Recently, I ran into some financial trouble. It had been building up for a while, but only recently entered a crisis state. The gist of the situation is:
1. Father left us quite some time ago, and my mother was forced to find low-paid labor-extensive employment whilst still suffering emotional trauma from the divorce and after having spent most of her life as a housewife.
2. I dropped out of my course due to anxiety issues and depression caused by having to hide my Asperger’s behind a mask for so many years. (If you’re interested in information on Aspergirls, see the following website: http://everydayaspergers.com/2012/02/10/aspergers-traits-women-females-girls/. The neurological differences makes it difficult to fit into mainstream society and follow traditional pathways of employment; but it does confer us skills in others areas).
3. After dropping out, I tried applying for Youth Allowance, which is a government benefit program for those over 18 here in Australia. Unfortunately I did not fulfill the eligibility requirements – my Asperger’s and anxiety issues meant I could not engage in full-time studies, or be actively looking for work and attending interviews – so my claim was summarily rejected. Anxiety medication had no effect on me, and I had to stop taking them, anyway, because they cost more money.
4. At the moment, I am housebound. To be honest, I don’t know, psychologically, exactly why it is so difficult for me to even step out of the house, but it’s a definitely due in some part to having Asperger’s (I was only officially diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, as the psychiatrist was old-fashioned and used MALE Asperger’s criteria to test me; many Asperger’s women on the internet have had to diagnose themselves after struggling for most of their lives). I live in the city. I live, in fact, in a small one-bedroom unit with my family right next to a busy highway because the rent was low enough for us to afford. This has only worsened by condition. Walking outside and being assaulted by the noise and the sunlight and the commotion feels like you are being pulverized. Each time I have been forced to step outside the house, either to go to the doctor’s or to Centrelink, I return home exhausted to the bone, my brain crushed into paste. It is how an introvert might feel if he or she was forced to socialise for two days straight without breaks. For two hours spent outside, I have to sleep six hours to have enough energy to leave the bed.*
*With Asperger’s, all sensory input, from emotional to psychological to visual to auditory is amplified. I hated school, not because I didn’t like learning, but because the noisy clamoring school corridors were the equivalent of a thousand loudspeakers blaring into my ears every second. But there is more to this, I think. I am a very introspective, quiet person. All my energy is internalised rather than externalised – thus, being in the outside world, which forces you to externalise your energy, exhausts me beyond belief.
I am also a loner. Make no mistake, I like people – only, I like watching more than I like interacting with them, and when I do socialise I can only feel truly comfortable with other quiet and sensitive people. My environment is not suited to who I am. It makes me sound precious, but I am very sensitive, very fragile: I feel my brain is being bashed open when a car rattles past, but I can be moved to tears by the sight of a flower poking up from the grass. AS an Empath, I also absorb the emotions of those I encounter in the outside world, another energy-drainer. This extreme introversion, coupled with the extreme sensitivity, means that the only occupations I can undertake are ones where I can be completely alone, in an almost silent space, preferably with nature outside the window, requirements which, unless I become a published writer able to make a living off my words in the next month, are impossible. To feel comfortable, I would like to live in an isolated cottage somewhere with cats and books and flowers and sunshine for company. Somewhere quiet, where I can be as reclusive as I want. But the world isn’t here to cater to my needs. I have to fit in with the world and society if I am to survive. Only I am unable to. It all feels so wrong. Which is why I am housebound, and angry at myself.
5. Due to my “disabilities” (I am only defective according to society’s terms; I am philosophical, empathic and creative, but these gifts are all overshadowed by the exhaustion and high sensitivity) surviving in a capitalist society is not easy. Until I publish my first book or find a writing opportunity through the internet, it is unlikely I will be find work suited to my needs, especially now that I am no longer officially studying (I say “officially” because I am constantly learning about the world through the internet and by asking questions; in this day and age of instant, technological information, for those who are curious and dedicated, school is unnecessary). I have tried applying, also, for the Disability Pension, but as I was only officially diagnosed by the psychiatrist with Major Depressive Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), my claim was also rejected (You have to be diagnosed with something serious, like schizophrenia, to be eligible, I think; the requirements needed to be fulfilled for disability are extremely stringent, partly to prevent people from getting money for no reason, and partly because the government doesn’t care if some people struggle with “invisible” disabilities).
