Hello, I want to start by saying that Asking Jude is a wonderful service and what the team does is amazing and so helpful and kind! I also wanted to say that what I write about concerns some emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, work harassment, suicide, and self-harm in case anyone needs a warning.
So, a bit of background: I’m in my mid-20s, a woman, diagnosed as on the Autism Spectrum. I also come from a mixed-race Latino family that has always lived far below the poverty line in California, USA and I’ve always been very plus-sized. I’ve been emotionally abused my whole life in varying degrees and the physical abuse stopped when I was around ten years old, and there was sexual abuse when I was a young child. I was bullied and outcast throughout my childhood and teenage years too, and I sometimes feel very lonely.
I graduated from high school in 2016, and I got my drivers license with a lot of struggle as driving has never come naturally for me. I would get overwhelmed on the road, have panic attacks, meltdowns, and I couldn’t drive without careful preparation. After moving out with much fear (and a bout of homelessness because the arrangements my family had made for my living situation fell through), I found a room to share and I had to start driving to college. I found college difficult and more stressful than it seemed for most people doing their studies. I was always home-schooled and was considered gifted as a kid, but as I got older, my academic abilities in a structured school environment became poorer. School went on break for winter and I got my dream job working at Disneyland, but after a horrible panic attack in the road, I caused a car crash that I never emotionally recovered from (I received a Complex PTSD diagnosis too). I wasn’t able to drive to my job at Disneyland anymore either, so I had to quit, give school and work up, and move back home. I lost my independence, and it wouldn’t be for the first time.
I tried working at different places, but my mom wasn’t able to drive me and I get abused and/or harassed at these work places, or I can’t manage the job because I get overwhelmed or I struggle. After giving up on working and resigning to being a financial burden to my mother, a few years later in late 2019 I feel fed up with living in poverty and being unable to make money. After excellent therapy and support from a mental health team, I decided to move to Anaheim to sleep in a living room on a blow up mattress within walking distance of Disneyland, and things started turning around, I started working out for health and being body positive, I love my dream job at Disneyland again, and was able to financially support myself. I didn’t have to drive because I could walk or take the bus, I started college again (paid for by Disney) and I was asked out by a friend for a long distance relationship. I was very happy, and even though I didn’t have my own bedroom, I still felt like I was living my own life.
Even when the pandemic started, I was furloughed and still making money enough to support myself, and I got to live with my widowed grandmother in an affluent town and I could afford medical care, and I could afford my own food too. Unfortunately, my partner cheated on me and the relationship started going downhill, and because of changes with the pandemic wages, everyone including me got far less money to live with each week, and like a lot of people, I had to go into debt, and an unhealthy coping method I developed too was ordering packages online, like I know a lot people did. My debt isn’t very great, and most of it is medical or school related, but it’s still part of the reason I feel really bad about my life today. I also had to stop going to college because Disney had been paying for it, and they took that away from the Cast Members when most of us were laid off.
I broke up with my ex, which ended with them really, really hurting me, which was very confusing for me and I almost took my own life, but the break up was really good for me in the long run, getting away from a cheating and borderline abusive partner. I got my job back at Disneyland and moved back to Anaheim, getting an apartment to share with my dad and my brother, but Disneyland was no longer a dream job for me or most people working there, with grueling conditions, no more magical extras, no more college paid for, grumpy staff and even crueler park guests. I tried transferring my job, working operating rides that I loved, but I realized that like driving, I struggled to operate the machinery safely, and after some cruel words from a manager, I resigned, again leaving the place I once felt was a dream come true.
At the same time, I took a chance and signed up to be trained as a birth doula, a job I’ve wanted since childhood, not thinking through the logistics of having to drive due to poor public transportation, which is an issue I face now.
