What I want you to know about the emotional toll of being poor

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here.  Today’s guest post is by Anonymous.

*Inspired by another What I Want You To Know post on poverty.

We live just above the poverty line, which means that we only qualified for EBT when my husband lost a few hours per paycheck. Before that, we were literally $100 over the cut-off. I have a college degree in English (translation: useless), and begin nursing school next month. However, for the past four years I haven't been able to work on a regular basis. I have epilepsy. I have infrequent seizures but because of their severity (grand mal...the shaking, possessed by the devil type), I have had to resign from at least three jobs. The seizures were triggered by immense amounts of personal stress, which have abated during the past year, hence reducing my seizures and making school possible.
When I was able to work, we not only were able to earn enough to basically pay bills and buy enough food, but I felt like a human being. Not working has made me feel like crap. I look at people that I went to school with; principal of a middle school, teaching abroad, working in Washington, and I am beyond depressed. What kind of failure am I that I have a college degree and yet have WIC, EBT and have to go to the equivalent of the food bank?
My husband works in a hospital as a tech. He is one of the most intelligent people I know, but does not have a college degree. He's waiting until he knows exactly what he wants to do. But, he feels like crap too, not being able to provide more income for our family.
The lady who wrote the past post referred to the shame and stress that come with poverty, and I totally understand that. Oh crap, we're overdrawn, the bank is going to rip us off again, and $70 of our paycheck, which would have paid a bill, is now going to disappear into those damn overdraft fees. "Do we have enough to pay rent?" Yes, if my husband donates plasma. But then we are left with $10 for a week. We have enough money for food, thanks to EBT, etc., but nothing more. We live in a one bedroom apartment; we have two kids. I know that for many people in the world, this is normal, but it's difficult to maintain a loving relationship with my husband and with my children when 1. there is no privacy, and 2. there is no personal space.
We have two kids. Judge me if you want, but I will not apologize for them. I am so glad we have them. I am also beyond thrilled that I finally have a definite career path that will result (in four years) in a well paying job. Now, as I said before, that I am healthier, school is possible. I no longer feel like absolute crap, but it's still so hard.
Stress and shame, again; going to the grocery store and not having enough money to pay for the groceries, and having the man behind us in line pay for them. While it was incredibly kind of him to do so, I was so embarrassed. Again, several months ago, going to the store to buy diapers and not having enough to pay for them. Diapers; not exactly a luxury. I left the store biting back tears. A lady ran out after me, and handed me the diapers, saying "I understand, I've been there." Being understood was amazing. The shame in going to the WIC office to get those much needed checks, and thinking to myself about the clerk "I am perfectly capable of doing your job," but of course, not being able to at that time. A college degree that I cannot use. I've worked in daycares, since they were the easiest jobs to get, and I felt as though I constantly had to apologize for working in a daycare "Oh, it's only temporary, until I start school again," or to prove in conversations that I really was an educated person.
These are just some reflections on what it means, for me, to be poor. It is not an edited piece, but a chance to put on paper those things that have hurt for so long. Thank you.

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