People have been very nice to me lately. I try not to run around whinging about my medical issues, but I do try to explain the abridged non-technical version of what's going on when I have to cancel something I had planned. They always end by asking if there's anything they can do for me, and I always wince. There are things that need doing, but either I'm already doing them, or I've abdicated to someone else who can handle it better.

The long and the short of it is that what would really help a lot right now is money.

Nobody likes this answer.

Culturally, giving things is perceived as less personal than doing things for someone in need, and giving money seems outright dismissive, like you didn't care enough to figure out what might be helpful from someone else's point of view. Etiquette mavens have been horrified for decades over tales of brides and bridegrooms asking guests to donate cash instead of bringing gifts to the wedding, as if the happy couple is indifferent to who shows up to the reception as long as they're holding a check. A lot of people are apparently convinced that if you give money to the poor, they'll immediately spend it on hookers and blow; occasionally, I've gotten the outlying data point, usually a relative, who hands me money to "spend on something fun" and then gets annoyed when I use it to buy mundane things like socks and groceries.

I don't expect anyone to defray the thousands of dollars I'm going to end up owing to the hospital and the landlady and possibly also a lawyer. I understand that's God's just and righteous punishment for being a lazy entitled parasite, or whatever the wealthy people making policy are saying now. I didn't watch the Pubbie episode of The Weakest Link debates, so I don't know what it is this week. It's my problem, and I get that. The kind of money I am talking about here is the kind that saves me from having to sit down and figure out if I want to eat and walk everywhere, or not eat and take the train. Money may not buy happiness, but it sure as hell buys a lot of resources.

Poverty is brutal. Self-control is cognitively and emotionally exhausting. It grinds you down to tell yourself 'no, you can't afford to do that' every goddamn second of every goddamn day. Particularly so when you're not just automatically saying no to things you kind of want, but also to a lot of things you legitimately need. I was handed a new prescription slip by the doctor on Monday that I cannot fill until Friday, because I do not have the $11.99 flat fee that CVS charges for a bottle of generic drugs. Not being able to just walk out and pay for things I need is putting me under tremendous pressure, which is making my chronic medical crap worse, which is interfering with my ability to work, which means I can't just walk out and usw. It's a vicious cycle.

I tend to order a lot of takeout when I'm falling apart. I wish it were as simple as "eating my feelings" like a lot of people apparently do, but it's damage control more than comfort. The choice involved is not between ordering a pizza like a lazy student OR cooking a real dinner with multiple food groups and leftovers like a goddamn grownup. It's to order a pizza OR go to bed without any dinner. In order to make a meal myself, I have to take stock of what's in the kitchen, which is not very much; check my bank balance and figure out how much I can buy without overdrafting; find real pants and outdoor shoes and dress and walk to the grocery store, which contains people who at some point may attempt to interact with me; tell myself no over and over and goddamn over again because I don't have the money for anything I walk past while simultaneously convincing myself that the things in the basket are a legitimate expense and do need to be bought; pray I did my math right and the self-check machine doesn't decline my card, haul all of it back home; prepare the food, however long that takes; and then clean up after myself when I'm done.

Or, I order a pizza online, make sure the phone has battery and is sitting where I can see it, answer the door when the delivery guy calls, and eat.

(Those of you who have brain-weasels of your own probably recognize my description of the dinner process as the product of kilotons of anxiety, which is absolutely correct. You may also recall that I have been issued drugs meant to kill that off. While I do now have a small but meticulously curated collection of sedatives lying about, they are not useful for this. One, they all remove my ability to function to a greater or lesser degree. Even the least intoxicating one I've got makes me bump into things, as I wobble around and don't quite manage to miss door frames and sofa arms. And two, none of them are for daily casual use. All of them lose efficacy if you take them enough to acclimate to them, and if they stop working I am really up shit creek without a paddle, because that means they'll stop working for bouts of status panicus as well.)

Everything has its minimum cost. If you can't pay it in money, you can try to make up the shortfall by paying in effort. I have run out of both. The consequences for overdrafting my energy reserves are no more enjoyable than the consequences for overdrafting my checking account, and that's assuming the charge would even be authorized. There are times when just going to bed hungry is genuinely the least upsetting option.

I am fucking exhausted from trying to maintain homeostasis. I do not know how else to describe it.  I am playing an endurance game of Whack-A-Mole with every goddamn stupid nonsensical idea the free-floating anxiety latches onto, plus a lot of things I should legitimately be afraid of, while trying to manage the physical symptoms of chronic survival stress. On top of that I am turning in what is evidently a very convincing performance as a human being who is kind of even mildly functional. I have so few reserves left at this point that I've started jettisoning things to keep my head above water, and I am still slowly drowning. I try to keep about $20 in an Emergency Pizza Fund for exactly this reason: When I am overwhelmed, pizza isn't indulging in a luxury, it's buying back some spoons that I desperately need.

Except I can't. And the problem everyone is culturally-conditioned to want to help me solve is not the problem I'm having.


  1. Added a bit to your pizza fund. Hope it helps.

    1. That wasn't actually the point of this, but thank you.


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