I want to start by saying that I’m managing, that I’m not broken, but, that I know I can’t keep things going as the situation stands, without significant impacts.
That’s what I want to speak about, the impact of poverty on my physical and mental health. How, if I track my life from 2019 to now, I can see just how messed up things have become.
It wouldn’t matter how much money I had right now in a way, the damage is done.
Poverty, slowly but steadily, removes your true voice. It takes away the strength to fight, to believe that we are worthy.
Over time, our friends have stopped asking us to attend events, stopped inviting us to places because we cannot afford to join them. Our circle has reduced so much and as a single parent to a child with additional needs, that has slowly destroyed my sense of self worth and my ability to get out and try to enjoy life.
My body ‘feels’ broken. I am experiencing a very difficult menopause and despite multiple attempts to garner healthcare support, I am unable to due to a family history of cancer. I’ve given up asking. So I just suffer and I don’t use that word lightly.
I can’t properly care for myself any longer, and that is so very sad to me. I gave up smoking and drinking alcohol, I tried to eat healthily but it’s so expensive now.
I recently had a minor accident and really hurt my foot. I absorbed the pain and carried on because there is only me to take care of things. I found out from my doctor when I could finally get in, that I have a suspected hairline fracture on my foot. I’ve just carried on, because although rationally I know I need to rest, realistically, I can’t. I can’t afford to get help to do jobs in my home and I have no one to help with my son.
I absorb the pain and I think well this is all you can do, but it makes me so so sad that I even matter so little to myself now.
I am not the person I was in September 2019. When I finally had help with my son, I had a part time job, I had possibilities and a bit of hope. I was building back up after difficult times and honestly thought we can do this, things will get better, they haven’t.
Recently, my stepfather died and the devastating effects of that have hit me hard. I come from a fractured family and have no support at all from them. They hid his death and I found out by accident. I cannot tell you how that felt and as I add that to the mountain of suffocating beliefs that I don’t deserve better, I know that getting out of this dark place has become something I just cannot see.
Whilst I keep telling myself you aren’t broken, the reality is a very different story…
I’m trying hard to keep the faith and I support others through voluntary work and a listening ear, so it isn’t over, yet.
I wanted so much more for my son, how sad that so much greed and apathy to the lives of people on low incomes has rendered any dreams that I had, void.
I do think that we have survived a lot, and maybe we can get through. But the crisis in the actual ‘cost’ of living this way is far from over for so many of us.
Council Houses are such a mixed bag. Like as far as housing options go, council is the safest and cheapest generally, there's better tenancy security and free repairs. But the quality of said housing, the damp I have in my new place, the mould that keeps coming back no matter how often I scrub it off. The electric shower is older than I am and many of my neighbours report complaints with theirs, including one who said hers electrocuted her! Which was when council finally replaced it. My toilet leaks, my shower sometimes randomly doesn't work and the damp (all council say about the damp is that I should wash the mould away with mould killer, like duh, and I can paint it myself if I want to, but I'm physically unable to do so, plus it's their responsibility not mine) is only a matter of time 'til it affects my asthma. But it's still better than the private market, so councils can get away with not giving us safe homes cos what else can we do about it but make the best.
I've got a friend who therorises that councils deliberately want low level support to "undesirable persons" so we can die quicker and they don't have to pay our benefits anymore. Some days I can really see what she means.
I'm also having to do my own research and data collection, which is exhausting and will cost me quite a bit when I go to the library next week to print it off, cos the NHS mental health services don't want to acknowledge my diagnosis (they say that they don't like to give people labels but that's bull, what they don't want is liability) but I can't access the right services for my care needs because they keep saying one thing and doing another. So I'm having to fight for the care needs I need. It's so depressing, makes me feel unworthy of basic care support needs.
On a bright note, a friend gifted me a disabled toilet key and it's so helpful, made a huge difference. It's often the little things that make a big difference.
My youngest daughter is now 16, in the past of school holidays, I found her very lonely.
Other children from school we're taken away abroad during Easter, summer and autumn holidays. I couldn't work out how the parents could afford this and have so much time off work considering most workplaces only gave out 28 annual leave per year.
The council would put on free activity holiday clubs at the sports centre. However, the wealthier children who got holidays abroad parents seemed to be quick to book their children into these clubs on a first come first served basis. I was working and unaware of the holiday clubs advertised on social media.
It seemed unfair how some children would be allowed to attend the free holiday clubs and have 3 or 4 holidays abroad per year.
