A Glimpse Into The Social Assistance Experience


If you’ve never needed it, I doubt you’ve thought a great deal about what it would be like to be on the receiving end of the Social Assistance experience. Your knowledge and assumptions are probably based on what you hear in the news when an individuals’ story is profiled, from a candidate around election time or perhaps you’ve got a friend or family member who has shared a little of their own experience.

It has been my great honour and privilege to serve and support those receiving such benefits in two Municipalities; Toronto and Durham in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario for a total of 21 years and counting. In addition to this experience, my wife has 16 or so years of experience herself working in another municipality. While my experience is extensive, I’ve never been on the receiving end myself, and I hope the choices I’ve made and continue to make into the future don’t land me in such need.

That being said, if the time comes when I’m in need, I know now that I’d be thankful the support system was there to help get me through such times until once more I became financially self-sufficient.

It can be a very demeaning and embarrassing process to apply for welfare. In Ontario Canada it’s referred to now as Ontario Works, but to many in receipt, it is and will always be welfare.  It all starts with a phone call to apply in which someone in need talks to someone in what is akin to a call centre. The conversation while initiated by someone in need is pretty much led by the receiving employee asking preset questions. Full name, address, SIN and Health numbers, rent/mortgage information, family members, assets, banking information, investments, etc.; all of which will need to be verified at an in-person meeting to determine eligibility.

I get that it can strip one of their pride and self-worth. With every document you hand over to some stranger, with every disclosure of your personal circumstances such as whether you’ve been abused or the name of your child’s father or mother and where they might be, you give up a little dignity. While most in this field are very good at getting this information in a caring compassionate way, no amount of empathy can change that stuff you’d normally keep private and confidential must be fully disclosed.

Now the agenda of the person in need is pretty clear. Almost all the time, there’s a stated desperation present or looming; rent and food. Get approved and the rent gets paid and people eat. Get denied and a missed rental payment eviction and hunger, a visit from the child welfare authorities, homelessness, begging and worse, having to steal to survive.

If as my piece began you’ve not had to experience social assistance, maybe you’re completely unaware of the community resources you’ll have to tap into. Where would you find the kitchens, thrift stores, donation centers, etc.? If you needed your ID replaced to get many of these benefits, would you know where to go and remember it’s likely you’d have to walk or take public transportation; taking your child or children with you everywhere if you were a sole support parent without a trusted, reliable childcare provider.

Now meeting with us in Social Services for many is a good experience in the end. However, in those first few meetings, the anxiety and stress of anticipating what that experience will be like is often influenced by past meetings and stereotypes of government workers. Just as you’ve no doubt got frustrated with being put on hold, re-directed, not getting through to the person you need to talk to etc. when calling for help yourself, the experience can be like that for some. What increases the importance of getting through is the immense pressure and stress of failing to get the help asked for.

Look there are a lot of really good, compassionate and empathetic people in the business of providing social assistance recipients with support. While these are good qualities, what’s really needed in addition are people both knowledgeable and able to share that same knowledge of resources needed in any one person’s situation. Whether it’s a benefit we can issue ourselves or a benefit another service provider offers, connecting people with what they need is imperative.

On the receiving end, people want to be heard, respected, treated with dignity and foremost be a person; not a case, not a number and no, not a client. Most aren’t in receipt by choice. On top of their financial needs, many have multiple barriers to employment including gaps in work history, mental health challenges, anxiety, low self-esteem. You’d be surprised though to find highly educated professionals in receipt of help; people with their Masters and Degrees perhaps. Yes, really.

Hopefully, supporting people in need is done in the way we would wish to be treated were it us on the other side of the table or end of the phone. “Do onto others…” And while we may have our hopes and plans for people, it’s critical to listen and figure out where someone is at any given moment. I mean, are they ready to job search? Would job searching just set them up to fail at the moment? Do they need stable housing first, addiction intervention, counselling, or maybe to volunteer to rebuild a shattered confidence?

Just the briefest glimpse into this experience.

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Staying When You’re No Longer In It


I can’t help but wonder how many readers of this piece are themselves stuck in a job they really don’t enjoy or worse, have come to truly hate; and hate my dear reader, is a very strong word. But that’s it isn’t it? I mean, knowing you don’t enjoy the work, the people who surround you, the company, the commute; and nonetheless hanging on and holding on, going in day after day, week after week, just living for the day when you retire. Oh what sweet release awaits you!

