Medication can be a beautiful thing. Whether it’s mostly placebo effect or not, the ability of a pill to change our worldview is almost magical – or, at least, it would be if we didn’t think we knew how it worked. We don’t, of course, know exactly how any of the antidepressants actually make it easier for people crippled by despair to function with the same normal ups and downs the un-afflicted have. Whatever. All I know is that when I got to 200 mg./day Pristiq started working for me. I feel as though I’ve missed the last four months completely, but the next four should be good. I finally couldn’t settle my differences with the electric company, so I have to move (hopefully it won’t be far; I just started getting to know my neighbors and they’re actually pretty cool!), and that sucks. My last month’s rent is my deposit, so I don’t have a deposit to move with, and my check on the 1st will have to be my month’s rent. I’ll have to pay off the deposit slowly at the new place; that sucks, too. Truth is, if it wasn’t for Alex I’d be terrified right now, but I keep telling myself at least I’m not alone, you know? For now, that and the pills is enough. Please cross your fingers for us, and now go be happy.
Whew! I can’t believe it, but the electricity is still on…FPL actually gave us until May 7th, which should be more than time enough to get a commitment from LIHEAP to cover it. I’ve had all these insistent, persistent alarm bells going off in my head since January; could they have caused the sudden worsening of my depression that started around that time?
Probably not. The brain is weird. Whatever it feels it tries to explain, usually blaming external factors…in other words: usually the brain is wrong. We attribute our emotions to the actions of others, to the actions of supernatural agents (‘God,” etc.), or even to imaginary forces like ‘luck’ or ‘fate.’ For the Bipolar person, mood changes are almost completely unrelated to the outside world. That said, does hardship, economic and otherwise, make the depressed person feel even worse?
Well…yeah, of course it does. A member of the Gucci clan was quoted in an interview saying that she “would rather cry in a Rolls Royce than laugh on a bicycle”. An Italian court later had her committed against her will to a psych ward, where she was said to enjoy crying at meals and laughing during games of Backgammon. (Okay, not really, but the quote was accurate, and it leads to my point. The depressed person will always have something or someone – imaginary or not – to project that sadness onto : whether in a Bentley, or on a bike, we’re equally miserable.)
Still, I have to wonder: would I be any less depressed if I weren’t a complete failure with no future, or do I feel like a complete failure with no future because I’m depressed?
Could it be both?
Greg Kaufmann on February 2, 2012 – 10:21pm ET
Sunday Washington Post: Spinning Myths About the Poor
James Q. Wilson’s January 29 op-ed in the Washington Post—“Angry about inequality? Don’t blame the rich”—is oh so polite, and oh so offensive, as it peddles myth after myth that essentially add up to this: the poor have no one but themselves to blame, they’re not that poor anyway, and taxing rich people won’t help them.
Wilson argues that for the poor to rise we must “encourage parental marriage” and “induce them to join the legitimate workforce.” He points out that the poor have things like plumbing and heat, “a telephone, a television set, and a clothes dryer,” and there are fewer malnourished children. He says improving low-income mobility “has nothing to do with taxing the rich” and “the problem facing the poor is not too little money.”
“He’s right, there are fewer malnourished children and less substandard housing—largely because of public policy, which costs money,” says Georgetown University law professor Peter Edelman, who accompanied Senator Robert Kennedy on his poverty tour as an aide and is author of a forthcoming book, So Rich, So Poor. “Food stamps, Medicaid, housing vouchers, energy assistance—they all require resources, and they’ve all faced cuts.”
Wilson says ultimately the plight of the poor is about “too few skills and opportunities to advance themselves.”
“As though the hundreds of billions in high-income tax breaks couldn’t serve some useful purpose in that regard—for education, child care, subsidized jobs, infrastructure investment that would create jobs,” says Debbie Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs.
Here are just a few things made worse by tax breaks for the wealthy: unequal schools segregated by race, class and quality that are funded by property taxes. Hungry kids who aren’t ready to learn and early interventions that would significantly improve brain development are shortchanged. Parents working two or even three jobs who can’t pull their families out of poverty, afford childcare or take job training or community college courses to better themselves because those don’t count towards meeting their (low-wage) work requirement for welfare benefits.
