How can I keep going forward during a series of crises?
June 10, 2014 8:49 AM   Subscribe

My life has been a bit hard for a while now. It has been ruthless #@$* for a few months. I need some strategies to force myself to keep going. Lots of moaning follows.

I have crappy, mounting health and financial problems. The two are of course closely linked. I don't mind being kinda poor and the health problems have the advantage of not being things that will kill me, but I am also an only parent to a small child and I am starting to feel a little too close to the abyss with all the stress. Today I had problems hanging out in a public place I needed to be at because it was difficult to not cry. On the way there I worried I might have been too stressed to drive safely. It sucks.

My income has been nearly nil since January. A series of milder crises over the past year wiped out my savings and I am living off credit cards. I am never going to have high earning potential even without the health problems, but the health problems + debt = years of misery, I expect.

My finances will probably stabilise slightly soon but I feel like I will never be able to dig out of the hole the health issues have sunk us into.

I am so overwhelmed all the time right now that it is very difficult to get things done. And when I do get things done, they tend to end up in the pile of things that are making life hard. I have a house. It is an old house. My ex's name is in the process of being taken off the title to the house. I spent a great deal of time, and contractors' time, applying for a forgivable loan for needed repairs. There was very little information offered about any technicalities vis-a-vis this particular municipally run program. I ended up in a catch-22 where I am not eligible because there's another person's name registered on the title, but...but he is in the process of being removed from title -- I submitted court paperwork documenting this -- and could not have been an applicant for the program; it's just bizarre. So I threw hours and hours of work into something that did nothing, and I still have a tree growing into the side of my house and taking off parts of the roof and an unsafe porch and broken appliances, etc, in a house I cannot afford to move out of, and also value highly as a thing that contributes to my kid's sense of stability and security. This is just one of many hassles; I'm just throwing it out there to try to explain the sort of thing my brain is now spending all of its time freaking out over.

I feel like nothing good has happened to me for a long time. I am usually a positive person and can wring the good side out of anything, but this is starting to slip and many years ago I was not a positive person, and never want to return to that, and feeling depression creep in around the edges is paralysing. Meanwhile I keep getting more to deal with: skin cancer! A car problem! It just won't slow down.

Advice for financial and health woes is absolutely awful. I do not have a goddamn Starbucks habit like "personal finance gurus" might hope. There is nothing at all left to shave from the budget. There isn't a budget. There isn't a way to generate more income with a chronic health problem exacerbated as it is right now. I can't borrow against the house or re-finance because I don't have a job. I'm sure the stress is contributing to the health issues, which is a worry in itself.

I have an Ativan prescription and I take sleeping pills at night. I am not much of a believer in antidepressants, and I don't think I can medicate further along psychological lines. I don't really have the money/time/child care/etc for any sort of talk therapy, and do not think it would help with practical problems, though I am open to arguments to the contrary.

I have tried to request help from some flavour of social worker. The professional judgment has been that I am not crippled enough to merit help, and that it would be unavailable even if things were worse unless I was elderly. (I am in rural Ontario, for what that's worth.)

I have friends and family. Family babysits here and there. Friends are not really understanding the extent of the problems here, I don't think. When I see people out of the house or have invited them over, it is because I am having a day where my body is functioning reasonably well and why would you think I was having trouble with basic household chores the day before? I seem fine. And I generally appear to be functioning and my child is thriving. And I don't really want to tell people about being terrified by my financial situation because unless they are in a position to write me a whopping cheque, there isn't anything they can do about it, so... Unfortunately the person who knows the most about the status quo has recently extensively crapped on me for sneaking the odd cigarette here and there under stress, which I think gave me a bit of a panic and further reduced the odds of my telling people "I need help." Some people are aware, and have helped. Three unrelated people offered to take a look at my tree problem to see if they could cut it down themself and it was really heartening to have that many offers of help. (All three deemed it too risky for non-professionals; it is a scary tree.) But I'm sort of a black hole of need at the moment. And despite that I have a "problem" of appearing to be mostly okay; when I try to reach out a bit I get reassurances about how great I'm doing. I like to think I am a good friend and decent at helping people, but I have no idea how I'd respond to me at the moment. And at times when I might previously have invited people round for food and drink, I am too unhappy to be up to socialising.

Kid's father is not at all in the picture and there is no option for any sort of break and I have to keep it together here and not fall apart. In slightly less awful times I have been good at appreciating minor stuff: we are okay right now. We have loved ones. We are decently clothed/housed/fed. Etc. But either things are too bad or I am too depressed for that to work anymore, and I am going through my days robotically, fearful, inefficient. Previously useful mental hacks are no longer cutting it.