You might think this is an extreme comparison, but haven’t I rather described a prison sentence? Wow, that’s something to think on. Is it worse or only slightly better to realize that unlike my prison analogy, in this case you’re walking around with the means to your release in your possession. After all, you only need walk in and resign and you’re free.  At least in prison you get time off for good behaviour!

The reasons for staying may be well documented elsewhere, but for the record, it could be you’re feeling too old to be hired elsewhere, the vacation you’ve accumulated would be reset at two weeks if you moved; your benefits are just too good. Could be you’ve built up too much of a dependence on your current income to pay for a mortgage, cottage, vacations, kids education, your wardrobe etc.

Somewhat ironic that you might feel trapped in a job in part because of the benefits you’re receiving when you are no longer benefitting from the work you’re doing where you’re doing it day after day. What price are you paying with your mental health when you grudgingly drag yourself into your workplace 5 days a week and loathe both the trip there and clock gaze the entire day. This just has to be affecting your personality, your good-nature, your self-esteem and most importantly your self-worth.

Self-worth is ironic in and of itself. Look on the internet and you’ll find articles about how much some well-know figure is worth. That’s dollars and cents; a financial commodity. Were we to ask that same person, (presuming we could even get their attention to ask), how much value they put on the life they are leading, we might get a much lower evaluation.

Don’t you think it’s rather disappointing to know that you’ve only got this one life and you’re spending a great deal of your waking hours surrounded by a place and people you don’t really want to be with, doing work that you find no happiness in? Supposing it wasn’t you in this situation but rather your child or grandchild, wouldn’t you strongly suggest and hope that they’d chuck it in and find something that makes they truly happier? It would make you sad knowing the one you love and care for so much continues to do this.

It ultimately comes down to choice doesn’t it? Sure it does. It may not be what you want to hear, and you might stop reading right about here, but it is your conscious choice to stay where you are, just as it’s an option to walk away. Don’t say you’ve got no choice in this, that you have to stay, for that’s not true. What is true is that the reason you’ve stayed and not quit already is because it’s going to need some courage and a struggle of a different kind to actually walk away.

Quitting is going to mean job searching, curtailing your expenses until you find another source of income. It might mean you’ll get less time off each year for some time. Can you picture how the six weeks off a year vs. the two weeks off a year in a new job, might not be that big of a deal if you enjoy going to work 50 weeks a year instead of loathing the 46 weeks a year as you do now?

I mean if you’re popping painkillers or self-medicating just to get through your days, are you factoring these things into your decision-making when you look at how you’re doing? How much you make a year isn’t the only bottom line here; how much you’re paying each year to make that money is far more significant.

Come on, this isn’t the life you dreamed; this isn’t how they drew it up for you back in high school or the family home. And by chance if someone did envision this life for you, it is still within YOUR power and control to pack it in. The hardest part is just deciding you’re going. Then there is a release; freedom. You’ll likely get some package of sorts, and if you don’t, it’s still more valuable to know you’re rekindling your self-esteem than sacrificing it to stay.

If you do walk away from this kind of situation, give yourself time – perhaps a month – to decompress. This is a big change after all, and transitioning from that job to the rest of your life is a stage to refocus and indulge in some healing time.

Sorry if you decide to stay; really I am. I understand your decision though; even if I’d recommend leaving. I do hope you make it to retirement in relative good health – physically and mentally. For many though, the view of retirement and time to do what they want is actually dictated by the health with which they arrive at it.

Feel Like You’re Failing? Consider This


Failing and the fear of failing (two very different things) can keep you from eventually getting where you want to be, or having what you most want.

Now let’s be honest with each other here; failing at some things is much more significant and personal than with others. Failing to tie our shoes tight enough could mean for most of us that we simply look down and seeing they are yet again untied, we bend down and tie them again. Not a major issue, we just had to do it twice.

However, I acknowledge that failing at other things can be devastating and have severe consequences. In the very worst of scenarios, life or lives could be lost if a driver fails to stay on their side of the highway, we fail to wear a life jacket and our canoe overturns in open water or our parachute fails to open. These are just a few examples I say of the worst that could happen.

For job seekers, the issue of failing typically is described as putting in the time to apply and interview for a job and ultimately not being successful. The feeling is you’ve failed in the attempt to get hired. However, the feeling that you experience in such a situation is not shared in the same way by every person rejected as you might initially suspect.

No, some people will be devastated while others don’t seem negatively affected at all; and all the feelings in between the two extremes will be experienced by others. While the rejection itself is delivered the same to each applicant, the message received is experienced very differently. Why is this?

