Fear of commitment?

ID-100104103 A few years ago, I thought I had it all figured out. I had taken an online program to re-evaluate my strengths and interests and to update my resume. Shortly after that post, I did get a part-time job with a non profit. That contract ended 5-months ago and, although I still do the occasional project with them, I’m not getting the regular income I used to receive.

Yet I still find myself in the same predicament. I’ve decided I want to work in social services, partly as a result of the experience I’ve had being in the system and partly because I love advocating for others. Many months later of hemming and hawing over which program to take at which school and I’m still trying to make a decision.

Paying for school is not a problem, as I can apply for the Opportunity Fund which assists people with a disability obtain training in the field of their choice. However, I can only apply to the fund once I’ve been accepted into a program. Basically, my fear of no longer being a generalist (which is what got me here in the first place), is what’s stopping me from making the next step. Or maybe it’s another type of fear that’s holding me back.

Fear of commitment perhaps? To specialize in a specific area is daunting to a generalist. Am I not limiting my options by doing so?

It could be fear of failure. What if I don’t get into any of the programs I apply for? What if I get into a program but then am denied the funding?

After so many uphill challenges in the past 5-years, maybe my fear is about being successful. What does that even look like?

I think it’s time to change my definitions of success, failure and commitment.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The perks of poverty

ID-100123804In one of my first posts, I touched briefly on the fact that there are advantages of being on income assistance. And while I wasn’t being sarcastic then, I most likely will be now.

There’s a difference between being low-income and being on income assistance; the former implies you have a job. Once you dip below the poverty line, you become eligible for all sorts of programs.

The crazy thing about the poverty line in BC is that each organization defines that line as something different financially. Let’s look at a breakdown on what your annual income needs to be to qualify for these programs/services:

Less than $46,500/year

  • Subsidized Housing
    • BC Housing has more than 13,000 people on their waitlist
    • Housing is given to those deemed most in need and based on availability
    • You would pay 30% of your income towards rent
    • $1162.50/month for rent

Less than $34,000/year*

  • Subsidized Housing
    • 30% of your income for $850/month rent
  • Rental Assistance
    • For single parents – only one parentcan be in the program
      • If you and your ex share custody, only one of you can apply
    • Based on the previous year’s income tax return
    • Must be working
    • Cannot be on Income Assistance or Disability
    • Based on where you live, # of children, cost of rent, if heat is included and your income

Less than $30,000/year*

  • Subsidized Housing
    • 30% of your income for $750/month for rent
  • Rental Assistance
  • MSP Assistance
    • Pay a percentage of your premiums based on your income
    • Once registered with MSP, you can apply for Fair Pharmacare, which pays for some or all of your prescriptions

Less than $29,706/year*

  • Subsidized Housing
  • Rental Assistance
  • MSP Assistance
  • Leisure Access Card
    • Provides access to swimming and skating at local community centres, including rentals
    • Classes offered at 50% off

Less than $22,000/year*

  • Subsidized Housing
    • 30% of your income for $550/month for rent
  • Rental Assistance
  • Leisure Access Card
  • Free MSP

Less than $21,600/year*

  • Subsidized Housing
  • Rental Assistance
  • Leisure Access Card
  • Free MSP
  • Child Care Subsidy
    • Based on # of children, type of care, amount of time in care and cost of care
      • As with Rental Assistance, only one parent can apply for this subsidy

Less than $5,000/year*

  • No longer eligible for the Leisure Access Pass

Annual income based on one adult and one child on assistance:

The people making $46,500 are on the same subsidized housing waitlist as those making $11,340. Does that make sense? Why are the amounts so different from program to program? Either the poverty line needs to be pushed up to $46,500 or we need to redefine poverty.

*Rates and requirements are approximate and are subject to change.

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net




Climbing out of poverty

When I think of my journey into poverty, a pit in the middle of the desert comes to mind. This pit has a steep hill leading up to the lip of it. The inside of the pit is like a funnel, with the sides made of quicksand. A gaping hole in the middle is lined with deadly spikes. Those of you who are Star Wars fans will recognize this picture of a Scarlacc from Tatooine, the very same one in which  the bounty hunter Boba Fett was tortured.