Suggestions for coping strategies that do not require a financial investment or that are not exercise (see "health problems") much appreciated. If you have an anecdote about how far down you got and still managed to get back up from, that'd be nice too.
posted by anonymous to Grab Bag (30 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
If you have a child and don't have an income, that's what welfare and food stamps are for.

[Note, I went on food stamps myself when I didn't have an income. No shame in it.]
posted by htid at 8:53 AM on June 10, 2014 [7 favorites]

Perhaps your house can help. Can you rent out some of the extra space in your house, perhaps at a below-market rate to someone who will help with chores and/or child care? Do you have a garage or barn that can be rented out as storage space, e.g., for someone's extra boat or car? Can you offer space to people via AirBnB? I'm sorry you're going through these hard times. See also: previously.
posted by carmicha at 9:09 AM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Financially, do the budget anyway. Ownership of the house may be keeping you from getting aid, and the house is an expense. You should at least look at the numbers to see if selling the house would make sense. Apply for any assistance you can and go to the food pantry. Talk to your family, explain that your health and finances are quite precarious, and ask for help. Even if the help isn't in the form of a big check, maybe family could help fix the house, or bring groceries occasionally, whatever. There have been lots of questions, and terrific answers, on being frugal, especially easting well on a limited budget.

Most of all, give yourself a break. Recognize that your priorities are in good shape, your child is healthy and happy, and that you are doing your best in a rotten situation. There are days when I give myself credit for getting out of bed, because life seemed impossible. I'm dealing with my own set of miseries, and I try hard to find joy and comfort in small pleasures. Anti-depressants might help; worth discussing with your doctor. Also, don't be afraid to ask your doctor to waive a co-pay; they'll probably do so without a fuss.
posted by theora55 at 9:13 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi anon, I wish I could offer you a hug, first of all! This is a lot to deal with all by yourself, it's no wonder you are feeling so worn out. It sounds like you really need a few days just to be able to step back, breathe, and figure out what to do next, first of all.

I'm in the States, but my first guess is that you need to talk to a different social worker/public assistance professional post-haste. Keep at them until you get some form of assistance, no matter what, even if it is just food stamps. Anything will help right now. Htid is right, you have a dependent and no income, so you should qualify for immediate emergency assistsance of some sort, at least in terms of food stamps.

You mentioned having loves ones available for babysitting: can you have the family member or friend actually stay with you for a few days to help you get caught up? Either to help you with childcare while you do a bit of housecleaning, or to let you rest while they tidy up?

I've been in that same place of being so depressed/ashamed/defeated where I was minimizing everything, digging my hole even deeper, and not asking for help because I already felt like too much of a burden. What I didn't realize was that people wanted to help me and just needed me to ask. Your loved ones need to know that your depression is worsening and that you are at the end of your rope coping skills-wise. This is a health emergency for you and a crisis point for your family, and now is not the time to be minimizing the truth, you know? It sounds to me like your loved ones may not realize how serious things are at the moment, because you seem "okay," and they are trying to boost your spirits by telling you how "great" you're doing. (Sometimes people don't realize how demoralizing that can actually be.) Are there any free/sliding scale local mental health clinics in your area? They might offer childcare or allow you to bring your child to the appointment; another options is that anti-depressants might help you cope a bit more in the interim.

Whatever Kid's Dad's deal is right now, if he is not paying child support or helping you, can you work with Child & Family Services to see about getting his income garnished, or however that works in your area? Lastly, if your health has deteriorated to the point that you can't work, it might be time to consider applying for disability. Good luck, keep us posted.
posted by cardinality at 9:13 AM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

You said you requested a social worker, but I'm unclear if that means you applied for disability support? If not, your doctor's office might be able to help you with that. (And even if the physical disability didn't qualify you, maybe the physical disability plus the depression might?)
posted by jaguar at 9:16 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You sound like your depression is returning and is beginning to impact your decision-making (I don't believe in anti-depressants, don't want to ask for help, etc.) You are under enormous stress, stress causes depression, and the best thing you could do to make sure you don't go under is to try some anti-depressants, as a stop-gap measure, if nothing else.

This is not guaranteed to help, but is likely to help at least some, and it may very we'll help give you the energy to pursue help (more child support, more social services, more help from family and friends).

I wish you the best. It sounds like you are doing an admirable job of keeping things together for you and your kid. You need more help. Don't dread/be ashamed of asking for it. If it helps to steel your resolve/get you through the rough times, ask not for yourself, but for your kid.
posted by ravioli at 9:27 AM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

It sounds to me like you have a support system that you're having a hard time engaging. I can relate. I've always had a hard time convincing people of the magnitude of how upset I am & how much my problems are affecting me. I keep a smile on my face, I don't stop struggling to get through my life, and I can't lose my sense of humor because it's the only healthy coping skill I have.