The answer in part is the importance each person assigns to the job opportunity in the first place. So the person who already has a job and is applying just to test the waters and see if they can advance might be only slightly affected. On the other hand, the unemployed person who’s pinned all their hopes on getting that job to stave off having their car or home repossessed by the Bank and their spouse give up on them could feel ruined.

Similarly, the stage at which you’re at in your job search has an impact. How many times have you applied and not been successfully offered the job? Are you just starting out and this is rejection number one or is this your 43rd in a row? Yikes!

Now there’s another reason that plays into how you feel and that’s what you’ve experienced beyond the job application process. Some people have the good fortune of having supportive people behind and around them. They see themselves as successful parents, worthy as an individual and their spouses, friends and family love them and encourage them in so many other ways, this failure is only one small blemish in one area of their life.

Most unfortunate however, is the person who has been told repeatedly that they will never amount to much, that their life is a series of failures in every regard. Victims of abusive relationships are often rebuked, put down, made to feel small and are often told they are nothing without the abuser. When they try and fail in their attempt to get a job, in their mind they really believe this is yet one more example of the truth they’ve been told; it is they who is a failure, not the job application.

I must tell you though that we all fail. Failing is a sign first that we’ve tried something; and trying is a good thing. Presumably it was trying to better ourselves, to get something we desired for whatever reason. Recognizing that we’ve tried is significant, so good for you.

Now, although unpleasant perhaps, it’s important to pause and think about why we were not ultimately successful. Yes this means thinking about an experience that didn’t turn out the way we’d hoped, but there’s a good reason for this; learning.

If we can learn some things about why we failed, we can then attempt to drop those same things in the future. So perhaps we need a stronger resume or add a cover letter. Maybe we need coaching or professional advice in terms of our interview skills. Why? Well, we might be saying something in an interview that seems okay to us but in fact is sending a different message entirely when heard by an interviewer.

I really don’t expect that you’ll smile and feel great when you’ve failed at getting a job in the future. No, you’re perfectly right to feel whatever you feel, be it sad, disappointment, short-term anger etc. Your feelings are valid because – well – they are YOUR feelings. Don’t apologize for how you feel.

After you’ve gone through what happened, look for some feedback and be genuine in your request, not defensive or argumentative as you listen to someone give you this feedback. You are after all attempting to learn so you increase your future chance of success.

Some of the most successful people you’ll meet have failed in the past and continue to fail as they learn new things. Remember you only need to succeed once – to get that job offer you want – and all those failures will diminish in comparison.

You my friend; yes you reading this, you are not defined by your failures.

Depression And, “Hello. How Are You?”


“Hello. How are you?”

Could you ask a more innocent, well-intentioned question? It’s almost automatic; typical of how we greet each other. Oddly enough, those who ask don’t always want to actually know how you’re doing, and those who answer don’t answer truthfully much of the time. Yet, again and again, for lack of a better, well-thought out form of greeting its used time and time again.

It’s true you know. Just pay attention and listen when you’re greeted by someone for one or two days as an experiment. Today being Monday, most of your co-workers will today say, “Hi, so how was your weekend?” Tomorrow and for the rest of the week, they’ll say, “Hi, how are you?”

A couple of days ago I sat down with someone suffering – and suffering is the right word by the way – with depression and poor mental health. He’s been out of work for over a year now, and his life-long depression is getting much worse. He told me that one of the things that bothers him more and more is the constant question of how he’s doing; especially from people he knows don’t want to really know.

Are you guilty of this? I know I am and I imagine you are too. I’m not naïve enough to actually believe that 95% of the people around me are fine or good; even though they say so. Sure many of us are good and doing well. However, it must be painful as this fellow says, to be living with depression and constantly asked how you are. He then told me how much his life was being affected. His favourite time of day is when he goes to bed – at 11:00p.m. usually. After lying awake for 2 hours, he sleeps until 11:00a.m., gets up and eats, then sits in front of the television almost the entire day, not going out unless he has to.

Now he’s cut back on family gatherings because so many of those extended family members are going to naturally ask him, “How are you?” and while he could tell them the truth, he knows they really don’t want to know, nor could they help him if they wanted to. Well, aside from stopping the asking of how he’s doing in the first place! So it’s a cycle of feeling ashamed of doing nothing day after day, seeing Life go by without improvement.

