It's true... and sometimes it even works.
People think I am a bit of a "Prima Donna" based solely on my outward appearance ... but that hasn't been the case for quite a long time.
The last three years of my life have taught me some very tough lessons and revealed things to me I would simply rather not know about myself, my short-comings and foibles. They have shown me basement after basement, which seem infinitely endless ... though simple mathematics tells me I will hit the last one before much longer. I suspect that will be a hospital bed at the local psychiatric hospital for me ... assuming I could even get in ... and for my family? I couldn't say. Living on somebody's couch? In our truck? It is really the only thing left that we own that hasn't been taken away.
Since 2013, we have lost two businesses, our house and my mind. After 15 years of renovating and flipping houses - all through my two daughters' childhoods, I will add - we ran into a particularly rough patch financially, when my spouse's business did a face plant (thanks to a large, multi-national company running him down). It happens ... what can you do? He was frantically looking for work, but no company wants to hire someone who has been self employed ... they are too difficult to control/manage (at least based on the feed back of a local job placement company). I was contracted to a mortgage broker through my own business, but my ability to deduct taxes from my income was annihilated due to the overwhelming financial needs of my household. Hence, I had a pretty serious tax issue brewing and no possible way to deal with it and still feed my children.
We approached the mortgage insurer that held the policy on our home after the lender involved refused to work with us (or even discuss the matter until we were in serious default) and were told they couldn't get involved unless the lender requested it. Here's a little nugget for you to chew on: The lender had no skin in the game. They knew full well that CMHC had to pay the claim once it got to the legal stage. Our lender was much more interested in nailing us with $150.00 service charges on every attempted payment, than actually trying to avoid foreclosure. This was on top of the $45.00 charges our bank was hitting us with... AND to make it even better, they were charging us the $150 even when it was a service charge that tried to go through. Essentially, we asked for some assistance in sorting the issue out without catastrophic loss and they threw us an anchor. We were paying 200%, 400%, 1600% etc... of the penalties until we finally had to stop all payments from the account and shut it down. It was the only way to staunch the flow.
At this point we went back to the lender and the insurer but, because it had gone to legal, neither could, nor would, help us then, either. It was at this point that the realization that we were going to lose our house set in. Everything we had worked so hard for - for the previous 15 years... was all about to unravel and there was not a damned thing we could do about it. We tried asking for all of the arrears and service charges to be tacked onto the balance of the mortgage and to simply reset the payments so we had a chance in hell of staying ... but they declined. BTW - this is a program that CMHC advertises as being available to Canadian families experiencing financial difficulty in order to avoid foreclosure. What they neglect to mention is: if you have a lender that refuses, they cannot/will not force them... so essentially, you're screwed.
Our home had been for sale for a number of months at this point, with little to no interest.
What happened instead is a real head scratcher for anyone with an ounce of sense in their head. What they did, was to extricate us from our house - forcing us into a rental payment that exceeded what we had been paying in mortgage payments and then they paid a property management company a king's ransom to take care of the empty shell of our lives. I'm not even kidding. I don't have the exact number in front of me as I type, but between legal fees, maintenance, heating, replacing the furnace, real estate charges, property management and whatever else they stuck in there, it was well above $20K and that doesn't even include the $9K+ of service charges listed in the disbursements. All lost by them at the end, as the eventual sale of the property left well over $70K still owing. $70-odd K that 4 months after the house finally sold, CMHC then wanted to talk to us about.
Yeah ... okay - sure. You wanna talk now, do you? Well ... fuck you, CMHC and the horse you rode in on ... AND the property management company, the realtor, the lawyers and the mortgage company! Fuck all of you!
In the meantime, I had a pre-teen child who had been struggling already socially in the school environment, that I had to uproot and plunk in a brand new school, in a brand new town. A child for whom we had been trying to access help - for the previous 3+ years through both the school system and the health care system ... and to no apparent avail. This was a child who was raging against the machine in every way. She was throwing violent tantrums at a rate of 3-4 per week where she screamed like someone was skinning her alive and, in some cases, became violent with me as well as her younger sister. A child who was floundering in classes and who was absolutely miserable, and an absolute misery with whom to live.
