Life has been tough lately. OK, so that makes me sound melodramatic and incredibly ungrateful for the fact that I have a job and a healthy family. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record, but things really have been tough.

No news on the job front for Patrick. We did get an extension on our unemployment benefits, so now instead of having them run out in mid-March, we have until early June. I think we might be eligible for another extension, but we’re hoping Patrick is employed by then.

I continue to be amazed at how extensive the effects of unemployment can be on a family. I am overwhelmed with being the only one bringing home a paycheck. Don’t we all have those days when wejust want to tell our boss we quit? We don’t really do it, but the fact that we could is enough to sustain us for another few weeks. I am swamped at work – too many deadlines and not enough time or energy. The fact that I can’t just up and quit my job (even though I wouldn’t really do that) is suffocating. There is such an enormous amount of pressure on me to stay employed (let’s not even discuss the Illinois budget and the fact that I work for a non-profit that is expecting to see major cuts).

But that’s not the only effect. There’s this constant biting of my tongue that I must engage in so I don’t say something angry or spiteful toward Patrick. I don’t blame him for his situation (although I do go over and over in my head all the ways he could have circumvented this situation), but there are times when I want to say something to him. Something like, “Since you don’t have a job, would it hurt you to run the vacuum/wash some pots and pans/fold the laundry/fix the window in Griffin’s room/etc.?” It’s such a delicate balance of being supportive and not going over the deep end myself because I take on all the responsibility.

I know that being unemployed is having an effect on Patrick. I can see it in his face and in the way he sits and in his voice. I feel for him. I know he feels a sense of responsibility to our family and he’s doing everything in his power to help. It’s hard to watch and it’s even harder to walk on eggshells each and every day.

We have gotten to the point where we are accepting help from places we never imagined. We’re still waiting to hear if Griffin will be covered through the state of Iowa for his health insurance. There was a lot of paperwork that needed to be completed/submitted and I think we might finally know something by next week. For now, we can’t afford his medication, but because I work for a social service agency, I’ve been pointed in the right direction to a couple of places that might be able to help us out with the cost of his epi-pen. We tried to apply for assistance from WIC so we can pay for some groceries for Griffin (milk, bread, juice, peanut butter, etc.), but we make just a bit too much to qualify.

I told Patrick the other day that he and I have both been in denial about our situation. We have been living on one paycheck and unemployment for almost one year. We have drained our savings. We have borrowed from both of our families. We cannot pay for our mortgage, credit card debt (even just the monthly minimums), utilities, groceries, and day care. We owe more than we make each month, but somehow we’ve “gotten by.” Some people get paid, some don’t. But it has caught up with us.

I always felt like we weren’t as bad off as some other people. But I don’t think that’s the case anymore. We are the people who don’t make enough to get by each month, but make just a few too many dollars to get help. I finally told Patrick that we need to get help wherever we can and in whatever form – food pantry for some of the basics, local agencies for Griffin’s medication and help with our utility bill (so that doesn’t get shut-off), the home retention program through our mortgage company (we’re already in a trial period), etc. Whenever I think about this I feel as though I’m taking help away from someone else. Maybe things aren’t as bad as I think. Then I look at my checkbook and the stack of unpaid bills. I see that the mortgage company has sent yet another letter threatening to take our home. I receive another phone call from a debt collector. Add all of those up and we deserve the help as much as the next person.

I don’t think Patrick wants to think we’re at this point. I believe he still thinks we’re going to be OK the way things are. We’re not. He keeps saying that once he gets a job “everything is going to be OK.” Eventually, yes, but not right away. We’re going to have to work our way out of this pit.

So for now, I am the one who calls for help. I will be the one to go to the local church and get some free food. I will be the one to wait and see if we qualify for Medicaid for Griffin. I will be the one who apologizes every time a bill is late. I will be the one who begs for a little bit more time to find money to pay our mortgage. Just another burden added on my shoulders.

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