Living Off The Avails Of Others Part One The Monster In The Room


Just a place I passed on the way home — Photo by Me, Dec. 18, 2007

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“Sweet Dreams”; Marilyn Manson
Let me know if the video isn’t available.

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This is going to be a series of posts on what is without a doubt the one subject most likely to cause me to consider suicide as an option. This is about clinical depressions. Superficially it’s about money… and my total lack of it. But it’s really about a whole lot more… it’s about my relationship with my mother, her parents, my father and his parents. It’s about the help I’ve been offered in my Recovery and in my Life by each of them, how little there has actually been offered and the guilt I feel surrounding the whole freaking mess.

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I was in the car with my grandfather a few days ago. We were driving to his assisted living place so I could “work” on his computer. He bought a PC from a strip mall vendor four years ago and it recently had a total system failure. And, surprise, the Windows software was pirated so he had to buy all new stuff which meant I had to explain to him how to use it…

As we were driving he started asking me questions about apartments in my Little Village. I think he was asking because he can’t get to my place anymore because the staircase is too high. There have been a lot of renovations here lately resulting in some very nice, high end apartments. He asked why I wasn’t putting my name on any lists… I reminded him I only get so much money from the government and I was very lucky to have found a place so large and so cheap.

Which is when he started telling me I needed to get a subsidy. The first two times he said it I thought he meant government assistance. But he has a hard time lately with getting the right words out in the right order so it wasn’t until we were halfway to his apartment that I realized he was saying he was willing to subsidize my rent.

Working on my grandfather’s computer is something I do every other week… it’s not so much work as me giving him a software tutorial because he has forgotten how to delete emails, how to save documents or he keeps getting update notices from Norton. It takes five minutes, he takes notes and then we talk about some of the construction projects he worked on.

This time my mother was in the room. As I was setting up his newly installed Windows XP Home Edition he started whispering to mom about paying me by the hour. He started at $60/hour because that’s how much the guy who fixed his computer charged. A minute later he was down to $25/hour because I don’t have a staff. I was smiling to myself… this was my subsidy. He had talked himself down from paying my rent to giving my mother $20 to buy me some groceries…

Later on, now in the car with mom, I told her about my grandfather suggesting he was willing to pay part of my rent… then I made a joke about how one minute my rent was going to be paid, the next I was getting five bucks for two minutes of work.

And she flipped… suddenly she was very defencive because it wasn’t five bucks, it was $25. And the more I said “I know” the more emphatic she got about insisting I did not actually understand, because it wasn’t five dollars… and the more I said “I know” the angrier she got… because, obviously, I didn’t “get it” because I was making a joke out of the situation and I should be grateful.

And that’s probably the biggest monster in the room. The angrier she got the more it reminded me of how I’m supposed to be grateful for Every Tiny piece of support my family gives me… and how tired I have always been of having to be grateful for the handouts from my family… the $20 from my millionaire grandparents. The guilt wrapped in a $20 bill from my mother.

I’ve lived in extreme poverty for most of my life. In the Collective I grew up in poverty was a virtue, sacrifice proved loyalty. Most of the members worked out in the community, but the paycheques went into the projects run by the Collective. Everyone received a weekly allowance based on need, not want or desire. To each according to need, from each according to ability and all that…

After escaping the Collective my mother raised my little brother and myself with absolutely no help from my father or his family. We lived without heat for most of every cold day and without Anything New for about eight years. She also received no help from her own parents… I’ll get into all that later. Basically we were poor.

I worked during the summers from the age of 13 until 18 as a farmhand so I could afford crap like pizza and cassettes. But in the summer of 1988, while I was working in the Medium North as a fishing guide, my manic depression symptoms became ever more apparent and when I came back home in the fall I quit school, and because I couldn’t sleep anymore I couldn’t work anymore. This just created more tension in the house, which is something I’ll get to soon, so I left home again and was on welfare at nineteen.

Social Assistance in this province at the time got you rent plus $120 for the month. I lived like that from 1989 until 1997, when I graduated from College. One of the symptoms of mania is spending money like there was an unlimited supply… but $120 is extremely limited. There were times where I’d get the cheque on the last day of the month instead of the first, and by the first day of the month it’d be gone. I never managed to make a cheque stretch more than eight days.

It was all the calls home for money… I would wait until there were no other options, then call home late at night asking for money immediately. Then there were the moves… every six months a new apartment and for most of them mom was the driver. Every time I asked for help I was told it was the last time. Every time I called and asked for help moving I was told it was the last time. Every time I asked for $20 to tide me through the month I was told it was the Last Time.

Every time I asked she told me I had to find Alternate Means. As though I had options and was only using her because it was easy. So every time I’d wait a little longer, go without just a few days more, before calling her so every time I needed Whatever just that much more…

And there she’d be, on the other end of a telephone line, crying because I’d just called to ask for $20 at 11pm… and it was always $20, I never asked for more. Mom never really understood the Disease. She only knew the disease through watching me, she never knew how to help me.

So there was my mom, finally starting a career which paid her real money, in a new marriage with a wonderful human being and finally moving past her past… with me on the phone once a month asking for money.

That’s the monster in the room… that’s what is most likely to send me over The Edge. That’s why I fell to pieces over this past weekend. It’s my Guilt for ruining whatever Life she’s got going, balanced against her being unable to provide the support I’ve needed.

