Disability is forced poverty in canada

 My background may be different than tens of thousands of people across Canada, but somehow, regardless of our stories, we have all ended up in the same place; government forced poverty. When COVID hit, the Canadian government decided that $2000 monthly was what the average Canadian needed to survive. As lock downs arrived and prices soared, money was sent coast to coast to millions of people to help them through the pandemic. I am glad the government was able to step up and help so many, however, I am wondering why thousands and thousands of people with physical disabilities and mental illnesses have continually been cast aside, and treated like we’re as disposable as the trash. If the average person requires $2000 monthly, then why do we not qualify as average citizens?  How is anyone expected to live in this country on $1169 monthly? Who decided that $497 a month is supposed to cover ones rent? You cannot rent a room in a house full of strangers for less than $700-$800 monthly.

We are looked down upon, and treated poorly by the majority of society. “Just get a job”; “They’re too lazy to work”; “They’re a drain on the system”; “Why should I have to work while they get to stay home and do nothing?”  There are thousands of statements like these. They are nothing new to us, but that does not make it less hurtful, or less degrading. Do you think we choose to have disabilities and mental illnesses? Do you not think we would prefer to live a societally accepted life, rather than being discarded? Do you not think we would like to be able to eat daily, or not have to choose between food and toiletries? Do you not think that just once in a while, we would like to be able to go out, or buy something for ourselves? Do you think we choose to live with depression or anxiety, or so many other illnesses? You point, you condemn, you judge, yet you know nothing about me, or any of us.

You can’t fathom the traumas some of us have had to live with, day after day. To give you a brief, summarized example, I shall share a bit about myself. I am 49 years old, and I have never known a day without trauma. My birth mother was an alcoholic and drug addict. I was born drunk and addicted, and spent the first few months of my life fighting for my survival. I was taken away and placed into the foster system in the 1970’s, and from the tender ages of 6 months to 18 months, I was removed from four homes; for sexual abuse, physical abuse, and severe neglect which lead to me drowning when I was one. I was placed in only one safe home, and then adopted when I was 18 months old. You may be thinking I was too young to remember, so what is the big deal? Traumas that intense scar your mind for life. Trauma is also stored in our bodies. Our muscles cells have memory, hence the physical reactions we have to certain cues and triggers.

In the 1970’s, all that was needed to adopt a child was for you to fill in an application, come in for a meeting with two reference letters stating that you would be good parents, and presto…pick a kid. I had one visit with my social worker, and then I was dropped off to live there, so traumatized and terrified that I wouldn’t let anyone touch me. I slept in the corner on the floor at the base of the stairs, with my jacket on, my little suitcase beside me, and the only doll that had stayed with me from place to place.

The abuse did not stop. My father abused my mother, who then made me her confidante and protector when I was five. My mom spent a lot of time in bed depressed and I spent a lot of time outside of my home, trying to escape what was going on there. However, vulnerable children are sniffed out by predators, like trained dogs sniff out drugs. I was sexually abused by a number of people, until I got the courage to make it stop when I was 14. The year previous, my mom was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. She fought hard for six long years, and I lost her a few weeks after her 44th birthday, when I was 19. I have since had multiple suicide attempts, and have been diagnosed with five mental disorders; so forgive me if my view of the world is the polar opposite of the societal norms.

I am not sharing my story with you for pity, or for personal attention. I am using my words for the tens of thousands of Canadians, who, one way or another, are forced into the system via their mental or physical ailments. I am speaking to demonstrate how very broken the system is. Basically being on disability is being kept in forced poverty. Can you imagine trying to survive, and being maxed out at $1169 monthly? If we make any money, we are punished, and that amount is then deducted from our payments. For example, this year the Federal government gave a raise of $16 a month, which in itself is insulting enough, but then the Provincial government turned around and deducted that $16 from my payment.  So I literally cannot get $16 ahead. I am being punished for surviving years of abuse. We all are.

What we earn yearly is approximately 40% less than what Canada states is the official poverty line. So again, we live with being looked down upon, and treated differently by society, and then the government supports that with a nice financial slap in the face, followed by a swift kick in the ass every time you have to prove to them you still have a mental illness. Perhaps if we were not constantly worried about shelter and necessities, we would have the time and be provided with the resources to help us to heal. As it stands, the average wait for a psychiatrist that is covered by a medical plan is 11 months, and when you finally get in, you will be lucky to have four visits a year before you are discharged and forgotten about. All the government wants to do is wash their hands clean of us, until we either get out of the system or take our lives.

