Monday, 6 June 2016
Change, hardship, sorrow and a first for me
The last few weeks have been filled with a great deal of change and they have had a seriously corrosive effect on me. The only thing that is currently getting me through it all is the fact that, despite my earnest intention to never take on another cat, I adopted my parent’s cat following her visit to stay with me while my parents were away on holiday. Blossom is both a comfort and a constant reminder that my beloved son and companion Merlin is gone as she is very similar in appearance to Merlin given that they are from the same breed.
My latest round of life-altering changes came about three or four weeks ago when, finally, the local council offered my ex-wife a flat of her own so the enforced living together that we have endured since our divorce came through has finally come to an end. Not that the days between Diana getting the flat and her actually moving in weren’t stressful as there were moments when we thought the whole deal would fall through due to financial worries on Diana’s part and the amount of time it took for most of the furniture to be delivered to make the flat habitable.
Of course, when Diana signed the tenancy agreement, the enormity of the hardship I would be subjected to finally hit me as I became solely responsible for the rent, Council Tax and all the bills for the flat that was our marital home. It has been a long time since I have been responsible for the financial affairs for the household being out of work for so long with my mental health issues so I was unprepared for the huge cost of living nowadays. I thought that I was struggling before now but I realise that I was extremely lucky to have shared expenses with Diana for so long during this extended period of enforced joblessness. I will certainly look back on the days of being able to order dinner from a takeaway every so often with a certain nostalgic melancholy. My £100 a week Employment and Support Allowance is eaten up within hours and I’m not entirely sure that I’ll be able to cope.
It seems ironic that the things I have tried to inform people about – how benefits are too petty an income to live on and be expected to pay towards rent and Council Tax and the injustice of the Bedroom Tax – have now become a reality for me. Where once I could only imagine the financial strain on someone on benefits, I am now facing a future of personal experience of those issues.
Diana finally moved out on Friday 27th May and I was left alone with my new cat in a flat that now feels so empty. Don’t get me wrong, it is certainly better for my relationship with Diana but the situation I’m now in should have been with my beloved son Merlin and not with a latecomer adopted daughter like Blossom. I do love Blossom but this future was one I always envisaged to be mine and Merlin’s.
I’ve kept myself busy with housework, watching the DVDs I bought to cope with Merlin’s loss (something I can no longer afford to do so thank God for Blossom) and doing stuff on the computer. It’s still a state of affairs that, although something I’ve been wanting for ages, is hard to cope with especially as it came just a matter of days before my birthday last Monday which is always a time of great depression for me.
My birthday depression is heightened now by the fact that the anniversary of Merlin’s death comes less than a week later on 5th June and this year, being the first anniversary, has been particularly hard and I found myself bursting into tears from time to time and trying to get comforting hugs from Blossom who is much more active and agile than you would expect from a cat coming up to her 10th birthday in a few months.
However, despite all the sadness and stress of my new living situation, it has opened up opportunities for new experiences such as my first attempt at cooking scrambled eggs for breakfast. I know, it’s shocking that a 45-year-old man hasn’t done scrambled eggs before but I only had them when on holiday or Diana cooked them for me on special occasions so I’ve never had the need to cook them for myself. However, as I am trying to live within very restricted financial means now, I have decided that scrambled eggs will be an integral part of my shoestring catering repertoire. My first attempt was not entirely successful as, despite seasoning the eggs with pepper, they tasted of nothing and I probably over-cooked them as they were extremely dry and not at all like the scrambled eggs I have had in the past but I will persevere.
With all the doom and gloom that surrounds me at the moment, there is a slight chink of light which may offer some hope. A couple of weeks ago I met a man who was interested in my ideas for running mental health awareness training from a sufferer’s perspective (much like the stuff I did for Anglia Ruskin University and Thurrock Council) and he seems to think that I would be accepted for a grant of £500 towards starting up a social enterprise delivering such training. Certainly something to cheer me up if I was that easy to cheer up, knowing as I do how fleeting such chinks of light can be.
I was also introduced to a lady from Thurrock Council who helps social enterprises get started who also seems to think that my ideas for mental health awareness training could work and is currently looking into how she can help me break into such a niche vocation.
If either or both of these links pan out, I might one day be self-employed and on my way to having a fulfilling life but there’s a part of me that can’t get over the fact that I’ve been in a similar position before, where life looked as if it was finally going to be a little brighter before the roof caved in on me and left me so near to suicide it took the act of a stranger to save me from taking my own life. While I will try to look at the future in a positive light, I think I’ll wait until the other shoe drops before I start to celebrate a positive change in fortunes.