Thursday, 27 November 2008

I'm Not Eccentric, I'm Too Poor

I have spent this evening once again avoiding revision. My biology exam is tomorrow morning, and it appears I am totally ignorant of the working of the human body. Maybe it's because my own body is so frustratingly confusing. How the f*ck have I gained 5lbs? I blame the indulgence of a whole bottle of rose, and quite possibly the roast dinner I was forced to eat on Sunday. Bastards.

Moving swiftly on, I've been shedding weight in another way. I decided to collect together all of the paperwork, final demand letters and correspondence which has made me want to slit my wrists in the past year, and dispose of it. I've had to keep a few necessities, until the council tax have stopped trying to take the clothes off my back, but other than that I'm throwing it all out. I hate being scared of the post, of the debts, of the bailiffs.

This is one way which mental illness breaks you. It steals your dignity, your self respect, puts you in situations which you couldn't deal with normally, let alone when getting dressed is the equivalent of climbing Everest. For example, have you seen the size and complexity of the average housing benefit form? I couldn't fill one of those out when I was well, let alone navigate it since I've been on the brink of f*cked. I am living on the breadline, because I can't fill out the forms, gather all the evidence, sit for hours in the waiting room surrounded by screaming children and their oblivious teenage mothers.

I've been spending a fortune on medications, and burying my head in the sand when it comes to my bills. Bills have a nasty habit of becoming final demand letters, and court orders. I guess that since July I've been spending at least £20 a month on prescriptions for various medications, and it doesn't sound like much, but that is basically all I have left after I've paid for rent and food. I've been keeping my receipts, and trying to get a HC1 form [for help with prescription costs] for months, but to be honest that was pretty low on my priority list. I've got the form, and now it turns out that my carefully hoarded receipts are worthless. You need a special receipt, signed and stamped by the pharmacist, which you can only get on request and at the time of collecting your prescription. Therefore, the NHS handily avoids paying out to any of us who don't know the complete ins-and-outs of the system. Once again.

I've never been in debt before. I've always paid everything up front, been extra careful so I had a bit of money behind me. I had quite a tidy sum when I moved out of my Nan's, from working and saving EMA payments. That paid for the deposit on my house and the first months rent, leaving me a little bit just in case. Becoming ill again and getting fired soon used up that. Then my lovely ex-housemates leaving all the bills to me, plus the house in a state, resulted in me losing a lot of money. Would I have let myself be walked all over if I was well? No. I would have done something about it. At the time, I couldn't do anything about it. The direct debits just kept going out, and the rent money stopped coming in.

The problem is, you see, that when I was well-ish, I thought I could do everything. I could, most of the time. i handled all the money, because I soon discovered that they were both pretty much incapable. When the bills arrived, they stuck them under the sofa. No joke.

I take everything upon myself, because depending on others generally means that nothing will get done. At least if you do it yourself then you know who to blame. I'm ashamed of the financial mess I've got myself in. I can't even show my Connexions PA most of it because I don't want to admit that, deep breath, "I can't manage".

I found a ridiculously cheap one bedroom flat to let today, and realised with a bit of belt-tightening, I could afford it. Think about that - no more living with strangers, sharing the bathroom with unknown men, and having to make polite conversation when all you can think about is the kitchen knife he is holding. Back to the good old days of, shock horror, having your friends over a couple of nights a week, getting back to having a social life even when you have absolutely no money, even just having Boyfriend over for more than one night. Leaving the washing up on the side until the morning. Eating somewhere other than in bed, because nobody is watching anymore. Hogging the bathroom, dyeing your hair, waxing your legs, whatever reason, just because you can. Only having safe foods in the house, rather than staring longingly at the block of cheese or packet of Jaffa Cakes that your inconsiderate housemate left on the side.

The downside? I'd be in even more of a mess. I can't remember to buy loo roll, let alone pay the gas bill. By the time Boyfriend gets back from uni in May and moves in with me, I'll be living in a bare flat hugging my eviction notice.

All I can think of is me and Boyfriend snuggled up on the beanbags in our humble little flat, ignoring the threadbare carpets and dodgy shower, and just having our own space. Oh, and the added bonus of having some money for once, seeing as this little apartment is £20 a month LESS than my little room. I know I'd have bills on top, but I don't pay council tax 'cos I'm a student, and who needs heating anyway? Being cold just means I'll burn off more calories.

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