Tag Archives: goals

Conversations

I picked up Jessica from day-camp today. I stood there watching her play Just Dance on the Wii with kids half her age and size. I don’t think Jessica even realizes the difference. These kids are on the same level as her and they’re her friends. I think the kids are at that age where they know that she’s different, but can’t figure out why. They love being around her because she’s a teenager, in junior high yet still likes to play little kid games with them.

We got in the car and she started prattling on about her day and she usually does. This is where the autism kicks him. She has a life plan and she repeats her plan every single day, multiple times a day. Any every time she goes over her plan, it’s like she’s telling us for the first time. She’s going to go to high school next year. She’s going to be 14 and in “nine grade”. Then she’ll be 15 and in “ten grade” and then 16. When she’s 16 she’ll get a computer. Then she’ll do “gradulations” after “twelve grade”. I go a long with her plan. All these things will happen. Though I’m not sure the computer will be pink with flowers, but she’ll certainly get a computer. Maybe it’ll have flower stickers.

But then she continues her plan. She’ll go to college. She’ll go to St. Mary’s and study math and science “just like you mommy”.

That’s when I get a lump in my throat. I try to fight back tears and suppress the anger at the damn 21st chromosome that will roadblock this plan.

When you’re pregnant you have all these hopes and goals for your baby. You dream of making sure they have things better than you did. You want them to know that the world is wide open and that they can do and be anything they want. And then the doctor tells you that your daughter has Down Syndrome and it’s like her potential was cut off before she was even out of the NNICU.

We have to work on her transition plan. They sent home assessments where I ask Jessica where she plans on living after high school, where she plans on working, if she plans on going to college etc… And it all just seems so cruel.

I’m friends with people that have kids the same age. They’re doing the same transitions, making the same plans, but they don’t have an extra chromosome holding them back. While I’m genuinely happy for these kids and their parents, it still stings. It still feels like she’s been robbed, like she’s had her dreams taken away before she’s even been allowed to dream them and that hurts. It’s even more painful because she doesn’t know.

She’s going to finish high school and expect to go to St. Mary’s and I have no idea how to tell her that it’s not going to happen.

I went to school and got degrees because I wanted to be a good role model for her. On the day I graduated when she said she was proud of me, it was the greatest moment of my life. And now my little girl wants to do what I did. She wants to be like me and I feel like I just set her up for disappointment.

There isn’t a “What to Expect When Your Kid has Down’s” book and no one ever tells you about this part.


Adventures in Welfare

Dear Texas.

Go fuck yourself.

Yea I had to get that out of my system.

When I was studying working poverty in school a lot of the material came from case studies. It was a common theme in these case studies that the application process for government assistance was a complicated labyrinth of paperwork leading to a lengthy wait for approval. Many people could go from barely getting by to homeless in the time it took for a food stamp application to be approved.

When I was in the hospital for the first surgery I applied for emergency medicaid. I was denied because my income was too high. At the time I was an unemployed student and my only income was my daughter’s child support and social security.  Apparently the state of Texas thought a monthly income of less than $800 was sufficient to finance a $30,000 hospital bill.

So imagine my shock when I was approved for TANF and medicaid.

[cut to back story]

When I applied for the food stamps I checked the TANF box just as a “they’re going to deny me anyways, but what the hell” sort of thing. Later in the process of applying for food stamps (technically it’s called SNAP, but I’m about sick of acronyms) I learned that if a person received cash benefits (TANF) then the state will recoup those funds from the absent parent.  In other words, if I accepted TANF then I was agreeing to forfeit the child support. Given that I’m getting $360 a month in child support, it made no sense to give that up in order to get less than that in TANF.

At this point I asked if I could just cancel the TANF application and keep my child support. Surely the state would be well up for not paying out cash benefits right? I was informed at the workforce orientation that withdrawing the application for TANF would also withdraw the application for food stamps and I’d have to start all over again. So I agreed to just go through the motions figuring they would deny me anyways. A week later I got a call from the welfare office and voiced my concern about the child support issue. The man contradicted what the workforce office said (these are two entities that really need better communication skills) and told me that TANF had nothing to do with food stamps. He said that I could withdraw my TANF application and keep the food stamps and my child support. He would mail me a form, I’d mail it back and bob’s your uncle. Problem solved.

No.

Somewhere in the span of three days my application for TANF was approved! Now I have talked with a lot of women in worse situations than mine who couldn’t get approved for TANF because their non existent income was too high. It’s common knowledge that it’s virtually impossible to get cash benefits in the state of Texas. It completely defies precedent that I was not only approved, but approved so quickly.

