So I have spent the last two days working on a new obsession; photography. I set up a blog, dug out my old photos, and found my digital camera.

It has been a long time dream of mine to learn photography and to take stunning, professional quality pictures. Sadly my education drifted away from the arts and into psychology because it was more likely to result in a decent income. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t try, right? The internet is a boon of information, and I already have a good foundation of composition and other design elements from my artistic background.

However, like many other projects of mine, I almost immediately ran into the roadblock of money.

Everything I want to get into has invariably led to this point. Even just sketching requires a pencil and paper. Now if you want to get into the really good stuff, a decent pencil and nice paper. To get better, you need better tools, and spend more money. Painting? A set of acrylics isn’t all that expensive, but I want to really paint like Bob Ross that would mean oils and canvas. Ceramics? All sorts of money required there. Scrapbooking? Easy enough, but if you don’t want to damage photos, you have to use special acid free papers and inks. Customizing My Little Ponies, Pysanky, sewing, quilting, needlepoint, all require an investment in the tools and materials. I could go on and on about the number of hobbies that are just sitting and waiting and collecting dust until I have enough money.

Better tools make a better artist. Those better tools require money. So yes, I can play around here with my very cheap drawing tablet from ten years ago with a free art program, but all the talent in the world does not replace having a drawing tablet with pressure sensitivity and a beastly art program with all the bells and whistles.

So I dig out my old camera. It is a Canon PowerShot A510, a rather nice model at the time I bought it. However, by today’s standards it is seriously lacking. It has 3.2 mega pixels. The camera in my refurbished cellphone has more mega pixels than that. Yet a new camera would cost half of my monthly income. So that just is not going to happen.

The same can be said about transition. I can make due just fine with a binder through an exchange program, haircuts I do myself, and working on things that don’t cost money like my gait, movements, and speech. Therapy, medical care, surgery, hormones; everything costs money. And I know that is just the way of the world, but down here without two quarters to rub together, there really is nowhere to go.

How much potential in the world is being held back by the roadblock of money? People living in poverty, in worse situations than mine, what wonders could they contribute if they were not stifled by the all consuming process of trying to survive?

A Non-Apology and An Apology

I will not apologize for being in my current economic status. I’m poor, and I’m well aware I’m poor.

This is not a new situation, nor do I see it being resolved any time soon. There is no possibility for me to get back on my feet or pull myself up by my bootstraps that I can see from my current position. Trust me, I’ve looked, I’m looking, and I will continue to look for ways out of poverty, but I’m not holding my breath.

I did not grow up in poverty. I had a wonderful childhood growing up in a middle class family with four adults in the house who all worked. I worked from a very young age. In the past I have worked two or three jobs while caring for my children and going to college, so I don’t appreciate anyone criticizing my work ethic. I will absolutely work and work hard on something that I am capable of doing.

I’m doing everything I can, every single day, just to tread water. I have been homeless before and that is something I have not allowed my children to experience. I am meticulous about expenditures. We have no credit cards, no large debts other than my student loans. Yeah, I took that chance, that one stupid chance, and got into debt for my education. That is by far the worst mistake of my life.

We live in a state of poverty just above homelessness. That is not an exaggeration. Every month it is the span of just a few dollars that keeps us off the streets. Every month, every day, I have to carefully monitor the budget.

Our budget every month is literally a four step process. Income – rent – internet – phone – a very small entertainment allowance for Netflix. We don’t have television. Yes, internet is a luxury, but it is tied up in the phones, which are nothing but month by month Boost phones. It is a carefully constructed entanglement of communication, productivity, and entertainment. I absolutely feel guilt for splurging on these things, but it is also what little income I produce, homework the kids need to do is online, and something to keep two teenagers occupied so we don’t drive each other more crazy stuck in this little apartment together.

For a long time our budget meant not leaving the house. It is so constricted that any time we leave the house, we spend money we can’t afford. Just the $2.50 it takes to ride the bus somewhere, like the grocery store, is more than we have.

There is no budget for new clothes, eating out, or just to have fun. There is no spare change just sitting around or in the couch cushions. We have to scrape and save for such luxury items as toilet paper, shampoo, soap, and laundry. I purposefully own just one pair of pants and a few shirts because I can only do one load of laundry every few months.

Every single action inside the house is weighed and worried about. I use one square of toilet paper each time I use the bathroom. I limit the shampoo I use. I cry over every blown lightbulb because that isn’t even in the luxury budget. I worry about things breaking we can’t possibly replace. Every day. Constantly. It is a serious drain of emotional energy, and that is just inside the house with things I can somewhat control.

