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I can’t walk.

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Well, I should be on my way to work, but since I can’t get out of bed, I’m just lying here waiting for one of my roommates to wake up and help me move around.

Let’s go back to the beginning (since I have the time)!

I started my new job last week and I would go into more detail, but there’s a lot of HIPAA stuff and I just don’t really want to blow up my spot. I’ll say a few things:

  • I work with a lot of doctors.
  • Literally everyone who works there is lovely — the people who run it will actually decline to accept a practitioner who has a nasty attitude.
  • I foresee this being my favorite job I’ve ever had up to this point.
  • My health insurance (when it starts next month) will be amazing and completely employer-funded.

The other day I was talking to Travis about how happy I was at work, but that I was having trouble sleeping because I had so much anxiety waiting for something else to go wrong. I haven’t posted everything I went through last year online because it’s a lot and really depressing and I didn’t want to keep bringing everybody down, but let’s just say I was very much at the end of my rope and had run out of ways to climb out of this ditch that kept deepening.

Yesterday, that something else to go wrong happened.

The girl who is training me this week needed to use my computer (formerly her computer) to get some passwords and stuff, and while she did that, I decided to start on a little organizational project in a spare room. I want to turn it into our package room, but it needs to be cleaned out and organized. I bent down to pick up a box of tissues, felt a twinge in my lower back, and collapsed in a puddle on the floor. I have never had a back problem and I’ve never felt a pain like that in my life. I rubbed the spot where it hurt and crawled to a chair, but that’s the best I could do. I sat in there for twenty minutes in tears, rubbing my back and trying to stand up.

After I made it to my feet, I hobbled out of the room — bent over at a 90 degree angle — and shuffled down the hallway a few paces before I heard a woman behind me.

“What happened?”

I don’t know! I bent over to pick something up and collapsed. I can’t stand up.

(half-dragging me) “Come with me.”

Uh, what do you do here?

“I’m a chiropractor.”

OH OKAY!

So “Dr. Candice” pulled me into her room and on the table and started examining me. She said I have stress in my lower back and muscle knots and it was a back spasm waiting to happen. A few months ago I was putting lotion on my back and I noticed this hard spot and honest to god, I thought it was just a bone I never realized was there before. Didn’t even think anything else about it. It’s a knot. I was so stressed out all last year I made myself a cute lil knot of muscle in my lower back.

Candice worked me out for about ten minutes and it was like magic! She is hella strong and by the time she finished, I could stand up, and my pain had subsided from a 10 to a 4. I went back to my desk to do some more work and she told me to come see her if it started to act up again.

Sidenote: The super cool thing about working with fun doctors is if they can treat it, they will. There’s an allergist who is going to do tests on me next week because I was telling her nurse how I’d had about six anaphylactic reactions in boarding school and three over the past seven months (part of my stress, almost dying three times while unemployed with no health insurance).

Anyway, my back got progressively tighter and tighter as the day went on, and when Candice was between patients, she stopped by the desk and hooked me up to this:

I wasn’t listening when she told me what it was, but I looked it up this morning (because I desperately need one at home!) and it’s a TENS unit. It sends electrical impulses to wherever you attach the pads. Candice put them on me where it hurt most, told me to wear it for about an hour, and increase the intensity as I got used to the levels.

Again — MAGIC! Pain went down to a 2. Y’all I was so excited about it I text so many people just to tell them my back went out and a doctor saved me for free.

When it was time for me to leave, I was nervous about having to take the subway because I didn’t know when I’d be in pain again. I made it home with no problem, cooked dinner, baked cookies. The only time it really hurt was when I had to change positions from sitting to standing. Otherwise it was more of a dull ache. I went to bed last night and really didn’t think about it.

Five AM, woke up almost screaming. I sleep on my back and I was in mid-turn to my side and jolted awake with the same intense pain I had yesterday. I just laid there on my side until I had to pee and then I tried to get out of bed. LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE. I cannot express to you the level of pain. If it was a 10 yesterday when I collapsed, it’s like a 20 when I try to swing my feet off the bed so I can stand up. I would roll out of bed and crawl, but my bed is too high off the ground and I would probably hurt myself.