And what of that push for marriage? It would be great if there were all kinds of marital opportunities out there for happy families, and one idea is to start looking at the cradle to prison pipeline if that’s a serious societal goal. Another important point noted by Half in Ten in its Restoring Shared Prosperity report is that marriage isn’t the only route to the antipoverty affect conservatives tout—it’s two incomes that are key. Only 4 percent of households with more than one earner are in poverty as compared to 24 percent with a single earner. So Wilson might consider calling for funding of summer and year-round programs aimed at connecting disadvantaged youth to education and work experience, or subsidized jobs that were supported by Democratic and Republican governors alike.
Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in Appalachian Ohio, has been working with poor people for over thirty years.
“The right would have you believe that the poor are pretty well off and their plight is due entirely to their own character flaws,” Frech told me. “They don’t believe that poor parents have any incentive to work hard to make life better for their kids—as if there is a means test for loving your children. But the poor parents I know experience anguish watching their children go without basic necessities, and they suffer greatly from cuts in programs. The depth of their poverty and daily struggle to survive make the inadequately funded education programs available to them unlikely to succeed. On the other hand, the massive tax cuts granted to rich people at the federal and state levels haven’t been invested in jobs here but in offshore investments and new technologies that have increased their profits at the expense of people in this country.”
The dream is not a TV, a dryer and a coffee maker in every home. It’s equal opportunity regardless of race and class. And, Jimmy, that takes money.
GOP (and Dems?) to Poor Kids: Pony Up
In his State of the Union address one year ago, President Obama drew a clear line on deficit reduction when he said, “Let’s make sure that we’re not doing it on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens.”
A year later, he and his fellow Democrats have an opportunity to make good on that commitment, because House Republicans passed the “Refundable Child Tax Credit Eligibility Verification Reform Act” that would raise taxes on working poor families in order to (very) partially pay for a payroll tax cut extension. If the GOP has its way—and a House and Senate conference committee is considering it now—only taxpayers filing with a Social Security number would be eligible for refunds under the Child Tax Credit, not people using “individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs).”
Republicans are banking on anti-immigrant sentiment to win the day because many people using ITINs are undocumented workers—never mind that they are paying both income and payroll taxes.
Over 80 percent of impacted families are Latino. They earn on average about $21,000 annually, less than the poverty line for a family of four, and stand to lose $1800 on average. That’s money families need to survive, going towards food, rent, heat, clothing, childcare—which is exactly why the tax credit was created in the first place. In fact, it kept 1.3 million children out of poverty in 2009. According to the National Immigration Law Center, 5.5 million children would be affected by the new law, “4 million of whom are US citizens but all of whom are deserving of our support.”
All of this burden would be placed on the backs of what the President calls “our most vulnerable citizens”—children—for at most $24 billion in savings over ten years. The payroll tax extension is expected to cost $120 billion. Just a .2 percent surtax on millionaires could raise as much dough as the child tax increase—a 1.9 percent surtax on them would generate $155 billion over ten years. But what fun is that when you can demonize the poor, immigrants and undocumented workers in one fell swoop?
According to people close to House-Senate negotiations, this bill has a shot at becoming the law of the land. “It’s my sense that the Democratic Leadership is preparing to sell out on the issue to get a compromise,” one senior House staffer told me.
Stand up for kids in poverty, Latinos, immigrants, families and an America that doesn’t pile onto those already bearing the heaviest load—here.
Food for Learning
Extensive research demonstrates strong links between eating school breakfast and dietary, health, and education outcomes for children and adolescents. So a new report from Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) showing that less than half (48 percent) of low-income children receiving school lunch also receive school breakfast is worth paying attention to.
“This is as much an academic excellence program as it is an anti-hunger program,” said FRAC president Jim Weill. “And states and schools that want to get serious about increasing breakfast participation have to get serious about implementing breakfast in the classroom.”