6. My siblings won’t be able to work or go to university for a few years yet, while I, though able-bodied, cannot contribute financially to the family due to psychological problems. As my mother’s job is labor-intensive, it takes a great physical toll on her. For her work, she only gets around $20,000 a year, which, supplemented by Newstart (Government Assistance), currently amounts to $36,000 for four people, two adults and two children, to live on. Most of this amount goes to rent (Sydney is a horribly expensive place to live). She is also depressed and angry much of the time, and recently began to complain of pain. She won’t be able to do this job until retirement. It hurts my heart to see her have to work so hard when she is no longer a young woman (52 years old).
7. I have tried applying for writing jobs, seeing as writing is almost the only ability I have left. I signed up for oDesk but, as a new member, with no portfolio, it was difficult to compete with other, established writers for jobs. I did finally get a job, but after completing it – which took a few days – and sending it in, the client did not pay (I later realised that I should have asked for an upfront payment). Nevertheless, I am still applying for jobs, and still hoping to get another one, this time going into the business hopefully a little wiser. I am also trying to sell my belongings on eBay, but that is another minefield altogether, with exorbitant shipping costs that can make you lose money and the fact that most people don’t want to buy your old clothes.
8. But neither oDesk or Ebay, which have so far not proved profitable, solves the problem my family is struggling with now, which is paying for living expenses: the rent, the electricity and gas and water bill, groceries, etc. The rent also recently rose. In response, we’ve tried to cut back as best as we can, taking as few showers as possible, subsisting on frozen vegetables and rice and potatoes and $1 loaves, turning off any lights we are not using, even re-using water used for cooking, but even so, there are so many bills, and unexpected expenditures like my mother’s old car breaking down on her way to work. My sister used guilt to make my mother acquiesce to purchasing a $200 phone after she dropped her old one in the toilet bowl, pronouncing that she needed it for her own safety. I am still angry about that.
9. If the rent is not paid, or something unexpected happens, then sooner or later we will be evicted, whereupon we will either have to find somewhere else to rent (perhaps just a single room with a bathroom for the family, as the one-bedroom unit we are living in now was one of the cheapest places we could find, and it has two rooms), or go live at a homeless shelter whilst waiting for government housing. Houses owned by the government aren’t situated in the safest neighbourhoods; you often hear stories of stabbings, people smoke in the building, there are strange cars that pull up along them in the night. Many of them are where those who are recently let out of prison live.
10. Most likely we will stay at a homeless shelter until we can find a single room to rent. Though not the most comfortable situation for the rest of my family, it is not terrible; they’ll survive. It will, however, be a little hard for me. My mother has a very loud voice, which she raises often, and my siblings aren’t the quietest creatures in the world. In such a scenario, the world outside the home and the world inside the home will both be chaotic, loud and overwhelming. Squashed up in a single room with them, listening to their shouts and chatter, without a room for myself where I can recharge and be alone, I am afraid of not being able to cope.
11. All of which is why, after someone commented on one of my posts suggesting to link a Donate button, I decided to take their advice. Asking for money does not make me feel ashamed, as my family does need help, and I, unable to obtain it from the government, have simply gone to seek aid through other methods. I’m in an odd position where intellectually I am more than capable of work or study but too mentally and psychologically crippled to do either. Long-term, I want to try and find a job that allows you to work from home, perhaps something a little better than the pennies oDesk pays, and, eventually, make a living as a fiction writer. It might seem a fairy dream to my mother, but I know it will one day be my reality. My writing still isn’t the best – I have not been writing for long – but that can always be improved, I am only eighteen, and in the meantime a glorious cornucopia of ideas is bursting in my mind, just waiting until my skills are good enough to bring them to life. It is just a matter of practice, of bridging the gap between ideas and execution. But, as Virginia Woolf once said, a writer needs a room of her own to write, and if present circumstances continue the way they do, I will soon be placed in an environment, either the homeless shelter (strangers, everywhere) or a one-bedroom apartment (noisy and disruptive), where I will be unable to do either.
12. If you do choose to donate, for which I thank you from the bottom of my heart, please consider the following points before you do so:
- We are not homeless yet. My mother still has a job, and we still get government benefits, amounting to $36,000 a year for four people. The only thing that is worrying is the rising rent. I am afraid it’ll get to the point where we are evicted. I wrote this post just to see if I could help her out with the finances through one of the few ways I could. But even if the worst does happen, we will be ‘homeless’ but we probably won’t be sleeping on the streets.
- The amount doesn’t matter; every cent helps, whether to buy some carrots or help top up an electricity bill.
- Only donate if you have the means to. A lot of the people who read my blog are INFPs (Idealists) or people struggling themselves with financial and mental issues, such as social anxiety like myself, all groups of people not known for their extensive financial resources. It also doesn’t matter if you have the means to donate but simply don’t want to; your money is yours to spend as you choose, so please don’t feel guilty; the love and care I have received from readers, through emails and comments, though it might not help pay the food or the bills, already means the world to me. It makes me feel loved. It gives me hope that there are kind people in the world. It makes me feel less sad and alone.