(this part is gross — skip this paragraph if you want to maintain a Pristine Classy Image of me)

There’s no way I can make it to the bathroom so my options are limited. Pee in the bed (no), pee off the bed onto the floor where I have my clothes from the past two days (no), pee in one of the bottles I keep next to the bed to spit in when I have snot in the morning (I know, it’s gross, but getting up to go spit in the sink every time I have to clear the drainage in the back of my throat is annoying, and using tissue is needlessly wasteful, so I spit in an empty Soylent bottle and then throw it away when I do finally get up). So that’s what I did. I painfully rolled to the edge of the bed, put my dick in the bottle, and peed (finally, having a big penis pays off in some part of my life where a white bottom isn’t being problematic).

(you can start reading again now if you skipped that!)

So anyway. That’s my life right now. I can’t get out of bed. I think I’m going to ask one of my roommates to go out and buy me a TENS unit and I can pay them back when I get paid? That worked so fast and so well yesterday, I think I can get by using that as my pain management system until I can get a full workup done and find out what’s wrong with me.

🙁

I’m gonna try to get up again. I’ve been rolling from side to side a little so maybe it’s loosened up! Wish me luck!

🙂

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Economics

Unemployment Stories

It sucks out here.

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I’m unemployed and so are a lot of people I know here in NYC. These are some of our stories, which I’m gonna write in first person because I think it reads a bit smoother that way.

(Mine is at the end because it’s mostly about my mental health.)

James, 27, Actor

I don’t work on Broadway, I’ve never been on a series, and I’m frequently out of work for short stretches, but I do okay. There’s always a way to make money in NYC, so I hope for a big break and work temp jobs or little gigs between acting jobs. I’m a bike messenger, a handyman, a dog walker, a  house sitter, a mover — if it’s legal cash at the end of the day, I’ve probably done it.

It took a couple of months to finally qualify for unemployment, and even with the federal bump, it was barely enough to cover all my bills. Without that extra $600 though? Forget about it. My two roommates don’t make enough to cover my quarter of the rent, so I’m subletting to someone who can. I moved in with a friend of mine in Jersey City who also can’t make his rent and we’re splitting a one-bedroom until work picks up again. The lease at my apartment in Brooklyn runs out in December and they don’t want to re-sign (two of them are leaving the city) so I’m not really sure what I’m gonna do with all of my stuff.

Candice, 23, Waitress

My restaurant closed for good and I put out a lot of applications because unemployment isn’t enough and I needed to work. Luckily, I got a job waiting tables at a place right by my apartment so I can walk to work. Unluckily, I literally got COVID after like one week. It wasn’t bad and I don’t think I have any lasting effects, but I’m still pissed. And now that I’ve recovered, I’m back at work.

Shannon, 28, Publishing

I got laid off at the end of March and immediately packed up and went back home to my parents’ in Pennsylvania. I qualified for full unemployment benefits pretty quickly, and then the pandemic unemployment on top of that, so I was getting $1100 a week for awhile there and it was really nice to be honest. I probably would’ve stuck it out in the city had I known from the start that I would’ve been able to afford it, found another job, maybe a cheaper apartment, who knows. Now I’m collecting unemployment while I look for a decent job (obviously not in publishing anymore) in rural Pennsylvania.

Thomas, 31, Sex Worker

I haven’t had a steady job in years because they don’t pay enough. Why would I work 40 hours a week to barely make ends meet when I can work a few hours here and there and pay rent, party, travel, whatever I want? I never wanted a job, but now I wish I’d had one so I could get an unemployment check. I qualified for PUA as a gig worker (as a “dancer”), but that’s already gone. I didn’t feel safe looking for “dates” at first, but everybody gotta eat so I do a little here and there. I stopped paying rent in May and I’m waiting to be evicted because I’m not working at McDonald’s. I’m moving back into my mom’s house in Alabama when that happens.

Marcella, 44, Cashier

A couple of years ago, I was making $14.50 because I had been there for awhile and I got a little raise and more responsibility every year. When minimum wage went to $15, I got a raise to $15. I told management I thought I deserved $16.50, because I was making $1.50 more than the $13 minimum before the boost, and other people got a $2 raise while I only got a 50 cent raise. They said they couldn’t afford it. Nobody really hires 40 year old cashiers, and I didn’t finish high school, so I just stayed.

I was out of work when everything shut down and the $600 a week was twice my paycheck, so I saved most of it. I’m back at work, but our hours still aren’t back to what they were, so I’m using that money I saved up to cover my bills. Hopefully we’ll get more before it’s all gone.

Jenna, 25, Admin

When offices shut down, I worked from home. Nothing else really changed until this summer. There’s not enough work to go around and I got laid off. I qualified for unemployment but honestly, I was already living paycheck to paycheck, and now I have about $75 left for the month after I pay rent and bills. It makes me wish I’d been unemployed at the beginning when everybody was getting a federal bonus because I could’ve saved up some money or something. I’m not sure how many more struggle meals I can take.