A common factor for states with high participation rates—like New Mexico, South Carolina, Vermont and the District of Columbia which all serve breakfast to at least 60 percent of the students who receive school lunch—is that many of the schools in those states operate “breakfast in the classroom” programs. These programs allow students to eat breakfast in their classrooms at the beginning of the school day or early in the day. States not doing such a great job—and Nevada, home of Saturday’s Republican caucus, is the worst with just 33 percent of low-income kids who participate in the lunch program also receiving breakfast—don’t have strong breakfast in the classroom programs.
Traditional, cafeteria-served breakfast before school has a lot of problems: buses and cars arrive late—especially in urban transit; the thirty-cent co-payment is too high for some families; there is a stigma of heading to the cafeteria for a meal for “poor kids.” Breakfast in the classroom avoids these obstacles and can save money on cafeteria operations too boot.
If states could reach 60 percent participation, FRAC estimates 2.4 million more low-income children would be added to the breakfast program and states would receive an additional $583 million in child nutrition funding.
Who Will Benefit From the Recovery?
Los Angeles County transportation officials announced that for major transit and road projects, “project labor agreements” (PLAs) will ensure that 40 percent of the hours go to people who live in economically disadvantaged communities, and 10 percent of that work is reserved for people “suffering from homelessness, chronic unemployment, or other challenges.”
According to the Los Angeles Times, this will lead to “significant” opportunities for disadvantaged workers, since the plan is to spend “tens of billions of dollars in the years ahead” on subway, highway, light rail, and commuter rail projects. Supervisor Mark Ridley, board member of the LA County Metro Transit Authority, noted that these are “highly skilled union jobs that lead to a middle-class lifestyle” and the PLAs should be “a model for the rest of the nation.”
This good news comes none too soon for California construction workers who had a 27 percent unemployment rate in 2010.
Margaret Simms, Institute fellow and director of Urban Institute’s Low-Income Working Families project, praises the effort for trying to help construction workers and also economically disadvantaged people for whom “joblessness is a constant problem,” not just in a recession. She adds a word of caution, however.
“If these are union jobs, efforts need to be made to provide access to union membership for these potential workers,” she told me.
Fun With Mitt
Mitt reveals a problem he has with multi-tasking—“you can choose where to focus: you can focus on the rich, you can focus on the very poor, my focus is on middle-income Americans”—and also a problem with poor people.
Mitt equates concerns about economic inequality and social mobility with preferring China, Russia, Cuba or North Korea over America.
What will Mitt do next? Please offer your predictions in comments below.
GOP Contenders, on to Nevada
144, 204 or 22% of all children are poor (less than $18,530 for a family of three).
65,642 or 10% of children live in extreme poverty (less than $9300 for family of three).
27,680 adults and children receive cash assistance (TANF).
$383 is maximum monthly TANF cash assistance for family of three.
A good friend told me recently that he was researching suicide methods. I was a little shocked, to put it mildly. He’s under 50, and – although he is chronically ill – he’s not terminally ill. This is a guy who always said he wanted to live to be 100, and would take “every day he could get” whatever his condition. I felt badly that I had never noticed, but apparently he has been suffering greatly for a long time. Sick for 25 years, estranged from his family and without any “loving presence” in his life, he said he was just tired of being sick, and felt “used up” by the world. We spoke at length about his reasons and he asserted that he’d been thinking about it since “around the mid-1990’s,” which is when he first realized that his future was only getting bleaker. I thought he couldn’t be serious, until he asked me to help him get some helium gas from a party supply store. I told him I had no idea where to get it, and refused to give him the money to purchase the tank of gas (even if I had the money – which I don’t – I couldn’t do it).
I questioned him further about his motivations and this is what he said:
“I feel dead already. Everything and everyone I ever believed in is gone. I don’t enjoy anything anymore. I’ve tried more pills for depression and anxiety than I can remember: nothing has helped for long. The last 15 years I’ve gone from one crisis to the next without a moments’ rest. I’ve never had a career or even a good job. My family wants nothing to do with me; too much water under the bridge. I was homeless and alone for years, dreaming that my father or mother or brother or SOMEBODY would come to my rescue. No one even called. I entrusted my only resources to false friends who cheated me. I’m penniless, disabled and probably always will be. So, what would you do if you were me?”