I had no idea what to do. I reached out to my baby sister who works in the education system in another province as a psychologist. She (God love her little cotton socks) was a plethora of assistance and helped me navigate our way through having my child assessed and seen by medical professionals - all in hopes of helping all of us cope while my life was literally flying into pieces in nearly every way possible. The diagnoses ranged from Autism to ADD to 'early onset' Bi-Polar disorder. To say it was scary, is an understatement - but I had to stay the course and advocate for her ... even though I was barely coping myself.
I had started self-medicating some time earlier, but it was escalating at this stage, for sure. Vodka and pot was how it started, but I found an even more powerful 'drug' of choice in the coming months. One that had the earmarks of total destruction where my marriage was concerned. I was working for a man that had absolutely zero issue exploiting my financial troubles to his advantage. I had informed him - in broad terms - what was happening financially because I felt obligated to do so while working in a financial position. He used this information to control and punish me for behavior he deemed unacceptable... like when I asked him for a raise. Docking me hours and pay at will. He is a very demanding man - nearly impossible to please - and has never been able to keep an assistant. Can't imagine why ...
I am afraid... and isolated and bone tired and I need help that doesn't seem to be coming.
When our lease was up at the first rental, we moved again ... changing the schools - AGAIN. It seemed to everyone on the outside, that I had completely lost my mind, but I was so incredibly miserable in that house and neighborhood - I simply had to leave if I wanted a chance at piecing our world back together. My husband had been working for a virtual call center from home and I essentially saw him when I brought his meals downstairs to that dungeon of an office, and again when I went back to retrieve the dirty dishes. I was (and continue to operate as) a single mother of two pre-teens. One with serious mental health issues of her own... all while mother nature blessed her with the toxic soup that is hormones and menstruation in young girls.
After we moved and Summer settled in, Hubs landed another job. A good paying, but with a heavy requirement for travel - job. Thank Heaven! This, in addition to the much better surroundings for us, as a family, and the introduction of an Occupational Therapist for my oldest, created a bubble under which, I could begin to recharge my battery. She did very well with this guidance and when school went back in September, she had real tools she could utilize and for the very first time in her life, she made not only a best friend ... but she landed herself a possey. It was the very best news I had received in nearly two full years at that point.
I can't tell you why I did so, other than because it felt good, but it was during this time that I reached out to someone I had known (and been insanely attracted to) as a twenty year old. I had heard he and his wife had separated and it was as if I had no real cognitive choice in the matter ... I simply couldn't leave it alone. Perhaps that is a cop out, but I'm certain I have beaten myself about the head and shoulders sufficiently to have paid the penance twice over. It wasn't long before he and I were hot and heavy ... over the internet, or in later days, the telephone. He had sense enough to not agree to see me in person - I know without hesitation there would have been a physical relationship, had I been the only deciding factor. He is a beautiful man. I got so very many things from that contact. He is very well written, highly intelligent, funny, kind beyond words and STABLE ... and let's not forget, he is the sexiest man I have ever encountered. I did make excuses enough to see him briefly a couple of times ... publicly ... but my entire body was reduced to goose-flesh and tingles in his presence. Every single hair on my body will still rise at the thought of his nearness. I referred to him as 'chocolate covered heroin'. The most valuable part of this contact, of course, was escape. I could escape into him. Away from bills and stress and asshole bosses and absentee husbands and children that needed me to be whole. I needed me to be whole and although it was a fallacy, I felt whole when I was entangled with him. I didn't feel like such a worthless dirt bag or complete waste of skin when I talked to him. I didn't feel so completely alone.