A couple of weeks ago my best friend asked me how I was doing and I broke down crying. It was hard; I'm a 32 year old male that prides himself on being even-keeled. I was ashamed and humiliated but after 10+ years of him never seeing a tear in my eye it made the point more clearly than anything I could ever say. One of the best parts is that once he understood, my other friends came around quickly. No one treated me like I was weak or broken, just like I was someone who needed more help than they realized.

I don't know how you've tried to communicate the extent of your problems to your friends, but my suggestion is you find the one you trust the most and just let it go until they get the point. Maybe crying isn't enough to convince them and you'll need invite them over when you're in so much pain you can barely function or dress in sackcloth. Do what it takes so that at least one of your friends understands.

i thank god i did, because then things got worse. but i had help.
posted by elsp at 9:39 AM on June 10, 2014 [9 favorites]

If you have a child and don't have an income, that's what welfare and food stamps are for.

The OP is in Ontario, which does not have a food stamps program. There are food banks (which may be scarce in rural Ontario) but that's it for food help.
posted by kate blank at 9:55 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

The house doesn't contribute towards your kids stability if it stresses you right the fuck out. It doesn't.

1. Check into every kind of aid you can. SSI, AFCD, SNAP, Section 8, Medicare/Medicaid. Sign up for any and all.

2. If you can, sell the house and get $$ from it, if you can't walk away, let it be someone else's problem.

3. Gather your friends and family around you and tell them the truth about your health and finances. Your stress is caused by having to be 'up' and 'okay' and you aren't. Once you're honest it's so much easier.

4. Ask your friends and family for help. "I am living off of credit cards, I'm applying for public assistance, I'm abandoning my house, I'm moving to an apartment and I need help. I need someone to co-sign a lease, I need someone to help move us, I need money, I need babysitting, I am at my absolute wits end here. It's okay to cry, it's okay to feel shitty.

5. Declare bankruptcy and get out from under debt and hospital bills.

This is what the public safety net is for! Don't let your pride and stubborness deprive your child of a decent place to live and of a happy and stress-free parent.

You deserve any help you can get. Ask for it, sign up for it, demand it if you have to.

I wish you the best.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:58 AM on June 10, 2014

when I try to reach out a bit I get reassurances about how great I'm doing

This is when you have to say "I am not actually doing well, I am panicked and I feel hopeless". You have friends and family and that is wonderful. Can you make a list of concrete ways they can help (picking up your grocery costs for the week, paying for a one-week activity camp for your little one for a little break for you, tackling a repair in the house) and then reach out and ask for those things?

I have an old friend who I am in regular touch with and who I would have assumed was completely fine until her grown son called me and said that she was so manic she had to be committed to a psych ward. I would have had no idea unless he told me. I am helping her by going to spend some time with her this week and giving her primary caregivers a break. I am so happy to help, I love their whole family and I know they'd do the same for me. But I would have had no idea unless her son told me they needed help. Please do the same to the loving people in your life.
posted by kate blank at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

You have an awful lot going on. I know how tough this is. You are doing the best you can in a very overwhelming situation. Be as gentle and kind to yourself as you can- you are a good person in an emergency and trying to stay afloat.

See how much babysitting you can get from friends & family. Most people want to help, if they can, but they often need to be told what to do/shown the way. Be specific. 'I need babysitting wednesday and friday, can you help then?' often works better than 'babysitting sometimes in the near future'

Use the child-free time to fight the government. Maybe hook up with a women's advocacy/shelter/something along those lines so they can give you advice and guidance. Having professional advice on getting the stuff you NEED from the government can be priceless. Maybe talk to pastors/other churchy figures in your area? Churches have a ton of resources too, and good churches love to help. I often recommend Unitarians, if any are nearby, since they are non-denominational and big into social justice/social help/good works.

Another important thing is to take care of yourself. I know it seems impossible to carve out any time for a bubble bath or a nap or an hour in the sun or even a cig break... but recharging batteries is essential. Any time relaxing/exercising/getting good food in you pays off at least 3x the time you put into it, i feel. It may seem unimportant in this Emergency, but trust me, it helps.

Also very important, is don't beat yourself up. This is a extremely difficult time you are in. It will get better, but now is very rough. Its ok to cry and be scared and get help. Mistakes will get made, dishes might be un-washed, days will be rough or brutal or terrible. But it will get better. Tomorrow will likely be better than today. Next year wont be near as rough as today was.

