My life is on the verge of falling apart and I don’t know what to do.
September 5, 2018 12:10 PM   Subscribe

I’m terrified. My life is about to fall apart. I am about to run out of money and have no source of income and nothing in the horizon. I’m freaked out and seemingly unable to do anything about fixing my life; rather it feels like watching a train wreck in slow motion. I have zero idea where to turn. What do people do these situations?

Several things are crashing down on me all at once. It feels a lot like it’s been slow decline of things falling apart and I haven’t been able to right the ship. Or maybe it’s that I’ve been an absentee captain and now that I see the rocks ahead, I’m not able to steer fast enough.

Many mefites know that my husband took his life about a year and a half ago. I had some medical problems before that, but things were finally looking up, My back issue was finally diagnosed after being missed for so long, I was diagnosed with adhd about that time, and I found a job almost immediately upon looking, and it was going to be a huge career jump for me, one I didn’t expect for a least a year or two after returning to work. But then my husband took his life This two weeks into a new job. Six months after his death I was let go from said job. I was emotionally just a mess, and so decided to take some time off work to work through those problems, as well as deal with much of the aftermath of my husband’s death but I have not dealt with yet. I had death benefits paid out from the company he worked for, and a little bit of money saved. And there was a little bit of equity in the house. Which had yet to be sold. I had a little bit saved up. The problem was that I was frozen with anxiety. This anxiety kept me largely immobilized until the fall of last year. Then things started to get a little better a little at a time. So the plan was to get the house sold figure out some personal things and find a job. But the house took longer to sell, and I got less money from the house. I ended up having to cash out a meager 401k.

Then around the time I was going to look for work, That old back issue come back. It actually had been bugging me on and off for a few months, but it always got better after rest for a couple weeks. I helped a friend move and I messed up big time. I knew I had to avoid certain movement and towards the end we were rushing and I did the exact movement I should not have. This time I messed it up, I couldn’t sit or stand for long, I couldn’t carry much over 5 lbs. and to complicate matters. If I did try to sit and stand, it wasn’t just that it hurt, it would make it worse until it was unbearable. I initially tried to push through it, and ended up in so much pain that I could sleep.

An ongoing issue with my wrists/forearms got worse around the same. Now they should not be related and the medical professionals I’ve seen have said the same, but they seemed to peek at the same time. And unlike the back issue – the arm and wrist issue is one that I haven’t been able to figure out, the medical system have done 🤷‍♀️. I have been passed around with no answers. Anyway, with the two issues problematic at the same time, It cut off all my avenues that I could think of for work. Fortunately, having gone through this back thing before, I knew (well strongly suspected) I could recover again the way I did before, with the right combo of rest and the right exercises. Even with the wrist issues, of my back got better, it would open up many work opportunities, even short term like Uber. Not of course ideal, but anything is something. I still was OK with money for a little while. Then I had a dental emergency. Here’s the problem, It’s taking longer than I expected to recover. It’s getting better, and I think I might be able to eek out some contract work if I can find something where I can work from home to manage my physical limitations. (ie I’ll probably have to do a lot of position changes, switching between working in bed, in a chair, and standing, and then also be able to rest and ice, along with take periodic walk and stretch breaks, things I don’t anticipate I’ll be able to do in an office.) I am working on installing some software that will allow me to do Programming by voice. But my coding skills are really out of date, And my understanding getting used to the software is tricky and time-consuming. Even installing it has been fiddly, which isn’t easy with wrist problems because I have to stop and start wa whole lot.

All this and I’m running out of time. To scrape together and rent, I had a friend help me sell one of my late husband’s old guns. But we got far less for it than he originally thought. I’ve been trying to figure out what to sell. And had a yard sale recently. It didn’t net much, but it was something so between the two I was able to barely eeked out rent. I’m scrambling to raise funds from all these short term stupid things because I have all these past due bills that are rushing up on me at the speed of light. I don’t pay the electric bill tomorrow, my service will be shut off. I’ve called and the minimum amount is the minimum amount. They’re not budging because it’s not winter. I don’t have the money it takes to pay it. I still have to update my resume and LinkedIn. And it seems like so many days I try and do this I just can’t. Something ends up eating up my time. Anxiety, distractions, or some new emergency. Last month, a huge amount of my time was taken up by a dental emergency that kept dragging on, and then I passed out and fell down my stairs and spent half a day in the emergency room a half a week recovering. When I wasn’t dealing with that, I was going to occupational therapy and physical therapy or doing it at home, which I need to do and is probably why I am having some improvement finally.