Essentially it comes down to the stigma that surrounds both physical disabilities and mental health issues. You read my story and perhaps think I can just get over it, or I should have done so already. Maybe you think that the past is the past, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to work; or I’m lazy and just want to drain the system. I worked from the ages of 14 to 44, living with the effects of my trauma, until one day my mind became too overwhelmed and I had my breakdown. No one sees or understands how difficult it is to hold steady employment with multiple mental illnesses. Unless you have experienced it, you will never understand.

These are just a few of the judgements placed on us by society. I did not choose this life. I did however, choose to survive it, and in no way should I be condemned to a life of extreme poverty. None of us should. If the government of Canada does not do something to rectify the situation, lives will be lost. Possibly even my own. It’s time for change. We deserve better.

Adoptees and suicide; is there a genetic link?

Children are placed for adoption for a variety of reasons. It is true that many are born to mothers whose choice was based on reasons of selflessness and love, but the harsh reality is that some adopted children were abandoned, unwanted, abused, neglected, and even made victims of sex trafficking or other crimes. Sometimes adoptive parents and adoption agencies are aware of the circumstances surrounding the placement; sometimes they are not, yet, if adopted children are loved and cherished and raised in wonderful, stable homes, why are they more likely to commit suicide?

Studies have found that the odds of a reported suicide attempt were 4 times greater in adoptees compared with those who were not. There could be a few reasons behind this elevated number, one being the fact that adoption, or the separation from one’s mother, is in itself a trauma; Another reason is that adoptees often lack any type of family history or medical background, which could include mental illness or even suicide, which in itself could induce anxiety in the adoptee. As an adoptee, there is almost an invisible line dividing one from the adoptive family, simply because things like looks and even personality characteristics are different from the rest of the family. Anxiety and depression can also occur because, even though an adoptee may have only known love and family security,  many may also grapple with the idea that if they were chosen, then it is possible for them to be “un-chosen”  This idea can occur even if the child has only ever been shown unconditional love and acceptance. I had a foster sister for nearly two years when I was around five to seven, and when she went back to foster care, was the day I knew I was expendable. After all, if she could be returned, surely so could I.

Adoptive families must recognize that their child may have feelings of depression, anxiety, abandonment, and loss, even if their adoption occurred during infancy and especially if the circumstances surrounding the placement are unknown. Doctors and other professionals encourage adoptive parents to help their child learn as much as they can about their biological heritage, if the child has a desire to know. Parents who have frequent and open conversations with their child about their adoption are more likely to be aware of the concerns and feelings of their child and will be able to help their child navigate through the fears that naturally occur. Adoptive parents need to be extremely aware that even though they have loved their child from the start, their adoptive child may need more than love.

However, perhaps there are more than just external circumstances that lead to suicidal behaviors and thoughts. A new study from the Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, is suggesting that there is evidence that a specific gene, which is involved in the development of the nervous system may be linked to suicidal behavior. CAMH scientists have found that among people with a psychiatric diagnosis, those who had a specific variation of the gene were of higher risk of suicidal behavior. The mutated version of the gene may cause a chemical imbalance in the brain, which in turn may lead to suicidal ideations and actions, and may also provide a link to a genetic trait. Some scientists suggest that genetic factors seem to play a role in 30%-50% of cases with suicidal behavior, independent of other psychological disorders or environmental stressors. The hope being that the beginnings of this discovery could eventually lead to the development of genetic tests which could help to identify those at risk.

I am adopted. My birth mother, who I never met, had five suicide attempts before succeeding on the sixth. My half-sister (same mother) has survived two attempts and I have survived three. Three related people, three different environments and one commonality…suicide, perhaps supporting the theory that being suicidal is not completely environmental and possibly there is some genetic base that further complicates the situation.

I Will Never Say Goodbye

A while back I wrote a blog for a dear friend of mine, who is battling cancer. For those of you who may not recall, or did not read it, my friend is the reason I write. She is the reason I share my story so openly in writing and on my podcast. We have never met. We’ve only chatted on the phone and text, and on Twitter, which is where we originally met five or six years ago. I had just been diagnosed with a handful of illnesses including Borderline Personality Disorder, and had just started up on Twitter, discovering an enormous mental health community. She was one of the first people I followed. Something about her screamed “safe person” which doesn’t happen to me often. Many people with BPD were traumatized or neglected in their childhood, so when we started to chat and no red flags were popping up, I started to slowly let her in. We shared our stories, our journeys and our lives with each other, and although they were drastically different, the emotions we felt from our situations were basically the same.

