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On Being Poor, Crazy ... And In Public


Retromancer
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Does anyone here feel awkward in public because they are poor and MI? How about in a setting where there are more individuals like yourself present?

 

I have gone to free public events and have felt very much ill at ease, dreading someone starting a conversation with that perennial "So what do you do?". I feel even more awkward when I spot individuals that share the characteristic tells of the indigent MI.

 

I am exhorted to get out and socialize. I have the suspicion that those do so really don't have a clue as to what it is like to be poor and MI.

 

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My little area used to have free concerts in the summer and I loved to go. It was always something different from somewhere around the world. I kept my "Don't talk to me shield" on pretty tight. (concerts cancelled because no money).

 

It seems 2 different groups are attracted (not sexually but maybe energy wise). Maybe if I talked to them we would have something in common. But I don't want to talk.

 

I want to find friends and dates the old fashioned way - the internet.

 

db

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I feel awkward if/when others who do not have MI and who aren't poor start talking about how they did this or that, bought this or that, that (whatever) was so inexpensive (when it cost a few thousand $).  All I can really say is 'that's great' or something similar.  Otherwise if they know me (whether wealthy or poor) and know that I am poor and have MI, and stay on a subject matter I can relate to, it isn't as bad/awkward.

 

When I am around others who have MI and are poor, I don't have a problem/not awkward.

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There are a number of reasons I'm poor, one of the main ones is that due to my MI, I would have a very hard time meeting the standards of even the simplest of jobs, i.e. showing up on time, day after day, and being able to produce the same amount of work each day.  Basically, being able to make each and every day indistinguishable from any other.  I actually feel that over a long enough period of time, my output would be at or above average, but almost all employers would rather have consistent, dependable output.  

 

Still though, even setting aside MI, I doubt that I'd ever be financially well, off short of winning the lottery or inheriting from a long lost relative.  I'm simply not willing to sacrifice the things in my life that it would take to ensure financial prosperity.  If my children are going through a hard place in their lives and need extra time and support, there's no job so important that I'd foster that work off on a nanny instead of raising my on child.  When my father got sick, and one day when my mother does, I'll be there with them during their final days and weeks.  And even before then, they won't be shunted off and warehoused in an demeaning daycare to spend their last year on this planet cut off from everything they've ever known or loved.  

 

People who are financially prosperous, are that way because they chose to make certain sacrifices, to consider certain things less important, and if need be, go without many things altogether.  Hard work and time have never been enough to succeed at most difficult goals.  To stand a chance you will also need to make sacrifices, to give things up and do without them in the name of what you are pursuing.  While I respect most rich people for making up their minds and giving up so many things in the single minded pursuit they have engaged in, I can't say admire the priorities that they have set, especially the things that they are willing to let go untended.  But, they made their choice and stuck with it.  The world needs more people who are willing to commit.  I just think it would be better off if more people made choices and stuck to them, but chose to work at thing whose sole rewards weren't financial and social prestige.  

 

So no, being poor and crazy doesn't cause me any shame.  

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Of course you could skip all that sacrifice and be one of the Walton heirs. They have as much wealth in total as the bottom 40% of the US population -- and they owe it all to picking the right parents.
 

The Walton Family is the richest family in the world, their wealth inherited from Bud and Sam Walton, founders of the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart.
...

Collectively, the Waltons control over 48% of the company, and are worth a combined total of $115.7 billion (as of March 2013), valuing them as the wealthiest family in the world.


SOURCE
 


People who are financially prosperous, are that way because they chose to make certain sacrifices, to consider certain things less important, and if need be, go without many things altogether.  Hard work and time have never been enough to succeed at most difficult goals.  To stand a chance you will also need to make sacrifices, to give things up and do without them in the name of what you are pursuing.

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Not any more. I hated the feeling so I decided to make a change. I couldn't find a radical organization, so I made my own. It is now eight years old, and strongly supported throughout the city.

If the activites that you are expected to do are too "monnied" and causing you angst, do something outside the system instead. Does your city have a Food not Bombs chapter? Start one, if not. That way you will attract "those" sorts of people, and then you won't be asked what you do. You will also directly be helping to support your community and can call yourself a leader or organizer. Those who exhort us to go outside and socialize tend to find that most admirable. But it's not actually that hard.

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I wish there were more MI people around me, I feel like odd girl out sometimes. Although I don't really do well around people that behave erratically. I am not the only poor person around, honestly everyone I know can relate. I don't run in well-off people circles. :) I don't like going out much either. I am really a home body sometimes.

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to be honest I would not feel awkward about being poor or Mi at a FREE concert, perhaps other people there do not have much money to entertain

themselves either?

 

I would however feel awkward if my clothes screamed poor. To be honest a lot of people lie or embellish when others ask them what they do,

you could just say "I'm between projects".  There is still a recession people might be a lot more understanding then you think.

 

perhaps you could go an talk to those you recognise  are mi too?

