Clean your room, make your bed, do your chores. Go to school, get good grades, get a good job. Go to work, be on time, do your best. Provide for your family, pay your bills, stay out of debt and trouble. Live happily ever after, the American dream. Right? That’s how it goes pretty much. That’s what most of us are taught, most of us strive for. We seek for a higher meaning in life, we seek happiness, joy. We want. We want what’s best.
What would you do? I’m sincerely asking each of you, what would you do? If you were me.
I had Jacob when I was just nineteen. I finished high school at a night program and walked the graduation stage wearing a blue maternity top, five months pregnant. My parents weren’t especially excited about my chosen life but they supported me and helped me get on my feet. We moved to Texas when Jake was 9 months. My father, meaning well, gave me an ultimatum. “You have 3 months to find a job and secure a home, then you’re out.” This was the beginning of my career.
I had jobs prior to this; started working at thirteen helping my Mom with medical transcription. At sixteen, I got my first real job at Ambassador Pizza in Sandy, Utah. Then Taco Bell, McDonalds and a couple phone jobs selling family movies and making reservations for people. I got bored easily, never fired-except McDonalds but that was a party emergency-ah to be 16 again.
I got serious when faced with the prospect of being homeless with a baby. I worked at the Holiday Inn from 7-3, then Mobile gas station from 4-10 every day. I didn’t see my baby very often and this was a tough time for me but I worked it out. I struggled as a single parent for 13 years. I had to borrow money often but I always worked, always. Not having any college or training was holding me back, so after the birth of my daughter in 2004, I started school full time and lived mostly on my student loans. I wanted to be home with my new baby while also trying to improve our future. Four years later, I earned an associates degree, even making the deans list one semester. During this time, I had been working part time for State Farm insurance selling commercial lines. I was very good and decided to get my license. An associates degree and an auto/casualty license all at once. Things were definitely looking up.
Looking back, it was such an accomplished time for me and I had worked so hard, I couldn’t see the approaching storm. I didn’t know, just how much my son was suffering. I thought it was just his age, withdrawing, being a little rebellious. We were evicted from my new, recently upgraded apartment because he and a friend decided to spend the night in a vacant apartment, leaving torn up paper everywhere. The next apartment was even worse. This is where the voices and shadows started. This is also where he tried to take his own life.
“It’s a miracle he lived,” said the doctors. Even more miraculous there wasn’t any brain damage or long term affects. The diagnosis was “severe depression with psychotic features.” It was my fault. I wasn’t paying him enough attention, I didn’t provide a father for him, the struggle of having just one parent was to much for him, etc… Severe depression, my fault. A couple years later, after several hospitalizations and even more doctors, the diagnosis changed to “PDD-NOS w/schizoaffective disorder.” This is still where we are today.
If you’ve followed my story here, you know the daily struggles. It’s intense to say the least. Hospitalization has been the only answer other than taking on the responsibility myself.
Around December of 2010, I began getting daily calls at my amazing new, well paying job, from Jakes school to come get him. The “episodes” at school were starting to be to much for him to handle and he was uncomfortable and very afraid. I was also very afraid. I was thankful for such an understanding boss and company. They allowed me to use the “family medical leave act” aka FMLA, to be able to keep my job and care for my son. Unfortunately, my work was suffering, I was falling behind and it was affecting the entire office. I quit my job June, 2011. I have not held a regular job since. I am still a contractor for that amazing company and it’s always such a treat to have a work day but they are few and far between. I also got involved with the community theatre, as it was volunteer and the hours were feasible for me. The theatre provided a sort of refuge for me. It has always been my dream to be involved in theatre and film so this was a nice side job that eventually started to pay. However, neither of these jobs could support a family. There is a very small percentage of doctors in Texas that accept Medicaid, even fewer in mental health. The maximum amount of SSI Texas offers is $489 a month and food stamps just $400 a month.
I met a man named Jason in the beginning of this journey with Jacob. He has been witness to everything and while I’m not “in love” with him anymore, I love him dearly and I know with certainty, God sent him to us. I don’t give Jason enough credit and I’m sincerely sorry for that. I married him just a few months after Jakes suicide attempt. He was everything I needed at the time and without him, I can’t bear the thought of where we could possibly be. His kind, understanding and patient demeanor helped hold us up. He worked for an amazing company with amazing benefits that allowed me to give Jake the best of what Dallas had to offer in this regard. During my research, I learned that California has actual legislation written with regards to those on the spectrum. There were services and resources available that weren’t even heard of in Texas. Jason boldly applied for a transfer there and two years later, was promoted into a brand new position in the North Bay.
Sadly, I neglected to pay the balance at both of those apartments, leaving me with two evictions on my credit. It’s funny to me to think that during one of the most accomplished times in my life, after working so incredibly hard to avoid these types of things, it happens.
I wasn’t mislead by what my new state has to offer. The process of getting it started, is just taking a while and could even be a few more weeks. It’s worth the wait but not having a home is making it harder.
So here we are, holding on for dear life, literally.
So I ask you, with sincerity, what would you do?
Much love, Julie