Community Contribution: Making Ends Meet

A little while back, I got this Community Contribution from Bipolartude (jt). As his opening paragraph says, money is a difficult subject. I want to commend jt for openly sharing and bringing up this topic. We’ve talked about work and jobs and professional aspirations, but never come right out and talked about money. And let’s be serious: Mental health care is expensive, and mental illness can affect one’s ability to bring in the cash to pay for that care. In addition to asking the hard question, jt has also graciously provided his answers to the posed questions to start off the discussion. I will be posting his response in the comments.

I know that finances are a hard thing to talk about openly with others, especially in American culture. I imagine some of us would sooner disclose being institutionalized then how we “make ends meet.” I wonder, though, how we all function when money is critical to managing and coping with stressors and triggers for MI.

How do you function financially? Do you have a job? If so, what kind (e.g., work from home, part-time, etc.)? If you don’t have a job, where does your source of income come from? How long have you been without a job (or if you have a job now, in anytime in your experience)? Are you or have you been on Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)?

As a follow-up and reminder, I wanted to let everyone know that I’ve devoted a section of Define Functioning’s Mental Health Awareness Month book project to mental health care and its costs. If thoughts or contributions arise from this discussion, please pop back to that topic and share! (The book is coming along great, by the way. Can’t wait to share it with you all.)

  1. I had a well paying teaching job, where I made about 50K/year because I had a Masters. Traumatic events, Major Depression, placed on FMLA for three months at full salary. Then, I couldn’t go back to work, doctor’s and school district’s orders, but I couldn’t get the disability insurance from the carrier in my employer’s benefits package. I worked for Whole Foods just to “make ends meet,” and then I was reinstated to my school in the Fall. I didn’t last long, just until February, when being shoved out of the school caused anxiety and PTSD. This caused me to resign.

    In the meantime, I lived off meager savings until I was offered another teaching job in the fall. In two weeks that job disappeared in the most traumatic of ways. I was placed on Unemployment due to the circumstances of my release. I was on unemployment for a year. I could have continued collecting UI, but I thought it would be healthier to get back to work in a low-stress job. I went back to Whole Foods, in the only position they had open, a bagger. I couldn’t even hack that.

    I’ve had trouble holding down a job.. Any job. From teaching to being a bagger. I couldn’t go back to teaching where kids had to really on me. I could barley rely on myself. As for the bagger job, I just couldn’t deal with it from day to day with the days out for depression and the mania (at this point undiagnosed), but being told by co-workers that I was “over-the-top” and/or “overwhelming.”

    Since then, I’ve done some consulting jobs, some taxable, some under the table, and have been living off of some savings that are rapidly dwindling. I’ve had my car repossessed twice (they call it the more friendly “redeemed” now), a notice of “pre-foreclosure,” and I just ignore my student loan calls now, as there’s no way to even get a financial hardship notice. (Loooong story.)

    I’m coming to a financial crisis, and I’m not sure what to do. I’m scared to death that I’ll mess up even the most simplest jobs. My mother suggested I apply for SSDI (part of me feels like I’d be taking advantage). Man, what happened to me?
    What the fuck am I doing?
    What have you done?

  2. erinire said:

    I had a comment, but it got too long. Look for a blog post soon, instead.

  3. Jess said:

    I do have a job, but it’s entry level and I don’t make a lot (26K before taxes). I am also going to school, so there’s not a lot of money in the bank right now…under 2K. Since I’m not symptomatic right now, I’m not on any disability program. Sometimes I think that would help, and I don’t judge others for being on it at all.

  4. Alice said:

    I am a college student who receives financial aid for school. I discovered my MI in my second year.

    I got a part-time job doing data entry work because my family had financial troubles and I felt I needed more money to finance my non-educational needs. It was during a time my MI got so bad that I was the social outcast in the office. The student workers did not want to associate with me. I was so socially inept and inarticulate that they deemed me incapable of anything. And in believing that, I fulfilled that expectation. I did not know what was going on and I was slow to learn.

    Afterward, I quit my part-time work because I was frustrated with myself at work. It brought the worst in me and I was stuck in a cubicle. My tipping point was when I was not assertive at work enough and I felt I needed more internship experience. Work took the other half of my study time. I only worried about the bills, but not myself and school.

    Ever since quitting work, I’ve managed to get two unpaid internships. I’m living on a budget from the financial aid I receive each quarter. But I am graduating this quarter and I don’t know if I can cope with the social obligation and my unworthiness.

    As for school, I’ve been a poor student. Couldn’t concentrate. Professors hate me.. I’ve got no prospects in the job market. I don’t know how I can finance my own living…

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