Then this past week and a half I ended up dealing with two rather threatening situations with strange men that completely derailed me even more, one was an extremely aggressive man that followed me, first trying to get my attention, and then when I told him no, following me, berating me and acting threatening towards me for over a block before I went into a store. Then Saturday, I was in my back yard when two strange men tried to gain access into to my fenced and gated yard, to “talk talk to me and invite me for a drink” the only thing that prevented it was that I have a large, angry tortoise that was pushing up against the gate they were trying to unlatch and walk throught. It might not sound like much, but I can tell you in no uncertain terms, they were ill intentioned. I felt so violated. I spent Sunday so thrown by the whole thing that I was barely able to function, spent most of my time sitting on the floor, hugging myself. Every time I tried to move, I felt slow as molasses. It was just random bad things, but it happened and keeps happening at the worst time when I need to be focusing on getting cash quick, and getting myself a job of SOME SORT.

So in two days my electricity will be shut off if I can’t pay tomorrow. I can’t. Several other bills are coming due, and we’re not that far from when rent will come up again. I had a panic attack thinking about how even if I get the next essential bills paid, hustling to get cash by selling the little stuff I have is gonna eat up the next week or two, then I’ll be back panicking about money for rent rather than being able to focus on my job search. I’m stuck in this place that seems to be urgent unimportant (but also totally pressing cuz I need to live) but can’t get to the non-urgent but very important task of finding work.

I just can’t seem to get done what I need to get done. I don’t have family I can as for help. I am estranged from the, and going back to them is not an option. I do have friends but I don’t think I can ask them for money. Everyone is strapped. I just don’t know what to do. I also have a bad habit of turning away from friends when I feel like this, basically hiding from the world, so I don’t know many know how dire it is or scared I am.

Add to this that I have ADHD, which is not an excuse but it’s make dealing with these complex, moving parts, especially those that require more organizational work, really difficult for me. I focus on the wrong things. I might spent two hours making my bathroom sparkling clean when I really need to be calling to have sown checke reissued. I think I have more time than I do, and when I’m not in an acute crisis, don’t work on the things I need to to avoid the next acute crisis. I’ve got a billion ideas what I might be able to do to help out my financial situation. Which one to follow? But I can’t seem to prioritize. And adhd doesn’t play nice with anxiety because you can dream up a million things to be anxious about. I also think it complicates things by making disruptions more difficult for me to deal with than it does neurotypical people. Like the dental issue, the fall, the weird confluence of threatening men in my life. Task switching is such a bear for me, that these interruptions make everything harder. No excuse, just what is happening.

To top it all off, my therapist left the practice I was seeing him at to work on his consulting business. He’s been one of the things that has helped me the most when life felt like it was getting out of hand. I was transferred to a different therapist that I had a few previous experience with and generally liked him, but we are not gelling now that I’m working with him as my regular therapist, and I haven’t gone to see him in about 6 weeks. So the lack of therapy to deal with these feelings is not helping me get unstuck.

I haven’t a clue how to go about fixing any of this, it’s happening too fast. Top that with my back takes so much work in any given day to see improvement, I just don’t know what I’m going to do or where to start looking for solutions. I’m losing sleep (more than my normal sleep problems) so I’m not thinking I’m a full tank of gas. When the anxiety gets too bad, I end up just freaked out. This morning it took me 3 hours to get out of bed, and it was all due to fear.

Any advice on how to maybe get a handle on this and start straightening things out would be so helpful. Cuz I’m just lost. I can’t be the only person to dig themselves out from a calamity of failures. Right?
posted by [insert clever name here] to Work & Money (30 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
I can’t be the only person to dig themselves out from a calamity of failures.

