We’ve never-and I do mean NEVER- been good with money. Over the years this has been a constant source of a great deal of stress, shame, and a lot of problems, both financially as well as legally, for K and her family. Since the only jobs K was capable of handling (after dropping out of college due to a breakdown) were entry-level positions, they offered little pay and no benefits. I was almost always just scraping by each month, and I inevitably ended up the same way: in the red. The damage to my credit rating and bank account compounded each day/month/year until there was simply no way to get myself out of trouble. I was too proud to ask for help-I waited until it was offered-and usually I’d find myself in a black pit of debt which I can’t even venture a guess as to how many times Daddy and/or Mom had to bail us out of. They helped K with her credit card troubles, paid her bills, and saved the day…for years. K is very ashamed of and embarrassed by this; she wants to take care of herself and be independent; she hates her unemployed status. Twice I’ve considered filing for bankruptcy but I’m proud to say I did NOT take that route.
Growing up with parents who were raised during the Great Depression means you are hard-wired from the get-go to be frugal, or at least that’s the way it was in K’s house. Her father’s most-used expression was “Money doesn’t grow on trees”, and he knew better than anyone the value of a dollar, as he began working at the age of 9 (he picked up golf balls at a golf course). He taught K from the time she first began walking to watch the ground for lost change (the man could spot a dime from across a mall parking lot!) and stick her finger inside coin slots on vending machines to see if someone had forgotten a quarter. (To this very day, I’m compelled to do this) I don’t want to infer that he was cheap; rather, he was thrifty. He wanted very much for K to be financially stable and to have enough money to be comfortable and never have to struggle the way he and his family had during the Depression of the 1930’s, or even the way he’d struggled when he and my mother first got married. He, like many from his generation, wanted his daughter to grow up and marry someone “from a good background” who would work hard and take care of her; instead she got married at 19 to a con artist who stole thousands from me and my family. But that’s a whole other story.
K absolutely, positively can NOT handle money, not by herself. It gets spent or it gets lost. (I have a theory that I actually misplace just as much money as I “foolishly” spend.) We tend to be quite frugal, but at least 2 of us are the type to enjoy shopping, and we overspend when manic. During her brief teenage marriage, (it lasted less than a year) K attempted to balance a checkbook and pay bills and such and it was a colossal failure. (It didn’t help matters that her husband was stealing checks from her and forging her signature) On one hand, K is exceedingly frugal, to the point of being obsessive about it; she’ll drive out of her way simply to save a few cents on gas or to buy something on sale. On the other hand, we have no way to gauge how much is too much (we tend to overdo it) and we’re generous to people and always try to help them out and many people (mostly boyfriends) over the years have taken advantage of that.
Most of us are non-materialistic. (I’m being told, no-urged to say that.) There are periods of time scattered throughout the years in which K was responsible for herself, times when she had run away from her problems (financial and otherwise) and started a new life elsewhere and had a job and even went to school several times over the years. At one time, she even owned a house of her own; she had to sell it when she suddenly decided to move to the other side of the country. She’d up and disappear to a different state sometimes, the first time at about age 17. In instances like that, her parents would use money as a lure to try and get K to come back home; but K was always a free spirit and wanted to be on her own and would often refuse to cash the checks her parents would send her. She would rather ask passers-by for quarters all day long, (but K was never a panhandler) or sell her blood at the plasma center, if she wasn’t making enough money at whatever job she happened to be holding at that time, rather than accept help.
K was very good at getting a job. A job application was just paperwork after all, which we’re good at, and the proper person almost always showed up for the interviews. K would get a job and keep it for as long as she was able to maintain the facade of being “a regular person”; if someone suspected anything, or if her paranoia told us they did, then we’d just go home and never go back to that job. K did NOT ever tell anyone at her job(s) about her mental health problems; she was too ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want her co-workers to treat her differently. What kinds of jobs did we have? Well, K got her first job at a fast-food joint when she was 16 and after that she worked various jobs in retail (three times selling shoes, at one time she was actually the assistant manager at a funky little clothing store in the mall) or customer service, or in an office doing paperwork. I’m really good with paperwork, as long as I’m taking my medication properly and am not having a “schizo” day (which can happen at any time). Stress is K’s biggest trigger and eventually any and every job, no matter how trivial or mundane or even enjoyable, would become too stressful for her and she’d have a meltdown and usually quit her job without warning, or a lot of times she got fired for calling in sick too many times. (When our mental health was too fragile to deal with Real Life, or when the voices were so loud she couldn’t hear herself think much less answer a phone, K called in sick.)
