Oh, no; it’s another questionnaire. The same one that I filled in online, now arrived in the post. It asks me a series of questions under the heading ‘How often have you been bothered by the following problems?’
The first one is ‘little interest or pleasure in doing things’ – I am asked to tick whether I have been bothered by this every day, more than half the days, several days or not at all.
This is the thing: during December of last year, I signed up to one of those budget planning apps on my phone to try to work out why I was running out of money every month, on average during the second or third week after payday.
The answer was basically, that my outgoings were greater than my income, and that was the case regardless of whether or not I took the standard advice of cutting out the daily coffee and economising on food spending. As a result of that budget, I understood that even the occasional night out would put me further in debt. I returned the dress I had bought for the work Christmas do and pretended I was too ill to go. I cut out the coffees, the alcohol and opted out of the pension scheme. All social activities were cancelled.
Now, I don’t run out of money until the final week of the month.
Life is unutterably tedious.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s definition of poverty is: “When a person’s resources (mainly their material resources) are not sufficient to meet their minimum needs (including social participation).”
I feel guilty for claiming to be poor when I step over homeless people on my way to work every day, when I see around me so much despair and poverty. I am comparatively lucky, but my answers to the questions remain the same.
‘Not being able to stop or control worrying’ – yep. All day and all night. How can I create good memories for my daughter? If we go to the pictures can I make up the deficit in our budget by making more effort with cooking, baking instead of buying snacks? (and I HATE cooking and baking. It’s another chore that adds to my dread of getting out of bed on a weekend). What can I sell on ebay so that I can afford the new school blazer she needs? Will I ever be able to afford a bookcase so I can stop piling my books on the floor? Such small things, but so insurmountable. They go around and around in my mind on a constant loop.
It goes on to ask how much my problems affect my life ie work, social life etc.
I am able to work from home in my job, and as part of my budget planning I choose that option as often as I am able. It saves the travel costs and helps me to make my limited work wardrobe less obvious. It also affects my relationships with colleagues as I am seen as disengaged, not a team worker. A recent complaint from a colleague that I was never in the office almost reduced me to tears, not because it was anything that would get me into trouble but because of the hurt it caused.
Nights out are out of the question. I don’t invite people around because I recently sold my second sofa to reduce my debts, and it’s uncomfortable to sit in a line on the one remaining sofa.
So, my life grows ever smaller and more limited and my mind turns and turns in search of a way out, even as the walls close in upon me.
I don’t know anybody else in this situation.
So, am I suffering from relative poverty or am I suffering from depression? It’s hard to see which came first, and to find a way out of one without resolving the other.