Me!

I started my (dream) job on March 5th, the office closed on March 15th, and I was officially let go on March 23rd. As much as I try not to, I still wallow in that disappointment every few weeks because I found the job I’d been looking for the past decade in NYC. It was the highest salary, most vacation days, best healthcare plan, and friendliest team of co-workers I’d been offered. I legitimately cried on the train after my first day because I was so relieved to have found a job that I could envision as a career indefinitely.

Anyway, not wallowing currently.

I saved up all my pandemic bonus money and that’s what I use to pay rent now because unemployment doesn’t cover my bills. The job market is competitive out there. So far I’ve gotten to a third interview four times and not gotten the job, which is honestly playing havoc with my mental health because every rejection feels like there must be something wrong with me (as opposed to something in particular that was right with another candidate). I feel unqualified and unlikeable and I hate hunting for jobs, especially since my biggest mental health issues are depression and anxiety.

It’s a 180 degree change from May when I felt mostly fine. I didn’t feel like a failure for not having a job, because nobody had a job. I didn’t feel anxious about not having a forward and upward Life Trajectory, because everyone was standing still. Now the world is moving on, I need a job to make sure I can still pay the bills, and every day a bit more panic sets in that I’ll never find another job I like or another job that can pay my bills. Each time I get a rejection email, it’s a paralyzing disappointment that knocks me on my ass for a couple of days. The only job offer I’ve gotten would pay me about $120 more per week than unemployment does.

I’m not taking it. I would spend 40 hours a week (50 if you count the commute each way, because it’s not a work from home position) being miserable at a job I hate, feeling like a failure anyway because I’m a grown man working for peanuts just to say I have a job.  That shitty job, or other shitty jobs like it, will still be there months from now, and if I take it now, I don’t have the time to interview for a job I would potentially want…or at least a job that would actually pay the bills.

So I’m waiting and hoping and trying to stay sane.

It sucks out here.

 

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Me

Thank a librarian.

Libraries are community centers and librarians keep them going!

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I spent a lot of time at the library as a child because I didn’t have any friends.

Just kidding! I had lots of friends and was totes popular, but I was basically an only child since my older sister was off to college before I was even forming memories. She taught me how to read, my parents encouraged it, and since they both worked, books were an easy way for me to entertain myself.

Parenting Life Hack: If your kids have a quiet hobby, you spend less money on Excedrin for migraines.

My hometown had about 400 people and only 17 of them could read, so we didn’t have a library, but just across the river in the bustling metropolis next door where 9,000 people lived, there was a library staffed with nice ladies and one old gay man who basically raised me while my mom did errands. A librarian is not a babysitter and they don’t get paid to watch your kids, so please don’t just drop your kids off in front of the bookdrop and hightail it outta there. However, my parents were really relaxed about leaving me places, because they were very old and the Scary News Stories didn’t phase them. There was a higher chance of your child being abducted in the 1940s than the 1990s, yet our parents and grandparents were out all day by themselves from sunup to sundown while we were expected to be tied to our parents at all times. My folks pretty much functioned under the premise that nobody was going to take me out of a library — I would have to actually follow them, and I wasn’t stupid (and I didn’t/don’t like people).

So I spent many a Sunday afternoon in the library while my mom was running errands and my favorite librarian, Ms. Greer, would actually entertain me….by putting me to work. Had I known I was doing her job for her, I would’ve asked for a cut of her paycheck, but 3rd Grade Me was very excited to ink the inside back cover of all the new books with the fancy library stamp. I felt super important being trusted with the task of taking the returns and putting them in their proper spot on the shelf (thanks, Dewey Decimal training!). She had me take Lemon Pledge and wipe down the study corrals and I did it with gusto.

When my mom asked me to pick my socks up off the floor, it felt like the end of my life, so I guess she wasn’t asking me nicely the way Ms. Greer did.

I spent more time in the library growing up than any other building that wasn’t home or school, so when I saw this story about some Australian librarians checking on their senior citizens during COVID, I wanted to tell y’all about it because librarians are truly underappreciated.

When Melbourne’s Yarra Plenty regional libraries first went into lockdown in March, shut the doors and left the remaining unborrowed books on their shelves, staff were sent home with a phone.