This depression has affected his memory too. He’s positive that he can’t be trusted to remember things he’s told, and so for now, work is out of the question. Not to mention the depression has left him little patience in some situations he might meet with the public. All this passive living is affecting his physical as well as mental health too. A lack of exercise has led to weight gain, lower self-esteem, poor stamina.

Yet, to meet with him you’d see a happy fellow, quick to laugh, friendly and knowledgeable about topics of the day. Kind of an Eleanor Rigby type, “wearing a face that she keeps in a jar by the door. Ah look at all the lonely people!”

Now how many people I wonder will you – and I – come into contact today who are similarly suffering from depression? Let’s make that Depression with a capital, “D”. When living with this mental illness, it can affect energy, focus, judgement, motivation, self-perception and it’s not just a quick visit to the doctor to get a quick fix. We’re talking long-term implications.

Sometimes there are medications to help change the chemical make-up of the brain and attempts to stimulate connections through electro-therapy. I’m certainly no expert in treatments although I’ve friends and co-workers as well as many clients and people who use my support and advice in the course of my job. While it’s helpful to listen without judgement, providing reassurance that talking about one’s mental health is okay with me and not a topic I find uncomfortable, it’s frustrating knowing that waiting lists for treatment are long, treatments aren’t always effective, and other than listening, what can I do?

While it’s not necessary to experience what another person is experiencing to be empathetic, sometimes I feel being an empathic listener just falls short really. I suppose though this one’s not about me – or you for that matter. This one is about the person with Depression. If listening with empathy helps them feel understood and helped, maybe that’s something.

Think how difficult it must be on a daily basis for someone living with Depression; post-traumatic or ongoing, anxiety, psychotic or personality disorders, etc. It must be and is for many, debilitating. So maybe when we see some person who appears to be lazy or worse yet able to do fun things but not work, maybe extending some compassion and erring on the side of considering they may have a mental health issue would be preferable to believing them to be sponging off others generosity or tax dollars when their perfectly capable of contributing.

I suppose we might choose to hold our tongue and check our thoughts; for truly, we have no idea to what degree someone might be suffering with and already feeling ashamed of themselves for not being more productive.

So today, instead of, “Hi. How are you doing?” maybe we might say, “Hi. What are you up to today?” or if you do ask how someone is doing, look them in the eye and pause long enough to hear and care what they answer.

2018: It’s Here!


Yesterday was New Year’s Day and today is day 1 of the ‘work’ year. For me personally, there is a huge contrast in the two; yesterday was sitting and reading a book I got for Christmas, snacking more than I should normally do, and generally relaxing. Today, it’s up and at ’em, back to the blog, shower and dress, make breakfast and out the door to work all day.

As the days of 2017 counted down, did you find yourself consciously putting things off until the new year? You know, job searching; updating your résumé, (yet again!) applying for jobs? Well, it’s here and so it’s time to get going. I hope you’re fired with enthusiasm for changes and the hard work it takes to ultimately be successful. I truly hope you have the stamina to put in the necessary effort and sustain it, and of course I really do want you to succeed.

It’s hard at this time of the year for many to get going though; well for very long at least. Here in Canada we’re under a prolonged deep freeze where the temperatures are with wind chills in the minus 20 – minus 30 range. The days are short on sunlight and the snow has been more plentiful than in past years. Staying inside is tempting; reading as I’ve done for pleasure, or perhaps your own Christmas gifts have your attention (or over-attention as the case may be).

While you may have resolved to put more effort into your job search for the new year, please don’t make the mistake of setting yourself up with lofty expectations you’ll likely not meet. Doing so can have the reverse effect upon you, when you falter, have a setback or two and lean towards chucking the thing in once more. Yes, you don’t want to expect yourself to put in a solid 7 or 8 hours straight every day, nose to the grindstone and then when you slip up a bit, chastise yourself for your failings and give up entirely. This can lead to self-deprecation, low self-esteem, depression and despair.

It’s the balance you’re looking for I suggest. You know better than anyone what your effort in 2017 was really like. You know the help you sought out or didn’t, the advice you failed to follow or the shortcuts you thought in your wisdom would do the same things as taking the longer but probably more effective way to get things done. Nobody knows you like you know you!

Yes, balance is the key. So yes, 2018 will require some effort on your part and perhaps more of a commitment to your end goals. This could mean more work, less play for many, or it could mean just shifting your play time without diminishing it. So rather than saying you’ll give up movies, reading for pleasure, playing games entirely or ignoring the lure of your hobbies and interests until you get a job, (because this won’t work), you could just reallocate your time spent doing these things.