It took me a long time to answer, and before I could he said: “See?”
We’ve known each other for two years. In that time we have both been in and out of homeless shelters, halfway-houses, and hospitals repeatedly. I don’t know why he chose to tell me, since he’s never been particularly forthcoming with me about his feelings, but he said that whenever he died – and whatever the means – I would be the only person in the world who would even notice. What do you say to that? I told him he needed help, and offered to accompany him to the ER immediately. He said that he had been getting that kind of help for years and it led nowhere. If I called 911, he said, they would release him in 72 hours and it would just be one more horrible experience to add to the tally of tragedy that his life had become.” I myself have made several suicide attempts”, I replied, ” and I’m glad now that I failed.” He answered: “So have I, and I’m not glad at all.”
It’s been several days now, and he still answers when I call, but he refuses to discuss the matter further, and assures me that he has to be certain that someone special to him (whom he has been supporting) is not hurt by his departure, and has a roof over his head when he’s gone. I told him that I hoped he would change his mind before he finishes making those arrangements.
He smiled and said:”Don’t hold your breath.”
I just officially got out of bed, but in truth I’ve been up since 4 AM running between my bed and the toilet. I’ve taken all the Imodium I had left ( 6 pills), and – for obvious reasons – a trip to the corner drug store would probably be ill-advised. My doctor says I’m still losing weight, even though my labs are great and , in general, the latest med (Humira) seems to be working. But my Crohn’s symptoms are severe again today: the pain that makes you want to disembowel yourself, and the diarrhea that feels like your body is doing exactly that. The Prednisone I had to start taking again (in an attempt to increase my almost non-existent appetite) has skewed my mood downward, and Death seemed attractive again last night. Prednisone alone is bad enough, but in combination with antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills and tranquilizers it’s a brick wall in your brain that you can’t stop banging your head against…it’s compulsory, apparently. So the Sun is shining through the blinds, and the radio insists on telling me the ‘news,’ and the dog is waiting to be walked while I carefully count the minutes between bowel movements and consider calling 911. The hospital always knows how to plug you up, and end your pain. After three days of Jell-o and clear broth, two days of low-residue dreck-on-a-tray, and five days of IV Dilaudid and steroids and antibiotics (etc.) I would come home with a short reprieve.For a few days or weeks I would feel like an almost-normal person, as I did before my diagnosis. The hospital can actually put you in remission, but like a crashed car fresh out of a bad body shop the damage is still there, under the bright, new paint. But the driver, for a short while, can dream that the repairs are permanent ( or at least long-term ) until the next minor accident reveals the hard metal scars all over again. My colon is that car, a lemon that can be dressed up to look and feel like a sweet, Georgia peach. One bite is all it takes though to taste the sourness beneath. Okay, I’ve tortured that metaphor enough now. For fun, maybe later I’ll count the mixed metaphors in this passage. If I move my desk I can even do it from the bathroom, and, unfortunately, I’m probably going to have to. A short about Crohn’s by someone I have never met who understands me better than my friends and family do.
If I don’t say anything mean to my roommate today, and I don’t hack my own arm off- I will consider it a huge victory. Over Prednisone (aka ‘the devil’), that is. Think I’ll end there because I don’t have anything nice to say today (to myself, especially).
It’s not just the Prednisone. Every aspect of my life is in shambles. Antidepressants can’t change that. Wellbutrin won’t increase my net worth (although it’s probably done that for the company that sells it) or decrease my emotional isolation. When you’re not sound of body or mind, when you have no assets and no bank account, when there is no unpaid yet sympathetic presence in your life no drug or combination of drugs can restore you completely. The indigo chasm inside may be invisible at times, but it is always vast. Today it engulfs me. Boo-hoo, right? Who cares.