I haven’t turned in my Grad School Application yet. I don’t have the money to pay the fee. I don’t even have the money to pay my rent or utilities or get groceries. And I don’t know what to do or where to turn at this point. And I’m utterly ashamed to admit to anyone just how bad it is. I don’t get back to friends about lunch plans because I can’t afford lunch. I don’t call or see anyone. I stick to my online world where it’s easier to fake it. Because the truth is that I have failed at the life-game and I feel utterly worthless and useless. I cry myself to sleep and contemplate suicide. It’s an option I can’t take and I know it. But it crosses my mind every night. I am a failure. I was supposed to be working this year, saving a bit of money toward more education, providing for my children.
But it hasn’t worked out that way. But I am too educated to get called back for retail jobs and not educated enough to get “real” work. But I’m just a fuck up, a failure, one of those worthless, undeserving single-mothers.
I think about suicide because I don’t know what else is left. I feel like I’m not even good enough to die, like I deserve to live in this hell forever. This hell where I’m terrified to open the mailbox and see the electric bill, where I can’t afford to feed my kids or put gas in the car. Panic gnaws my gut every moment. Panic and shame and terror.
I get child support for one child. The other one I have always and only been solely responsible for. I’m watching people I love(d) vote to tear down the last shreds of a social safety net. We have no health insurance, receive no government assistance. I paid my property taxes with the last pennies in my bank account. And now there is nothing. I have a few short weeks to figure out how to scrape together rent.
I don’t want to tell anyone this, don’t want anyone to know. Tears run down my face while I write and shame burns my throat. I am one of the losers, the failures. And I don’t dare ask for help. Because I know how people who need help aren’t really seen as people anymore. We’re statistics, losers, failures.
I’ve been carefully lying, hiding, pretending for months now. I need help. And writing those three words together turns my soul to ash. I need help. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m about out of things to lose so I might as well tell the truth, might as well scream my own story. I need work and I need to turn in that application and finish my education. But even if I’m accepted, how will I ever pay for it?
I think back on all the people the last few years with all their support and confidence. They’re the last people I want to have know where I’m at now. People who might see these words, people who believed in me and encouraged me. I don’t want any of you to know that I’m here now, trying to tell my brain to ignore the reality of my failing, trying to find some little bit of hope and faith and love. I’ve become invisible. I hide reality from my own self because it’s just to painful to really confront. The escapism of an internet alter-ego who thinks positive and pays attention to politics is so much easier than dealing with my own real reality. The reality where I need help and I need to be seen and loved for who I am.
I think about all the judgemental bullshit I’ve heard from friends and family about People Like Me. And every bit of it cuts me to the bone. So I tell no one, ask no one, lie to everyone. I live a lie, the lie that I’m OK, that it’s going to be OK. I’m not fucking OK, ok? I’m teetering on the brink of living out of a 21 year old car with 360,000 miles that’s eating oil and falling apart. And there’s no money to take it in to the shop, either. It’s been driving on prayers for years now. Living out of the car, me and two kids and three cats. In the winter. It’s my son’s birthday. I got him clothes at the Thriftstore and wrapped them in old Sunday comics.
I’m out of hope and I’m out try. My brain is so clouded with depression I made myself a check list to brush and floss my teeth, to take a shower and make my bed, to eat and wash the laundry. I need someone to hold my hand and walk me through the steps of How To Be Human. I need my friends to want to see me, to call, to text, to not believe me when I lie and say I’m OK. I get an email that the small group from church is going to the River of Lights display. Tickets ate $12 for adults, $6 for kids. I don’t even reply. I see friends on Facebook getting their nails done. I’ve never in my whole life had my nails done. It’s been more than 20 years since I even had a real hair cut. Some of my friends go out to eat after a meeting. I really want to be one of the group, to get out of my crushing isolation, but instead I drive home hungry and crying and have another supper of beans. You can live a long time on beans and they’re damn cheap. And besides, I’m not fit for human company. I’m one of those people. One of the millions of pieces of human garbage.
I pick up a few babysitting jobs, trade crafts, try to keep myself from sinking into the blackhole with online Arabic lessons to keep my brain busy, with crafts so I can at least have something to show for myself (anyone want to buy some really really cool knotted string bookmarks or bracelets?), I keep my checklist checked off. Brush teeth. Floss teeth. Make bed. And it’s not working. I am falling, failing. I can see no light, find no worth in myself.