When I sold my van for scrap, I wasn’t selling a vehicle that no longer ran, I was selling my back up housing. I have lived in that van before and I held onto it for so long because that was an option. Living in a non-operational van was my only back-up if we lose this apartment and it creates such a severe anxiety, but that is the situation I live in.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. I stayed with the father of my children in order to avoid being a single parent, the lowest income bracket in the country. It was terrifying to try and leave him and go out on my own.

What did I pay in exchange for that financial security? Emotional and physical abuse, as well as being required to give him sex whenever he chose, even if I refused. I accepted that to try and give my children a good, stable life as I had lived.

It was painful, it did things to me that I have spent years trying to recover from. Most of those things I’m still working on.

It was supposed to be a wonderful marriage, a family unit, a house with a picket fence and a dog and two point five kids. I was willing to accept abuse and spousal rape for the sake of social status.

When the abuse turned toward my children, I made the choice. I would rather live in poverty, on the streets if necessary, so this man could never hurt my children again. I knew the risks, but I will never allow anyone to do to my children what was done to me.

It has taken me sixteen years of anguish and guilt, continual worry, and I have only just become comfortable with that decision. I left him for the betterment of my children, to protect them. Did I damage them by having them grow up in poverty? I struggle with that continually. But I had to weigh that against what their father could have done to them. I have to just accept the decision I made and move on. I did the best I could.

So no, I will not apologize for living in poverty. Everything I have done has been to put my children first. As a parent, that is my job.

However, I will wholeheartedly apologize if it has seemed like I have ever taken advantage of anyone. That has never been my intention. I love people so very deeply, I care about everyone. I care deeply.

My patterns of behavior are never meant to ‘trick’ anyone into sympathy, or to manipulate. I don’t have the mental or emotional energy for games like that. My mental and emotional energy is consumed with survival and very little else, and how I will achieve that survival with minimal stress on my children.

Every time I interact with anyone, I am torn with internal debate of being a burden to them. I don’t wish to be a burden to anyone. I have a very difficult time in asking for help because I do want to handle this on my own. This is my situation. I created it, therefore I believe I can – and should – handle it alone. It’s tough balancing that feeling, being encouraged to ask for help, and feeling looked down on as being ‘needy’.

Isolation was crushing the spirit out of me. I felt lifeless. All I wanted was to rejoin the world after five years, and I’m sorry if coming from the place I come from upset anyone. I just wanted to try and be a functioning member of society again.

I mean none of this as an excuse or for causing guilt. I was encouraged to share my situation, my perspective. There is incredible shame at this moment, sharing this. I don’t want anyone to know how bad it is. I don’t want people to EVER truly understand this perspective, not ever. I wouldn’t wish this existence on anyone.

All I mean for this is an apology. People I care about, still care about, have been hurt by me. I did not mean to hurt anyone.

I care about you. I love you. I’m sorry.

The Long Road

I have to admit, the last few months have been tough.

Compared to the rest of my life, I shouldn’t really complain. I knew going into this that transition would be a long process, I knew that. Still, I guess I expected a lot more small steps instead of a whole lot of nothing.

Despite my mass levels of procrastination, I do enjoy getting things done. Procrastinating actually just increases my anxiety until there is a point where that anxiety overwhelms my lack of energy in a burst of getting stuff done. Living with chronic pain and fatigue for so long this is just how I operate now. It isn’t the best strategy, I’m well aware, but in the end things get done.

However, with my transition, it feels like nothing is getting done. My anxiety is high, my desire is incredible, but I can’t apply that anywhere. So it wasted energy. And wasted energy for me is a huge source of depression. I have so little, to waste any is devastating.

I made my declaration, I cut my hair, I tried to bind my breasts. I was already wearing what I wear, men’s Wrangler jeans and tank tops, men’s shoes, nothing too very feminine. Except bras, those are a bit of necessity, or else back pain ensues.

I’ve wanted to speak up a great deal more than I have, be more active, write more articles, reach more people. I’ve even pulled back on social media against my will just because I don’t have the energy. It’s all being drained down into this black hole of getting nothing done in my transition.

I called around looking for doctors in my area. The soonest appointment for just a first meet and greet I could get was January. Then I realized that perhaps you have to go the psychological route first to get some sort of letter, so I called around for that. No idea how I’m going to afford anything, or get myself from here to there. No progress on that front either. Not a single appointment, not one return phone call.

As for packing or binding? No progress there either. I use a sock to pack and a weight loss sweat band to bind, but I want to take the next step. However, I can’t afford the next step.

Money, energy, wellness, time… spiral down the black hole into depression.

There is no progress. How can I climb out?