Eating Steak On A Sawdust Budget

“For the second time this year I have burned through my disability cheque before the second week of the month, so for the next sixteen days I’ll be eating 0.19 cent packages of monosodium glutamate and wondering where the food bank is in this town.”
“How Growing Up With Wire Monkeys Added To My Self Destructive Behaviour”, Me; Sept. 18, 2008

I’m basically off the Seroquel right now. I’m still taking a single 25mg pill when I’m ready to sleep, which is down from the 75-100mgs I was taking two weeks ago, but it’s just there until I adapt to the new medication, Remeron RD.

Months ago I was diagnosed with diabetes and both my family doctor and my psychiatrist recommended dropping the Seroquel, which has diabetes two as a long term side effect. It’s entirely possible my twenty-year diet of sugar and trans fats had more to do with the diabetes than anything else, but why take a chance…

The problem is, of course, once doctors find a treatment for manic depression which works for their patient they don’t like to mess with the medications. And the Seroquel was working. As a sleep aid I’ve had the best sleep of my life over the past four years — in that I actually slept. It was also keeping a pretty decent cap on my manics.

So my psychiatrist has introduced the Remeron at 15mg at bedtime. So far so good. I’ll also be dropping the Wellbutrin from 250mgs down to 150mg starting this weekend.

The diabetes has become much less of a problem since I was diagnosed. I’ve been using Glyburide for a few months now and before stopping the Seroquel my average blood sugar reading has dropped from 26 to eleven, so if anything gets weird with the Remeron I have no problem going back to the Seroquel.

For anyone who’s keeping score, on Monday my medications will be: 2100mgs Lithium; 150mgs Wellbutrin; 15mgs Remeron, and; 10mgs Glyburide.


Speaking of things getting weird… I had dinner with my grandmother last night (Thursday). There was a church dinner and silent auction for the United Church. My grandmother is one of those dismissive “church is for chumps” people, but she likes the communal aspects like the dinners and the socials.

When we got to the hall we walked through the items up for auction, it was just random stuff donated by local businesses. The bids were all in the ten dollar range for things like a year’s subscription to one of the local newspapers, or fifteen bucks for a printed umbrella.

So my grandmother would scoff at the low bids, say something like “these people don’t know what they’re doing”, then increase the bid three or four times.

My grandmother is a hard, hard woman. She was a nurse for decades and before that she grew up right in the heart of the Great Depression, in a farming community in Alberta. Before she was fifteen her father decided it would be more economical just to have the dentist remove all of her teeth instead of having the guy come back thirty times.

So my grandmother’s first cavity was her last. All of her teeth were taken in one night by a dentist who was really just some guy who owned pliers small enough to get into a girl’s mouth. She didn’t get dentures until she was close to eighteen.

Stuff like that does unimaginable things to a person.

My grandmother is an abusive woman. I’ve never liked her. To be honest I could give a rats ass about her past and how she became the person she is… I just know when I was a kid and I did something minor to piss her off, like lose a quarter, she’d take a few days to stew and invent something larger and then my grandfather would drag me out to a very literal woodshed where he’d threaten me with a very real piece of wood for having done something which never happened outside of my grandmother’s imagination.

So it’s pretty rare for the two of us to be doing anything together. The only time I see her now is on the Fridays I have a psych appointment. My mother usually drives me there and back, and back usually means a visit with the old people. My grandmother has calmed down about 80% over the past twenty years, which has meant my mother has slowly become closer to her mother and former / residual abuser.

My mom has always wanted parents, almost in the same way I’ve always wanted them. And now that hers are old, slow and with maybe only a couple of years left, she’s getting to know them.

I still have a hard time with my grandfather. It pisses me off that his neglect was the only thing he ever offered to me and my brother, and now he expects me to be his Bestest Buddy. But as long as I can keep it down to lunch once a week, I don’t have to think about his lack of involvement in my life too much.

My grandmother, however, I just have nothing in common with… I recognize some of me in her, and some of her in my mother, but I wouldn’t be visiting without being chauffeured by my mom. All that said, the dinner was pleasant. It wasn’t just “home cooked”, it was “home cooked by God loving grandmother’s”.


Speaking of my grandfather… not too long after realizing I had blown my disability cheque two weeks before the next one was coming, he invited me out for lunch. A twenty dollar steak later and I wasn’t feeling too bad about the finances anymore.

There was a certain amount of panic a few days before the steak when I realized I only had $18 in my bank account. But after I calmed down I made sure to use the money, plus any other folding money I had, to buy enough pasta and meat to last at least ten days. Then I started making ticks on the calender for possible meals…

Lunch with my grandfather… tick, tick. Dinner with mom on Sunday… tick, tick. Enough change for milk… wow, tick, tick, tick, tick, tick. Dinner with my grandmother… sigh, tick. Suddenly things weren’t nearly as bleak as I though.

One of the wonderful aspects of Learned Behaviour is how pervasive it becomes, and how infrequently we acknowledge it while it’s in action. Two weeks ago someone raised a hand and I reacted as though I had been beaten by it for most of my life. But whereas back in the day I would’ve crawled into bed for a week, this time I was able to recognize almost right away what was going on and come up with a relatively rational plan — sleeping eighteen hours was one of my coping mechanisms for the times when I had no money and very little food. One can of tuna, for example, could become three meals.

