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06 April 2012

Empty cupboards

I’ve been struggling quite a bit lately; I managed to get last month’s rent paid. I’m still working on getting this month’s rent together. After March rent, I was in the hole by $20. Not a good place to be, especially at suppertime. I had some food in my apartment, was able to snarf up some snacks at work, and had several meals at a friend’s apartment. I had about six bucks left on my credit card, so I went shopping for ramen noodles and cheap hot dogs. Those kept me fed for a few days as well. When this week started, I was out of ramen and hot dogs.

Tuesday was VA appointment day.  I’ve been working on behavior modification, setting goals and finding specific actions to achieve those goals. One of this week’s goals is doing a tune-up on my bike, which I used to ride ~20 miles a week. It needs some oil here and there, and I need to tighten the handlebars to ride safely. Those are a part of the committed action of getting out on the bike paths again. I also asked about rent assistance, and talked about my lack of available food. Mental Health sent me downstairs to Social Work for help. While they weren’t able to assist with rent, they did ask if I’d eaten that day. When I replied that I had not, they offered me a (free) box lunch: pretzels, crackers, cookies, peanut butter, and apple juice so I’d have at least something to eat. They were also able to offer me a small shopping cart of canned and boxed food, again free, which I immediately accepted. (The free food was available because of food and monetary donations-- I’m not sure if every VA hospital has a similar program.)

It felt a little strange when the person from Social Work asked if I was okay taking stairs. She also insisted on pushing the cart for me, out of the hospital and into the parking structure where I’d parked my car. Although she didn’t say so, I suspect that she was making sure I had a way to get home as well. I felt respected and cared about-- which I always feel at the VA hospital here-- I hadn’t expected to take food home. I’d have been happy with the box lunch.

I’ve crashed on friends couches, done laundry at friends apartments. I’ve spent the night in my car more than once because that was better than going home. I’ve also received care packages while deployed, eaten free lobster in Bangor, ME and accepted a free lunch from whomever was offering. Until this week, I’d never been in a position where I needed help because I had no food and no money to buy any more. So this is a new, strange place for me.

This week I also applied for government food benefits, something I never thought I’d do-- but here I am. I applied online on Wednesday, and had a phone appointment this morning, and my application was approved. I’ll have a government issued debit card in about a week.

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This is one of those side effects of PTSD that takes a little while to reach. First, I couldn’t concentrate in classes and had trouble getting assignments done. Then I got to be afraid to even leave my apartment most of the time, which led to taking time off from school and losing financial aid, and living on crazy expensive delivery food. Finally, I got to this place where I can’t buy food anymore because my checking account balance is negative.

I don’t know what it feels like to be the pinball in a pinball machine, but I bet it’s pretty similar to my life the past couple of years.

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