During my descent into poverty, I did feel like I was making progress and that’s what the steep hill leading up to the rim of the pit represented to me. I remember asking for help then and getting answers like “we can’t help you until you’re making less than x amount of dollars” or “you’re not qualified because you’re self-employed” or “are you a minority, do you have a disability, are you fleeing an abusive relationship or do you need addiction recovery support?”

The simple fact of “I’m struggling to make ends meet” didn’t seem to be an acceptable answer. Even as I started to slide down the funnel and into the pit, I was still given suggestions like “get a second job” or “demand that your ex give you more child support” or simply “I’m sorry, but we can’t help you because you’re not eligible for anything”.

Which was kind of the problem, was it not? Perhaps if I didn’t struggle daily with the ins and outs of depression, I would’ve been able to quickly bounce back from my ever-increasing ‘bad luck’.

At the beginning (about a year-and-a-half ago), I did start cutting back; not eating out as much, cancelling all but basic services for my phone, disconnecting cable and driving my car as little as possible. But when you don’t have a budget in place on how the money coming in is going to be spent, it’s hard to be cognisant of where and what the real problem was.

I think that’s the single biggest error myself and others in similar situations make in that we don’t have a back-up plan. Having been self-employed for over a decade, I’ve basically been living paycheck to paycheck. Which becomes a huge problem when the paychecks stop coming. Now that I’m on disability, I feel like I have a foundation on which to build and grow from. Being on disability is my backup plan now. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than nothing.

What would you do to avoid being tortured like Boba Fett?

Depression as a disability

TeerapunI was raised fairly open-minded, meaning that I was exposed to a variety of different people, abilities and culture. What I learned is that everyone’s trying to do the best with what they have.

Having said that, when someone says they are disabled, I think of someone in a wheelchair, or someone with delayed learning or someone who is visually impaired.

Wikipedia describes a disability as “an impairment that may be physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, developmental, or some combination of these. A disability may be present from birth, or occur during a person’s lifetime.”

When I first inquired about applying for income assistance, one of the first questions they asked me was if I had a disability. I immediately said no. They said “Are you sure? Not even depression or anxiety?” I still said no, even though my depression and anxiety were at an all-time low.

I thought about it afterwards. Depression doesn’t compare to not being able to hear or see or walk, does it? It turns out that it’s not about which disability is better or worse than another. According to the BC Coalition of People with a Disability, any condition is considered a disability if;

  1. Your disability must be severe and be expected to last for at least two years, and
  2. It must directly and significantly restrict your ability to perform daily living activities.

Additionally, because of this disability, you require:

  • Significant help from another person, or
  • Help from an assistive device (e.g. a wheelchair, CPAP machine, LED light), or
  • Help from an assistance animal

So, as long as you can prove the above, you are considered to be a person with a disability whether you have depression, poor eye-sight or a spinal-cord injury.

Fast forward nine-months from that first call to income assistance and I found myself applying for PWD status (persons with a disability). This is a time-consuming, three part process, but the question to keep in mind throughout is “how does your disability affect your life and your ability to take care of yourself?”

If your application has all the components the government is looking for, then you get PWD status. Comparing it to income assistance, PWD is much better because;

  • The base rate you receive is higher.
  • You can make up to $800/month before you have to claim any income.
  • You are not required to look for a job.
  • You can get a yearly bus pass for all zones for just $45.
  • You have access to training grants for upgrading your skills or getting a degree.
  • You are eligible for a range of medical supplies to be paid for.

So for me yes, depression is a disability. It has severely affected my life and my ability to take care of myself. Being on PWD would help me get back on my feet, allow me to upgrade my skills and act as a back-up plan should I ever find myself in a situation like this again. Another month or so and I’ll find out if the government agrees with me, my advocate, my doctor and my assessor.

What do you consider a disability?