Hunger Strike

   The other night I woke up at 4 in the morning.  I was having another panic attack.   This time I actually have a reason to panic, though.  In my last post I wrote about how the mail freaks me out and gives me anxiety.  I think I know what to expect but I never really know what to expect.  Unforeseen costs and fees from doctors that insurance didn’t cover and those pesky letters that say “Hey, this is timed and extremely important so understand it right now and send it in today or else you will lose every cent of assistance from the government.” Those, yeah those; they are the worst.  You think you paid all your bills, you think all of your case files are updated but then you get one letter out of the blue and your drain starts emptying and you’re in the center headed for a dark and narrow pipe you don’t think you can prevent yourself from getting sucked into.
For me it could be anything.  I rely heavily on the government and that means I have to understand the crap they send me so I can keep my kids warm, clothed and fed and also vaccinated because that’s super important (don’t get into the anti-vaxxers hype unless you want sick kids in your house at all times [fuck that, amirite?]).  It’s hard to keep up on this stuff when your head is foggy on a clear day.  It’s not because I smoke pot or because I didn’t pay attention enough in school.  It’s worded in a way that makes my technical brain fritz out on itself.  I second guess the meaning of everything on these forms and then I second guess my answers.  I fill out everything the best I can and then send in everything I find that’s on the checklist and I usually include additional crap because I’m so fucking stupid that I usually have no idea what I’m doing.  Everything I do nowadays is on a “just to be safe”  precautionary level.  I know they already have this or didn’t ask for that but what if I answered something wrong and that helps them understand my confusion?

   So in my last post I detailed that I got these letters that freaked me out and after I calmed down I somewhat understood them enough to stop crying, do what I was supposed to and hope for the best without much worry about doing something wrong.  Yeah, I received all this highly important and dated stuff the day it was due but I called and they were like “Hey, it’s cool.  Just fill it out, we’re chill people, send it in and we’ll get you all caught up.” No big deal, right? Well it wouldn’t have been if they were actually chill and if it was as simple as filling out and sending the papers in.  When I had my SNAP interview and told my case worker Kasper started working, I wondered why the guy on the phone wasn’t interested in specifics about how many hours he was working or his pay.  I never called to find out since I knew they were sending me a job verification form.  Had I known that they would assume he was making $1,500/month, I would have called that same damn day.  If I had known they were sending a verification of disability for my doctor to fill out to help exempt me from the work requirement, I would have called my doctor and asked him to enlist his “bosses” help in signing the papers before he decided to go on a week-long vacation.
They cut our food stamps down to $49 a month.  I’m supposed to feed four people on that? For an entire month?! That’s insane! How did they even get their estimate for Kasper’s wages anyway?   He gets maybe 25 hours a week at $9/hour.  He’s lucky to get $800/month after taxes.  That’s slightly more than half what they “guessed” he was making.  I kept thinking after discovering this that things would be okay.  We paid rent already, did grocery shopping the day before I found out how little we would be getting from then on out (we make our grocery list after making a weeks menu); I paid all the other bills and Kasper had one more check coming before Christmas.  Most of our Christmas shopping is done, like 95% of it.  I felt pretty good about things.  I kept thinking we could afford food for the month while hoping my doc would be back and sign the paper so I could send it in and get the rest of the food stamps before Christmas.  I was trying so very hard to be positive and it’s just something that has never been easy for me.  I’ve said in other posts that I am a sort of optimistic pessimist or pessimistic optimist (you choose).  I know the worst will happen but I try to find the bright side of it.  In this case, I kept thinking about these two $50 gift cards I got from our phone rebates that I seem to be unable to use everywhere I have tried.  That’s one week of groceries, maybe even half of a second week; a full two weeks if I bust out my ghetto momma skills and buy strictly cheap processed foods and snacks to fill the gaps (but I really want to avoid that). We could charge what we don’t have money for; Kasper has one check with about 2/3 available for groceries (again, another week to two weeks of groceries).  We just have to make it to January at the latest.  By then my doctor’s paper should be processed and my case updated.
So the week passes and I call my doctor’s office the day before they told me he would be back in.  I am reminded why I never keep my hopes up, why I always expect the worst to happen and why I try not to rely on one person’s ability to do their job correctly.  The lady tells me my doctor will not be in office until the following Wednesday.  I start crying right away.  I know we have this month covered but I can’t stop the panic.  She tells me to call again the next day, maybe they can figure something out for us.  I call the next day and am told to leave my number.  Longer story short, it’s been another week and no one has signed the paper.  I’ve called every single day only to receive ONE call back and the lady hung up on me when I asked if my doc’s “boss” could just sign it in his place. I guess they think I’m lying but one peek at my medical file would tell you I’m not.  My last visit alone was to discuss a seizure I had less than a month before, my anxiety/panic attacks waking me up in the night and to discuss getting P.T/O.T again.  My chart also lists my hemiparetic leg and hemiplegic arm, my chronic migraines and my confusion.  The paper he needs to sign isn’t one like when the state declares you legally disabled.  It simply states that the disability is ongoing and the doc is to list limitations like my walking and constant joint pain. It’s a verification not a DX form.
   I’m having panic attacks every night again and sometimes I’m not even asleep.  I had one while watching TV the other night.  I let my mind wander and it went into that darker area where my worry likes to hang out.  I called my doc again this morning and they said he’ll be in on Wednesday and that’s it until JANUARY. What am I going to do if he still doesn’t fill it out? I’m in tears right now thinking about that.  How am I going to feed my kids, get my medications, take my kids to the doctors? Especially Jake who’s had a persistent fever of 100.07 since saturday? We’ll lose everything if he doesn’t sign his name on that damn paper.  I can’t take this stress and Kasper is not helping.  He is but…telling me “It’s going to be alright, we’ll make it” just doesn’t work for me.  I need something I can look at and know for a fact my kids won’t starve and he will have enough gas in the car to make it to work.

In order to prepare for the doctor NOT doing his job, I’m on a very limited diet to help save food for the kids.  I’ve been trying to gain weight for months and I lost what I gained last week by catching this awful stomach virus (it took me three months to gain just over 5 pounds). I didn’t eat for three days and I am starting to get really hungry now that I’m better.  I have to retrain myself to not be hungry.  I used to be poor before kids so I had to learn how to survive on one meal a day and that became all I needed to feel “okay” for 24 hours after a couple of years of “training.” I can go hungry; it’s not like I haven’t survived on popcorn and Saltines with peanut butter for weeks at a time before.  I can do it again for my kids to stay fed and still wake up Christmas morning to presents.  That’s my biggest hope: to not have to return those gifts I think my kids deserve especially when half of them are things they need and that could benefit them.  Merry fucking Christmas, eh?

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