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A good suggestion Rosie. I know it is because I did it. The apartment I live in now is owned by a non-profit that owes its existence to a group of people that decided the time had come to stop talking about providing shelter to the unhoused poor and simply do it twenty odd years ago. We opened up closed buildings with pry bars in hand. Non-profit bureaucrats followed to keep those freshly opened buildings open.

 

Fast forward those twenty years. The bureaucrats are still there. One is pulling in over 100K. I again a poor MI guy with a pry bar. I don't even get a founders discount on my rent. I fought the law -- and the bureaucrats won.

 

 

Not any more. I hated the feeling so I decided to make a change. I couldn't find a radical organization, so I made my own. It is now eight years old, and strongly supported throughout the city.

If the activites that you are expected to do are too "monnied" and causing you angst, do something outside the system instead. Does your city have a Food not Bombs chapter? Start one, if not. That way you will attract "those" sorts of people, and then you won't be asked what you do. You will also directly be helping to support your community and can call yourself a leader or organizer. Those who exhort us to go outside and socialize tend to find that most admirable. But it's not actually that hard.

Edited by Retromancer
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to be honest I would not feel awkward about being poor or Mi at a FREE concert, perhaps other people there do not have much money to entertain

themselves either?

 

I would however feel awkward if my clothes screamed poor. To be honest a lot of people lie or embellish when others ask them what they do,

you could just say "I'm between projects".  There is still a recession people might be a lot more understanding then you think.

 

perhaps you could go an talk to those you recognise  are mi too?

I don't feel awkward about MI or money at a free concert. I don't want to talk to strangers. I don't want to talk to strangers anywhere anyplace.

 

If someone asks me what I do I say Im a SAHM.

 

I don't recognize anyone. I doubt I could pick out a MI person in a line-up.

 

db

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Yeah, I feel shame about being mentally ill and poor.  I don't really have a large social circle, and those close to me are either in the same boat, or are understanding.  It still sucks, though.  I loathe being asked what I 'do.'  I don't know why it's anyone's business.  I really hate feeling judged at the checkstand when I pay with foodstamps, too. 

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I loathe being asked what I 'do.'

 

I can really relate to this too.  It's like someone asks me, I tell them I am on SSDI, and there is this dead, uncomfortable silence that happens, then the other person makes an excuse to leave.  I also hate when pple ask what I like to do (hobbies) ... I really don't have any but am fine with that.  I usually say I like a little of everything.  It just makes the situation very uncomfortable when I am asked.

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I tell people I am on disability, and when they ask, I will definitely say I have migraines. That is actually my disability. There are people I would say both MI and migraines, and I *know* I said I had MI at least once after we moved. It made the other person uncomfortable. Tough shit. No one is ever going to know what a MI person "looks like" unless some MI people will "come out."

 

And did I read your post correctly, eldorado? Are you implying that poor people don't work hard, or make sacrifices? I cannot stand libertarian-style slaps at poor people. Should they borrow some money from their parents, as Romney suggested?

 

Plus, there is not enough actual currency for everyone to be rich, even if they work hard and make sacrifices. It doesn't help that the 1% you admire are taking currency out of circulation.

 

I just deleted a paragraph because it sounded super snotty. My point was, my dad came from a wealthy family. He didn't earn or sacrifice anything. The person who earned it was my Great-great-grandfather in Riga, before they emigrated to Detroit.

 

Unfortunately, my grandmother gambled it away. We didn't know she had a problem. But hey, it was her money. 

 

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So the anti-psychotics haven't caused you to put on the pounds? I am 6' 4" and in the best of times bump 300 lbs. These are not the best of times. I have put on the pounds. Clothes are hard to find and expensive. They take a serious bite out of my disability check.

 

I did the "between jobs" shtick when I was in my 20's. Having to say it again in my 40's makes it stick in my throat.

 

When I'm functioning well enough to be out of the house, I certainly don't look MI.  You don't need a lot of money to look decent (thank you Wal-Fart and Old Gravy sale items) and "fit in".  I too, hate being around strangers and am not comfortable with it.  Probably never will be.

 

EDIT--> On the job issue, I tell people I'm currently between jobs.  Even though its been just over 5 years since my last real employment.  I'm comfortable saying that, and could care less if they aren't.

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Thank you for your post and question. It was a huge problem with me for years, years ago. I was working but low income and didn't have the clothes that were 'in' at any given time. I also took the bus or subway vs. driving. While I wasn't dirty or anything like that I didn't have the money to keep up with the latest designer label T shirts at 40 bucks a pop. I also often went to public events and places alone which also made me stand out as different.

 

But then I got some self esteem one day out of the clear blue sky and thought I really don't give a f*** about what anyone thinks of me in the least. I am who I am and who I am is who I am. I have nothing to be ashamed of and owe not anyone any explanation or apology.

 

I also was terrified of being asked the perfectly normal question of 'what do you do?' which in the past I would either change the subject or LIE. Since I hate lies and hate liars this made me dislike myself even more. So I avoided public events where I knew there would be mingling as I didn't want to be asked.