That you're already saying this is good. Take a deep breath. Other MeFites will be along soon with good advice; we're here for you.
posted by notsnot at 12:34 PM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

Have you applied for any assistance? Food stamps, cash assistance, Medicaid? Where are you located?

Speaking as someone with ADHD, ADHD can also straight up cause anxiety. You know you aren't getting things done, you know you're falling behind and why can't you just FOCUS? It's so important! But it really isn't your fault. You can't will yourself out of ADHD. I know you're going through a lot, but please be kind to yourself.
posted by Bistyfrass at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2018 [16 favorites]

See if you qualify for disability because of your back.
posted by 445supermag at 12:41 PM on September 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

This isn't everything, but it will hopefully help. What I can suggest is the following.

First, sit down with a piece of paper. Not typing or computer. Put on something that you know has the ability to calm you. And then let your thoughts start. As a problem comes to mind, write it down, and then imagine the waves carrying that problem out to sea – or something similar that lets you let go of it.

Once you are out of problems, look at that list. Try to decide which is the most important problem on the list. Don’t add new ones if they come to mind. Tackle that problem. Then look at the list again. Work on the next problem. Just focus on the problem you chose, until it’s done.

This may be advice that someone with ADHD can’t take; I may be naïve, because I don’t (think I) know what it’s like to live with ADHD. But whatever you can do to focus – including whatever you can do to lessen the “jump from problem to problem” effect of anxiety (that, I do know about), is needed.

Second, if you end up without Internet access and without power, then you can likely use Internet at the library for free. If you have a laptop, all the better, but if not you can usually reserve time on a computer to update your LinkedIn.

Third, your physical problems and your ADHD may qualify you for disability. I’m not an expert on that, but others may be able to give you advice. But that should help you bring in some money. In the meantime, look at food banks in your area, and also see if there are churches or shelters that provide free hot meals.

You may also want to buy a flashlight/lantern with a large florescent or LED bulb (I am thinking something along the lines of this) in preparation for the power going out.

I have had periods in my life when it felt like literally every single problem was going to fall upon my head, and that I would be crushed by the sheer weight of all of them. What helped me get through them was to say to myself – I cannot do ONE thing that will at one time stop ALL of these problems. What I can do to eliminate them is to address them one by one, and to tell my anxiety that I am doing something by doing that.

Also, two final thoughts regarding the therapist. Whether or not you have “gelled” with the current therapist, you would not try to fix a broken leg by yourself, even if you didn’t like the doctor who was fixing your leg. Similarly, you are in a state where some therapy is needed. I would see that therapist – make an emergency appointment if you can. I am hopeful they would be professional enough to help you find someone you WILL gel with. Many will not take it personally; many know that therapy is a very personal thing.

And even though I am a layman, I suspect you may need someone who knows trauma therapy. I feel, as I read your comments, as if you are dealing with trauma reactions such as hypervigilance and hypovigilance. Given your loss, I think it would make sense. It is something I deal with as well due to other factors, and I feel as if I am recognizing things on your end.

If you feel as if you are beginning to “lose it”, try doing this: say OUT loud four things you can hear, three things you can smell, two things you can feel, and one thing you can see. That will ground you.

Essentially, your hindbrain is telling you you are surrounded by a pack of tigers right now. You are not. You CAN handle this. You ARE going to be okay.
posted by WCityMike at 12:45 PM on September 5, 2018 [11 favorites]

I'm not sure of what your relationship to your friends is, but if you have a good friend or two whom you can say, "This is an emergency. I need X money to keep the lights on, and I may need a place to stay very shortly, can you help?" would be the first thing I'd think of. The situation may not apply to you, in which case, it may be more helpful to start looking toward official channels for help, but I think the most important thing for you, according to this post, is to get you in a place where you can breathe. For me, having been in this sort of situation financially about 15 years ago, I just had to put myself on the mercy of friends and family, and they came through. So if it's thinking you can't possibly ask, and if you feel like there's even a chance one person or a few can help you out, start there, because I think that's the most immediate triage you can do for yourself.
posted by xingcat at 1:00 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think you would really benefit from talking through someone (real human) who can help you figure out what to do, how to do it and map out first steps. I think a person trained to help like that would be a social worker. If you lived in California, I would suggest that you call 211 (information for nonprofit agencies) tell them you have no income and are danger of losing your housing and ask them who you should call.
posted by metahawk at 1:01 PM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

From experience of mental illness/dire financial emergencies:

1) First, look at ALL your bills. What can you live without? Rank your bills in order of importance.