Time for some number crunching. Currently I get $360 a month in child support and $268 a month in Social Security. The state had already approved me for $300 a month in food stamps. With the TANF approval the state was giving me $110 a month in cash assistance and $200 a month in food stamps. I was losing $360 just to get $110!!

I called the welfare office and tried to get them to cancel the application (the form hadn’t had time to arrive in the post)  and take back the benefits but alas there was no hope. The best they could do was deny the benefits for September, but August was a done deal. Immediately that knot was in my stomach as I freaked out about how we’d survive August if we lost that much money.

I ended up filing a formal complaint. Apparently this formal complaint was against the man that worked up my case. I thought it was just going to be against the office in general. So he called me pretty pissed off that I was filing a complaint and trying to talk me out of it.

Surprisingly I got a child support check for the beginning of August. My guess is that the payment was processed before the child support office was made aware of my TANF approval. So I was fortunate to be able to pay everything that needed to be paid and have a few dollars left to put gas in the car.

The moral of the story is that the myth of the welfare queen is bullshit. There are no women sitting back raking in piles of taxpayer cash. No one is doing so well on welfare that they can choose it over working. Welfare is temporary. There are time limits on how long people can receive benefits, so the myth that women are spending their whole lives on welfare is bollocks! There are caps on how many children will be considered when approving the benefit amount, so the myth that women are just having more kids to get more money is also bullshit. The fact is that sometimes bad shit happens and people (mostly women) need a little help to get through it.  I didn’t apply for this because I was a lazy cow that doesn’t want to work. I applied for this because I had gotten to the point where my daughter was only getting one meal and a snack during the day and there was no where else in the budget left to cut.

This is only temporary. When I start getting really depressed about this situation I have to remind myself that this is only temporary. That a year from now this will just be one more experience that I look back on wondering how I ever made it.  Just like the broken relationships, the surgeries, the insanely hard semesters at school, this is just another hurdle that I will eventually get over.


And Life Marches On

I graduated.

That sentence still brings tears to my eyes. It’s been almost a month since I walked across that stage and received degrees in Mathematics and Economics.  Those degrees are currently sitting on the file cabinet by my desk. I haven’t framed them yet because sometimes I still need to open the covers and run my fingers over the parchment to make sure they’re real.

The whole graduation memory is a blur. For four years it felt like a moment that would never come. Now it feels like a moment that was gone too soon.

My painting professor said that graduation would be a moment of incredible happiness followed by an incredible sadness. He was quite correct. I find that I’m already missing my university life. Everything from the excitement of planning classes and buying school supplies to the stress of midterms and papers.

What I really miss the feeling of belonging…the feeling of purpose.  I’ve been a professional student for almost a third of my life. Now that chapter is over. It feels like I’ve lost my identity. Now I’m just sorta here, trying to figure out what to do.

My fixed income has been slashed nearly in half which has piled on the stress. I’ve been applying for jobs every day.  I made it part of my morning routine to check the job postings every day and apply to at least three that I may be qualified for.  One of my greatest fears right now is that I’ll be a 31 year old single mother with five college degrees working at a fast food place to make ends meet.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

I thought when I got a car that everything would be okay. I’d be able to get a job and things would work out. Having a car did help out immensely but it also came with so much added expense to worry about.

Then I thought that once I graduated everything would be okay. I’d be able to get a job and things would work out. So far that hasn’t panned out either. Despite good degrees from a great school, I’m still falling victim to a sluggish economy that’s filled with more qualified competition.  None of this is really a surprise. My term paper for my labor economics class predicted this scenario.  I can hear it saying “I told you so” from the stack of discarded term papers on my desk.

In all this I’m trying hard to stay positive. I’m trying to remember what I learned in therapy. Very little of this is within my control, and it does me no good to dwell on things I can do nothing about.  Most of all I’m trying to avoid downtime and all the things that trigger my free falls into depression and self destructive behaviours.

For now I’m focused on staying healthy, paying bills and applying for jobs.

Everything else is just noise.


Lather Rinse Repeat

Lather

Once again I am standing on the threshold of a new semester full of this crazy optimistic anxiety.  Every semester I go through the same resolutions: I will use my planner, I will do all my reading assignments, I won’t leave my papers till the last minute, I won’t be dependent on medication, I won’t let my bi-polar crap consume me, I’ll keep my environment organised, and I’ll strive to reclaim my identity as an honour student.  At the dawn of every semester I run through this list of goals with as much dedication as a junkie fresh out of rehab.

