Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How to watch your life burn

Fair warning, this is going to be highly personal. Don’t read this if you don’t want to know more than you feel comfortable with. You were warned. 

I guess the best way to start this like a meeting, like group therapy or something, right? So… Hi. My name is Dennis and I’m a thirty-nine year old single father with two kids still living at home. I’ve lived all over the United States, but I currently live in Kentucky. I was born here, and moved back here in 2006 to be closer to my family for my kids’ sake.

I'm an average guy. I'm not too tall or short. I'm a nerd. I adore Netflix binge watching shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I watch too much Doctor Who, any movie Marvel puts out, and rewatch John Oliver and Nerd Machine videos on youtube (Operation Smile is such an amazing cause to get behind). I spend too much time on Facebook, and I likely make too many social media posts about the things my children do and say. I'm not all that different from most anyone I've come across.

Let’s be honest here, I’ve never been wealthy. In truth, I’ve never been anything but poor, but I’ve certainly been in better circumstance than I’m in now. I can, like so many others, blame the economy or politicians, but that’s never been my take on things. I’ve never drawn public assistance or unemployment outside of “food stamps” (or EBT or SNAP, your mileage may vary on the name) for my kids’ sake, and I don’t even do that presently.

Waiting tables, shooting indie film, managing music retail stores, writing novels, short stories, and poetry, handling packages for a shipping company… I’ve never really done work that was going to make me well-to-do. I’ve worked in a business I founded with a friend until it folded, at several other entry level jobs, and up until February of this year I worked at a food processing plant. In February my left hand was hurt while at work. The company has been good enough to cover my doctor’s expenses, but due to mixed messages from management and a zero tolerance policy that I understand all too well, I was terminated. I now have no job, no income, no way to get more income, and an injury that prevents me from doing much of anything productive.

For the last few weeks I’ve watched everything I’ve put together in my life slowly fall apart. I’ve watched my life burn down. As I write this I know that without a payment on my house tomorrow I enter into eviction.

I write this, not as a plea for attention or a plea for assistance, but to call attention to how easily and how quickly life can change. As I said before, I’ve never been wealthy. Paycheck to paycheck has always been my way of life and I’ve never had more than two thousand dollars in savings in my life. I have, however, never known this crushing level of depression at watching everything go away and having literally no options, and nothing that could be done to stop it.

I’ve always scoffed at people who said “at least you have your health.” Now, though? No. I understand that sentiment all too well, and all too late.

Will my hand heal? Yes. Will I be able to get back to work? Well, some work, I’m sure, yes. Will I be able to get my life back to the level it was at before all of this? Absolutely. However, the impact of all of this on the here and now, on the psychological and physical reality I exist in has been far greater than I could have imagined.

I had a heart attack in October of 2014 that nearly put me in this same situation and while my heart health, and my health over all, is better now I still hadn’t completely repaired all the financial mess that that created when this happened.

I’ve watched my utilities get turned off, I’ve watched my lawn grow out of control getting me tickets and threats of court action, I’ve stopped answering my phone due to constant calls from bill collectors and creditors (and before you have anything snarky to say about it, I don’t have credit cards or the associated debt, these are medical bills from my heart attack that are still unpaid and bills for replacement furniture only), I’ve taken up residence in an unfinished garage, and I’ve only had the food that others have seen fit to donate. I have a dear mother who has been kind enough to let my children stay with her and eat her food while this situation plays itself out in my life, so at least they aren't suffering with me. I don't think I could cope with it if I knew they were out like I was, even if they aren't thrilled with being at Grandma's house. But if you take all of that and add it to to my eviction happening tomorrow then perhaps you can begin to get into a bit of the headspace I’m in just now. 

In January I wouldn’t have believed I could say any of this. I wouldn’t have believed I’d find myself in this place, and yet here I am. A life can be substantially altered, shattered, or turned inside out in less time than some people would think.  I would never have imagined that I could feel as worthless, helpless, and hopeless as I do now.

Talking about this sort of thing is something that has always been discouraged in my family. But, hey, most of them has passed on… as has my ability to care what I should or shouldn’t talk about in polite company. Besides that, this is the internet, right? This is usually not polite company. A good many things have happened in my life that I’ve stayed completely silent about, but through the aide of Sarah Fader, and her group Stigma Fighters, as well as many personal heroes like Nicole Lyons and Courtney Keesee, I’ve learned that it can sometimes be cathartic to get the things that often sit uncomfortably beneath the surface out and into the open. So this is my story. This is where I am in life, at the moment. I have a front row seat to watching it all burn down. I’m at a point where ending it all sounds good, but I’m not doing that. I’m not giving in. I don’t have a bag of marshmallows and a party hat… but I’m doing my best to have hope that something good will come tomorrow… or the day after… or the day after that. 

I’m a human being. Flawed. Broken. Real. Hurt. Low. But, still alive. Still hanging on. And no matter what you’re going through… a life easier than mine… or a life far harder (there are so many going through so much worse than I )… know that people are out there who can identify… can empathize… and maybe, in that, you can find some comfort, when your life is burning down around you.

(as a PostScript here, I started a GoFundMe page that managed to raise 2/3 of the funds I needed to put out the fires in one weekend. In only a week the ship was effectively righted. Human beings truly are wonderful creatures!)

(Listening to this on repeat has helped a bit, too... again, your mileage may vary)

1 comment:

  1. Hey, I just read this. Glad your gofundme campaign has helped. *hug* I'm sorry you've had to go through all of this. I don't think most people understand how quickly circumstances can turn, and how much sometimes we really need help from others. I'm here to at least listen if you need it.