Fast forward a few years, and not only is she a dear friend, but she has become like a second mom. I lost my mom when I was 19, but felt my friend held the qualities that my mom would have had, should she have lived. Without her encouragement and support, I would not be getting published in three separate anthology books this year; I would never have had a blog, and certainly not a podcast. She stuck with me during my often long, depressive episodes, reassuring me that things will work out eventually. She has my back, without question. I am not sure I believe in unconditional love between humans, but if there was or is such a thing, she would be the closest thing I have to compare to my idea of what it “should” be. Shit, if I’m being brutally honest, she is a huge reason I continue to not succumb to the illnesses. You see, my friend has been battling for her life, literally, for the past few years. If she is brave and strong enough to fight the evil that is cancer, then I must somehow summon the strength to continue fighting the darkness that calls me so often. I have to stay strong. I have to be a rock of support for her. As I tell her every time we chat…anything, anytime.

I fucking hate cancer. It has taken so many lives, for not only me, but hundreds of millions of people around the world. It is insidious, non-discriminatory and vile. It tears people away from their loved ones, far before it is their time to go. It left a permanent hole in my heart and soul when it took away my mom, and yes, time may ease the pain a bit, but nothing will fill the void that feels as vast as the universe itself. My friend is a true fighter. She has tried every possible chemotherapy treatment, endured the pain of radiation and even had a stem cell transplant. Things were looking up for some time. The cancer went into remission for a while, but like a snake in the grass, it reared its ugly head, spread out and attacked. Every effort was given by the doctors, and despite her loving sense of stubbornness, and great sense of faith, this cancer is now terminal.

It kills me inside knowing I am utterly helpless, and unable to fix this, or take the pain away for her. As most of you know, I have spent most of the days of my life with suicidal thoughts and actions, so in a millisecond I would trade places with her. She has a loving family, a good life. It should not be her time; it should be mine, so she can continue to enjoy the life she deserves. Sadly, there is no swap button or I would have hit that when she first got sick. There is no fairness or sense to when someone’s time is up and there certainly is no way to prepare for the pain that you know is coming with unstoppable force. I have lost a few people since my mom, but no one close enough to put another hole in my heart; another void in my soul…until now. I am not ready.

I’m writing this blog, because I cannot keep the tears from falling for long enough to express it properly. As soon as I think about it, I feel the tightness in my chest, the quivering in my voice and the burning sensation behind my eyes, which are desperately trying to contain some of the tears. I write this because I cannot bring myself to say goodbye. I just can’t. I won’t.  I don’t know how to. I know how to provide her the best support I can. I know how to love her, and listen, but letting go is just surreal to me. I think it is fair to say most people don’t like to say goodbye in most situations, not just with death, but people with BPD usually have attachment issues, so letting go can feel like someone tearing a layer of your skin off, inch by inch, leaving exposed nerves which for us, represent feelings, so even the slightest tug on your skin can cause indescribable pain. I have stopped and started this blog for hours. None of the words seem right; perhaps because there are no right words. I hope the brief letter below manages to somehow express all my emotions, and conveys to her, the importance and influence she has had, and continues to have in my life. This, by far is the hardest thing I have ever had to write in my life.

My dear friend; you are my confidante; my source of strength; my fountain of positivity; my inspiration, and so much more. I know time is not in our favour, and these words may be premature and not necessary at the moment, but I wanted and needed you to know what I simply can’t say. You know how much I love you, and that you’ve become not only one of my closest friends, but the closest thing I’ve had to feeling “mothered” in almost 30 years. You have given me unconditional support, encouragement and most importantly, unconditional love. Not for a single moment did I ever feel unloved or worthless. You challenged my thoughts and made me feel that unconditional love between people is possible. It may be the only time I experience that, so I want to thank you for filling a small part of the enormous void in my life. I want you to know how much your encouragement and belief in me meant, and the huge factor it had in helping me discover the paths I am on now. My blogs, the chapters for books, my podcast, all because you never doubted my abilities, and constantly reminded me that I would succeed, and that you were proud of me for achieving these things, despite my fear of failure. Your strength fighting this horrible illness, kept me alive more times than I could count…after all, if you could stay strong enough to keep fighting cancer, I had to stay strong enough to fight life.