Rinse

I’ve decided to go off my meds again. I can just imagine the eye rolls and exasperated sighs of some people that will read that statement. I’m sure that’s a common occurrence for people dealing with bi-polar people. We’re notorious for going on and off meds. I’m no exception. After a lot of thought I’ve decided that medication and therapy were useful in getting me through the crisis. But I don’t think I’m in crisis anymore. I think that’s why they became less effective. I think I just didn’t need them anymore. I think I’m ready to do this on my own. I made it through the whole summer break without them. That’s a huge accomplishment for me. Summer break is a dangerous minefield of downtime. Downtime is a poison dart to me. I beat summer break. Now I’m going to try to beat Fall 2011.

Repeat

It’s the first night after my first day of class. I’ve diligently used my planner. I’ve colour coded and tabbed my economics books. I’ve finished one assignment. I’ve checked off the misc. stuff on my to-do list. So far I’m doing well. But now the fatigue is setting in. It’s already 11pm and instead of doing my  reading and my other economics assignment I’m blogging and considering going to sleep and doing it in the morning. Just like a junkie falling back on a needle, it’s effortless to fall back into my natural groove. After all it’s a groove that has 20 years of wear.

Lather

Boethius said “The worst misery is to have once been happy.”

I think that’s why I haven’t been able to get back to the academic standing I used to hold.  Back when I was an honour student, I was totally alone. I didn’t have friends, or love interests, or a social life.  I hadn’t tasted happiness yet.  Now that I have, the absence of it has been crushing.  I didn’t know how much the loneliness hurt back then so it was easy to just focus on school and make good grades. Now I’m so painfully aware of my loneliness, it makes focusing on school work difficult.

Rinse

So here I am again. On the threshold of a new semester. But not just another new semester. This is the first semester of my senior year.  And with more dedication than a junkie fresh out of rehab, I think I’m finally ready to let go. I’m not just letting go of those months of happiness that were followed by those years of heartache. No, I think I’m finally ready to let go of all the pain, resentment, animosity, guilt, bitterness, and fear that’s been holding me hostage for most of my life.

Repeat

No.

No, I don’t think I will.


Do you remember?

Do you remember me.  I’m still here. I was there when your world came crashing down.  I was content to step back and not push because I knew you had to deal with it in whatever way worked for you.  I tried to be supportive, but you just weren’t receptive to my kind of support.  Part of me is sad and angry at what you let that year do to you.  We were a team and we were doing so well. We had a plan. We knew exactly what we wanted and where we were going and we weren’t about to let anything get in our way.  We were happier than we’d ever been.  We were confident and radiant.  We smiled and finally started coming out of our shell.

And then 2009 happened.  Our great depression.  Everything broke.

It broke my heart to watch you struggle through all that pain. It angered me to watch your self-destruction.  How could someone so strong crumble so easily? You had worked so hard and accomplished so much and it infuriated me to see you throw it all away so easily.  I guess I gave up too. I imagine that I’m just as much to blame.  I walked away when you needed me the most.  Years of hard work, down the drain over something that should have been so trivial.

But I guess broken hearts, minds and bodies are not so trivial when they all happen at once.  But for the love of all things important why the fuck can’t you just snap out of it? It happened. It’s done and there is nothing you can do to change it. That year happened, and I know it was brutal but it’s been two years! When are you going to let go? How much longer can you keep looking back and feeling sorry for yourself?

You keep looking at everything you lost whilst ignoring everything you still have! I’m still here! I believe in you! I know you can do this because you’ve done it before. You survive. No matter what has happened in your life you have always survived.  You keep missing all the things that were toxic and it’s like you totally ignore me, the one that helped you, the one that was actually good for you! Forget them! Move on! I promise your feelings are not reciprocated and pining away is foolish and totally beneath you.

I’m ready to do this, and I know you are too.

So what will do you?


After all, tomorrow is another day…

Another spring break is coming to a close and I’m sitting here procrastinating reflecting on the events thus far.  It’s been a pretty appalling semester.  It seems the closer I get to graduating the worse I do. From a C in Differential Equations and Discrete Math last semester, to failing Multivariate Calculus and holding on by a thread in Linear Algebra this year.  I keep feeling that if I had it to do over I could have done better. In hindsight I can see exactly where I went wrong and what I should have done differently.  But hindsight is always a day late and a dollar short.

