Sunday, July 29, 2012

Struggling in America - Amanda B.

This is the first story in this series.  I am still collecting your stories on an ongoing basis.  My desire is to show many perspectives of real life in America where real people are or have struggled.  Please send them to

Amanda B's childhood sounds eerily similar to mine, though, in this story, she is tight lipped about how her mother affected her as an adult.  She became the head of the family at the age of twelve, due to her mother's extreme mental disabilities.  But, now, as an adult, she is killing life with the help of her awesome boyfriend.

Now, her story:


My mother has been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder. She has yet to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, which I am sure she also has. She was diagnosed with nothing until I was 14 despite very obvious signs of serious disordered behavior. My father had been driven away over the years, sure that I would share my mother’s extreme views of their relationship. I was an only child. Both my parents came from large abusive families. The cards were stacked against all of us.

My mother did the best she could within the constraints of her disease. Keeping a job was difficult and by the time I was 12, totally impossible. By then I was picking up our food stamps, doing the shopping, and making any phone calls to utilities that needed to be made.

Life was difficult. I never went without food or clothes thanks to government programs but due to stress and poor nutrition my physical health was always terrible and my mental health suffered unspeakably.

I somehow figured out that the only way away from my mother’s life was an education. I worked hard and got both government and private scholarships. Of course, they couldn’t cover everything and loans were a necessity. I worked three part time jobs, went to school full time, and managed to graduate early.

By the age of 22 I was exhausted and feeling very much alone. I found a job that paid the bills, barely, but those damned loans were just enough to push me into financial insecurity. That and the fact that I’d never been taught how to handle money. I was clueless about saving, budgeting, what to sacrifice/gamble with and what to spend on. It seemed every month the bank was charging me fees. I just became more exhausted, more jaded, and more likely to ignore phone calls from numbers I didn’t know.

Thankfully, a few years ago help came in the form of my boyfriend. He came from an upper middle class family and had savings before he even went to college. He helped me pay my back bills and taught me how to budget and save. He made me confront my anxiety and shame surrounding my finances. He gave me hope that one day I might not be fighting just to get by.

We live together now; my amazing guy teaching me how normal people live and pulling me back from the edge my mother delights in bringing me to. But it’s still hard. My finances are better but not perfect. I have health insurance but I spend a lot on therapy. I’m going back to school to get my masters but I’m taking more loans out to do it. I hope one day to have a job that truly contributes to our little family, to not fear answering my phone, and to be part of the middle class. In short, I hope, one day, to not feel as though I’m drowning.

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