“One of the hardest things about lockdown was people being separated from their community,” said Lisa Dempster, Yarra Plenty’s executive manager of public participation.

“The library is often a hub for the community, and we identified the most vulnerable cohort of our community would be the elderly.”

So the library staff pulled from their database the phone number of every library member over the age of 70 – a total of 8,000 records.

Then the librarians started calling those members. All of them.

(cont. The Guardian)

I lived next door to a little old lady 6 or 7 years ago and I would do errands for her and do her grocery shopping and sit with her a couple of times a week.  After I moved, I used to take her to church once a month up until last year. Her daughter moved in with her and thought it was “weird” that a former neighbor would still check up on her, but I like her. She’s like a Bonus Grandma and her kids weren’t checking on her. She spent most of her days alone in her apartment, and since she was right next door, I could go over there and sit on her couch and do what I would normally do on my own couch — watch TV and play on the internet or crochet. Her daughter is/was convinced I was just spending time with her because I wanted to get into her will. It just didn’t occur to her that I would want to look after my neighbor or look after a lonely old lady.

Not to generalize, but Western cultures don’t care for our elders the way other cultures do and we don’t look out for our neighbors the way other cultures do. We don’t build community the way other cultures do. Librarians do that! Libraries are community centers and librarians keep them going! Librarians get to know the people in their community, like the nerdy little kid who sits and reads quietly on Sundays while mom is at the beauty supply store. Librarians care about that community, like these senior citizens getting calls from their local library to make sure their faring well during a pandemic. Think about adding libraries to the list of causes you look for when choosing a politician to champion. They’re always under attack and they need our help to keep serving communities quietly and constantly without any gratitude.

I did thank Ms. Greer though. Before I went off to boarding school I bought her a nice card and sent it to the library.

 

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Me

I feel fine.

I feel totally fine. Thank you to everyone who is always reaching out to check on me, but I really am completely fine and we should be focusing more of our energy on healthy extroverts who are really suffering.

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This is from a woman with anxiety and depression who says she feels better now during this crisis than she has in years.

My mood has stabilized after years of oscillating between paralyzing anxiety and debilitating, at times suicidal, depression. Despite everything, I realize, I am OK. More OK than I have been in years.

That’s a strange thing to admit. But evidently I’m not alone.

Elizabeth Cohen, who has practiced psychology for 15 years with a specialty in anxiety, estimates that 20 percent of her clients have actually seen their symptoms alleviate in recent weeks. Roughly the same portion have seen their symptoms worsen, she says, while the remainder have seen little change. 

(cont. Daily Beast)

I’m part of the fraction of people with depression and anxiety who has seen their symptoms alleviate during this crisis. I’ve been off my meds since September and hit my lowest point in February. I honestly haven’t felt this calm or slept this well since last summer.

A lot has gone wrong. I landed my dream job at the beginning of March, worked for two weeks, and then got let go. I haven’t qualified for unemployment and can’t get through to discuss my appeals. I screwed up my back and couldn’t walk for a week.

But I’m not sad or anxious.

And the article doesn’t touch on it, but I’m less anxious because there’s nothing I could be doing to fix my life. Everything is always falling apart and I never feel like I’m doing enough. My depression and anxiety are usually compounded by feelings of inadequacy for not being able to find a job, not being able to find a date, for not having money and being unable to afford to do fun stuff with friends, for being depressed and unable to shake it.

I don’t feel any of that right now. It’s not quite “misery loves company” but there’s some comfort in not being the only person you know whose life is a mess. The very real prospect of running out of money next month if I can’t get my unemployment denial overturned doesn’t really phase me…because so many other people are also gonna run out of money. Not being able to go out for an indefinite amount of time doesn’t really phase me…because I was declining things anyway, but now there’s no guilt or anxiety about not being able to do something.

And because I’ve spent so much time avoiding people out of fear that nobody will like me because I’m depressed, I’m very adept at spending weeks by myself. When I’m having an episode, I don’t talk to anybody, because why would anybody want to hang around the person who’s always sad or bringing them down with their problems? So dealing with anxiety or feelings of unease all by myself is something I’m equipped to do anyway, but now the load is so much lighter. I don’t feel stressed when I wake up. My sleep is restful. I look forward to all my little activities I have planned.

I feel totally fine. Thank you to everyone who is always reaching out to check on me, but I really am completely fine and we should be focusing more of our energy on healthy extroverts who are really suffering.

The only thing that has stressed me out since this started is grocery shopping.

I couldn’t find scallions today.

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