Now, we face a different path; one that will physically separate us but will never be able to divide the bond that we have. You are a part of my heart, and I will carry that with me always. I will miss you so very much. I will miss our chats and texts. I will miss your words of support and encouragement. I will miss hearing you say I love you, but I won’t forget that you do and always will, and not even death can stop that. I know that you know I would trade places with you in a millisecond if I could. I wouldn’t even think twice, but that is a wish that unfortunately I cannot make come true. If I could, you know I would be sitting beside you through your journey, and I would never leave your side, however a few thousand kilometres makes that not a possibility. Please know that my heart, my love and strength is there for you 24/7. Not a moment passes that you don’t cross my mind, or that I am not sending you as much light, as I can muster. It has taken me a few days and thousands of tears to get this letter to this point, but I can’t seem to find the courage or the words to wrap it up. What can I say aside from thank you; thank you for being in my life and allowing me the privilege of being in yours. Thank you for never leaving me, for loving me and for your unwavering belief in me. Well, you know I don’t do goodbyes well at all, so I am not going to say it. I will finish simply with this…I love you and I always will. You will never be forgotten. We’ll see each other again one day soon. May you find your peace.

Until we meet again.

Mobile Mental Health Crisis Response Teams…A Wave of the Future?

I have been passively suicidal since I was eight years old, when I had my first attempt. Since then, I have dealt with these incredibly invasive thoughts day after day, and have survived a handful of actual suicide attempts. Over the years, I have learned a variety of coping skills to allow me to keep these thoughts as passive ones, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have times where these techniques simply do not work; times where I feel I have lost all hope and I am encompassed by the darkness of these thoughts. Over the years, I have thought of every possible way to take my life but with a lot of hard work, I have held those actions at bay for nine years now.

I have a really hard time with some classifications of anti-depressants, primarily SSRI’s, and the side effects have been so extreme they have actually increased my suicidal ideations ,and decreased my ability to put my coping tools to work. My thoughts become uncontrollably irrational and my actions tend to follow to follow suit, adding in a healthy dose of impulsivity. I can feel the difference in my mind that the medication is making, and none of it is good. I was recently on Zoloft and as soon as we increased to 100mg is when my mind went haywire. I chose to suffer through for a few weeks, in hopes that these side effects would subside, but unfortunately they just worsened, and my thoughts went from passive to actively planning a route out. After a few days of this, I made the decision to reduce back down to my original dose of 50mg and wean off to nothing from there.

The decrease did not go well and I found myself in a heavy and dark place that was swallowing me whole by the minute. A few weeks ago, after a particularly hard start to the day, I was feeling so unsafe that I was actually afraid of myself. I was afraid that I would no longer be able to employ any skills that had kept me alive for so long, and so, I made the decision to try to reach out, the question being, to where? I often don’t feel much relief talking to a crisis worker as so much of the conversation is scripted, and my fear of hospitals far outweighs my fear of death. I researched resources in my area and happen to come across Peel Crisis Services, who run a hotline around the clock. The thought of calling them was of little interest as I expected just another crisis worker, saying the same things that the last one did.

Hesitantly, I picked up the phone, dialled the number and waited about 18 minutes to press the call button. The line rang, and rang, followed by a message saying that all the crisis workers were busy and I could either wait on the line, or leave my name and number and someone would call me back, and so I opted for the easy way out and left a message. My phone rang back less than ten minutes later and although I was riddled with fear and anxiety, I answered. There was a young gentleman on the other end of the line, which immediately threw me off, as in my mind, I had expected a woman to call, however, he was quite gentle and pleasant and after ensuring my immediate safety mentioned that they could send a mobile crisis team to my home which would consist of a specially trained, plain clothes Police Officer and a social worker. I hesitated at first, not sure if I was comfortable having a cop at my house, but decided it was the safest space for me to open up.

