Living in a teeter totter

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Life is full of ups and downs. When things are looking up, it’s great. But when they fall down, the challenges can sometimes be too much to bear. It’s especially difficult when you’re thrown into a pattern of traumatic and stressful events. It’s a real test of will and strength, and often very easy to fall in a position of needing help. Overcoming these falls can be harder than you’d ever imagine. Once the bills pile up it’s hard to know if you’ll ever get caught up.

Balancing between paying the rent and buying groceries is hard. I haven’t been able to keep a steady employment record so I never should have tried to afford an apartment on my own. Rent is really expensive! I’ll probably have to move into a rooming house. I’ve done that before. It wasn’t so bad – but it wasn’t great either. But it’s better than Mary’s place or some other shelter. I just like having a space to call my own…I use to own a house with my husband. Well ex-husband. After three stillbirths our marriage dissolved. We had a lot of problems and I never really got over being an alcoholic; but we did manage to have one child survive. And after many years I’ve decided not to drink. I want to be a good role model for my son, Trevor. He’s a miracle! Trevor was two pounds when he was born nine weeks premature. He went three weeks with no amniotic fluid. My water broke and then I delivered three weeks later. Go ask any nurse and see if that’s possible…Unfortunately I haven’t seen a lot of my son though. Around the time that my husband divorced me I had a breakdown. So Trevor lived with his father while I spent some time in a psychiatric hospital. I’ve been in and out of those places; trying to take care of my son whenever I could. But Trevor doesn’t really want to spend a lot of time with me. I’m not sure I want to see much of him either. At the age of seven he started abusing me just like his father did…But he’s my son and I love him. I’m trying to be a part of his life; but it’s hard. He’s in trouble with the law. So now that I’m out of the hospital, it’s likely he’ll be going to jail. It seems like he’s always in trouble – and I’ve told him I won’t give him the money to help out. Normally I would. I’m the type of person who will give you whatever you need if I have it. If you came to my door needing bread, you’d have half a loaf if I had it. My mother always raised me to share and help others. We were raised with the values of the church and to acknowledge something bigger than you or I. I’ve always believed that God will send someone to help whenever needed.

Think of this as your story. Take a second to reflect how you’d feel in this situation if Trevor was your son.  What if you were Trevor?

While your son is pushing you away, you’re trying to form a relationship with him. You know he doesn’t care what you have to say or share your values; but you want to be a part of his life. Actually you need him to be a part of your life because family support and love is often what separates you between experiencing another mental breakdown or not.

Yes he’s frustrating you because he’s making all the wrong decisions in your eyes, but you can’t stop dwelling on the fact that he’s family and you love him. But how much longer can you watch him make these decisions? You know his bank account is running low because few people will hire someone with a criminal record. So what will you do when he doesn’t have the money for his court fines or lawyers fees? Although you want to help, unfortunately you’re financial situation isn’t much better than his. You continually struggle to meet your basic needs such as rent, utilities and groceries. But at least you’re willing to access various programs for supports; Trevor refuses to talk to strangers about what’s going on in his life because he feels they wouldn’t understand.

At least he’ll talk to you though. Well it’s more that he just stops by when he needs something. You think he may be abusing your good nature, but you can’t turn him away. You’ve tried sending him back to his father but he refuses to tell him anything. You suspect it’s probably because he doesn’t want to suffer the same physical and emotional abuse that he knows you went through. His father has the money to help him, but is it worth the abuse that you’ll both endure? Your ex-husband continually blames you for all the problems Trevor has.

But no one is to blame here. Unfortunately your life has been filled with a what feels like 10 life times of hardship that have been almost impossible to overcome. Each day is filled with a new challenge and sometimes it’s hard to catch up.

A common sentiment from our first time volunteers is how being here for a while reminds you of all the things you should be thankful for.  This post is the last of a short series of stories from some of the many people we serve.  They are the result of a lot of the hard work that our two summer students Leah and Jessie did over the summer trying to connect with people and get more of their story.

Though each story is complex and different in its own unique way, each shares the same basic theme: no money, no food, and no other option. Fortunately House of Friendship is available to provide a limited amount of support, but it’s often not enough. Each day the patrons of our program are facing more problems than just not having enough food. Turning to food banks is just one of the few options for relief in many individuals’ lives. By accessing a food hamper they’ll have a few moments of peace before needing to worry about having enough food again. Maybe then they’ll have the time to focus on one of the many other struggles and challenges they’re facing in their lives.

What we hope you take away from each of these stories is a little spark of empathy and a desire to make at least a small change for the better in our community.  Consider volunteering, donating, or talking to people and politicians in the upcoming provincial election on October 6th.

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