You don't need tv, or internet, or even gas until maybe December. I would start by ranking your bills, and then when you have the list of your bills in order of most to least important, say to yourself, I will pay rent this month even if I pay NOTHING else. Or: I will pay for my water bill. (Actually, rent and water are maybe the only non-negotiable things anyone needs to have a basic, human standard of living.) Edit: you may have already done this. If so, move to step two.

2) Then I would set up a paypal account. Then I would open my Facebook page, or another social media account. Write this post above into the box (or a simplified variant of this post.)

Say to Facebook or Twitter, 'Friends, I am having a crisis. Please chip in a few dollars as you are able. Thank you.' Do NOT assume they are strapped for cash. Do NOT assume their problems are more important than yours. You need help right now. Ask for help and feel no guilt whatsoever about it. Let people assess their own situations and how much cash they can spare for you. Don't do that work for them. You don't have to. You just have to ask for help.

3) Look up where your local library is. You will need this place as a resource. Call them, or come in and get a library card. You will use this place to apply for jobs.

4) Do not apply for jobs yet. Spend a certain period of time doing absolutely NOTHING. IANAD, and I am not your therapist, but from the sound of it, your brain and body are overloaded. You need to empty your brain. You will know you have spent sufficient time doing nothing when you begin to hear the sounds around you again, and when you are at all interested in your immediate surroundings. You need to come back into your body, and you need to do it slowly, so that you don't trigger yourself right back into dissociation.

Okay. From there you can triage and do other things. But those are my honest recommendations of what needs to happen immediately to remain stable in this situation, based on my experiences of being in similar situations.
posted by coffeeand at 1:07 PM on September 5, 2018 [38 favorites]

You may qualify for utility assistance
posted by bunderful at 1:09 PM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

N'thing use the library as a resource. They can point you to a lot of local services as well as provide internet access for you.
posted by acidnova at 1:17 PM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

Also, if at some point you really, legitimately think you're going to be homeless (as in, no one will take you in if it comes to that) (and EDIT: it doesn't sound like you're in that position, but just in case) and you have a car to live in, I would get a super cheap gym membership somewhere where there are public showers, and I would do it while you still have an address to put on the membership form.

This is not based on personal experience, but just hearsay from others who have been homeless.

(If you don't have a car.... then I'd look for shelters instead.) But this is behind in priority from all the other things I mentioned.
posted by coffeeand at 1:35 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Do tell your friends about it - even broke people want to help, just having people to talk with can help, and even the ones who can't offer money or a place to stay might be able to help you with things paperwork and applications and even just distracting you from the stress.
Give yourself those three hours in the morning or whenever to not take care of anything. They won't make or break you, and it helps to schedule time off from worrying about things.
Also, check your memail.
posted by trig at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

One edit to my response: the correct words in the "And even though..." paragraph are "hyperarousal" and "hypoarousal", if you are Googling, although vigilance is also a term on its own.

Hang in there.
posted by WCityMike at 1:45 PM on September 5, 2018

Once you have figured out what you need to prioritize, as recommended above, this is where a friend can help you even if she doesn't have money. Call your closest friend and tell her, "I have a lot of important tasks to do to try to keep my life together, but I'm having trouble getting started because there are so many and I just get overwhelmed. Could you come and sit with me while I [fill out this form/make this phone call/whatever]?" That will probably help you with anxiety and focus.

Milwaukee uses the 211 social services hotline. I would call them.
posted by praemunire at 1:49 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Here is a direct link to the Milwaukee Public Library system listing all the branches and locations.
posted by acidnova at 2:03 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry. This is what leapt out at me:

I do have friends but I don’t think I can ask them for money. Everyone is strapped. I just don’t know what to do. I also have a bad habit of turning away from friends when I feel like this, basically hiding from the world, so I don’t know many know how dire it is or scared I am.

