Vote Like Your Life Depends on It

For anyone who thinks the major parties are the same, congressional elections aren’t important, or their vote doesn’t matter, please remember the government shutdown that happened last year and cost us $24,000,000,000. It happened because the Republican Speaker of the House chose not to vote on the federal budget in an attempt to undermine the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare” – which, by the way, is the reason I have health insurance and can afford the medication that seems to be helping me change my life.

One person should not have that much power, but for the time being we need to ensure that person isn’t in the pocket of right-wing extremists who exist to do the bidding of the ludicrously wealthy at the expense of everyone else. They would rather allow people to starve to death or commit suicide than risk losing a small portion of their profits. (Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in Americans.)

The only way we can have a federal government that comes remotely close to representing us is to get a Democratic majority in the House, and the only way to do that is for those of us who can vote to do so – wisely.

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Here’s the relevant part of my post from last year about the shutdown:

I’ve been having a really hard time lately and there’s no end in sight. Sometimes I feel so hopeless, it’s painful to keep breathing.

This government shutdown orchestrated by a small handful of right-wing extremists who somehow managed to take control of the House is such a huge, overwhelming problem. I know one person who works for the government who has been extremely stressed out, and another person who just lost their job – I suspect at least partially due to the shutdown. I’m concerned for them, and for the hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and for the millions of people who won’t receive the assistance they need for Zek knows how long. The impact on the economy is devastating, and more importantly people could die as a result of this.

It completely and utterly infuriates me that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that they played a role in the shutdown, never mind taking responsibility. […] All we need is for the House to vote on one bill that’s been sitting on Boehner’s desk, but that he refuses to call a vote on. I don’t even understand how or why the Speaker of the House – one person – has that kind of power. I thought our government was set up to prevent one person from ever having that much power.

We can petition them all we want but it’s like they live in a different universe. […] I think the only solution is for the American people to somehow take direct control of the House – at the very least, force them to vote on the bill that would provide funding to the departments that have been shut down (without removing access to birth control or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare for a year, thanks). At least then we’d have some semblance of transparency, a record of who voted to keep this country afloat and who voted against us all.

So far I’ve learned of one way to bypass Boehner and force a vote on the clean funding bill: the discharge petition House Democrats have been pursuing. I encourage readers (especially those in the U.S.) to sign this petition urging House Republicans to join their colleagues in ending the shutdown. Also please consider contacting your representative directly (House.gov). I know I just wrote that petitioning them doesn’t do anything, but I don’t really see any other course of action. People know that the Republicans are responsible; there are several races for Republican seats in the House where polls show the Democrats to have an advantage.

(But only if the people who support them vote!)

And here’s part of another post I wrote around that time, Running Red:

I read an article that said the Tea Party is actually pleased with Boehner and that this shutdown is part of his career strategy. That’s right folks, starving mothers and babies, survivors of rape and domestic violence put out on the street, head start programs ground to a halt, hundreds of thousands of people without work or pay, parks and monuments closed, a lapse in veterans’ benefits, etc. etc. etc. … merely the pawns in Boehner’s game of chess. If he’s winning, he’s not going to listen to our petitions – unless perhaps there is a massive outcry by the people in his district, who can vote for his opponent in the next (this!) election. Without their votes, all the support and campaign funds from his party will be nothing.

So please, please vote today, if you haven’t already. If you’re inclined to vote Republican, please look up what your candidate and other Republicans have been doing and think critically about whether they actually represent you, your needs, and the rest of us who aren’t bazillionaires in terms of the practical, this-world decisions they’ve made and the consequences of their actions (or inaction). If you’re inclined to vote Democrat, please stop reading this right now and go vote!

Additional Voter Resources at Vote411.org

The Trouble with Feeding Demons

We brought our rat Trouble to the vet last night. It brought up the guilt and sadness I’ve been feeling since the last week or so of his cagemate Schmoozer’s life (Hole).