I would take my daughter for walks with our dog. Into the woods or to the beach. As if by magic, as soon as schools broke up for school holidays, the rain poured down for weeks.
On one occasional dry day walking in the woods, my daughter burst into tears and said she loved me but she felt rubbish as other children were away for a 2 week holiday abroad. The guilt would eat away at me.
For the rest of the summer holidays, other children were packed off to grandparents houses to enable the parents to work. When I was working, in holiday time it cost me more in childcare. Even the childminder took 2 weeks off in summer to take her children abroad. I had to revolve around her leave. The childminders children were mean to my daughter. I grudged every penny I handed over to the childminder knowing that I (and tax credits) was supporting her demon children to have a better quality of life than mine.
I offered other parents to look after their children to keep mine company but they had routines and free grandparent childcare, who kept them overnight and took them out for day trips, so they declined. I soon felt not good enough.
As secondary schooling commenced, my daughter's autism traits became evident and she was bullied. 6 months into 1st year of Academy, she never went back. Out of school activities such as dance camps were expensive at £100 for 5 days and tax credits did not consider these clubs as childcare. She was too old to be baby sat yet not emotionally mature to stay home herself so I could work.
All the fun, bonding and memories to be made were not there for us. I felt punished as a single parent who had to work more hours to provide basics of food and rent, whilst wealthier 2 parent families with grandparents for support got it all.
My ex partner left me in October 2019. I had to go to the job centre to make a claim for Universal Credit has my wage wasn't enough to pay the mortgage, bills and my 2 children. I made the claim in October and did not receive any money until the January 2020. This meant I had to use foodbanks and that Christmas was the hardest ever. Luckily I managed to still get Christmas pressies has I went to charity shops and a friend helped me out. I was made to feel I was begging for money when I was working full time. Since then I actually got a second job and earn my own money so I don't have to claim anything. If it wasn't for food banks we would have gone hungry over those few months. Before I would have just thought, get myself a job or go back to UNI. I was already doing those things so I felt helpless and worthless even tho I was working. I was also recovering from cancer and remember thinking I don't have time to be ill and just carried on. The positive was I gained strength from a place I didn't know I had until then. This will carry me through anything now.
On a more positive note I've been fortunate enough to stumble across humans grocery Manchester.
This is for low income families I think. Each week they invoice me for 12.75 and allocate me 34 points based on 4 people. They send me a sheet of all the food products they have available that week.
One week for example they had whole chickens for 8 points and I ordered 3 along with a couple of other bits.
When they deliver they give you a massive bag of free seasonal fruit and veg too. The price is including delivery.
Since using this resource I haven't had to use food banks at all. It's made me cook from scratch alot more, which is hard sometimes but rewarding and I have eaten healthier.
I've found the healthier we eat the better our overall mood and mental health. Along with getting outdoors and moving our feet.
But I no longer feel useless as a parent relying on constant handouts to feed my kids. This resource has been a godsend in giving me back some self worth x
I find it helpful to read everyone's diary entries. As well as providing me with a sense of connection I feel proud to be a part of this project. It fills me with optimism & determination to share our message with people. Especially those people who are genuinely interested in hearing about our efforts or are in a position to help us. I have shared my experiences with friends & some of the people I meet. For instance, I recently contacted my MPs case worker about our housing situation. We're desperate to find more secure more affordable suitable accommodation. I told her about my involvement with the project. She was impressed with the opportunities on offer for participants. Not only does it raise self esteem in our household to be commended on our efforts but it's helping to create a force for good in a world where so many people are struggling to exist let alone live their lives to an acceptable standard.
I have to believe the reality of positive change is just around the corner. All our voices cannot to be ignored.
I don't get much time to myself as a single parent. Even though my daughter is 16, she has autism and been out of school for over 3 years.
Isolated, my self esteem is low.
I have no support, both financially and respite as no contact with my ex who was violent.
Family do not understand the autsim or support us.
I have a passion for horses but it's a very expensive hobby. I don't drive and equine centres are rural off bus routes.
I put my name down for the parent dance class, my daughter attends, however was dismissed this opportunity from the dance teacher who is ruled over by the dance mums clique. They have husbands who work offshore and all drive top of range cars and socialise together. Apparently, my name that I added to the group chat was not seen. Then I was removed from the parent group chat when I confronted the dance teacher as to why I was overlooked.
This town is divided by wealth. A culture of ostracising from friendship groups due to the stigma of poverty and being a single parent. It's 2023 and yes there are people who are small minded.
I'm hurting and depressed living in an area where not welcomed.