I had to move away from Anaheim to a rural, isolated area to live with my mother, and unfortunately, I couldn’t afford healthcare anymore and I looked for a new job after my birth doula training ended. I found a job as a Girl Scout camp counselor, which I was very qualified for because I was an excellent scout my whole life and had a lot of outdoor experience and plenty experience in childcare as a professional babysitter in high school and working in hotel childcare when I was a teenager (and was too young to drive), but unfortunately, that job turned into a literal nightmare, I was starved, sleep deprived regularly, not given legally required breaks, and forced to work under a cruel manager again. This manager in front of everyone told me that I could be seen as unfit to be working in childcare settings (when childcare is something I professionally excel in) all because I shared with her in confidence during the interview that I had a diagnosed neurological disability. I resigned, and was treated cruelly until my last day. I had to file a harassment and abuse report with the Girl Scout council, and while that was a few months ago now, I haven’t fully recovered from the ordeal and because of insurance issues that affect a lot of people in my state, I am unable to afford mental healthcare at this time.
Because of poverty growing up, I had to move over 15 times, and after coming back from the horrendous camp experience, I had to move once again, but the move has been so difficult for me, my room is unfamiliar and sparse, and I’ve found myself stuck in deep depression. The only wonderful things right now is that I just had my one year anniversary with my best friend and queer-platonic life partner, who while she lives long distance, has given me such wonderful support for many years, and my mom provides me some support too. I also received a scholarship to Selfmade business mentorship and school program because they liked my business startup, but I currently have no motivation or drive for that, no confidence in myself or my business.
I still live in bad poverty and, and I’ve tried to start an online business with some success, but that business venture is on the back-burner because I’ve been so depressed. I don’t feel I can go back to work at Disneyland because of how miserable it is for the Cast Members there now, and I can’t get a local job because I can’t drive. I feel utterly trapped in my own life, with no way out. I feel relegated to feeling fat and ugly, a burden, unable to support myself, unable to leave the house. I can’t currently manage to create a kind thought about myself, I feel like if I had the ability to drive or if I was ‘normal’ in appearance or mind, I would have such a different independent life. I’m not suicidal or harming myself (it’s been four years since I last self-harmed), and I don’t plan to do either of those things, but it’s so hard not to feel like I just don’t belong here, on Earth, and I feel like nothing has ever gone right in my life (besides finding my best friend/life partner). I struggle with taking care of myself too with this depression, with things like eating and showering, for example. I can’t see things getting better right now, but I haven’t completely lost hope.
I feel so trapped, I can’t afford or go to school and I know I’d struggle with it, I can’t work a regular job, I can’t find motivation for my business, and I can’t afford mental healthcare and the state insurance isn’t cooperating for me or a lot of people. It’s so easy to blame myself, though, for all of it and how most things just don't work out for me. I feel so trapped.
I would love some resources, free or very low cost mental health support ideas, or ideas about anything that might help me really. Thank you so much. <3
Goodness. You’ve suffered a lot because of all the cracks and gaps in our system. There really isn’t much of a solid social safety net here in the US, unfortunately, as you’ve seen so far. There are a lot of parts to this, so I will try to take them one at a time.
I want you to realize that being born into poverty isn’t your fault, and it is HARD to climb the social ladder to escape it. Poverty is, ironically enough, prohibitively expensive. In fact, it’s so expensive that there are many articles written on it, such as these:
I realize I am likely preaching to the choir here, but I am hoping it will help you feel a little less alone in your current situation. American poverty is a funny thing because we have one of the world’s highest standards of living, and we are arguably one of the wealthiest countries, yet there are so many people just teetering on the edge of abject poverty.
Poverty often creates vicious cycles, such as the mental and emotional struggles you are dealing with being layered on top of the trauma from your childhood and work experiences.
You have legitimate, valid struggles, and I know it is too easy to internalize our struggles and blame ourselves for them. But being poor isn’t something that you can recover from like a cold; it takes a lot of work and time (and honestly some luck). I imagine that where you are right now, it’s hard to figure out where to start. Perhaps learning some more about CPTSD might help:
Now is also the time to learn more about how to accommodate your trauma and particular needs so you do not have to spend precious, limited energy trying to force yourself to do things that don’t work for you. This is a time for grace and patience with yourself because you have been through the wringer. Here's some more information on how to do this:
I also do not drive, and I have found myself worrying about the same things you are in regards to job-hunting and just being an adult in general. I also live in a state with some of the worst drivers, so that doesn’t inspire confidence in myself. (To give you a few examples, people move way too quickly on their way up to stop signs; people treat turn signals as their cue to speed up and prevent the other person from merging; people are on their phones constantly, etc.)
