According to the internet, a “sock gnome” is a mythical creature that pilfers socks. Presumably it lives in or around the dryer where you put an even number of socks in and get an odd number out. Sometimes it gets tricksy and spits out an even number but the pairs don’t match (meaning it’s pilfered one from more than one pair) but the usual evidence that you’ve had a sock pilfered by a gnome is that there is one left over that doesn’t have a mate and the missing sock never reappears ever. This is a real thing (if not a real gnome) and everyone knows what this means.
Well, there appears to be a similar creature that lives at Social Services and pilfers sick and poor people’s applications for welfare benefits. Or something, idk. I assume these creatures are related but maybe not since this gnome doesn’t play games: its goal seems to be to drive you insane before it literally kills you. I wrote here before about an application for benefits that went missing, along with a half a dozen other boondoggles that have wasted my spoons and left me scrambling to repeat some administrative process I was barely able to
complete survive the first time.
Because while a sick person’s literal inability to jump through bureaucratic hoops is actually the best evidence that someone is extremely ill, someone has decided that only those who are well enough to sing for their supper (or pursue benefits) deserve to eat, as it were. The first application that went missing was for food stamps, while today I found out that my application to get on a 4 month waitlist to see a doctor went missing 2 months ago and has not been since heard from: although my disability advocate hand-delivered it, the application was never received.
I didn’t know it had never been received since I was instructed to wait for 2-3 months for a phonecall from them whereupon they would then tell me that I had to wait another 4 months to see a provider. Now I get to start the whole process over again. Of course, the clock starts, again, from zero: 2-3 months for the application to be processed and another 4 months before I will be seen. And as both Crohn’s disease and high functioning Autism are untreatable and incurable, the only reason I’m even trying to get in to see a doctor is that I need up to date records of medical compliance (not actual therapeutic medical care since none exists) to support my claims for disability. As if sick people have the time and energy for that.
And truly, bureaucratic incompetence (or a welfare or Social Services gnome) isn’t even worth writing about and I wouldn’t bother writing about it except that it had an unsettling effect on me: I literally wondered, if only for a second, if I had hallucinated the whole thing and therefore wondered if my new disability advocate who had hand-delivered the applications himself, Dave, was even real. Jesus Christ that was disturbing. Around Halloween of this year, Dave had helped me complete numerous applications, some online, while he mailed some hardcopies out of town and hand-delivered the rest; the 2 applications that were both hand-delivered were supposedly never received. One would be understandable, if not acceptable, but both of them? I was shook.
Very shortly thereafter I realized that the only proof I even have that Dave came to pick me up several times, completed applications for/with me and took me home again is that one application we did online was actually received and has his name and information on it. Much to my chagrin, they initially returned that “online” application to me in hardcopy to review, sign and return (WTF) but as it turns out, that bit of bureaucratic fuckery actually saved me from something awful — a literal break from reality — and was the only proof I had that Dave and our interactions were even real. Also, my old disability advocate told me about Dave in front of another person and they both remember it. (!) So yeah, I’m legit losing my mind by now but at least I’m not delusional (that I know of). Everything about this is fucking terrifying.
At some point, I know my readers are going to get sick to death of hearing about this shit and I wouldn’t blame them. Hearing about how the system truly victimizes people is unpleasant and predictably leaves those who don’t have to deal with it (yet) with the strong impression that disenfranchised people are “victims” experiencing “victimization” which is always, always read as a character flaw, or it is eventually, especially if it goes on for a long time and it
often almost always does. And this material is about as appealing to read as…idk, a book of vintage recipes where the first and second ingredients in every dish are Jello and fake mayonnaise? Maybe. There’s a trainwreck quality that’s hard to look away from, it’s interesting (at first) to see how all the various parts fit together (or ultimately don’t) and I suppose it’s possible to have compassion for the vintage cooks who were trying so, so hard to be resourceful and whatnot.
But eventually that person’s judgement will probably come into question and the blame will fall squarely on them if they consistently choose to participate in such insanity, in that case, preparing and serving Spaghetti-Os and sliced hot dogs suspended in savory Jello, or a canned ambrosia Yule log. (I just watched a video of someone making a canned ambrosia Yule log from a vintage recipe, you can watch that here). Or in the case of a vulnerable person seeking benefits, choosing to consistently be relieved of their dignity and even being (seemingly) willingly neglected and abused. The comparison is kind of a reach but what I’m getting at here is that it’s not pretty. The things I discuss on this blog aren’t pretty.
So do I have an actual point? Actually I have 2. The first point I will make via another anecdote and is something I learned as a young attorney who was becoming seriously ill: I had been seeing a chiropractor/nutritionist for months to attempt to treat what was becoming unbearable chronic pain and GI issues when my health insurance company started denying his claims. The “doctor” wasn’t being paid but I was still in disabling pain and his treatments were working. Kind of. Until they stopped. We had to have “the discussion” which drew out our competing interests: my interest in continuing treatment without a lapse versus his interest in being consistently paid. (Really, this is where the myth of the compassionate Western healer is always undone: the issue of money. But that’s a post for another day.) This discussion is never pleasant and as I learned, is absolutely meant to be ugly.