And always remember, you have a metafilter worth of people who believe in you and want the best for you.
posted by Jacen at 10:45 AM on June 10, 2014

I know you're skeptical about medication but I urge you to consider giving bupropion (Wellbutrin) a try. It's a very fast-acting antidepressant (no waiting 3 months for it to work) and most people seem to experience fewer side effects than they do with other antidepressants. Also, since the flip side of it working quickly is that it also leaves your system quickly, if you try it and don't like it you can just quit taking it.
posted by Jacqueline at 11:06 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I don't really want to tell people about being terrified by my financial situation because unless they are in a position to write me a whopping cheque, there isn't anything they can do about it, so...

I just wanted to comment that this is not true. Aside from the mental health benefits of sharing your difficulties, there are many ways for people to help you (if they are good people). You mention that your house is not in good shape, maybe your friends have the skills or know someone with skills who can help you figure out how to fix it. Or what is a priority and what is not. Maybe they can keep an eye out for used appliances in good shape to replace your broken ones.
posted by ethidda at 11:09 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

You say your income is almost nil since January, but I'm not sure if that means you are not working or if the hours are very low. If you are un-/under-employed, have you applied for financial support from Ontario Works? It is not dependent on disability. It does require that you look for employment.

As mentioned above, please do ask friends and family to take care of your child while you work things out. But if that is not possible, or if/when you have more work hours and thus need more childcare, keep in mind that some regions offer fee subsidy for childcare. I've only lived in medium-to-large cities in Ontario but I think it's worth investigating for your situation. Look for social services/community outreach programs in your area.
posted by methroach at 11:24 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

So..... apparently metafilter isn't set up for people to do anonymous 'cash in the mailbox and run away' type helping I was planning on..... (Mathowie. pb. *nudgenudge*)

The mod I asked said "You could suggest, in the thread, that the user set up a paypal account for that sort of thing or something."

So, if you set up a paypal or PO box or some such, some anonymous mefite who totally truly isn't me can slip a little into the 'bubblebath and hot coco fund' or however you want to use it.
posted by Jacen at 11:48 AM on June 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

OP I have been where you are. Please memail me, or be in touch with a mod to add a throwaway email address to the thread. I may be able to help with the tree.
posted by lunaazul at 12:00 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't really want to tell people about being terrified by my financial situation because unless they are in a position to write me a whopping cheque, there isn't anything they can do about it, so...

I definitely agree with people above who suggested reaching out to your support network more fully. You're probably right that you don't know anyone who could give you 15 grand tomorrow. But you never know what people have to offer. Someone might have a reliable beater car or a way to get a cheap part for your broken car, handyman skills for around the house, hand-me-down clothes for your boy, be able to bring over a meal or groceries from time to time, or to have your boy over for movie night or X-box with their kids, etc. I personally love helping people in that way and I have actually always felt glad when friends have asked. I know it takes courage to tell people exactly how bad things are, but I also know you can be brave for you and your son.

Also, I don't totally know how bankruptcy works in Canada, but once you get all of your medical treatments and stuff, I would consider asking an attorney if it would be favorable for you to consider bankruptcy. There's no shame in it; it's not like you went out of your way to get cancer. And even if you did, there's enough capital in the world for you to get healthy. It won't hurt anyone for you to declare bankruptcy.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 12:05 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was you, anon, a few years back. I am just now, in the past few months getting stabilised and I look back at what I went through and wonder how the hell I did it.

There is government help, but it is basically set up for people in severe, severe crisis (homeless, near death) or who are so put together they can advocate for themselves. But, you gotta try, for your child. Get on OW, it opens doors to other programmes if you are on it. I assume you get all the possible credits like CCTB, GST and trillium? See about getting ODSP (wait time, six months) exaggerate your symptoms because their definition of "functional" is whack. The ends justify the means. Call CHMH to see about getting a case-worker (another wait list). Call your region or municipality about getting fully subsidised camp for your child in the summer. And start making demands on people. It REALLy pissed me off how so many people would be either faux-sympathy "how do you cope? How can I help? Oh sorry, I'm just too busy shopping to stop by with some food or look after the kids for 20 mins so you can shower" or judgemental or basically just useless. I've weeded out a lot of friends and family. Those that were left, I told them I needed help and the specific help I needed. Frankly, only my parents and sister were the only ones I could rely on.

I know you don't want medication but you should try it for a limited time to get you over this hump. The constant stress is fucking with your brain chemicals and you are never getting to a state of true rest.

Would you be okay with posting your regional municipality and I could give you more specific numbers to call? Do you have 211 or 311 in your region?

This too shalll pass. You'll get stabilised health wise/life wise and be able to help others with even greater compassion.
posted by saucysault at 12:07 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have chronic health problems. For a lot of years, I got a lot of support for how to take better care of myself via various online discussion groups and internet friends. My health is better now and that makes it easier to keep going, even though things are still very tough financially and in other ways.