About two hours later, my anxiety through the roof, they arrived. I let them in, sat them down and proceeded to have a panic attack. They talked me through it, got me settled down enough and we began to chat about what had triggered me into crisis in the first place. They were both, incredibly kind, compassionate and sympathetic. They actually listened and allowed me to express my feelings without fear of judgement, or fear of hospitals. They ensured me several times that their job was to ensure my safety at home, and at all costs, avoid going to hospital. The social worker asked all the standard questions but also went a bit more personally into my case. They stayed for almost two hours, by which point I was calm and rational. They left me with some information pamphlets, the 24 hour crisis number and a resource to another service to look into. They also said they could write a report detailing our conversation and submit it to my new psychiatrist once I have seen her. All information remains confidential and is only accessible by Peel Police internally. All in all, it was a good experience, which helped to ease my fear of police and opening up to strangers.

The downside is that due to the volume of calls, and the lack of funding for trained Mental Health Officers, it leaves only six teams to deal with about 700000 people meaning that this is a one-time service. I am hoping that as the number of people with Mental Health issues increase that eventually the funding will have to come, out of necessity if nothing else. In an ideal world, all officers would be trained to deal with people with mental health disorders, which would eliminate thousands of unnecessary trips to the ER, where they also don’t have the ability to deal with you. I have to say, I am disappointed that this could not be a “lifeline” of sorts, and I am back to the futility of crisis lines, but for the time being, it is what it is, and perhaps one day it will change.

I Have Never Learned to Love Myself

Three simple words…I Love You.

People always say if you don’t love yourself you can’t love anyone else. Is that a truth or just one of those things “they” say? For me those words could not be more untrue.

When I was growing up my Mom told me she loved me all the time. I fully believed her and I repeated them back with truth and feeling. My father on the other hand hardly uttered the words. My extended family said them on all the appropriate occasions, and dutifully I replied. At that time in my life, with the exception of my Mom I held little truth to their words, or the words of any adults for that matter. I always felt “surface loved”; like they loved me because that is what “family” is supposed to do. I wondered if it was because I was adopted and not their blood, that they would never love me like they loved each other. It is an awful feeling for a child to feel so unloved; the only saving grace being my Mom.

This feeling not only continued in my pre-teen years, but actually got worse. With my Mom dealing with domestic abuse and depression, the belief that it was somehow my fault started to sink in and the feeling of being unlovable deepened. Maybe it was something I did, or didn’t do that made him so angry, or maybe I wasn’t a good kid and that is why she was so depressed. My self-blame turned into self-hatred, which directly correlates to the feeling that I cannot be loved. Was Let me clarify, it is more than me thinking I don’t deserve love, although that is a huge part of it, but that I actually can’t be loved. It is something I have felt as long as I have memories, and although it has wavered in degrees over the years, it never left and still hasn’t to this day.

My teenage years were mostly consumed with taking care of my Mom, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer and although bond between us was deep was also full of my teen angst. I could not get the love I needed from my mom, and because of the years of sexual abuse which had recently ended, I looked anywhere I could find for some love and attention. I went through a promiscuous stage, as do many survivors, where the only physical affection I was repeatedly shown aside from my Mom, was in a sexual manner. Even though you realize seeking love this way is wrong you do what you know, repeatedly and still never feel loved.

When my Mom died, I lost the only person who I felt loved me, and the only one I could love.

As an adult, I have learned to love other people, and not just on a surface level, but to the fullest extent that I know, however, I have not learned to love myself or accept true and lasting love. I have allowed two people to really love me, as they have stuck with me during the dark times, but those three words from anyone else, I question. After all, if I can’t be loved or love myself, how can anyone else possibly do so? I require a lot of trust before I can believe those words, and quite frankly, most people do not stick around long enough for me to accept them as truths.

Fast forward to now and the “Twitterverse”, where I have made some very good friends who have stuck with my through the hard times. I don’t have as much difficulty telling them I love them as I do accepting their words. Please don’t misunderstand; I certainly believe that they are truly meant by whoever spoke them; however the fear of accepting and believing them means I will have to learn to love myself, which I have no idea how to do. How do I change something ingrained in me since I was put up for adoption? I have been to therapists, read countless books and articles. I know exactly why I feel like this, yet I still can’t fix it, learn it or unlearn the ingrained thought.

So, if I tell you I love you, know that I mean it to the full extent that my being allows, which will likely be different than yours. If you tell me you love me, please know I do believe you as much as my heart will allow.  As the saying goes, “I’m listening but I can’t hear you”. How I wish that was not true.

Jody Betty, Multi-Published Blogger, Trauma Recovery Coach, Crisis Support, Best-Selling Author, Editor

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