone out there can see my struggles and relate, and see that even in the struggle, you can have hope and try to be positive – or even if knowing about my issues helps just one person not feel so alone, then I will continue to be open and honest about living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, etc. I am not alone. My thoughts and feelings just ARE, neither good nor bad. My life is far from perfect but it’s mine and I will never judge another because he or she doesn’t hide behind a mask of “everything is wonderful” or because he or she isn’t successful in the eyes of this society.

Being True to Oneself


When I was young, it was so easy to be idealistic and stubborn & say I’d always be true to myself because God made me this way.  Then bad people, or rather, people who had had bad experiences and no one to teach them or help them heal, stole my innocence and my eyes were opened and like Eve, I felt shame in my “nakedness” which was idealism, hopefulness, a tender heart, vulnerability.  I then saw my Self as others must have seen me:  dirt poor, unworthy of love, because if one’s own mother won’t protect her baby girl from men turned monsters, then surely one is unworthy of love.

Then, for years, my true self only occasionally surfaced, just often enough for me to know She hadn’t been killed.

Years and decades passed.  With the aid of much therapy and prayer and learning to forgive, I tried again to be true to myself.  My entire being is on fire with this passion to be ME and to help others who struggle with the memories of monsters, slaughtered innocence, or even just the day to day struggles with mental illness, which I inherited from the mother who didn’t protect me, now as an adult knowing that she was filled with terror and shame herself, having lived through even worse than I had; she loved me, but post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and the violent mood swings of untreated bipolar disorder had her chained emotionally and mentally and my guess is that when she looked at her little girl, innocence ripped away, she not only blamed herself but also SAW herself and could not muster the strength to help either of us.

Today, I still struggle to be me because it interferes with a job I’ve outgrown, other than as a paycheck and health insurance, at a place where gossip replaces concern and if I so much as post on facebook or in my blog that I’m having a rough time, my work day is interrupted with questions about how I’m doing or why I’m so open.

I’m open because I’m not alone.  At work, I do my job.  Outside of work, I am not so passive and perhaps that frightens people, because there are times when I feel called to so much more than the menial tasks I perform daily, I feel a greater purpose and it isn’t one that can be fulfilled by being the quiet, agreeable, smiling person  with whom everyone is comfortable.

Sometimes life isn’t comfortable.  Sometimes I’m not happy.  Sometimes I’m on a mission to not get my own story out there just to get it out there, but to tell others that THEY are not alone. 

This is me.  I’ll be forty years old in a few years and it’s taken me this long to accept myself instead of trying to change who I AM, who I was born to be.  I am someone who will never stop learning and growing, who wants to help others, who is a closet optimist, who refuses to pretend I’m anyone but who I am.

Many people in my life seemed recently unable to deal with that fact, so to the degree that I was able, I removed them from my life.

It’s hard enough to stay true to oneself in the pressure of simply making ends meet, without being surrounded by naysayers.



Unsettled, always shaken
Into total misunderstanding of myself,
I feel terrorized, demonized,
Demoralized and victimized,
Always always left with a bitter bile,
So dark, so vile,
Bubbling to the surface I try to hide,
Taking all inside:
The doubt, the fear, the deepening
Feelings of abject violation,
Victimized no less by subjection to
A place that frightens me so now,
After all these years,
A situation in which daily
I feel I easily fall once more into
This role of powerlessness,
No less I say than that to which I was subjected
As an innocent child of four years age,
No less than the jaded girl aged eleven;
I’m not as stupid, though, as you may guess,
Despite my lack of education and
Apparent appearance as filthy white trash from where you sit.
I wonder at your
Propensity to draw near to you
Those you know
Suffer in one or another way a lack of balance.
Every bully has a favorite type,
A legal perpetrator penetrating
To the heart of the matter
Shattering any small semblance of balance,
Until day appears night to me,
Until it seems I am always wrong,
Until I am the child once more shaking in fear
Of what comes next.
I believe I’ve let it go too far, too long,
My own children one too many nights
Have seen Mommy cry and wish to die.
I cannot speak for anyone else,
But this nasty darkness in my soul
Consuming me is no longer worth meager reward,
An occasional “atta girl”
Tossed in with veiled threats
And barely-hidden contempt.
I feel sick, sickened in so many ways.
Paranoia has once more taken root;
Soon this must end,
If I am to survive,
Maybe not to you,
But my life is worth more than this,
My family deserve better from me
Than the leftovers I am becoming.

