Mental Health

Chronic Illness, Mental Illness, Poverty, & “Success”

Ever hear the phrase, “Can’t win for losing”?

Well, that’s where I’m at right now. I believe it’s where a lot of us are at.

There are so many things I want to do – getting my kitchen table cleared off and clean laundry put away among them. 

I want to stop being dependent on my ex to pay for and provide the minimum things for a life of subsistence: phone, electric, bus pass, basic internet, and clean laundry.

I want to live in a nicer apartment with it’s own washer and dryer. I want to furnish my daughter’s bedroom with a real bed and the sensory safe environment she needs because of the autism. I’d like to own more than five towels, two fitted sheets, and two holey comforters. It would be nice to have living room furniture that was sturdy and not falling apart.

I’d like to have my own car to go grocery shopping and get to appointments with or take my daughter to areas where she can safely play and run free. I’d like to be able to get to social, community, and other events. I’d like to drive to visit my grandchildren.

I’d like to afford to purchase groceries without dependence on government benefits. I want to sign my daughter up for community classes and programs, including specialized educational supports.

I’d like to go back to college and get my degree(s). I’d like to be employed at a job…one that truly serves and lifts people up and feeds my soul.

I want to publish my poetry and other writing, as so many people, including established professionals, regularly encourage me to do.

I know, I know. Be grateful that I have stable housing, food to eat, a bed to sleep in, and the basics provided. I am. I really am. I know I’m more fortunate than many. That being said, I think it would be nice to not live a life of subsistence and poverty.

“Then why don’t you get off of your (fat) butt and do something about it?” you may ask.

Well, between the Bipolar Disorder and the PTSD, I don’t have the mental and emotional stability to sustain employment. I’m taking three different psych meds and still only sleep in 1-3 hour increments. Meaning I get 1-6 hours of interrupted sleep every 24 hours. I’ve been in therapy for three years and am just starting to develop the skills to recognize and cope with panic attacks. I’m just starting to face and work through the trauma I’ve experienced.

Between the lack of sleep and continually experiencing anxiety and depression triggers I’m not a stable and reliable employee. 

Then there’s the fibromyalgia, which is likely rooted in or was activated by the trauma I experienced throughout childhood and adolescence. Frequent flare ups of extreme fatigue and pain (often triggered by anxiety), plus either severe tension, cluster, or migraine headaches make it impossible for me to know when I’m going to be able to leave my apartment.

The main things which are recommended for managing and minimizing the symptoms go all of these things is physical activity. For the fibromyalgia the best thing is swimming or deep water exercise in a warm water pool. I can’t afford a $50-$75 swimsuit or two, which is what’s needed for someone of my size and can withstand being in chlorine 3-5 times a week.

What about walking? I don’t own supportive shoes that don’t hurt my arches or lower back. Again, decent walking shoes are a minimum of $50-$60 and have to be replaced every 3-6 months depending on mileage. Plus, there’s the cold, rainy weather which dominates 8-9 months of the year. With the fibromyalgia, I need to stay dry and minimally warm. I don’t own and can’t afford rain gear suitable for walking in the weather. Forget about a gym membership.

Physical therapists, physical trainers, mental healt/life coaches – basically anyone who might be qualified and able to do intervention and help me find at least one place to interrupt the cycles all have service fees I can’t pay.

Ok, then, what about writing the book? J.K. Rowling did it, why can’t you.

Well, I’m not 100% sure of her circumstances, but, I don’t recall hearing about mental and physical health barriers. Even self-publishing can cost a few thousand dollars, if it’s going to get done professionally enough to make it into the bookstores.

It feels impossible that I may ever be able to be “successful” as the world defines it. 

When I was a single, teen mom with one child, 26 years ago, I was asked what my definition of success was.

“That my son will be farther ahead in life than I was able to be at the same age.”

He’s 30, married for four years, a homeowner, on a retail management track with good benefits, attending college, and slowly working toward building his personal training business.

By that standard, I’ve been successful.


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