When my very burdensome special needs kids were little, I found that a glass of water, short nap/rest and/or bite to eat were often the difference between crushing depression and the ability to keep coping. I also did all in my power to make it possible for the kids to take care of some of their own needs, like get snacks and make sandwiches for themselves. Empowering them to feed themselves in between the hot meals I provided meant they were better cared for and I was less stressed. It took some arranging but it was possible to do some of that even when they were quite young.

Later, when I was very ill and divorcing, I learned to do things like make baked chicken with some veggies thrown in the pan because it took only a few minutes of time to start, then stick in the oven for an hour or so, then eat. I was just too sick to stand over a stove and mind multiple pots and pans but I still needed to eat well in order to keep up my strength and keep coping.

I am American, so I don't know what resources are available for you in Canada in terms of social safety net but, yes, please look into finding whatever relief you can via food pantries and the like.

Again, I am not clear what the differences would be for a Canadian, but I do some freelance work online and I run some blogs and I get the occasional donations or ad money and it makes a difference in my life. So if you have consistent access to the internet, look into the possibility of making a bit of money online. It may not be much but I have had things happen like I fasted on Sunday because I was broke, on Monday $16 in freelance money hit my bank account which allowed me and my sons to eat for the day and then we fasted again on Tuesday before getting my alimony on Wednesday. Eating decently on Monday, in between two days when we mostly fasted, meant those three days were annoying and something of a funny story in some sense, not a disaster. Not eating for three days would have been really awful, especially given my medical situation. So even if you only make a little money online, when you are desperate, it can make a very meaningful difference.

I am not sure what to tell you with the issue of folks thinking you are fine. I seem to suffer from that same syndrome, which was especially crazy making when I worked at a big company and people clearly realized I was poor and some folks knew I had a serious medical condition and they did fundraisers for other employees with a serious health problem and I mostly got offered rides to and from work. Those rides mattered but it also was hard fathom why nothing more was offered and I did not know how to ask. People clearly saw me that my financial problems were very serious and yet no real relief was ever offered. It has been better on the street. People do sometimes spontaneously offer me real help. But I cannot recommend going homeless as a method. Perhaps another vote though for "maybe the house is not the great answer you seem to think it is"? Moving elsewhere put me in a position to access some public assistance and made things tenable during the worst months when I had much worse problems than I do currently.

posted by Michele in California at 12:10 PM on June 10, 2014

Mod note: From the OP:
Hi MeFi,

I was not expecting so much practical advice -- appreciated! -- some clarifications:

I am in part just suffering from an extremely slow-moving family court system. We are reliant on the child's father's income. Twice he has abruptly cut us off, hence the loss of savings and current debt. He was fired this winter (for cause, from what should have been a very stable career) and for a little while there was nothing to garnish, and now there is: little to garnish. It is just enough to make welfare/disability useless (social assistance here claws back every dollar of child/spousal support) but not quite enough to sustain us while I'm not able to bring in anything myself. He filed tax returns claiming he was still living here (no), and this meant my child tax benefit was shut down this year and remains that way until family court and tax issues are sorted out. (I am bothering the local MP's office about the tax hassle.)

Selling the house would be a bad call despite the tree etc: there is nowhere cheaper to live. Even if I can't refinance my payments are still less than local rents. It would also mean losing our community, which we love, which is hard to relocate within even with money. But, mostly: I couldn't afford to rent. And I fear the health issues may be long-term so any "sell, live off the proceeds, then establish career" plan is probably a bad one. (Ideally my kid not only gets through this unscathed but also doesn't have to deal with an unstably housed elderly parent.)

I'm in Lanark County. The local social services office is barely competent, but I think I've exhausted local aid sources (we did get some of our utility arrears paid down, only after hours of paperwork, driving, letter from a tired family law attorney now working for free, etc). A relative dug up my garden beds for me and put a veg garden in, which was terrific. Especially as I used to volunteer at a local food bank; I don't know how it compares to food stamps in the US, but out here in the sticks the provisions offered are not enough to offset the cost of gas to get them.

Sorry if this sounds all "No, I can't take that advice, and I can't take that advice, and not that..." -- thanks to this thread I am re-considering my wariness on the antidepressants, and your exhortations are all generally very useful. In re. telling friends, feel free to suggest a script for that sort of thing...

Throwaway: -- sorry for the anonymity; I have my real name on my account and am trying to save the kid from Googling this up in future years! Any mail sent there will get a non-anon reply.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Sorry, my phone autocorrected CMHA. When I was at my worst, with multiple situations spiralling out of control (and I was powerless to stop them due to various legal/situational realities) I was constantly writing AskMe's in my head, but I knew what the various advice would be (and who would give it!). The reality is I just needed a few lucky breaks, I needed IRL people to step up (or step off, for the people that were making things much, much worse), and I needed time. Time for some situations just to resolve, time for the kids to grow a little more independent and time to calm down. The good part is I am able to be there and provide meaningful help to friends I have made since when I see them also struggling and needing just a little break to catch their breath. I do hope things improve and you find the resources you need. You will make it through - you've made it this far, you can keep going.
posted by saucysault at 2:00 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

"If you have an anecdote about how far down you got and still managed to get back up from, that'd be nice too."