The older she got, the worse her mental illness got, and with age came new symptoms. K had stopped taking her medication after she got married, because she’d lost her father’s health insurance, and simply couldn’t afford to pay for it on her own. (Psychiatric medications are very expensive) So she was off her meds for several years and during that time period, she had a number of “episodes”. I’m not sure how many, that was lifetimes ago and I don’t even remember who that was. Sometimes, though, I’d somehow end up at a clinic or doctor’s office, and somebody would be kind enough to help me or advise me, and on many occasions I would see a doctor who would give me medication(s). They’d usually make some sort of arrangements with me to come back, see a therapist or psychiatrist, and get medication refills. A lot of these clinics had a sliding-scale fee, and I only had to pay what I could afford. I honestly don’t know what would have become of me were it not for these clinics.
I bounced around from city to city, year after year, but I tried very hard to maintain at least some type of medication schedule and therapy sessions. There were years in which I lost my doctor for some reason (once I threatened to punch my shrink in the face and he threatened to call the police, so he was no longer my doctor after that) and thus had to go without medication for stretches of time every few years. During these times, I’d hold it together for as long as possible, and then I’d crack. First a tiny crack, then the whole fucking thing crumbles and emotions and thoughts and words come gushing out and I am just trying to stay afloat in a sea of crazy. Sometimes when this happened, K could easily be influenced by the “wrong crowd” to do something bad, to shoplift or do something illegal, even though K is a good person and such behavior isn’t like her…But I fear I’ve gotten way off the subject, which was supposed to be money.
I don’t know if it needs to be said or if it’s implied by my crazy ramblings, but in case you’re wondering, no, K does not work anymore. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to say that she last held down an actual job in approximately 1998. After the year 2000, K applied for Disability-at the urging of her then-doctor (he told K that she had a “brain disease” and that she had no business trying to handle the stress of a job, which would only make her symptoms worse); up to that point, K didn’t even realize that there was such a system in place to help people like her. The process was long and tedious and complicated and the only reason K was able to get through all the paperwork and interviews was the fact that she had a very dear friend, who happened to be disabled herself, (only her disability was physical rather than mental), and this friend walked K through the process. She helped her fill out forms and applications-which seemed to be never-ending. She accompanied K to interviews with mental health professionals and doctors and Social Security people. Thinking about it now, and realizing how much she went through to get to the other side, I’m really surprised that K was able to successfully complete the application process and get her Disability payments-it literally took years to get all that stuff sorted out. But she finally did, and she is now on Social Security Disability and has Medicare to help with her doctor’s bills and prescriptions. Otherwise, I’m not sure what might’ve happened to us. Disability has saved K’s life, literally. She wouldn’t have been able to continue with her existence were it not for the medical insurance she is now eligible for. Thank the gods for Medicare and Medicaid!
Let me sum up. Money is the root of all that is evil (K really feels this way), it changes people, it makes them greedy and selfish. K has seen this phenomenon in Real Life, as in when one of her friends was in a bad car accident and received a hefty settlement; K finally cut him out of her life because he’d become so obsessed with the money, the possessions, the THINGS, that he was no longer the friend K knew and loved. This has happened more than once and each time these things happen, it just proves to K that she is right about money being a bad thing. Money is the devil. We hate it. We’d much rather live in a world where bartering was the norm. K would love to trade paintings or handmade jewelry or some sort of art for food and clothes, etc. but unfortunately, that’s just not the way it works in the Real World. Too bad for K.
These days, K is married to a loving, generous man who takes care of her and the bills. Sometimes K is able to write checks and see that the bills get paid on time, sometimes she can’t even handle something as simple as that, and she must depend upon Husband to manage her money, or lack thereof. It’s difficult to stay on top of your finances when you have blackouts and can’t remember writing checks or using a debit or credit card. She definitely still struggles with money; they are on a tight budget to say the least, but things are much better and much less stressful now, and therefore K can relax, just a little bit, and not worry so much about being homeless. (Yes, this is one of her actual fears.)