I think for the past couple years I’ve been holding on to handy excuses. It was convenient to blame my shortfalls on the grief of a break up, the recovery from surgeries, and the adjustment to medications.  But excuses have expiration dates.  They’re only valid for so long before one must accept that it happened and move on.  I’m never going to get over these two men. We don’t just over people we’ve cared about. We simply learn to appropriate the emotion. I can’t continue to dedicate emotional real estate to people that have long since left.

It’s always easy to list the changes that need to be made and talking about when, where, and how they’ll be made.  But it’s quite difficult to actually do it.  Two years ago I was ok, and then everything went bad and for the last two years I’ve been trying to get back to that point where I was ok. Sorta like some personality restore point.

But we don’t get to go back. Life doesn’t come with do-overs. We simply dust off and keep going forward.  Perhaps that’s why things have been so consistently difficult.  I’ve been trying to go against the grain. Instead of moving forward with the natural momentum of life, I’ve been trying to go backwards to a time that no longer exists.

Yesterday is something I can never see again. Tomorrow however is a much more attainable goal.

So spring break is over. All in all it wasn’t too bad. Got some sleep, had a fling, did some research and I’m ready to come back and finish this semester with a bang. It may be too late to correct the mistakes of the first half, but it’s not too late to preempt any mistakes of second half.

Deep breath.

Here we go.


Oh what will she do?

I’ve finally started meeting with the new therapist.  I have to admit that this is a very hard transition.  I was only with my first therapist for a year, but I became quite attached to her.  I miss her and thinking about her makes me sad. When I’m walking to my new therapist’s office, I pass by Claudia’s empty office and I get sad knowing that she’s really gone and I will probably never see her again.
So far Diedra seems nice, but I imagine seeming nice is part of therapist training. I mean if they seemed like assholes it wouldn’t really work. I think she’s less nurturing than Claudia was and I have a feeling that’s why Claudia referred me to her. I’ve had two sessions with Diedra and I can already tell that this isn’t going to be classic “sit on the couch & tell me about your mother” therapy.

I wasn’t sure where to start. I didn’t want to start all over but I had no idea how to go forward so I just started with the most pressing issues, mainly my financial aid problem. She gave me the name of the director for the office of student retention. The week went by and exams & homework had put it out of my mind. Then yesterday 10 minutes before my second session I remembered, called and made an appointment. When I walked into session it was the first thing Diedra asked. It felt good to be able to say “yes I called her and I have an appointment tomorrow morning” instead of “I meant to but….”

In second session I talked about how hard it was for me to get things done and how I feel like lately I’ve just been such a bad student. I’m going from all A’s to B’s & C’s. It hurts! I said I felt like I was so busy & never had enough time but that I never really accomplish anything. So she told me to start writing down everything I do. I thought with my constant facebook/twitter updating this was something I already do. Then I realized that my updates are about what I’m wanting to do, need to do, of fixina do. Rarely are my updates about what I have done, because I rarely finish anything.

So I split the day in my planner in half. On one side are thing I need to do and on the other side are thing I’ve done. The whole point is trying to work on the problems I have with procrastinating & staying focused.

Today was my appointment with student retention. the lady was nice but when she asked me what my plans after graduation were I froze. Here I am about to ask the school for a considerable amount of money and I have no post-graduation plan!

The problem is that for me graduation is like a cliff. I have no idea what’s on the other side. I just know I’m going to be thrown over and it’s up to me to figure out how to apply what I’ve learned in order to survive. It’s a terrifying thought. So no I don’t have a plan for after I graduate because just getting to the graduation is taking everything I have.  Were I still an honor student with a 3.8 GPA I might have more bargaining power. As it is I only have a 3.1 and chances of it increasing much between now and next spring are slim to none. So plan I must.

She told me to get a degree audit. Normally I would have said ok, wrote in my planner to get a degree audit and then kept pushing it around and putting it off. But I didn’t! I went straight to the registrar’s office and requested one. He said I needed to officially change my major from Economics to Mathematics and gave me a form to have the Chair of the Math department sign. Normally I would stuck it in my pocket and gone home. But I went to the math department. She wasn’t there so I stuck it in my pocket and went home =P

I guess the point to this long boring blog is that therapy works if you’re willing to do the work. My last year of therapy got me through the initial crisis. Now I have to take what I’ve learned about how my mind works and teach it to work differently. I’m still off the medication so this is an incredibly difficult process. I still have really dark moments of hopelessness and it’s still really difficult to pull out of them.

But I’m trying.

I know a lot of people say that and “try is another excuse not to do” but I really am trying to take all these fragments of my identity and make myself a whole person.