I bet your friends would want to know this is happening so they can help you. Even when people are strapped they can maybe stretch to 10 or 20 bucks, a few of those and you've met the electricity, you have a little breathing space.*

And even if they can't manage 10 bucks, they can help in other ways. You helped a friend move, maybe they'd be delighted of the chance to return the favour. They come over, go through bills with you, work out priorities, help research the support you could be getting, help you sort your resume. The sheer relief of having someone look at everything and not run off screaming "You're dooooomed!" could be tremendous.

A lot of tough things are happening but it feels like what's making you disappear down the plug hole is that you're doing it all in isolation. Please reach out.

* I'd happily be one of those 10 bucks people and I've never even met you. If you have a paypal, please memail me details.
posted by penguin pie at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2018 [32 favorites]

Are you a member (or if not, do you know someone) of a faith community? Churches will typically help people when they need it. Once I needed some money to help me access treatment for depression and a friend's church helped me with the money.

My heart goes out to you. You have been through too much already.
posted by strelitzia at 2:59 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I second the advice to set up a PayPal money pool (no fees for people who contribute money unless they use a credit card) or other way for people to donate. People absolutely will want to help you! Try to get enough to cover the immediate bills/rent, then use the breathing room to apply for any services that you can qualify for. You've been through a lot. Posting here is a great first step toward facing down the anxiety and making progress. I know the fear is screaming loud right now, but take a deep breath and tell yourself: I can do this.
posted by snowleopard at 3:02 PM on September 5, 2018

Even if your friends don't have any money to give you, they can lend you executive functioning help. You have serious medical problems and should talk to your doctors about getting on disability and/or public assistance.

Call the most kind and understanding friend you have an ask them to sit next to you while you call the doctor's office. When you figure out what kind of paperwork you need to do, have them help you fill it out. These are no-cost things that someone can show up and keep your anxiety and ADD from interfering with.

Yes, money would solve many of your problems, but a job isn't the only solution, and to be honest, it's not the most likely one to come through for you right now.

All my sympathy, and the best of luck.
posted by gideonfrog at 3:34 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I've seen people post stuff on facebook similar to this:

"I'm in crisis right now because (brief explanation). If you can help me I would really appreciate it. Things I could use are:
* cash to pay the electric bill
* help coming up with a plan to turn things around
* gift cards for the grocery store
* help figuring out what social services are available

etc etc."

In the meantime, call that therapist and see if you can get an emergency session (phone session if getting to the office isn't very practical).

Good luck - I hope things improve soon!
posted by bunderful at 3:51 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I will nth applying for assistance. Many states let you apply online, and the worst they can do is say "No," which seems extremely unlikely in your case.

If you can get to a local welfare office, you might be able to walk out that day with emergency food stamps that should keep you fed for a short time while your application is processed.
posted by SansPoint at 4:26 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

The MeFi Wiki offers information about finding a therapist, and information about how to find free or low cost legal assistance for a possible SSI/SSDI claim. I also suggest contacting your local Community Action agency for assistance with your electric bill, and case management services if they are available.
posted by Little Dawn at 4:57 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I've heard from people high up in the administration that some branches of the United Way can lend cash outright at their discretion. Further the "united" part refers to their links to numerous other social services agencies to facilitate help for those who need it.

On the Get Help page of the Milwaukee branch, it says this:

Impact 2-1-1 is a 24/7 hotline to get connected to services you need: emergency food, health care, mental health care, emergency shelter, affordable housing, alcohol or other drug abuse services, financial and legal assistance, etc.

Land line or cell phone: 2-1-1
Toll free: (866) 211-3380
Text your ZIP code to 898-211

Meanwhile, Jewish Family Services in Milwaukee offers a variety of counseling services, including for people who are not Jewish. This is how they describe what they offer:

JFS professional therapists can help you with issues such as stress, grief, anxiety or depression, relationship conflicts, or life transitions. They collaboratively work with you to establish coping techniques that will help you to overcome obstacles and result in enhanced self-confidence. Care managers can assist in developing the right plan for you or your loved one, provide homecare, or other support. Other programs and services are available to assist you in leading a fulfilled life.