Overcoming/Fear of Judgment


Taking a deep breath right now.  I stayed home from work today to go to the doctor.  I’m not feeling well.  The toddler of course wants to play and get into everything, walking is painful and others’ judgment of me/my parenting skills, my family, make me want again to stop being open and honest.  Unless someone has taken the time to read some of my former posts, I really feel he or she is only going to have that harsh judgment of me after reading a post like yesterday’s about chaos.  I find it frustrating, but at the same time, I expect it.  I try to just deal with it.  I know not everyone is going to understand or even want to understand.  I also know, however, that I’m not alone.

I’m not the only person who lives with anxiety and mood swings and tries to balance a full time job and family.  I’m not the only one who inherited an illness from a parent and likely passed it on to my own child (I will know more conclusively when I receive the results of my older daughter’s psychological testing).  Not everyone will understand this.  Really, how much can any one person understand another’s experience, when no two people have the exact same experience?

So, does that mean I really am alone?  That you out there reading this, even if you feel you can relate, are really alone too?  Is it futile for me to be open about my mental illness and how it affects me, my family, my whole life?  Should I just accept that stigma will be a part of my life and my daughter’s life?

I have not given up thus far.  Despite panic that sometimes paralyzes me, I get up in the morning and go to work (except when I’m sick, or like today, dealing with painful cysts that don’t allow me to walk or sit without pain).  I set boundaries for my children and enforce them when I’m not at work.  I do my best to clean house, spend time with my spouse and children, nurture the few close friendships I choose to maintain and even to be as positive as I can be.  I praise God daily for what I do have and try to focus on those things.  I’m not & never will be perfect and I accept that.

I overcome my illnesses every day by just getting out of bed.  Most people can never fully appreciate that truth and it certainly doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, but I remember weeks when my mother didn’t overcome the same illness even to that extent and I have to give myself credit for the many ways in which I have overcome and continue to overcome.  Glory to God in the strength to do so, but believe me when I say that sometimes in this illness, the choice to believe in Him and trust Him is not the easiest one to make.

I make it anyway.  Because I’ve made that choice, I also know that now isn’t the time to give up.  You don’t understand?  Okay.  You’ve never lived with a mental illness, you believe this is not real or that it’s an excuse?  You are entitled to your opinion and I will pray that no one about whom you care ever finds him or herself living with these struggles.  I will also never understand you.

A Peek into the Window of My Anxiety Experience


When I hear that there is news coming, or changes, but I am not just told that news or the changes are not explained, whether the news or the change is good or bad, I freak out a little.  I can’t understand why anyone would ever give advance notice of something that is coming without giving any clue as to the nature of it.  Panic inevitably sets in.  I have trouble sleeping, because my mind is working out every scenario it can imagine, none of them good.  I become snippy with my loved ones.  I speculate to the point of exhaustion and still my brain won’t turn off.

I’m not experiencing these feelings at this particular moment, but I have recently.  Changes came.  Before they came, I was told changes were coming, then nothing for a couple of  weeks.  Oddly enough, I’m pretty good with change.  I’m pretty adaptable.  It’s NOT KNOWING that eats at me.  I mean, if a change is coming and I’m informed in advance what that change is, I’m even okay with waiting. 

Sometimes, I’m able to use skills I learned from a great therapist to remind myself that even unknown changes won’t kill me, that more than likely whatever is coming, I’ve been through worse & survived.  If I can catch the worry early enough, before it starts messing with my sleep, I’m okay.  I just don’t always get to the mindfulness quick enough.

I also pray.  I believe fully in the power of prayer, because I’ve no doubt that I would not be here without it.  I came very close to death during the birth of my firstborn around 29 weeks.  Many prayed for me & my daughter and we both survived.  I totally believe in miracles… however, once the worry sets in, I obsess and even my prayers begin to drag on to include every disastrous possibility. 

If you’ve taken the time to read this whole little look into one of my anxiety triggers & my reaction to it, please tell me:  am I the only one who does this?  If you don’t live with anxiety as a daily part of your life, how, if at all, do you react to not knowing?  Is there any one thing you do worry about excessively?  Or is my reaction more normal than I imagine it is?

If you do suffer from anxiety or excessive worry, what are some coping strategies you use?