Shortly after Christmas, the financial fallout began. Revenue Canada had caught up to us, CMHC and a few other collectors were assembling the wolf pack that would see to the kill shot on our very short-lived reprieve. Against every cell in my body, my husband dragged me to a trustee in bankruptcy. I acted like a two year old and refused to even speak (it was initially a phone conversation, held behind the closed door of our bedroom - so the kids wouldn't hear.). It's funny how well that man knows me ... he just carried on - answering the questions as posed ... incorrectly ... and it wasn't long before my obsessive compulsive mind and mouth took over the meeting. Brilliant, really.
In the early parts of March, we assembled and sent three years worth of tax returns for me and two for my husband. We gathered all of the nasty legal and collection notices and went to the office of the trustee we eventually settled upon. We were dealing with the kind of numbers from which you simply can't recover ... short of winning a large jackpot in the lotto. (...and that is my only retirement plan, so I can't mess with that just yet) The seemingly very nice lady sat us down and gave us some options. Options I had actually not considered previously. We decided to file a consumer proposal, rather than going bankrupt. There were a number of reasons why this was preferable, not the least of which, the fact that once it was accepted, we could happily go about our lives and just treat it as a loan payment - right down to being able to pay it off early - should that glorious opportunity present itself. Sounded good. It seemed, in fact, that based on every piece of information provided to us (and after my insistent probing for worst case scenarios) we were on track for acceptance and finally ready to take that beautiful step forward into the rest of our lives... battered, but still kicking. Our marriage had certainly sustained collateral damage during the previous couple of years, but it seemed as though we had turned a corner and could shift our focus to our relationship and our girls while they were still kids.
On April 22nd, the ground opened and swallowed me into yet another basement. My husband, being the nosey and rather suspicious type that he is ... and after returning from yet another long business trip - hacked my cell phone and read an email chain that my 'amour' and I had been writing back and forth for a couple of days. I had actually started a cool off with him some time before that and had refocused myself on my own life and relationship ... but had 'fallen off the wagon', so to speak, in recent days. It was a pretty bad email for him to read. It seems I have developed quite a talent for erotica as a writing style.
It was 5:30am on that Friday when he returned home and read that email. I knew he had seen something by his strange behavior, but didn't know what ... and he wasn't talking. I got into the shower around 6ish and after a few minutes, he came in behind me. What happened next can really only be described as assault. He (very aggressively) began manhandling me from behind and when he did not get the response he wanted, he leaned into my ear and said in a violent whisper that he must not have the 'right' touch. I was like a deer in headlights. I didn't act. I didn't react. I finished washing and got out ... got ready for work, the kids off to school and got the hell out of there...
Right into the jaws of a boss that rides me like a circus pony, barking orders and impossible requests at me every 12 seconds.
Fast forward to that night, the shit hit the fan. I wound up - after an hour or so of complete meltdown on his part - with his head in my lap, sobbing. It was absolutely awful. We wound up hashing over this for the next couple of weeks and landed in marriage counseling shortly thereafter. Counseling that we 'graduated' from after one visit together and one each alone. Complete bullshit! I was, of course, encouraged to get individual counseling. This system sucks... and that was through the EAP at work ... so not publically funded. I was devastated!
During the weeks that followed, my general health deteriorated substantially. Having told my life line what had happened, he promptly disappeared from my world, deleting me from facebook, cutting off all contact. I am certain you could hear my heart break from outside of my body when I had fully digested the fact that he was gone. Even my husband knew ... and said as much. (...and I swear I never wanted to hurt him ... this was not about him ... it was entirely about me) I had already developed 'Irritable Bowel Syndrome' and was experiencing insomnia, cluster and migraine headaches, major indigestion and acid reflux, rampant panic attacks & high level anxiety and my state of depression had reached an all time low. I have been treated for clinical depression - more on than off - since I was 16 years old and have been continually medicated (much to my chagrin) for the past 11 years. I have likened life with me to a roller coaster ride for a very VERY long time. I can track my year in highs and lows ... every single one I remember, in fact. It's the same year over year. I am a very high functioning person... have always been... I am a verb. Over time, I have instituted numerous coping tactics to get me through these highs and lows - therefore making it nearly impossible for my doctor to diagnose what the real issue actually is.