This is how they describe their values:

How we accomplish our mission is as important as the mission itself. In everything we do, we will always be guided by Jewish values of Chesed (loving kindness) and Tzedekah (righteousness, justice) which have required us to care for those among us in need, not as a burden but as a mitzvah (obligation).

And, finally, the closest Jewish Vocational Services I can find to you is in Chicago. Each affiliate of JVS has some autonomy, I think, and I am only knowledgable about ones quite East of you. They, however, provided exemplary support and career help to job seekers of all (or no) faiths.

I've seen the work of all these agencies up close, and I have the utmost respect for them. Given your situation, it might be easiest to start with the United Way, especially because they have affiliations with any number of other agencies. See what they tell you. If they don't provide the services you need, and don't have any suggestions, move on to Jewish Family Services. You are not the first person any of these agencies have seen in distress. They will be empathetic. They will help. There is no shame in letting them. Start by making just one phone call. Please?
posted by Violet Blue at 5:02 PM on September 5, 2018 [13 favorites]

In a previous Ask, you said you had many friends who offered to help you, many times over. Pick one reliable friend and ask them to set up a GoFundMe or YouCaring campaign for you. Post it to social media. This is so par for the course these days, there is no shame in it and I would hope your friend network will seize on the opportunity to help you in this tangible way. Speaking as a fellow MeFite, I would pitch in.

This won't solve everything but it could give you some breathing room to prioritize the rest. Good luck and a huge hug for all you're dealing with.
posted by missmobtown at 6:41 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

It is 100% ok to reach out to your friends for help. Even if they cannot provide financial support, there are many other ways they can help you. Everyone struggles sometimes and it's ok to ask for help. There is no shame in that.
posted by acidnova at 6:56 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Milwaukee Women's Center has a crisis line.

From the website:
24-Hour Crisis Line is housed at our Emergency Shelter and provides crisis counseling / intervention, information, and referrals to more than 12,000 callers each year.

The Crisis Line serves as a community resource, assisting callers with a variety of concerns -- including homelessness, housing and legal issues, lack of food, and crisis situations like domestic violence or suicide.

It looks like they're attached to the United Way. They should be able to tell you what's out there and what your options are right now. I would tell the line what you told us! Maybe have a pad of paper handy and ask them to break what you need to do down into clear, simple steps because you are having a difficult time following through on complicated tasks. So for example instead of "oh, go get food stamps" you need to hear "first find out what paperwork and ID will be required, then locate those materials. Then, fill out the form to apply for assistance. Then, apply on the website/in person, then call the assistance office to check that they have received your application." For example.

I have also been in this kind of crisis and if you want help breaking those steps down into easier pieces, I'm happy to walk through that with you.
posted by Bistyfrass at 7:38 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

Check your Memail.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 8:06 PM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

Check your memail x 2 please.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:04 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Check your Memail ❤️
posted by nightrecordings at 12:10 AM on September 6, 2018 [5 favorites]

I am well positioned to offer substantial help.

Check your memail.

We've got you.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:31 AM on September 6, 2018 [19 favorites]

To everyone here, and everyone that contacted me directly, thank you so much for your help and support and love. I cannot believe the amazing people on metafilter. Well I can, because you’ve all been amazing forever and ever. But also having such a great and supportive community hit me really hard.

Min payment on Electric was made so the lights will stay on. I also set up an appointment for energy assistance on Monday. I’m gonna keep working through the ideas here, they’re all very helpful. I haven’t contacted my new therapists office yet, but I think that is next on the list, I didn’t realize how poorly I was doing.

And if you’ve memailed me and I haven’t gotten back to you, I am working on it. I had to take last night off and take a step away from everything and hide. The outpouring of support just kicked me in all the feels, but it also opened the floodgates for all the terror and anxiety I have been trying to hold back.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 1:50 PM on September 6, 2018 [24 favorites]

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