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About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression in 1989, for the next 14-years I lived without treatment or a recovery plan. I've been homeless, one time I graduated college, I've won awards for reporting on Internet privacy issues, and a weekly humour column. In 2002 I finally hit bottom and found help. I have an 8-year old son, and a 4-year old son... I’m usually about six feet tall, and I'm pretty sure I screwed up my book deal. I mostly blog at saltedlithium.com....
This entry was posted in Bipolar, Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, crazy people with no pants, Depression, Health, Intervention, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Poverty, Salted Truths, UmBiPMaD Stories. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Living Off The Avails Of Others Part One The Monster In The Room

  1. thordora says:

    Oh Gabe I understand….not the poverty part, but that driving need….even when I don’t need the money, I ask, and the people around me get that look on their face and my soul cringes a little bit and I want to cry yet at the same time I’m thinking “did it work?”

    You aren’t ruining her life. Please don’t think that. Likely she frustrated, as much as my husband gets frustrated by my constant need for cash (hell, I’m likely most of the reason he’s on Effexor). He still loves me. He’s just….human.

    Kick the monster. He’s not playing nice.

  2. bromac says:

    Guilt. In our darkest moments, it is the pain we cause others which drives us to the edge.

    The pain our disease wreaks on us is ok, accetable in our minds. But the pain it causes others never is.

    It has always, ALWAYS, been the root of my suicidal thoughts: I will ruin the lives of all around me–all who love me and reach out to me……and my daughter, who has not chosen this lot–that one hurts the worst in those dark moments.

    I look forward to the rest of these posts. Hang in there–persevere.

  3. Clare says:

    Hang in there, Gabriel. Write it out. I’ll be reading you…and offering whatever support I can give.

  4. Bryan says:

    What I find is funny with me is the less money that I have the less junk that I want. As soon as a paycheck comes in I want to do stuff though and fuck a budget.

    I’ve worn my mother out of helping funds because I have tapped her so many times and my wife is too proud sometimes when we really do need the money to ask her mother but we make it somehow… I scrape pennies that are around, roll them up and get to make trips to the store to get me some smokes. My wife refuses to call her mother unless we are completely out of food, and I’m beginning to doubt that would push her to do it anymore. The food part is messed up though because we do get ebt here and she has lost our card and acts like it doesn’t even matter, so I guess I am going to choke it up use the phone and call in for a new one.

    I don’t know where I’m going with this…

    Take care.

  5. dame says:

    i doubt this has less to do with dollar amounts than self worth; and how our foundation (parents) essentially dictates that within us from the very get go.
    i came from a ‘well to do family’ totally fucked family, so there’s a good deal here i can’t specifically relate to, however i remember the day i packed my shit with 80 bucks, and hit the road. i was 16. i couldn’t call home after that. my mom insisted i ruined her life, her family, blah, shit.
    but i’d secretly call my dad, at his office, and he’d always ask if i needed anything. i don’t know what i would have done without that. sometimes i’d ask for help, and he never denied me.
    it wasn’t about the money. it was about him knowing that i was doing my best, hoping i was okay, and reminding me that i was worth a damn. in fact, i think he envied me for being the one that escaped.

    you’re worth supporting. you’re worth helping. you didn’t ruin anyone’s life. she doesn’t get it. and don’t let that define your worth.

    write through the depressions. you’ll make it to the other side. for what it’s worth — you have friends here to offer whatever support you might need. xx

    p.s. here’s one of my favorite clips to watch when i feel f’d beyond repair.

  6. dame says:

    oh, and i almost forgot:

    honey.
    yogurt.
    whole milk
    big, fat blankets.
    and human touch.

    =)

  7. Kitty says:

    8 years of Canadian cold with no heat?

    That’s terrible, Gabriel.

    But you’re a survivor and I like that. Hang in there, I’m still reading, even if I’m not commenting. Sometimes I don’t know what to say.
    It seems like there is a global funk going around, everyone I talk to is feeling the same.

    Your grandfather ripped you off, he should pay you the $60 per hour. Funny how family and friends will take advantage of you like no one else.

  8. Gabriel... says:

    Hello Kitty… I was just writing the next part to this, then accidentally erased this part, managed to get it back, then realized I had not responded to any of the comments… from when we were 8-years old until 12 or so mom’s paycheque made heat a luxury. When my brother and I got home we were allowed to turn the thermostat on, then mom turned it off when we went to bed. In the morning she turned it on when she woke up, then off when we left for school. By the time we were teens it was just something we did. Even today I have a hard time if the temperature is over 22C indoors. I still turn the heat off when I go to bed, and I’ll even open the windows during the winter just cause…

    I think I’m coming out of my Funk, but I know most of Us are still in it… I’m looking at You Exact Science and ExChimp.

    Hey Dame, thanks for the Shine. It’s still a movie I haven’t seen, but is now on my list again.

    I know where you’re going Bryan, because we sharing the same experiences… thanks for dropping the note. And thanks Bromac, Clare and Thor as well… sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.

  9. thordora says:

    My parents did that as well. The heat was rarely on to save money. We just wore more clothes. I never noticed it…not really. Today, I keep the heat down, and open windows in the winter. My poor husband-middle of winter, -40C, I have the blankets flung off and windows wide open, sweating. Stupid pregnancy.

  10. Pingback: Living Off The Avails Of Others Part Two What Really Is And What Should Have Been « …salted lithium.

  11. Pingback: Living Off The Avails Of Others Part Three A Hand Full Of Pennies « …salted lithium.

  12. Pingback: Living Off The Avails Part Four Days Like This Keep Piling Up « …salted lithium.

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