Trigger Warning

I’d been meaning to take Trouble for a “wellness visit” after Schmoozer died, but I was mourning and concerned about my credit card bills after paying for an “exotic” to be hospitalized and hiding in video games to escape my anxiety about my pending legal marriage ceremony. Trouble seemed to be doing okay for the most part, maybe a bit lonely but otherwise healthy, so I half convinced myself that a wellness visit was an unnecessary expense.

Until a few days ago. I heard that telltale chirping noise – in my experience, the first audible indication of respiratory doom – coming from his cage. When I went over to him I observed that his breathing seemed labored. I was worried and sad and maybe a bit guilty, but I wasn’t going to sit by and let him suffer untreated as Schmoozer had. With Fox’s support and assistance, I made him an appointment.

As we coaxed Trouble into the carrier, I couldn’t help thinking we were taking him somewhere to die. I got lost on the way to the vet; the resulting frustration was actually kind of helpful because it distracted me from my other emotions. We had to wait a long time as a result of being late; Trouble was relaxing in his carrier so Fox gave me his smart phone to play games on (I still have a stupid phone). It was so embarrassing and disorienting to be playing a game when the vet walked into the examination room where we’d been waiting! Trouble’s symptoms hadn’t seemed as bad, and I felt disconnected from the urgency of fighting rat illness.

Fox maintained that the symptoms have been concerning us, and the vet heard Trouble’s labored breathing for herself. We briefly discussed antibiotics, but quickly agreed that they didn’t seem to be working – or, at least, that they hadn’t worked for Schmoozer. I’d been so focused on Schmoozer, who had the worse symptoms, that it was hard for me to remember how Trouble’s symptoms had responded to antibiotics. I felt so guilty, now not only that Schmoozer had suffered so much in his short life, but that I hadn’t paid enough attention to Trouble to provide useful information about his condition now. (I also felt responsible for causing both their suffering by introducing them to my previous rat, who had carried the disease and made it clear from their first encounter that he didn’t want cage mates).

The vet recommended a pediatric nebulizer, which would deliver treatment directly to the affected areas and provide immediate symptom relief. It was something she’d brought up when I’d finally contacted her about Schmoozer’s condition, and essentially what they’d done for him (too late!) at the veterinary hospital where he eventually died.

I embraced the idea wholeheartedly – finally, an effective treatment I could administer as needed to give my beloved pet a longer, happier, healthier life! It was almost like getting a second chance – almost.

The fact that Schmoozer is dead – my wonderful, extremely friendly, sweet and trusting little friend DEAD! – weighs heavily on my mind. I wish I’d done this months ago, in time to give my beloved pet a longer, happier, healthier life. Because I have to admit, I loved Schmoozer more than I loved Trouble, and if I could pick one rat to have I would pick Schmoozer. I feel like Denethor telling Faramir he wished Faramir had died, and Boromir had lived.

I try so hard to see Trouble for himself, to love him as he deserves to be loved, and so on. But I see a cage housing one rat when it’s supposed to house two. When Trouble runs off to eat the treat I gave him, I see Schmoozer sitting on my leg to eat it. When Trouble gets into an area I’d rather he not, I see Schmoozer staying closer to the areas where it’s easy for me to interact with him. When Trouble does whatever it takes to grab the treat from my hand, I see Schmoozer willingly doing the trick I’ve asked of him. When Trouble curls up happily in his hammock, I feel horrible because Schmoozer isn’t there to curl up next to or on top of him.

I remember the little black and white fur ball clinging to my sweater as though he thought I could save him from his pain and suffering and fear. I hate that all I could offer him was death – albeit a quick and merciful one. And I wish I could have at least another year with him, loving him up every day. But he died because of my negligence … and, I’ll admit, because Fox didn’t do whatever it took to make sure Schmoozer got the treatment he needed, even if it meant confiscating my video games. I wish he’d been more proactive in that regard, and I’m angry that he wasn’t. But we rushed Schmoozer to the veterinary hospital together, and we mourned his death together, and we’re doing our best to care for Trouble together, and to get our lives back on track together. We miss Schmoozer together, there’s no point in being angry with him.

