I’m in need of support. I’m in an extremely difficult and stressful situation, and seeking immediate financial help. As you know, I’m on disability. I recently received news that my file is under review. I told very few people because I wanted this situation to pass as quietly as possible, and I instead struggled at home, alone. In case you’re unfamiliar with the review process, it basically involves a lot of complicated paperwork, deadlines, appointments, rules, regulations, phone calls, unpredictability, etc. The review process for ODSP (Ontario Disability Support (but I call it Suffering) Program) is notoriously stressful to such a degree that workers have been advised not to perform them as often as they used to because suicide rates go up significantly. The rate of suicide for folks on social assistance is 18% higher than the general population. (I know that talking about money and suicide in the same sentence might make folks call me “manipulative” and I don’t care – I’m being honest about my circumstances.) I don’t like to talk about social assistance much, for lotsa reasons, one of them being that the whole thing makes me feel fucking hysterical. Being on disability means being forced to cope through inescapable poverty with the knowledge that your entire livelihood could be taken away on a whim, or a computer glitch, or a high volume of mail, or any manner of bureaucratic bullshit – and you often can’t access the care that you need to survive and heal and connect because you can’t fucking afford it.
Holding onto my request for an internal review letter in one hand, and my cane in the other. The photocopy shop has a graffiti mural dedicated to John Waters. Sometimes when I am doing strange stretches in public and clutching my cane, I feel like I look like a flamingo.
I have not been coping well. But I’m alive. However, a couple days ago I received a letter in the mail stating that my income and benefits are gonna be canceled on June 1st. That’s rent, transportation, food, meds, dental, everything. Although I sent my review forms in on time, there’s been a filing error and the letter claims that my forms were not received on time. Generally, when one’s income support is up for review, if they decide to cancel it, there is a three-month period in which one will continue to receive their income as usual as they prepare to file an appeal, after which a decision will be made. However, I’ve been given a mere two weeks notice.
I don’t have savings. I don’t have a credit card. I don’t have a back-up plan. I’ve been losing my ability to walk. I am often housebound. I have extremely precarious access to healthy food. I frankly don’t have the kind of support system I dream of having. This situation is literally one of my worst fears come true.
My doctor and I spent a lot of time filling out about 50 pages of forms together, detailing my long list of diagnoses, the very particulars of how mental illnesses and chronic pain and limited mobility affect my daily life. Etc etc etc. It is a daunting stack of paper with very careful and specific instructions that are extremely overwhelming. I spoke to an ODSP worker on the phone the same day my notice arrived, who admitted that their offices are simply overwhelmed at the volume of mail they’re receiving, and it’s quite likely that my forms are stacked up on somebody’s desk somewhere, waiting to be counted and filed and responded to. They also admitted to being just as confused by the process as I am. I spoke to another worker a few days later. They also said it sounds like this is an error on their behalf. I’ve spoken to my doctor, who has agreed to talk to my caseworker and advocate on my behalf, because I am not emotionally or physically capable of doing this on my own.
Forms! Is your condition gonna get better or worse or stay the same? It’s probably gonna get worse, thanks for asking!
What’s your diagnonsense?
This is happening during BPD Awareness Month, Mental Health Awareness Month, and, of course, Mercury Retrograde in Taurus Season. May is also the month with the highest suicide rate. All this fuckedupness is not lost on me.
You know where this is going. I need money. I need to pay my rent, I need to eat. There are a few ways to support me: Firstly, this is my Support/$upport page, where you can send donations through PayPal. Also, I recently printed a new zine, which, as luck would have it, is about how poverty (and trauma, and the trauma of poverty) and the precarity of stable housing and access to basic needs harms one’s psyche and body. You can buy my new zine, Telegram #39, as well as past zines, my zine anthology, and my first novel, at schoolformaps.etsy.com. It’s actually my first novel’s third birthday, so if you haven’t read it yet, now might be a good time. Although I also offer Tarot readings for weirdos, misfits, and outcasts, I can only do them sporadically due to chronic illness, so you may see those listings come and go from my shop – thanks for being patient with the inherently unstable nature of disability and craziness. As well, I can accept well-concealed Canadian or U.S. cash in the mail to Maranda Elizabeth / P.O. Box 33 Stn. P / Toronto, Ontario / M5S 2S6 Canada. Whether or not you can send money, sharing this is also a form of support.
I have a lot more to say about what it means to survive on disability. I don’t like doing this. It’s not fun. I feel a lot of pressure to make myself coherent, to find the perfect vocabulary, to examine this situation as if from a detached distance, to convince readers I am real… But the conversation and the painful realities are far too close to me at this point to feel safe or okay sharing my stories. I hope to be able to do so later. At the same time, I don’t know how long this particular situation is gonna last. I don’t know how long it’ll take them to sort out my papers and re-instate my income. I don’t know if I’ll be fighting all summer, or if it’ll be sorted out next week, or if the very worst will happen, or…? I’ve filed for an internal review, and I don’t know what their response will be, or if I’ll have to go through the tribunal process, or what. I just totally don’t know what’s happening, except that I need rent and food. I hope it’ll all eventually become material someday.
I’m bedridden frequently, and my MCS – like everything else – has been getting worse. Wearing masks has been helpful. They make them in lavender! I have not had the guts to wear them in public yet, but I think that when I do, it will be a matter of mere survival, not guts. That’s Lily in the background, taking care of me.
In the meantime, I’m worn out. I’m sick. I am working on about ten thousand writing projects at once (my next novel! my series about navigating Tarot with madness & disability! zines about surviving poverty! examining BPD & c-PTSD! chronic pain and my body as a protest! Etc etc etc!). But continuing to find the spoons and courage and vocabulary and time and sense-of-worthwhileness for these projects is so unspeakably difficult when getting basic needs met is something I can barely do. And I am frankly sick and self-conscious about having to ask my readers & pals to $upport me again and again. But here we are.
UPDATE: RENT PAID. Thank you thank you thank to my friends & readers for being so generous with your support & $upport. This is still an ongoing situation, it’s messy & stressful, but I have paid my rent for June, and I’ve been in touch with my doctor, my caseworker, & other folks at ODSP & their Adjudication Unit. I’ve cried a whole lot. I’m now within another 90-day review process, during which I’m anxiously checking my mail every damn day to hear their decision. It’s gonna be a strange and stressful Summer. I’ve been sharing small updates about the process on Twitter, and trying to cope. I want to live through this so I can tell the story of how I survived one of my worst fears come true. I have a lot more to say about how being on disability, being forced to barely scrape by on an impossible income while sick & crazy & disabled, can make friendship & other forms of affection & connection impossible; I want to write about all the limits imposed upon folks on social assistance, about how it feels criminal to stay alive; I want to write about the paradox of writing because I’m sick and being too sick to write; I want to write about how I would not have had anyone to ask to $upport me if I hadn’t been writing about mental illness for ten years, how there’d be no crowd through which to fund; I want to write about how being on disability means the inevitability of crisis after crisis after crisis, and how this is not a crisis averted, but one thoroughly experienced and then delayed, with the potential for either relief or another fight later this season… I’ll have to wait. But thank you again. <3