- Your donation might not change things. It may help my family with a payment here and there, even if it is fifty cents, but eventually, if the rent keeps on rising the way it is, or my mother is unable to work, we will end up in at that homeless shelter, or camping at a friend of my mother’s house (more people, more strangers) or the single room. When that happens, I will have to somehow deal with it. I don’t how yet. I could sit in the bathroom with the seat down and the door shut to read and write, but bathrooms, especially toilets, due to their unhygienic status, make me highly uncomfortable, and uncomfortableness causes stress which causes fatigue, so I usually never stay in there longer than necessary. Yet, no matter how bad things get, I will find some way to keep on reading and writing. It is all I have.
- I would like it if those who donate are people who either believe in my writing or my future as a writer or, even better, have found some of my posts personally helpful. Of course, that doesn’t mean that just because a post or two of mine resonated with you that means you should donate. I just don’t want to feel like I am taking money without doing anything in return for it. Even though blogging about being an INFP and other life issues isn’t exactly a recognised form of work, if I am helping people in some way, whether it is giving them advice or making them feel less alone, then I must be providing a little value and contributing to the world, no matter how tiny or insignificant.
- There are many better ways to spend your money. There are likely people who are already homeless living where you are, or people halfway across the world who don’t have enough money for food. There are people in the world, even in Australia, a rich, first-world country, who have it worst than I do. Just one caveat, though, for those of you think donating to Humanitarian Groups will truly help starving individuals in Africa; it’d be good to read these two articles and be better informed on the situation rather than throwing some money to an organisation without knowing where it ends up, and its true impact: http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=2097.0;wap2 & http://www.siliconafrica.com/africa-top-10-problems-not-the-ones-you-were-thinking-about/ . The world has an extreme deficit of kindness, and a surplus of greed and corruption and selfishness. I wish I could help. I wish I could slap a few corporate leaders and let them go hungry for a few days. One of the best ways I have found to help in my own limited way against the horribleness of the world is to reduce my own consumption. The less you consume, the less power to give to corporations and groups who profit from your consumption by exploiting vulnerable people and destroying the environment. Stop buying any useless stuff like clothes (do you really need more?), re-use things, and eat as naturally and often cheaply as possible, incorporating more plants in your diet and reducing meat consumption. The best things in life, like books and writing and the imagination, are really often free.
- If you do donate, please leave your name or email, either through the donation process or by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org, so I can personally thank you. Even if it’s five cents, it’s money, money probably obtained through sweat and effort on your part. I would love it if you give me some recommendations for any posts you would particularly like to read in the future so I can also repay you that way, and I will make sure to keep all emails from donors so that when I do publish my book I can send you a free copy (and I will get published, I know I will; it’s my belief in myself that keeps me going). Oh, and I used the “Buy Now” button only because the donation button for Paypal is only used for non-profit organisations, just in case that ends up to be a little confusing. If you do donate and need any writing tasks done like articles, professional emails or editing, please let me know so I can help you in return for your contribution.
- Even if I don’t receive a single donation, I am still grateful to you all for reading my blog and for sending me your love, and I will keep posting pieces for as long as I am able, though if I move, it might be a while before I can find an internet connection. I will keep on trying to sell items on eBay and book a job on oDesk, and read and write and dream and love. My true dream is to be creatively fulfilled and be at a point where I can write books the proceeds of can entirely go towards helping people, like children in hospitals or hungry men and women. That way, my words can make people happy by taking them to other worlds and also by making a true impact on their lives in the real world. I don’t need much to live, a small place to call home, enough money to pay the bills; I don’t buy anything apart from food, partly because I don’t have the money to but also because I don’t want to support consumerism. If we all lived simply, and shared, and loved, and were kind, the world would be beautiful. Isn’t it disgusting, how there can be people in the world with billions and millions in the bank and live at the height of luxury while others have nothing, go hungry, starve and suffer? It makes me want to cry and throw up at the same time. I hate it, I don’t understand how those people can sit at their tables and eat without choking. I don’t understand how people can willingly hurt other creatures. I don’t. It helps me to put things in perspective, and I hope my experience helps to put things in perspective for you: how lucky you and I are, to live in first-world countries, how lucky we are to eat, and how much work we still have to do to fight against selfishness and corruption and spread love and kindness around the globe. Power, unfortunately, rarely lands in the hands of the kind and the good.