This I Believe

Eva - West Haven, Connecticut
Entered on April 11, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: disability

I believe there’s a reason our government invented food stamps, and food stamp cards, and EBT, and all that other convoluted aid that’s supposed to help the disabled. Moral

obligation? That’s crap. Its not about morals or about survival. Its about healing. I mean, people like me who are disabled and live alone or with roomies, our fondest memories, or a lot of them, would have to be around the dinner table. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, the bounty of midsummer’s farmer’s market, the orchards with mom in late summer and fall. Its that hearty food, that wonderful carefully cooked hearty food, that feeds us and strengthens us and comforts us. When I moved out, I was fine. Around winter, I got depressed. Life passed in a haze, library, want ads, Dr’s visits, want ads, resumes, books, TV. Deadlines blurred past. Appointments got screwed up. Hearty soups were okay, but what kind of person can feel good about popping insta pizza in the nuker at night and hold their head high when their stepmother made pesto for their holiday visit home from her own garden fresh basil or their mother made chicken soup when they were little and sick from leftover chicken? Not me.

I was diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder at the age of 15. Before that they’d thought it was

ADHD until I broke down and told dad that I /did/ feel like something was wrong. The

diagnosis of ADHD came when I was 8. And before that at age 4 they thought it was autism, two misdiagnosis, I’m told in kids its not uncommon, I’m told that in kids there tends to be a treatment lag, there is, in my opinion, a boarderline between treatment lag and stereotyping patients because this or that mental illness is stereotypical. I’ve seen a DSMV entry, its not a simple compendium or checklist. I am far past the point of being upset at taking meds or seeing a shrink when I feel “Perfectly fine.” Now, I just want to pick up for the mistakes I made that lead me to where I am. Dropped out of college, worried about food, crappy prepaid cellphone, worried about whether or not my rent will be paid on time, along with utilities. Appointments with this or that shrink to figure out how to cope, and bloodwork to make sure the medicine isn’t frying this or that organ. I want to heal, I want to pick up the pieces and hold my head high. I want to well and truely earn the film degree I wanted since age 12, and when I am healed and I have it, no matter how old I get I will pump my fist to the sky and laugh at the illness and say, “thhhhbbbbbt! Gotcha.”

I first got my food stamp card around february. Well, it was a little late, but oh well. I

balked at the “no fast food” rule. I can’t take this to Mc Dee’s or Subway? But I can’t cook! I’d set the house on fire! And I wanted burgers! Oh well, I’d better try! And I think at some point in there my dad’s advice, that one meal of fastfood could feed you for a day on groceries if you treated it right, shone through my memory. There was a Stop and Shop maybe 3 or 4 blocks away from my apartment, why not see what I can get?

I must have grabbed about a hundred and fifty pounds of groceries off the shelves. Chicken, flour, bread, ground beef, salads, veggies, pesto (a favorite comfort food), pastas and soups and all sorts of goodies. I think aside from the baking sugar, and aside from the soda, there couldn’t have been more than a pound or so of sugar total between everything, maybe less. I almost broke my back getting it home with the ice I swear. And when I got it all home I looked at the pile of ingredients, looked at the cupboards and fridge, and then at the cookbook my dad had given me for Christmas and I wondered, what now?

Over time I learned things like… be sure to cover the bacon pan or your fingers will get stung by the grease, turn the heat down on the pancakes or they’ll burn, pesto is good for special occasions, but don’t use it every day as its 5 bucks a tub, bread machines and waffle irons are hard to clean, treat them with care, scratch a nonstick surface and guess what happens? Before long my diet for one day could look like this. Breakfast- Pancakes, 2 or 3 slices of bacon, orange juice, maybe a frozen then nuked sausage biscuit since they were on sale. Lunch- Cheese burgers, season like mom taught, fry the microwaveable bacon, melt one slice of pepper jack cheese on top. Brown rice on the side rather than fries. Dinner- Chicken stir fry, add sprouts, frozen veggies, cook the chicken ahead of time, low sodium soy sauce so your stomach doesn’t hurt after and organic, non processed seasame oil, add a mug of green tea, put Law and Order on the Tube and enjoy!

Slowly, I started to feel better. I had more energy, I could drag myself out of bed in the morning and be cheerful in a non manic sorta way. Then Lacey came back. That’s her screen name. For some reason the fall before she’d dropped off the face of this online roleplay group that I volunteer design work with. We get together online, we make up characters, and we roleplay. We were catching up on real life stuff since she left, and since she’s not American, we compared notes on our countries disability benefits. I told her about the no fastfood rule, and that that was why I was so interested in recipes (I was trying to look up how to make Chinese.) And I was able to voice the reason for my improvement at last.

It was quite simple really. And not just a matter of good nutrition being good for the mind. If I had broken the rule, or if it weren’t there, and bought fastfood rather than try to at least learn how to cook under my own power, what does that say about my confidence in myself? People get that card because they’re sick, they’re poor, they’re barely hanging on and gone as low as low can get. They’re ready to give up. What does it say then, to them or their families, when they can stand proud in front of their children, or just look at their parents picture by the bed at the end of the day and say, “hey ma, guess what I made today? Just like you did when I was little. Isn’t that something?” Or, in my case before I go to bed. “Heya Dad, guess what I made tonight? It’s not as good as yours, or moms, or my stepmothers, but it works, it will do. I may not have turned out the way you wanted, but hey? I’m here. I made it. And by the way dad, thanks, for believing I could.”