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“When I moved from Ottawa to Toronto [in 1998] I had two bags of clothes, some books and a [10-year old] radio. Four or five years later, when I moved [back] I had two bags of clothes, a few more books, a 486 HP computer and the same radio. This, right here, is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place…”
‘The 52 Places I Can Remember Calling Home; October 31, 2007 , Me.


Diane and I will begin living together in October. The main difference in my life between now and four months from now… noise and responsibility. The two things I hate most in life: noise and responsibility.

It’s something we’ve been discussing, occasionally, over the past year… she asked last year and I’ve been putting it off.

The problem, for me, has always been money. I asked my ODSP worker last year what would happen if I moved in with my girlfriend and, through his thick, regional French accent, all I heard was “…you’re boned. Half your cheque is taken away, then we tie raw meat to your genitals and release the half-starved rats.”

I finally went back a few weeks ago and had someone at the ODSP office explain the process to me, very slowly and using diagrams. On a bureaucratic level it still makes no sense to me, but I understand the process better now.

Because bureaucracy is inherently evil, if (when) I move in with my girlfriend, the government will take $0.50 off my monthly cheque for every $1 she makes, net.

Does that make sense? Not to me. Why am I being punished for living with my girlfriend, and why is she being punished for living with me?

If we don’t live together, I receive $1,036 through my disability pension.

If we do live together, because she makes minimum wage, I’ll only receive $600 (+/-).

That means, either she’ll be paying my rent every month, or buying all the groceries. Either way, I’m a burden on my minimum wage income girlfriend.

But the Ontario government would be paying my $1,036 if we were never to live together. So the incentive, financially, is to not live together. In which case, the government pays me $1,036.

Does that make sense? That they’d create a system where it makes more financial sense for us to live separately?

They used to have the same system for two people on ODSP who moved in together — in that case both their cheques would be cut and, basically, the two people would receive one cheque. But, either last year or the year before, they stopped doing that.

So now, two disabled people can live together and receive two full incomes.

But, because my girlfriend works in a factory for minimum wage, we can’t.

However… from the minute we’re living together the ODSP system will consider us to be ‘common law’. Which means… from day one she, and the two boys, will be covered under my dental plan, under my drug plan and all of the other ‘perks’ of being disabled in Ontario.

Like a pair of free eyeglasses every two years.

We’ve already made appointments with the dentist for Diane and the boys. Diane needs a root canal done, which would cost $1,200 under her current ‘too poor to have any health insurance’ plan. Right now she’s treating it with Advil and antibiotics. But, with the two of us living together, she’ll be able to go to the dentist four times a year, and have all the fillings she desires — you get a filling, you get a filling, everybody gets a filling!

We’re pretty sure her oldest son is going to need braces. His huge front teeth are coming in, and they look crooked to me. So, living together, we can get the work done.

There are also little weird bonuses that we’d get. Like ODSP will give Diane $100 for having a minimum wage job (!?).

Basically, with the money taken off, and the bonuses applied, I’ll be receiving $860 (+/- but mostly -).

So, once I had all of that explained to me, it just made sense. So I asked Diane if it’s what she wanted, she said yes, and I gave my notice to my landlord last week.

I’ve never lived with a partner… roommates, yes — alcoholic ones, one that huffed aerosols, one that waved a carving knife in my face — but I’ve never asked a woman I was dating to move in with me.

This will be my 53rd address. It’s a nice little place, there are two full-sized bedrooms, then a little half-sized one that I’ll be using as an office. There’s a full, mostly finished basement, half of which is set up for the kids as a play area. The rest is for storage and laundry. There’s also a secluded backyard that turns into a thicket of trees.

The only condition I laid out was that Diane’s relationship with her oldest son had to improve. I actually made that a condition a few months ago, and they are getting along better.

Diane’s a great mother, but she has some behaviours she learned while being abused by her parents. She yells, but when I tell her she’s yelling, she automatically stops yelling and says “I’m not yelling”. To her it’s ‘talking loudly’. And she’s right, she’s not ‘yelling’ yelling, but her ‘talking loudly’ is aggressive and angry. Her father does the same thing… he yells, all the fucking time. But when I called him on it, he dropped it and said “I’m not yelling”.

She also gets aggressive when she’s pissed at her oldest son. Like, she’ll stand right in front of him while she’s telling him “it’s not nice” to do whatever. To a tiny 6-year old that’s like having God standing there, telling you there’s no Heaven for you.

But I explained all of that to her. And she has gotten better. Much better.

I am apprehensive about this, mostly because I’ve got a great apartment right now — the windows are falling out, there’s no insulation and the toilet runs constantly, but it’s cheaper than dirt, and I can see mountains and a river and trees and rooftops from my balcony. I can also kick everyone out on a whim and have an entire, quiet, apartment to myself for as long as I want.

Having never lived with a partner before, I’m assuming I won’t be allowed to that.

Plus, I’ve lived here for almost eight years. Before living here, the average time I’d ever lived anywhere was less than six months.

…shit just got real, y’all.




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, Clinical Depression, crazy people with no pants, Health, Lithium, Living With Depression, Living With Manic Depression, Manic Depression, Mental Health, Poverty. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Moving.

  1. zoom says:

    yay! Congratulations, all of you. I agree with you about the disincentives to living together not making any sense. But hopefully there will be some savings in expenses to at least partially offset the income reduction – for example, only one hydro bill, one heating bill, one telephone bill, one cable bill, etc.