Just like there’s no point in beating myself up, I know. But it starts with “I wish I had …” and then the Critic Heckler Evil Sadistic Torturer takes over, telling me I’m the worst person ever to live and I don’t deserve anything that I have – especially not love – and that I deserve to die the worst and most painful death possible, scared and alone.

At best I beg for forgiveness, and at worst I want to enact the punishment he has sentenced me to … except that I can’t. Because I’m aware of the suffering that would inflict on the people I love, and I just can’t do that to them. So I’m trapped. I might feel better for a time, but he’s always there, waiting. And the moment I give him an opening he charges in and I’m completely at his mercy. There’s no escape, its my own bloody thoughts that are doing this to me!

I told Mom about taking Trouble to the vet. All I got from her was a lecture about how much money I’ve been spending on these rats, and they cost more than the dog but live a much shorter life, and maybe I shouldn’t have pets anymore.

You have to understand, I had a dog before I was even born! There was just a very short time when we didn’t have at least one pet, after we put the dog I’d grown up with (who was no longer eating) to sleep. It’s taking all my willpower to resist the temptation to “get cage mates for Trouble” because it wouldn’t be what’s best for any of the rats involved, or me. I’m mourning and feeling guilty and trying to take good care of the pet I have.

Telling me I shouldn’t have pets – while financially sound – is like telling me I shouldn’t have a family. Even with all the emotional issues I’m having, just spending a few moments interacting with Trouble can brighten my darkest of moods. She’s also trying to talk me into “cutting back” on my sessions with Wakana to save money (I shouldn’t have therapy). Mom’s words cut through me like a burning knife. I know it’s not her intention, but she’s feeding the worst part of my illness. And I don’t even know how to ask her to stop.

Shut Down

I’ve been having a really hard time lately and there’s no end in sight. Sometimes I feel so hopeless, it’s painful to keep breathing.

This government shutdown orchestrated by a small handful of right-wing extremists who somehow managed to take control of the House is such a huge, overwhelming problem. I know one person who works for the government who has been extremely stressed out, and another person who just lost their job – I suspect at least partially due to the shutdown. I’m concerned for them, and for the hundreds of thousands of people out of work, and for the millions of people who won’t receive the assistance they need for Zek knows how long. The impact on the economy is devastating, and more importantly people could die as a result of this.

It completely and utterly infuriates me that the Republicans won’t even acknowledge that they played a role in the shutdown, never mind taking responsibility. Their smug lies are difficult to tolerate on the best of days, now they might as well be physically tying my intestines in knots while force-feeding me spoiled milk. All we need is for the House to vote on one bill that’s been sitting on Boehner’s desk, but that he refuses to call a vote on. I don’t even understand how or why the Speaker of the House – one person – has that kind of power. I thought our government was set up to prevent one person from ever having that much power.

We can petition them all we want but it’s like they live in a different universe. I don’t think they’re capable of having an honest conversation anymore. The meaning of your words gets twisted in their minds before you’re even finished saying a single sentence; it’s almost like they can’t help dodging the question or spewing blatant lies because they’re not perceiving the words or the situation realistically. I think the only solution is for the American people to somehow take direct control of the House – at the very least, force them to vote on the bill that would provide funding to the departments that have been shut down (without removing women’s access to birth control or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act / Obamacare for a year, thanks). At least then we’d have some semblance of transparency, a record of who voted to keep this country afloat and who voted against us all.

So far I’ve learned of one way to bypass Boehner and force a vote on the clean funding bill: the discharge petition House Democrats have been pursuing. I encourage readers (especially those in the U.S.) to sign this petition urging House Republicans to join their colleagues in ending the shutdown. Also please consider contacting your representative directly (House.gov). I know I just wrote that petitioning them doesn’t do anything, but I don’t really see any other course of action. People know that the Republicans are responsible; there are several races for Republican seats in the house where polls show the Democrats to have an advantage. Maybe if we keep enough pressure on they’ll realize that the best thing to do – whether it’s to save their jobs or because deep down they actually do give a damn about this country – is to give up the Tea Party’s ridiculous demands and frelling fund the government. We only need about 18 of them to rejoin reality.