It’s unfortunate that the US does not have much in the way of public transportation outside of major cities. This is because lots of urban planning and suburban sprawl happened after the rise of the automobile, so lots of cities and towns (and infrastructure in general) became centered around cars.
This article explains it more, if you’re curious:
I understand that you are trying to start your own business, but you’re struggling so much with everything else that it’s hard to find the energy for it. This makes total sense! If you have a scholarship, that sounds like it’s got a deadline attached to it. Will this scholarship allow you to pursue this program without accruing additional debt? I can see why you wouldn’t want to pass this by. If you want to move forward with it, then it’s time for shortcuts! Perhaps it’s time to reconsider how you spend your time, so you can accommodate your fatigue instead of battling it. In other words, how can you minimize the time you need for daily tasks (such as commutes or food prep), so you have the energy for this program? Try your best to prioritize, so you can take proper care of yourself and see this program through.
Here's some more information on how to find energy and motivation during depressive episodes:
If you are not on any sort of timeline for it, perhaps you can search for a job and see if you can make some money for savings and debt (and hopefully get health insurance, too). If anything, you’ll make connections and gain experience along the way that can help your future business. I’m not saying you have to give up on the idea altogether; I’m saying that maybe now isn’t the right time for you to take on that particular challenge.
The good that came out of the pandemic is more and more companies and are going remote! This means that employees can work from home full-time or on a hybrid schedule. This should work in your favor as that means you won’t need to go anywhere (at least not all the time). In addition, most places are doing virtual interviews, such as over Skype or Zoom, so it should be easier to schedule them.
That being said, unfortunately, the pandemic has also brought scammers out of the woodwork with fake job scams, too-good-to-be-true offers, etc.
Beware! Some key red flags to look for include:
-No interview process, but you somehow got the job
-Asking you to pay for equipment or training (or anything else)
-Asking you to deliver packages on their behalf
-Communicating over a messaging app, such as WhatsApp and not over email
-Questionable grammar and spelling in any communications with you
Are you still living in California? If so, I did a little browsing of your state website, and it seems fairly straightforward: https://www.ca.gov. You can search for affordable housing opportunities, how to sign up for health insurance, and more. I understand that there are issues with insurance right now in your state, so that is likely putting a damper on things. I think what might help would be to scour the state website for other types of benefits or assistance. This might be a good time to think about where you want to start changing things. Do you want to see if you can qualify for food assistance? Housing assistance? Disability or SSI (or something similar)? Mental or physical healthcare?
In fact, if you do want to move forward with your business idea, I say search your state site to see if you can find further assistance for that. I think any additional funding or knowledge or people that come your way will ease some of that mental burden on you.
If you are coming up empty on your searches for mental health help, I found my therapist on HeadWay. There are other services that offer more affordable mental health help such as TalkSpace, BetterHelp, ZocDoc, and more. And of course, there's Asking Jude's remote, pay-what-you-can peer counseling services! I highly recommend pursuing any Telehealth mental health services so that you do not have to worry about transportation on top of everything else. Do you have any notes or anything from prior mental health professionals? Perhaps if you go back and review their guidance, that can help you manage on tougher days.
Good luck. You’ve been through a lot, but please, just take it one day at a time. Tomorrow is a new day.
Hello there, @Kaelyn ! Thank you so much for reaching out to Asking Jude. I'm so sorry to hear that you're going through such a rough time. One of our peer counsellors will be answering you within the next couple days; that being said, if you need your response answered sooner, we will happily oblige.
Regarding your request for low-cost mental health support, Asking Jude does offer live peer counselling. This is a fully remote, pay-what-you-can alternative to traditional therapy that can be done via text messaging and/or audio/video call.
All of our peer counsellors are trained and never handle more than one or two clients at a time--that way, you can ensure you're getting the personalized service you deserve. If this is something that interests you, you can e-mail us at email@example.com to find out more information.
We'll be answering your full response shortly. Until then, stay strong!