Oh, Jesus! Have a seat and let me tell you! But after I got done explaining how I've lost so much and so many frigging times, I would remind you that when life is kicking you in the face repeatedly with steel-toed boots, naturally we get discouraged and depressed.

But positivity or positive mental health, if you like that better, isn't JUST about finding the bright side of things like Pollyanna, it's also in the things we tell ourselves and sheer willpower to eat a shit sandwich and say, YUMMY, best shit sandwich ever, more please! That spark of life that is inside people who survive terrible things is the difference between sinking and swimming. If you can't find your spark right now, use your daughter's spark until you get yours back again. She's your whole life and the reason you get up in the morning, I have no doubt, so there's your motivation. All you need, the motivation of your kid.

I could say this and that and lay out a plan of what *I* would do in your situation, but my most concrete advice (since you asked) is to be the squeaky wheel....there is a reason for that saying, and if you haven't heard it, here you go: The squeaky wheel gets the grease. I have picked myself up so many times, bruised but wiser and stronger and that is my best advice to everyone, not just you. When you think you've done everything you can do, you've only just begun. That's fight.

You have a serious problem with that tree messing up your house. You have a serious problem with the amount of money that is coming in (and I'm looking directly at you, father of the kid). Take a guess as to how people get slow moving processes sped up? They (politely, sincerely and incessantly) bug the shit out of everybody. Make it your business (since it is your business) to call every single person who is involved with your child support case, repeatedly, even if they are assholes to you. Keep calling. Call the father of your child (or his mother and father! I would, I'd shame the hell out of him, but that's me)...Call and show up in people's offices, in your nicest clothes, with your game face on. Eat the shit sandwich that these people are giving you and say yummy, more please! People appreciate persistence, too. You can win over a person who is creating a barrier for you with polite persistence.

As to that tree, same. Call every tree company in the area and literally throw yourself on their mercy with this "terrible tree, wrecking your house", explain that you are a poor single mother with health problems. If no one helps you after you've begged, call the mayor, call the fire department, call the churches, call the newspaper. Swallow any stupid pride and be the squeaky wheel. It does work, hence the saying. Luck favors the bold, and the squeaky wheel is bold.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 2:54 PM on June 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Okay, yeah, not a lot of help in Bumfuck Lanark (beautiful there, just not a lot of social services or money for the ones they offer). CPP-d is hard to get but you may as well apply.

Seriously, in your shoes? I'd go back to school. OSAP will give you money to live on, it looks good before the courts that despite your health you are educating yourself to be self-reliant in future, and you can get many degrees online now (not just Athabasca). A BA might not be cheaper than a masters and some masters programmes are REALLY flexible (ya, I just got my masters online in the midst of the hell I went through). As a student you also get access to subsidised child care (you probably feel you don't need it and would rather be with your kids - my big regret as a parent is I continually exhausted my own reserves when my kids really would have been better off in some kind of care even once a week to allow me to catch my breath). If you do get ODSP being a student exempts you from many clawbacks.

Long-term, do you think you will be able to work in some capacity with your physical abilities?
posted by saucysault at 2:55 PM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was truly in hell a few years back and think time was a big factor in moving out of it. Here's a Winston Churchill saying "When you are going through hell.. keep going".
Writing lists make me feel temporarily a bit more in control. Try not to look at the mountain of it cos that would scare anyone.. babysteps to move you forward a bit and sometimes that won't work but fuck it try something else again the next time you are up to it. Push yourself a bit more than you think you can manage but don't be unfair to yourself. Reading up on high conflict divorce could be handy.

Choose one problem per time, brainstorm anything that might help to do with it then trawl thrpugh those options - which is reasonable and not etc?

Life is truly god awful sometimes. But not all the time. I have a relative who had a brutal life who was too scared to tell her story while alive, we are now going to publish it. The incredible thing about it is it also such a testimony to the human spirit. Somehow most of us keep going.
posted by tanktop at 3:26 PM on June 10, 2014

It sounds like a little respite right now would help your mental health, even if the bigger problems remain. Could you ask your family/friends if anyone would be willing to have your child stay with them for, say a week (or even a weekend)? It sounds like it would really help if you had a few days where you can sleep as much as you need to, focus on your own needs, and have plenty of time to deal with any paperwork or phonecalls or anything else you need to do to sort out the court related stuff. (Or maybe you can even put all that stuff on hold too and JUST focus on doing some things that lift your mood for a few days?)
posted by lollusc at 4:34 PM on June 10, 2014

You will be able to climb out of this hole. You don't need to figure out how right now. Do your best and trust that your future self will be able to do their part.