So instead of my nightmares coming true of using the local food bank only to be served by a friend of my mother’s, I’ve been able to avoid eating the crap I’ve stored away in the cupboard. I actually haven’t noticed too much of a difference between the past two weeks with “no money” and the weeks with cash-on-hand.


Speaking of cash on hand… the new woman at the convenience store, who is very cute with a fabulous smile, likes my beard… so there’s a good chance I’ll be keeping this one for a little while longer, and there’s a better than even chance I’ll be spending a large chunk of my October cheque during her shift.




About Gabriel...

...diagnosed with manic depression when I was nineteen, 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. It's now 2022, and I have an 8-year old son, and a 12-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
This entry was posted in Bipolar Disease, Bipolar Disorder, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Granny, Health, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Poverty. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Eating Steak On A Sawdust Budget

  1. Glenda says:

    I can’t imagine having my teeth pulled by someone with pliers, but back in the day they did some pretty horrible things to people. They must have kept their brains in a jar not to realize these people they abused would grow up one day. But I know how it feels to have more month then money, prices of everything is off the charts. I can’t even imagine what all those medications are doing to your system if you ever stopped taking them. My family history has been heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. But I’m not on any medications and the only time I go to the hospital is to visit other people who are sick. If you don’t have job that pay or a second income and would like to try a healthy alternative to all the medication you are taking, send me an email me maybe I can help or not. Because at the end of the day how you live and survive the things that happen to you in this life comes down to two things, what you do and God.

  2. Gabriel... says:

    Hello Glenda, and welcome to my blog. I’m fairly confident the medications I’m on are keeping me a lot healthier than if I were to rely solely on your juice, but thanks for the offer. Besides, I seem to remember MarketPlace having debunked the miraculous power of your product…

    I know you, as an Independent Marketing Executive with your “parent company”, get paid every time you offer this stuff to people so I’m actually going to treat your comment as near-spam, which means I’m going to let it stay, only because you’re somewhat on topic, but I’ve taken the link out of your name.

    I’ll also recommend to people they skip your “parent company’s” insanely expensive drink for a nice cranberry juice.

    And I’ll also leave the following so people know what kind of “multi-level marketing” pyramid-style program your “parent company” is running:

    “By becoming a […] Marketing Executive for only $39.95 CAD and recommending our products to others, you can earn anywhere from a few dollars to a five-figure monthly income. Upon becoming a Marketing Executive, you will receive […] Business Kit and your own personalized website to build your business. ”

    Prices of “everything” are not “off the charts”, medications are inexpensive in Canada and even free for people on pensions, disability or social assistance. Glenda, if you ever come back, please leave a comment that’s not a commercial and we’ll get along just fine.

  3. thordora says:

    my skin is still crawling. blech! You’re EVIL! 😛

    Change is hard. Infinitely hard.Change in spite of the people who’ve helped mold us-pretty incredible.

  4. Gabriel... says:

    If you watch it long enough it actually seems to move… how cool is that? Buzzzzzz…..

  5. thordora says:

    I swear, the next time I’m down that way, BAD BAD BAD things will happen if you don’t stop talking about that wasp…

    I wish I had a shot of the GIANT spider I just saw outside…

  6. zoom says:

    Excellent post Gabriel.

  7. alruiceis says:

    I should drive my mom over to your Canadian abode and have her teach you some foraging skillz. She (like almost all Asian women) is notorious for spontaneously stopping on the side of the road to gather some weedy looking plants for dinner. No matter how prickly and strange the plant looks, it always tastes good with the spices she chooses to mix with them. It’s kinda like watching Man vs Wild live but with a small Korean woman in place of Bear Grylls.

  8. Soire says:

    It never ceases to amaze me how little $15 can get you in a restaurant, and how much it can get you in a grocery store.

    When my 1st child was born, we were given a deep-freezer. This is handy because a boiled chicken carcass can make 4 meals of chicken soup, after having given my family 2 meals of chicken in itself. I also make large batches of breads, muffins, spaghetti sauce etc when the money is good, and freeze the hell out of it for the times money is tight.

    Means I worry less when the time for groceries comes and the boy has been laid off, or something else has gone kaboom… it’s one of the best things we were ever given, that freezer.

    When all else fails just start chanting “This too shall pass.”

  9. raincoaster says:

    Your grandmother has a good excuse for turning out twisted. Not perfect, but good.


  10. Gabriel... says:

    Yaw smatmc raincoaster. No doubt… if you ever get a chance there’s a book called “Ten Lost Years 1929-1939: Memories of Canadians Who Survived The Depression” by a Vancouver reporter named Barry Broadfoot (1973), it actually manages to put my grandmother’s teeth thing into perspective to the time period.

    I wrote a review of it over on [gone]… I included a few quotes from people who survived the Great Depression.

    There are actually two stories that I’ve heard regarding her teeth, and both come from her. One is the insanity that was the Great Depression out on the Prairies I’ve written about above, the other involves a kick in the jaw from a horse instead of a cavity but the end result was the same.

    But the cavity story was the latter so that’s what I’m going with. Either way it’s pretty messed up, and doubly so since in both stories she doesn’t get her first full set of dentures until she was just 18, or just before.

    The more I think about this the more I think I’m just going to ask her again…

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