    I know the apprehension that goes along with being an introvert moving in with people. Just make sure you find time and space to be alone when you need it (a room with a closed door, a walk by yourself, etc.) and you should be okay.

    I wish all of you much happiness!

  2. Christine - you know, the one formerly of regular Trivial Pursuit games. says:

    I’ve only ever lived with one partner, but it was a real shock to me when I moved in with him. One thing I wasn’t expecting was how possessive I was about food. If I bought a sandwich, put it in the fridge, and then went to work, I didn’t understand how the sandwich could not be there when I came home. Of course, it didn’t help that he worked evenings, he was the only one with a car, and we lived out in the middle of nowhere with no access to future sandwich purchases until he came home. It was just a small example of the bigger issue of having my fate tied to his. I had a very stable (if unpleasant) government job at the time and his work was a little more unsure. When he lost his job, I remember thinking, “Oh! That’s terrible. What are you going to do now? I’m glad I’m not going through that.” and then it occurred to me, “Oh. We’re both poor now through no fault of my own. Awesome.” And dating someone with a mental illness is quite different than living with someone with a mental illness, I discovered quite quickly. (see above related comment about his life circumstances occasionally making my life no fun through no fault of my own.) There was a serious period of adjustment for the first few months, but then I stopped wistfully looking at ads for 1 bedroom apartments in the city and started seeing the benefits of cohabitation. He knows how to do half the house related stuff and I know how to do the other half – together we are SUPER COUPLE! When I lived alone and the fan over my stove fell down, well I guess I just don’t have a fan over my stove any more. Now I lived with someone who knew how to fix it! Now that we were living together, the crippling costs of his many meds could be covered by my awesome govt insurance. YAY! There’s something about living together and being kind of stuck in that circumstance that makes you weather the bad times a bit more, too, and allows you to make it to more good times. All in all, great decision for me, even though it’s occasionally been hard. Sounds like you guys have put a lot of thought into it and have already anticipated all the problems that I just ran into blindly like a total moron, so I predict it will work out well. I’m 13 years into this thing and I’m glad I stuck through the hard times in the beginning. Good luck!

  3. PiedType says:

    At some point in that explanation I thought “Wait, if you disabled your girlfriend then you could live together and both get your full incomes … ” LOL. No, seriously, I trust you’ve figured it all out and wish you both all the best.

  4. zoom says:

    Congratulations, all of you. I’m happy for you. It always seemed a bit odd to me that the government put disincentives in place to keep you from fully being the family you are. Hopefully you’ll find some cost savings (eg only one of each type of bill) that will help offset the reduced income. And hopefully you’ll find ways to get some alone time when you need it too.

  5. It’s odd. When you first wrote about how screwed up the system is in Canada, I was full of shock and horror. Then, I pretty much realized that any country that can take advantage of their disabled.. well, I don’t think too highly of that. On the other hand, look at how we in the US treat our disabled vets. Not too pretty. I have lived with..*mentally counting and not coming up with a good number that sounds accurate* a lot of different people. I FULLY understand to possessiveness of wanting your own of the huger reasons I’m still living with my parents with my daughter right now. I just can’t get over it, being older. Like, I COULD when I was younger, but not now that I’m an ADULT. I recall when my boyfriend was moving into my apartment that only had 2 rooms, and one was taken by my roommate.. in between arm loads of THINGS, I sat in my room and cried. It does make you decide to weather thru things different. You can’t just close yourself off in the bedroom and cry over too many things being in your space, cuz that just doesn’t make any sense to normal people. You guys HAVE been through a lot and if the relationship is still making improvements, I’d say hells to the yeah. You deserve more time with the boys and with Diane. It just takes a different kind of work to settle your head. 🙂 good luck, My friend.

  6. Jeannee says:

    Many good things have been said here already! I do know in the U.S. that (a) many seniors live together because one or both could lose their pensions (especially if it was from a deceased spouse) if they remarry and (b) if I lived with someone that actually had a real income, it would affect my disability check AND – I looked into this at one point – a legally wed spouse would NOT be covered under my Medicare, so your system looks far better there! (Interestingly, when I did look into it, it was for an old friend who has the same yelling at people problem your beloved does – it took me about 20 years into a 30 year friendship to not be bothered by it, to simply sigh and say, “Your dead father is here again – send him away ;- “). What’s most interesting for me is that I never lived on my own until about 4 years ago (alone as in no humans – dogs, always had dogs!) and while I hated it and went kicking and screaming into it – I’m actually very wary about living with anyone now! I’ve gotten too accustomed to being by myself, thank you (the sandwich in the fridge and all of that)! Best of success to the two of you! (which I do see happening because you’ve put so much forethought into it) and I look forward to the next chapter!!!

  7. Jada says:

    oy, Canadian government. The department of silly walks in action. Seriously-just prepare yourself to be annoyed a lot of the time ahead of time. You love her, she loves you, but hey, you leave your beard shavings in the damn sink, and she doesn`t clean the dishes right. You will both find things that drive the other one nuts, and that`s ok. I recently moved in with my BF of 2 years, who had NEVER EVER lived with anyone, and who is as misanthropic as I am. I was very respectful of his feelings and needs to take off, be quiet, etc every so often, but also had to be clear about his temper as well. Moving in with the kids made it worse on his, but a little understanding and a lot of beer helped. 🙂

    I`m happy for your Gabe. For all the annoyances that living with someone brings, it really is nice to have someone there.

  8. detached99 says:

    Hi Gabriel – I hope everything is okay…I miss your updates 🙂

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