In May, out of complete desperation, I turned (once again) to my primary physician for help. I asked her to refer me to a psychiatrist who could properly medicate and follow up in such a way as to level me out. Living life at the best of times as a roller coaster is hard enough, but facing the battles I have and continue to do - I need a level head and control over my emotional response more than ever. During that appointment, she asked me a set of different questions that she hadn't previously asked. Once I had given her my answers, she looked at me in a way that seemed a little horrified and said "this sounds like you may be bi-polar" ... and if so, "you are not being medicated properly at all." She prescribed a mood stabilizer, to go with the anti-depressant and other mood stabilizer I was already taking and put in a referral. The idea being that she would apply a Band-Aid until proper treatment could be obtained. That was eight weeks ago. I FINALLY heard back about an appointment this morning and I can't get in any sooner than September 29th. Do you believe that?
In the meantime, I have been put off work on a medical leave. Which has an inherent danger in and of itself. Being alone is not my friend. I am my own worst enemy and much more inclined to get myself into trouble when left unattended and with no purpose.
Meanwhile, Revenue Canada is dragging its heels reassessing my 2013 return. They have had it since mid-March and I received a letter mid-April stating that it had been forwarded to the appropriate department. I have 2014 and 2015 back, but still no 2013 after four full months. This is important because they assessed me arbitrarily at an income that was nearly 5 times more than I actually made that year and it is showing as a $14K debt ... where I actually should have had a refund that year of around 2K. This is only important because in a proposal, your creditors get to vote on whether or not your proposal passes. Their vote is weighted according to the amount of debt owed in comparison to the total amount of debt owed. There is a limited amount of time where the trustee can hold the proposal open and without accurate reductions being processed by Rev Can (for example) they have enough of the vote, when combined with one other creditor that has voted no, to prevent the proposal from passing. This means that if we don't immediately declare bankruptcy, we lose creditor protection and Revenue Canada is free to garnish our wages, seize our accounts and basically relegate us to living in a cardboard box... and the payment that we would have to make in a bankruptcy is about double what we can afford... and we are certainly not living the high life over here.
It seems unimaginably suspect and personal to me. Even when I call and speak to the multitude of people at Rev Can, when reading my file, they are all scratching their heads. Unable to figure out what in the hell is going on with my account. There isn't even a collector assigned, but a requirement to pay has already been issued - which is actually in contrast to their own internal policy. It is mind-numbingly frustrating and makes me just want to stop existence completely... except that I can't be the mother that 'offed' herself because she couldn't cope. I can't do that to my kids or my spouse or mother or friends that I haven't completely alienated so far. But I am not coping... and as hard as I try, I cannot seem to access any help.
I have been paying for short term disability through my hateful employer and have been attempting to access it - to very little avail. It would seem that they don't just let you take time off for medical issues ... you have to give them your 'barriers' so they can adjust your working environment to cope with the issue. Okay ... how about this: Fix my life. There is my barrier. I am cluster-fucked in almost every way a 'privileged white North American' can be. I can't keep a thought in my head to save my life, have absolutely nothing - nada to give the many people that count on me to function in their lives and the only damned thing that keeps me from crying incessantly, is make up ... and the knowledge that in order to keep crying, I have to drink even more water ... and that seriously cuts into my vodka drinking capacity.
I am feeling completely abandoned by every system I have attempted to access and persecuted by the few that seem to want my blood on their teeth. Tomorrow marks the day we must decide what to do with the proposal. My husband is not going to be there because he is away for work. Oh and he just received his schedule for the rest of this year and it seems he will be away for three weeks at a time and home for one. I don't think I need to draw a picture of what is likely to happen in his absence. Even if my 'addiction' keeps me at bay ... I am sure I could locate another with a lesser set of morals.
I am afraid... and isolated and bone tired and I need help that doesn't seem to be coming.