 

But then after I got some self esteem I wasn't afraid anymore and a few times was asked 'what do you do?' and without any embarrasment or shame answered their question with a question 'why do you ask?'! This shut em up fast! and made them look like a jerk.

 

My thoughts are unless you want to marry me, go into business with me, extend me a line of credit or find out if I'm right for some kind of group you are getting together (pharmacists for justice, accountants for Africa or whatever) your question of 'what do you do?' shows you as an ass! I've also told this to people asking me 'what do you do?' and I return 'is this a business proposal or a wedding proposal?'.

 

You owe not anyone any explanation of what you do. You be strong and be good to yourself. Just be yourself and others being of good character will see your transparency and honesty and like you and want to be friends. Chin up, shoulders out and be yourself.

 

I just read your post that you are a man.  It's more tough, I think, for us men being poor and MI and either underemployed or on SSDI as men are supposed to be the bread winners and it's assumed that men work. Women have it just a tad bit easier as they can state they are a stay at home mom or don't work outside the home when in a mingling group. Also women aren't asked as often 'what do you do?' in a mingling group as men are. 

 

This is part of why I started a peer support group almost 12 years ago for gay men living with MI.  We don't discriminate though and have almost as many long term regulars being straight and married with children as we do gay men.  Try to find a peer support group in your area for men living with MI. It's worth a look around and if you have one you can get to it doesn't cost anything to try it out and have nothing to lose.  Best wishes.

Edited by Brian803
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I have few friends IRL because I dread the 'What do you do?" type questions and I don't have many nice clothes that fit, either. Although, yeah, Old Navy furnishes a lot of my wardrobe. I bought 6 t-shirts for 30 bucks recently. I've gained a ton of weight on meds (I"m literally twice the size I was when I graduated from high school - granted I weighed only 103 then and was borderline underweight). I dread running into anyone I knew from school because judging from Facebook, they all have careers and husbands and nice houses and vacations and few have put on the kind of weight I have. I also would have a hard time socializing with "normal" people my age, because they all have the money to go to restaurants and trips, etc., and I would feel awkward admitting I can't afford to do those things very often.

 

I used to use the "I'm between jobs" or "I'm looking for a new job" line, but that's become rather absurd since I haven't worked in over ten years and don't plan to work until/if I finish school in four or five years. It's been a relief to be back in school because I have an answer as to what I "do" now and it gives me a sense of purpose. Because of my age, though, I've had several classmates ask what I did before I decided to "change careers" (hah!). I tell them I worked in a nonprofit doing PR and communications work and leave out the part that it was 11 years ago and that after that I got a job that I couldn't handle because I was becoming suicidal and couldn't deal with deadline pressure without having panic attacks and crying in public anymore. 

 

I get really angry and also ashamed when I hear people go on rants about people on welfare and how they're all lazy and using the system not to work. I guess I don't present as disabled and on SSDI or people wouldn't say these things around me. I always want to say something back but don't because I don't want to out myself as MI and poor.

 

I don't run into many people who are out about being MI - one of the friends I made in the past few years is - she went on disability at her job because her MDD kept making her mess up too many projects - but she disclosed that to me first, so I felt safe telling her I was on SSDI. She didn't have to go on federal disability, though, and is back working at a good-paying white collar job again, so I'd say she's not as impaired as I am. I feel a lot more comfortable around her than other people. I wish I knew more MI people. 

Edited by bookgirl
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The MI in public is not awkward.  It's when my life comes up in topic. The being single, just out of a marriage, have two kids that I have sole custody of, have a part-time job that pays minimum wage and my house is in foreclosure, so currently living here for free.  I have no idea when we will have to leave or how I will afford rent.  I hate it when people ask me what I do as I don't want to tell them the logistics of my work.  The house stuff is REALLY embarrassing.  As for the job,  Part time means I could get 8 hours one week or 24.  Not consistent.  Oh, and then getting to hear about other's elaborate vacations, when you know in your head that even driving to a camping spot 45 minutes, paying for gas and food is out of your budget as well.

 

Where I live, public events that are free are always hip.  Tons of music in the park concerts. Free lunch for kids in the park during the summers. Stylish clothes are not and issue as well.  Casual is very much in, even amongst those that I eventually find out have a career that pulls in the bucks.  You just can't tell between different social classes here, especially when your kids do the same sports.  They all look the same.

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Point taken. I was thinking of events like book readings etc. At a local church a community groups shows documentary films in the basement every Friday. As they also serve pastries along with tea, coffee etc. and have a tolerant audience it is also a destination for those of us with limited funds and a diagnosis. Some are off the street. I can't help but look around the room and find us. Some I have met at NAMI events decades ago.
 

Where I live, public events that are free are always hip.  Tons of music in the park concerts. Free lunch for kids in the park during the summers. Stylish clothes are not and issue as well.  Casual is very much in, even amongst those that I eventually find out have a career that pulls in the bucks.  You just can't tell between different social classes here, especially when your kids do the same sports.  They all look the same.

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