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March 12, 2020

Shame, Fears and Tears

My emotional well being is like riding an unpredictable roller coaster blindfolded. Yesterday was tolerable. I forced myself out of bed, performed the typical duties of life and made the best lemonade I could out of my lemons. Today is not that day.

I began my morning in a place of shame and guilt. I have no money for groceries, so my pantry is not stocked with what I know my kids love. The favorites are gone and we are down to the stuff no one likes. So whatever is in the cupboard is what we have for now. In the absense of my son’s preferred breakfast foods he opted to not have breakfast. I offered other items I hoped he might settle for such as cheese, pickles, or oatmeal but he refused, opting for no breakfast at all. In my logical parent brain I tell myself “ he’ll eat if he’s hungry” and “ there is food, just not the favorites” but as an educator I also know the detriment of sending a child to school on an empty tummy. The thought of my son being hungry at school makes me sick to my stomach. He never takes lunch because he ADHD/ODD meds supress his appetite. I have learned, after 14 years, that even if I send a lunch he won’t eat it and it goes to waste, and at this point in our life we can’t afford to waste. So, I am ridden with guilt because my 14 year old son, who is supposed to be a growing teenage boy, is at school with no food in his tummy. He did ask if I could get him money for Subway for lunch because in the absense of breakfast he felt he could probably eat lunch, but again with paying his dad child and spousal support from my limited disability payment I just don’t have the funds. Because I don’t have the funds I feel guilty, as if I am unable to provide for my kid’s basic needs. And so I cry.

When I was married, working as a Principal and a sessional lecturer at the University, and my income was combined with my ex’s, my kids were being raised in a home with an annual income of $200,000. It is not their fault that they have favorite foods, and preferred diets. It is how I raised them.

I completed my 2019 income tax return last werk and my income was filed as $20, 000. This significant decrease in income has been a huge lifestyle adjustment for my kids and I. With the help of my parents, I am my children’s sole support, and if I can’t provide they have nothing. So, it is up to me to prioritize whether we buy food or clothing or pay for track or lacrosse. It is my responsibility to choose to prioritize needs vs wants and nutritious food vs affordable food. I must decide if I will swallow my pride and use the food bank today or tell my child to suck it up and eat what’s available ( as meager as it is). This is an awful position to be in.

As my kids head off to school, I am faced with planning my day. Responding to emails and phone calls of the people I owe money to has me wanting to crawl into bed and hide the day away. It is a repetition of days and moments like this that landed me in the hospital at this time last year. So, this year, I am leaning into my fear, anxiety and shame about where I am in life. I chose to leave my marriage knowing there would be financial and emotional challenges. I put myself in this situation because I believed the pain and struggle of single parenting and the process of divorce could never be as terrible as raising my kids in a physical, emotional and psychologically abusive environment. I know I need to take care of my kids’ mom, and so I fight the urge run away; to take the easy route.

I am sharing this story as a way to help ME work through my circumstance. I hope that by leaning into the fear of sharing my struggle that I can work through my guilt and shame. I hope that sharing my story helps others to understand they aren’t alone. Crappy things happen to good people! I hope that the reflective process of writing this and the tears I’m shedding while I write, will in some strange way help make me feel better and process my experience.

If writing, crying and sharing get me through to tomorrow then I am one step ahead of where I was a year ago, in the hospital, and to me that is a win.

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