Advice for financial and health woes is absolutely awful. I do not have a goddamn Starbucks habit like "personal finance gurus" might hope.

So true. When you are terribly worried about finances, blog posts about how to build an emergency fund sound so smug. See if any of the comments I received in this thread help. I asked for blogs on how to get by with zero dollars.

You mention feeling worried about the mounting negativity. I'm sorry you're feeling so bad. There have been a few similar AskMe questions.
- On feeling bitter and unkind
-On feeling bitter and angry
I took my best stab at those questions, but there were many great answers.

For me, what was essential to being able to keep moving forward was to be steadfastly on my own side. Fear of making a huge mistake? Acknowledge I had no idea what to do and pre-forgive the mistakes I was about to make. Feeling angry or bleak? Find angry or bleak movies and songs for myself. Create spaces in which you give the exhausted, angry, sad parts of yourself whatever they want.

Again, I'm so sorry you're going through this. What came through your question - besides a sense of worry, temporary exhaustion and overwhelm - was a sense of strength, resourcefulness, and self awareness. You come off like a fighter who needs a brief break before returning to the ring.
posted by slidell at 5:50 PM on June 10, 2014 [4 favorites]

When I was a child, I used to gather up my bedclothes and make a nest, and lie down in the middle of it and pretend I was a baby bird.

Even now, my bedroom is my haven. I have a fan pointed at me, just so, the noise and breeze at the proper setting. Blank curtains hanging in front of the blinds. No pictures or paintings. Things I like on the bedside table: a warm lamp for reading, a little heart-shaped herbal pack that I can heat if I need it, a space for my book. An extra pillow to prop me up, soft sheets, a quilt on top, and a pima cotton blanket folded at the foot, just in case. In winter, I have a soft velour blanket to go on top, to cushion me against the cold.

When I leave my daily life, and enter into my bedroom, that is my signal to forget the world. I take my current library book, and slip into my nightgown, and hug my stuffed dinosaur, who thoughtfully props up my book, and I read until I am sleepy, and then I reach up and turn out the light.

If the mind awakes after that, I get up and eat some high protein cereal, look at vague things on the internet (never the news! AskMe, maybe...), and then I go back to bed. I realize that the thoughts in my head are just thoughts, and my brain can figure them out the next day. And this is not something I did overnight, it was from long hard nights and days of anxiety and crying and visits to the ER over the same. It is the uncertainty of your situation. I have been there, many times, and I feel for you. But in order for you to process it, and to be a good mother and rise up again and continue on, you have to make yourself a nest.

You have to be the baby bird and the mother. Eventually, you will be the mother again, but this is a hard time in your life, so you have to nurture yourself and stop feeling guilty about it. We all need it, it's the human condition. Don't make it harder on yourself by feeling bad about it and yes, please, tell people and tell them how they can help you. Because being a single mother alone really sucks, I know, I was there, but being a baby bird and mother to myself and my daughter helped me a lot.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 6:28 PM on June 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

Have you contacted Lanark Mental Health Services? They should be able to offer you free talk therapy sessions just to let you vent. Often such organisations can also arrange free childcare. Have you aged out of the OEYC/CROW resources? If so, your local school may have resources/social worker to help (although I would be wary with how much to share as they tend to be CAS-happy). I am NOT religious but a good church is a place to find fellowship (the Zion-Memorial has a social justice committee for example). 211 is in Lanark and can find the United Way agencies etc. in my area the organizations for New Canadians are VERY helpful and well-funded by CIC and offer their services to everyone even though their main mandate is New Canadians. You said you can't get OW because your child support is too high, but that you are also not getting the full support - it sounds like FRO is involved? Did you know you can assign your support to OW and when you don't get the full amount OW will pay your the OW amount and pursue the payment through FRO. If this gets settled in court and you get a lump sum you would have to pay some back to OW but meanwhile you are at least getting OW reliably. I hear you about the slow-moving court system, I don't know why judges this it is acceptable to adjourn time and time again while the bills can't be adjourned. Have you asked your lawyer about an emergency motion to get maybe a few months of support paid into a trustee account?
posted by saucysault at 7:27 PM on June 10, 2014

Mod note: From the OP:
Dear MeFi:

You're all terrific. Thank you.