Anyways, it’s not just the shutdown that’s got me, well, down. I’m having my own financial crisis. I wiped out my checking account paying credit card bills (in full, on time), then received 2 very unwelcome pieces of mail. One was the bill from the animal hospital where we’d taken Schmoozer; they’re charging me an additional $400 on top of the $200 deposit. I was very angry when I first received it, but the vets and other staff worked hard and they do need to be paid. The financial cost just adds to the pain of losing him. The other offensive bit of mail was regarding my student loans: I need to contact them about repayment or deferment because I’m not at least a half-time student. I’m hoping I can defer repayment, but I’m dreading the call I’m almost guaranteed to have to make. Again, not at all unreasonable (or entirely unexpected), just horrible timing. I’d much rather disappear into a hole than deal with bureaucracy.

I managed to fill out most of the information to apply for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act – which went into effect a week ago – but the site (HealthCare.gov) was “unable to verify my identity.” I haven’t been able to log on since to view the message that’s waiting for me; I hope it’s not time sensitive! I could call but I really feel a lot more comfortable with written communication, which allows me to ensure my own comprehension and make sure I’m clearly communicating my true intention. On the phone I feel pressured to agree with whomever I’m talking to; I might agree to something that’s not in my best interest.

I’m frustrated because I just want to see what plan(s) I’m eligible for and take some time to compare/evaluate them, but I can’t even log in. The more rational side of me is saying to wait a month or two. Then Fox and I can apply as a married couple, I can use my new legal name, and less people will be trying to access the site at once, so it should be a lot easier. But that doesn’t jive well with the part of me that feels an urgent need to Do Something Right Now to change my current status: unemployed and uninsured. Being unemployed and uninsured goes against the values I was raised with, the sense of identity I wanted. It’s hard to accept; it grates on my nerves. But it’s the truth and I want to do something about it. I hate that when I finally get up the guts and energy to try, then I can’t even log in to a website.

I’m also feeling a lot of pressure to get a job, but I find it difficult to get up, feed myself, and get dressed in the morning; my mind fills with doubts about whether I’d be able to be on time for the job, ever. The idea of going in for an interview paralyzes me with anxiety. Mom says I need to figure out what I’m doing with my life, and I agree. But I question whether I really want to and can continue on the career path I’ve already started out with; for the time being, at least, even role-playing a therapist is dangerous. I would love to write professionally (even though I lack a degree in English), but I’m not sure how likely I’d be to actually get paid; most of the jobs I’ve seen posted online would provide unstable income at best. I have the minimal degree I need to enter a career in music composition / arranging / orchestrating and I think I’d enjoy it a great deal … except that I have trouble getting myself to work on my own compositions for fun. Assuming I could even get anyone to pay me for my work, would I be able to stick with it consistently enough to finish commissioned works? Right now I’m full of doubt. I doubt I could be successful in any career.

Mom says I should try to find a small office job or something local. The idea fills me with so much anxiety I have to end the conversation. But then I doubt myself again. Am I really suffering from a mental illness that makes it so I can’t even try to find work? Or am I just being lazy, making excuses? To what degree do I need to take responsibility? And to what degree do I desperately need support? Whose responsibility is it to make sure I get that support? I feel like I should know where to look, but I don’t. I’m lost.

Finances

I finally updated the spreadsheet in which I keep track of all transactions in my checking and savings accounts, for the first time this calendar year. Yeah, it’s been that bad.

Thank goodness, I’ve been recording the vast majority of the transactions (and all but two of the important ones) in my checkbook. I had added some random amount to the balance when I was supposed to be subtracting the amount of a check I’d written, so my checkbook and online statement disagreed regarding how much money I had. Updating the spreadsheet has resolved the issue, I think. There are still a couple transactions that haven’t hit the online statement yet.

While I might not be happy about the steady decline in my funds, I do see updating my finances spreadsheet as a return to functional humanity. Here’s hoping I can continue to keep it updated, and that soon the numbers will begin to (at least periodically) go up!