As a seasoned provider with decades of experience in the insurance game, the “doctor” calmly explained to me that part of the game is to pit the doctor and patient against each other so that they can’t provide a united front against the real enemy: the insurance company. The goal is to have the doctor and patient part ways angry so that there is no reason to pursue an appeal and the treatment — whether it’s medically necessary or not — simply ends. From the insurance company’s perspective, the problem (of exposure to liability) just goes away: if the doctor and patient part ways it doesn’t have to expend resources reviewing appeals and no further claims will be made, their exposure drops to zero, and they win.
Get it? Bad guys 1, good guys 0. And this, I think, is the dynamic playing out when people get fed up (and fired up) with hearing about what sick and disabled people go through — regular, relatively powerless people blaming and judging other regular, relatively powerless people for being “victims” instead of providing a unified front against our common enemy. In this case, against our corporate and governmental overlords who spend billions if not trillions annually on “corporate welfare” and destructive black budget programs while reducing, eliminating or otherwise making inaccessible benefits that real people need to live in this shithole they created, not us. And Big Medicine torturing sick people and deliberately (or leastwise predictably) making us worse.
We all have a choice, don’t we, to pick the correct side and to not fall into this deliberate trap set by the elite, to not go against our own interests, to decline the invitation to support our oppressors while undermining ourselves and our ilk, our own people. Choose correctly. It matters.
My second point is this. I can only speak for myself when I say that I absolutely never wanted to be a “victim” and I spent my entire life and literally everything I had trying to ensure that didn’t happen. I have written about that before if anyone wants to revisit that part of my journey, but what I haven’t directly said is this: once I had exhausted every resource I had accumulated over a lifetime (which wasn’t much), after I had asked everyone I knew for help and they all declined, after I had failed to cure myself of an incurable disease, I knew what was coming for me because I had spent my entire life trying to avoid it.
My experience as a benefits attorney only underscored what I already knew, which is that there is nothing there to catch most people when they fall, and there is no bottom to the abuse and neglect one will suffer, and literally endless opportunities to be victimized, once anyone, especially an unresourced, unsupported female, is no longer able to control her outcomes and sick women can no longer reliably control their outcomes. I knew the benefits system would be inaccessible or inadequate, I knew I would be abused and neglected by doctors if I let them, I knew I could end up sick and homeless at the same time, I knew I could end up sick and homeless and raped and pregnant at the same time if there was nothing I could do to stop it, and I knew that once I got sick there was, in fact, little or nothing I could do to stop it. I knew there would be no end to my suffering as a sick woman under capitalism and patriarchy.
I saw this coming a mile out, and to avoid that outcome I knew I didn’t want and knew I couldn’t handle (and shouldn’t be expected to) and to fulfill a lifelong promise I had made to myself to never “allow” myself to be victimized in this way, I attempted suicide. 4 times. Four fucking times I took action against myself that was so incompatible with life that by all rights I should have died at least once if not every time but I didn’t die. Each time I woke to this nightmare that won’t end and I had to go on, dealing with the same shit and with the same hideous constraints only even more sick and more traumatized than I was before if that was even possible. And it is possible, isn’t it — it is bottomless. There is no end, there is absolutely no end to how bad this can and will get for me and for everyone in my position.
And to be clear, I started this blog after what ended up being my final (well, most recent) suicide attempt which was 2 years ago by now. Get it? Every single post on this blog was written after that and therefore was very nearly not written at all. What I am documenting here, I think, is a fairly common experience that is almost always lost to time and tragedy: what it’s actually like to be this seriously, hopelessly ill, how “the system” works against sick people and sick women at every turn, and what it really looks like to have no options. And while this surely happens all the time, every force in the universe, it seems, is working against most people actually knowing about it. In fact, the most relateable thing I’ve ever read, the only thing that I have ever seen address these points and describe an experience nearly identical to my own was left behind by an activist/writer/seriously chronically ill woman in a suicide note. I wrote about that woman, Anne Örtegren, and her suicide note here.
In my own case, and this is the only reason you are hearing about it, I happened to be a seasoned researcher and writer with a specialized interest in dissecting the insane system of patriarchy, I had a preexisting platform on which to advertise this project and an audience that was open to hearing about it, and despite my best intentions and efforts, and those of everyone and everything else for that matter, where those intentions and efforts were not compatible with life, my life, I didn’t fucking die. Not yet anyway. I suspect that many women who experience what I and Anne Örtegren and others have experienced go down for the third and final time before anyone even hears them scream. And if any of this sounds a little crazy to you, that’s only because it is. It is completely, completely insane.