How To Be Bipolar In LA 2
Sandi Yeah, Me.
I live on Social Security Disability and I haven’t worked in 5 years. I live in a HUD Housing apt. complex that’s rented solely to residents with mental illnesses. It’s a nice, clean secure building, and we feel safe here. Sometimes, I feel like I’m an occupant of an insane asylum, because a tenant will move in that won’t take his meds, and the rants ensue. But on the whole, it’s a quiet place and we inmates are for the most part pleasant to one another and respectful of each other’s privacy. A lot of us stay to ourselves, but there’s a rec room in the lobby where we can go to socialize and commiserate. It has a TV, stereo, board games and a computer. We have monthly meetings with the management, which I always avoid, and we hold potluck dinners here on the holidays. We also have a laundry room that’s free to use.
We have a counselor that comes around once a week to help the tenants with services we need to get for ourselves, like Vocational Rehab or some such thing. That’s what I’m doing right now. I’m looking for a part time job to help pay my bills. I don’t know if I’m well enough to work, but I’m sending resumes anyway. I go to the local church to get expired Trader Joe’s food, because groceries are exorbitant. The food we get there is iffy, to say the least. Moldy and bruised fruit, and rotten vegetables. It’s a gamble I don’t enjoy taking. You have to eat it as soon as you get it before it goes off. We poor people who line up there to get it are happy for what we can get, though.
Social Security covers some of my expenses, but I’ve had to live on 3 credit cards I have as well, to supplement my income. I’m vainly trying to pay them off. My friends here in the building are in similar straits. LA is an expensive place, and we have to look for things that are free.
I’ve had the same sub compact car since 1997. My friends can’t afford a car, or are too ill to drive, so they get bus passes and get around town that way. Our rents are computed by how much we get from Social Security every month. We live in fear of the day Social Security goes bust.
I used to have a part time job at an upscale auto dealership to supplement my disability right before I moved here, and lost it because they wanted me to start working full time and I can’t take the stress of a 40-hour workweek. I was also scared to lose my benefits and my Medicare. Before that, I had another part time job at a real estate agency, but was let go one day when I had a bad reaction to all the meds I was taking at the time.
I was standing on a ladder, putting marketing material away on a shelf and I heard a buzzing in my ears, and then, boom, I passed out and fell. I came to, and had double vision. I had to be taken to the restroom by my co-worker because I couldn’t see. I immediately threw up and went into a sweat. I had to soak my face with water. My ears rang and I was very dizzy. I threw up again. They called the paramedics and those handsome guys took me to the emergency room at UCLA Medical Center. I sat there in the hallway for 6 hours and left without being seen. I forgot to get a release to return to work, so the next day, I asked the temporary Psychiatrist that had prescribed those meds to me to give me one. I was fine by then. She refused, and they replaced me. That hurt. I felt like suing, but I’m not the type.
Each time I lose a job, my self-esteem gets a little lower. I sort of gave up after losing my last job, because when you work, there’s a limit you can make and still get disability. Social Security takes money out of your check, and you have to make it up with your pay. I’ve had to pay back hundreds of dollars they said I owed with my last job. They take it out of your monthly check until it’s paid off. The auto dealership wanted to give me $11 an hour, but that would have gone over the $800 a month limit I could make and still receive my benefits, so I had to ask for a pay cut.
My rent also goes up when I work. My friends and I complain that we’re being penalized for trying to work and do better for ourselves. That the government wants to keep us down and poor. I’ve heard it a lot from other people in my therapy groups at the clinic. I always think that if I won the lotto, I’d pay it all back one day, because I really am grateful for the help I get.
The thought of trying to work full time with this god-awful depression is terrifying to me. Not only does it trap you mentally, there are the physical ailments as well. Then there is the loss of concentration and poor decision-making. Sometimes people talk at me. I say at me, because I can’t absorb a thing they’re saying. Words fly over and around my head. That’s a humiliating thing when your employer is trying to explain something to you. I forget what I’m doing and have to write copious notes to myself so I can fake it. Even that doesn’t help sometimes, because I can’t understand what’s being said to me in the first place. I liken it to having molasses on the brain. And I’m intelligent, so it irks me to appear stupid. I watch Jeopardy almost every night, and am very good at it. I’d like to go there and apply to be a contestant, but I’d have to report my winnings to Social Security! Ha. Catch 22.