I woke up today to some messages of support and a few offers of donations! I feel a bit refreshed and renewed. Reading the comments here has given me a push in the direction of: I need help, so I should ask for help, shamelessly and extensively. Grlnxtdr's comment in particular was very helpful for that. I think I am going to spam my Facebook friends with a crowdfunding plea, and let the chips fall where they may there: probably that means my kid will eventually find out about how close to the edge we were; probably she will be glad Mummy did everything she could, instead of being distraught over discovering her childhood wasn't as stable as she thought.

(Feeling low, and scared I might lose the house, I once asked her if she would ever like to move. NO. Oh, of course. But pretend -- what if we were moving to a fancy mansion that had its own beach? A palace. On the water! Then you would want to move! Firmly: NO. I would still not want to move. That and a few other conversations cemented prioritizing hanging on to the house, even with the maintenance issues and even if it takes me three days to mow the lawn {it is not a big lawn} and my lawnmower is falling apart. My childhood was extremely stable, and while there were no great luxuries I was oblivious to any idea of financial worry; only much later when talking with people who didn't have that did I realise what a gift I had been given there. Stress generated by home maintenance is more than offset by the comfort it provides her {and often, me; and when I can get back to generating $ I need the space in it for what I do}. She really did not need what she refers to as her "father problems." But at least she has been in the same community for her whole life, in a cozy home with lots of little nooks and crannies for various toy collections, on a street with kids you can call on and bike around with unsupervised; it's very 1982 out here...)

And, sorry for rambling. But: thanks. I posted with trepidation thinking "There are not 'hacks' to go through shit; they would be widely known. I will get two answers and feel worse." And now I am, well, here, and rambling. 'Tis great.

In response to an inquiry: if anybody has the ability to throw writing work my way, that is something I can do from a bed. I have some experience with technical and marketing writing. I have plenty of copyediting experience and was delightfully told by the last person who gave me some ($45/hr!) work that I 'proofread at three times the speed of a normal proofreader, and I mean people who have been doing it full-time for years.' But I, "displaced homemaker," have never quite worked normally, and everything along those lines has been subcontracted to me from friends; I have no resume and no really meaningful references. (I have read through all previous $-for-writing threads. Stumbling block: I haven't got the time right now to work for the miserable per-hour rates that would start to build a resume/network; when able to function I now need to throw it at immediate-reward stuff.)

In re. mental health care: I have a good relationship with my GP and am (now) going to go and ask after..."prophylactic depression strategies." :-)
posted by taz (staff) at 5:16 AM on June 11, 2014 [3 favorites]

See if someone will gift you a copy of How to Survive without a Salary. I read it a long time ago. The author is Canadian and bought a cheap house in rural Canada and had a big garden, etc. I recall him scathingly talking about "middle class coupon clipping matrons." So this is not a book where you will be told to "Drink less Starbuck's coffee" as a means to make ends meet.

Also, put the word out that you are experiencing financial duress and basically blame it on your child's father. That isn't a lie, even though it isn't the whole truth. Let folks know this jerk is falling down on the job and not doing right by you and his kid. I would not badmouth him real bad but if other people want to badmouth him and/or men in general, I would give them running room. I am normally careful to not badmouth my ex but I have, on occasion, let other people accuse him of being The Bad Guy if it got me more sympathy and support when in a pinch. Older folks and/or people from cultures that believe strongly that mom should be home when the kids are little might be very sympathetic and this might open some doors for you.

And, (assuming you are not a vegetarian), ask around if anyone knows any sports hunters (or sports fishers, even, if that would work for you) who might be willing to donate their kills to your freezer. This might be a much more accessible thing in rural Canada than a food pantry or other solutions suggested here by us "city folk" types. When my dad was between marriages prior to meeting my mother, he shot his quota of squirrel every weekend (iirc). I think it was therapeutic for him. He was a single guy with no children. He had no interest in or ability to eat all that meat. He just wanted to hunt. He made friends with a guy with six kids who was thrilled to take his kills. And when I was child, I recall one year we had a freezer full of deer meat because a friend of the family wanted to hunt but didn't really want the meat. I think we got half a buck that had been sent to a meat processing plant and butchered properly. So some sports hunters are happy to give away their kill and will feel good about knowing it is feeding someone, especially if there is a child involved. Getting some free meat to go with your garden veggies can be very helpful in rounding out a meal.

If you don't know how to cook game meat, this might mean learning a few tricks. I have never cooked game meat but I ate plenty of it as a kid and I recall my mother doing things like soaking deer meat in buttermilk overnight before cooking it and explaining to me that she did that because wild game was less fatty than commercial beef, so it tended to be dry. The buttermilk was intended to add a little fat to the meat and make it less dry.
posted by Michele in California at 10:36 AM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

« Older Thoughtful-but-entertaining novels for the...   |   Can I learn rhythm? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.