Monday, February 29, 2016

What I Did for My Two Year Hiatus


Toward the end of 2013, I became homeless. I became homeless after a conflict with my family that resulted in a broken kitchen cabinet and an ultimatum that I have my caseworker find me a new place to live. (The irony here is that I did not at that time have a caseworker, as my SMI (Seriously Mentally Ill) diagnosis was still being processed and I hadn’t yet been assigned a care provider or a clinic.) With some help with organizations connected to Community Bridges (which is a sort of interim provider while they find a place to put you) I ended up at a halfway house called Carry the Message.

Carry the Message catered to both those with substance abuse problems and physical/mental disability.  I did not have money to pay rent but I was assured that I would be able to pay with foodstamps until I got a job. By the way, it’s illegal to use foodstamps as legal tender. Do not use foodstamps (EBT) as legal tender because it is illegal. I was however desperate, so that’s what I did. (What happened was I gave T the woman who ran Carry the Message my EBT card and the password and she spent it on groceries. Don’t do this folks. Just don’t.) During this time I found that I had a caseworker, service provider and case worker, which meant I was finally getting more help.

The next three months featured me desperately trying to find a job and not getting any leads or any interviews, which describes my life since roughly 2009. This led to a great deal of increased stress and inability to cope so I eventually ended up at a hospital/care center whose name slips my mind as of this writing. When I got back from the hospital I found that my stuff had been moved out and someone else had been moved in, despite T’s assurances that I would still have a place to go when I got back. (To be slightly fairer than I want to be they had been pretty accommodating concerning my sleep apnea, acid reflux/indigestion from hell, tendency to snore like a drunken pig and cough like a smoker hacking up a lung.) Fortunately my caseworker had decided to come with me on a home visit and was able to argue T and L (the house person) into letting me stay the night. 

So! Most of the next day was spent with trying to get a hold of a shelter and getting a ride there. I was only able to take two bags so I was forced to abandon a great number of things, and some things were never recovered like my goddamn wooden lap desk and writing/office supplies. I ended up at the Watkins emergency shelter which was not a place conducive to my being able to write. I had also gotten it into my head that I should not write, and should instead concentrate on finding a job. Not writing did not actually help much with finding a job during this period as I was too busy trying to adjust to my new meds and trying not to flip out because of the lack of privacy and people bitching about either the snoring or coughing.)

I slept a lot. I slept a stupid amount and made occasional abortive attempts to do job search while being mentally, emotionally and occasionally physically compromised by things like curfews, chores and occasional accusations of poor hygiene. This did nothing for my state of mental health, but thanks to my poor caseworker who I nagged constantly (this was my anxiety acting up) I was eventually able to get into the clinic that was at the homeless services campus where we got dropped off every day.  The curfew anxiety didn’t help much with my attempts to get to various medical and therapy appointments.

This (getting into the onsite clinic) led to better mental equilibrium! I ended up looking into housing options, and continuing my job search under the observation the shelter’s job counselor. (I also technically had a job counselor at the clinic but because of how far away my clinic was from where I was living at the time, I sort of put those meetings on hiatus because of anxiety concerning being on time to catch the bus back to the shelter.) I still wasn’t getting any interviews though, and I think I would not have been able to get to anyway because of the stupid freaking curfew and my anxiety concerning same. (You had to be back at the shelter by three. (It might have been four but I don’t remember.) The only way to get to the shelter was via a little shuttle bus. If you were late and missed the little shuttle bus you lost your bed and had to re-apply to get into the shelter. So. Much. Anxiety.)

It was discovered that I qualified for a housing program so I applied! The only problem with this program was that I would still need to pay for utilities and for household supplies that were not food. I had EBT though, and I had friends and acquaintances who were willing to donate money and/or supplies. So I found a place that had paid utilities (it is somewhere I have lived before) and I was able to move in February 2015. My parents had been reluctantly willing to keep my things, and returned them when I moved in, except for my bookcases which had been left out in the weather for year instead of you know, being kept in the room I vacated because if you leave bookcases out in the weather for a year they become boards of warped useless wood. (Which I supposed I deserved since I broke the kitchen cabinet.)

Another benefit of moving into the apartment was that my clinic was now much closer, so I could actually go to the clinic for my various appointments. (I am still somewhat shy about attending groups though.) I was able to get into Vocational Rehab, which resulted in some job assessment and eventually getting put into a training program. I am not entirely happy with the job category I was shuffled into however. I wanted to pick library sciences or something similar. The Voc Rehab caseworker decided that I was going to get a job that would have more openings, so I’m looking for office work, despite not having any experience with office work except for my “admin position” that was mostly adding up routing sheets, that only lasted a few months before I was laid off. I also told her I wanted to work with computers (and design/programming) and she decided that a secretarial/receptionist job counted as working with computers so I was sent off to learn Microsoft Office 2010. (I also admit that I was reluctant to get schooling that would require student loans as I was up to my ears in them.) So I took classes at a place called Canyon State Institute, and eventually got Specialist Certificates (Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint) from a site called Certiport.   

After the schooling, I reconnected with the clinic’s job counselor! (This is actually a lot more complicated: the vocational rehab person initially tried to give me a different job counselor but the counselor she wanted was stationed at another clinic and was of no mind to interfere with my job counselor’s turf.) So! I restarted my job search, this time taking greater care to record and keep track of things. I got a few interviews, but still no job offers.
 
And I still wasn’t writing. Not even fan fiction.  Partly because I was still convinced that I should only concentrate on finding a job (at pretty much the cost of doing anything else, even though I was being told that was a bad idea by various counselors and caseworkers) and partly because of a logistics issue. You see, I do not have a home internet connection. This means I have to do all my internet interactions at the library. Fortunately, I have a laptop (gift of a friend), so I don’t have to try to use the library computers. (You only get an hour. And I doubt they’d let me use a flash drive on their computers.) Having to go to the library every day in order to use the internet makes online writing a little difficult, especially when you are also supposed to be doing job search.

I did eventually start writing, though the logistics went something like this: write on the home computer, transfer document to the flash drive, make a copy on the laptop, go to the library, upload or copy/paste the document, and there you go. And this was in addition to job search and reading/downloading fan fiction and also messing around on Tumblr/blogging on my main blogs. I did notice I was still getting interviews, so I think I finally have it in my head that I can write while also job searching. I think I might shift to only writing on my laptop and using the home computer as backup, which takes out the extra step of working on the home computer. 

I do not know how far I want to go with the writing. My previous attempt at monetizing my blogs and writing content was not very successful. (And also very stressful as I really wasn’t getting a lot of hits or comments, and with content producing, you need to be more productive than I was in order to get the hits that lead to getting money. I am not someone who can bang out ten thousand words a day, even if I set aside time to do the banging.) I definitely want to work on my monetized blogs and also try to figure out where exactly I went wrong with my social media efforts. (A lot of the problem is that I am actually terrible at actual socializing.)
I do know that I need something else to do besides job search and reading. The lack of writing was making me depressed, but I was also depressed because I couldn’t think of anything to write. Also, the thought of returning to my monetized blogs was extremely unappealing for a while. 

This time around I have more of a support system, so I think I might be able to be more productive. The support system involves my caseworker(s), my job counselor, my therapist, the meds, and of course my friends. I think I flopped so badly the last time was because I didn’t have a great deal of support. I was on my own trying to get help for my problems while job searching and attempting to work on my writing which I wasn’t able to do very much of because I was too depressed and anxious to really work on my writing and job searching. I don’t know if I can improve productivity, but I hope I can improve quality.