Depression and poverty and struggle are old friends of mine. But this is a whole new level. I think about suicide every night. I think about how there’s a tree in the back yard I could throw a rope over. But then I’d have to get my papers and everything in order. I’m already too much of an unwanted burden. I learned this in my bones long, long ago. Don’t leave a mess behind, don’t ask for help, don’t leave any sign of having ever been. And I can’t do it. I know I can’t. It will take me months to sort my piles of papers, to straighten everything out, to write all the notes, to find homes for the cats. So I won’t. I will keep living, one day at a time.
I learned these lessons in my bones long, long ago. I learned this young, that I am worthless, never good enough, not really wanted. And my utter failure to preform at this life and success thing only confirms that they were right. It’s my child’s birthday today. I hope I’ve at least succeeded in teaching him something better than what I learned. He doesn’t have to be perfect to be loved, to be wanted, to be enough. And his reality is valid. That is what pushed me into insanity as a teenager. All the denial of reality I witnessed. It was, literally, crazy-making and so I coped as best I could. I remember the Day I Lost It. It was a family therapy session when I finally had the nerve to tell the truth about a particularly nasty episode from my childhood. An episode that was bad enough I told my teacher and she decided to braid my hair for me every morning before school. I know it was real, remember it every single time I brush my hair or my daughter’s. I remember the horror of that morning and the kindness of my teacher, letting me come in before class and be loved for a few minutes. And the Day I Lost It I decided to talk about this and was told that it never happened, that I made it up. My brother and sister saw it happen but they were very little. And I went to school in tears and told. And my teacher tried to help. She did report it. And five years later I tried to confront it, tried to be really honest about my pain and how I still hurt, and was told that it had never happened. And that was the day I got up and walked out, ran away and hid. I won’t tell who hid me or where. And I knew from then on I was on my own in this world. Being honest, asking for help, facing reality was not cool.
I’m terrified to quit writing and hit the publish button. I don’t want to live but I don’t want to die. And the only way to not die is to live. And the only way to live is in reality, honestly, bravely, telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing else. So here I am. I’m hurting and desperate and I can’t go on like this and I need help. I’m so scared and screwed up in my soul I can’t say it out loud. So I write it. Because writing is sane, there’s no crazy-making when you write it all down. Reality stays firm and can’t be denied when you make and keep a record. So I learned young to write it all down, to tell my truth in the safety of written words. No one can tell me tomorrow or next year that it didn’t happen when I have documented it. Mostly I do this for myself, to preserve my sanity in a world of liars, a world of OKs. It wasn’t OK. It isn’t OK. I’m not OK. All of my feelings of failure and worthlessness collected over 3.5 decades are right here, in my throat, my fingers, my stomach.
Reality is that I have failed. That I have no job, no money, no prospects. I can’t provide for or protect my children. I can’t apply for grad school. I can’t even remember to eat and brush my teeth without a list. It’s easy enough to walk myself through depression when I can look at the world and see that I have a place in it, that there are people who want me around, that I’m in some way contributing, that my kids are cared for and provided for. It’s another beast entirely when the facts seem to confirm my feelings. This is soul stealing. All the people who installed the You’re Worthless track in my brain are vindicated. They’re right. I am worthless and useless, in the way, taking up too much space, too loud, too sensitive, too needy.
I have failed and I am a failure. I want to go to grad school, to get those qualifications I need to have the job that pays the bills. I don’t want fame or fortune or power or prestige. I just want a simple life that isn’t always wondering if there will be something to eat, always praying that the kids don’t get sick because there is no going to the doctor, always going home alone to a bowl of beans when I want to have a sandwich and companionship. But I don’t have the money to pay the application fee. So reality is that somehow I have to adjust, to find another way. Reality is that somehow I have to find the will to fight for my own life. That’s my truth, that’s where I’m at right now. And I don’t know what telling this truth is or does or means. It’s a cry for help. That’s the bitter, terrible truth I don’t want to face, don’t want to tell. I need help and I’m desperate and I don’t know where to turn or what to do.
Probably nothing will happen. Probably no one will even read these words. The few people who stop by from time to time, hit the like button for a poem, maybe leave a comment, you don’t know this but you’ve been keeping me alive. The truth is that I’m dying and I have nothing to left to lose so I might as well tell the truth. There is no positive spin, no silver-lining, no bright-side to where I am and who I am right now. Probably nothing will happen. I will send these words out into the ether and they will be as invisible as I am, as invisible as my pain is.
I write to live, because I want to live, to really live.