Setting aside ‘play time’ will allow you to enjoy it more when it comes anyhow. So if you love heading to the basement to do some woodworking and it takes some time to set things up, do what you love and then more time to clean up after, give yourself an afternoon say twice a week to do so; and ENJOY it guilt-free. After all, you don’t want to feel distracted with guilt doing something you love, which robs you of the very pleasure you find in it.

You may or may not be in a place to turn your love for your hobby into a job (had you thought of that?), or you might not want to – keeping your hobby and your work separate and apart to unwind and keep the fun of what you love doing.

Now when you’re having your, ‘you time’; immersed in what brings you happiness and contentment, don’t overdo it. If you can discipline yourself to getting back to the job search as you intended to, you’ll ultimately be happier with yourself. You don’t want to feel bad after all that you’re shirking your job search time while you’re trying to enjoy reading that book, sewing or whatever it is you enjoy. That feeling of, “I should be looking for work” will rob you of your concentration and you’ll feel distracted.

So what you might do is begin with a schedule. Whether you set up an alert on your phone, write things down on paper or set an alarm clock, do whatever it takes for you to stay on track of your intended schedule – just as you would do if you were employed. Factor in a couple of breaks and lunch, and where possible, get outdoors for some fresh air at some point too. Good for the spirit, the lungs and the body.

As for the job search? Well, how’s it going? Is a change in strategy needed or are you getting close doing what you’re doing? If you want better results than what you ended 2017 with, then maybe you need a different way of going about things. Read a current book on job search techniques, learn something new about your field of interest, take a course, consult with a job search expert or have your résumé reviewed at the least.

2018; this is YOUR year! All the very best wishes for success!

Job Hunting: DIY Or Use An Expert?


What would you call someone who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area? If you answered, ‘Expert’, you’re correct.

So you want a job. You can go about the job search process in several ways – and this is pretty much true of wanting anything actually. You can go about things yourself in a DIY (do it yourself) fashion, you can work with someone who isn’t an expert in job searching but is good at other things or yes, you can work with an expert in the particular area of looking for employment.

Now there are a lot of people who, no matter the job to be done, size up the situation and figure, “it can’t be that complicated, I’ll just do it myself. Why bring in an expert?” Think of that small bathroom or basement renovation you started two years ago last September. You plan on being finished one day but you’re either a perfectionist or a procrastinator. Or perhaps you did indeed finish the project, only to stand back and in taking things in, see the errors you made. Not bad for a do-it-yourself job, but by no means as good as someone who makes their livelihood out of doing renovations on a full-time basis. So are you the person who settles for, ‘not bad’ over ‘I love it!”?

Sometimes the easier things look, the more inclined we are to believe that anyone can do it. Take the résumé. It looks easy enough. I mean, it’s just words on paper, and with only a small bit of searching on the internet anyone can find resume templates and so it would seem a pretty simple matter to make one. As for the interview help, again, Bing and Google are logical places to look. I mean, doesn’t everybody turn to the internet for expert advice these days?

Of course the other place people turn for great advice and help is the people they know best and trust. The logic here is that your best friends wouldn’t steer you wrong and take advantage of you, and they are pretty good at their job as a Customer Service Agent. So it’s a pretty logical step in your opinion to imagine they must know a thing or two about looking for a job; after all they have one right?

For some reason however, few people tend to give the Employment Specialists their due. I suppose it does look easy. Dash off a résumé and send it in, sit back and see if you get an interview. Then go to the interview, do your best to answer the questions asked and then sit back and hope you get hired. Sooner or later you’ve got to get Lady Luck on your side; it’s just a question of probabilities; throw a lot out there and something has to work eventually.

Me? I’m an expert in my field. Sure go on and roll your eyes. I’m not an expert in everything; nor am I an expert in many things. When it comes to resume writing, cover and rejection letters, interview preparation, presentation skills etc.; yes, this is where I have an authoritative and comprehensive knowledge. It isn’t bragging; I can back it up with proof. Look, you’re the expert at what you do, so why doesn’t it stand to reason I can be an expert at something as well?

To we Employment Coaches, Employment Counsellors, Resume Experts etc., it’s interesting to see how many people approach us only after they’ve had a lengthy period of mixed results or downright failures. Then when learning some new ideas and reaching some small accomplishments turns into ultimately being successful and landing employment, we often hear, “I wish I’d come to you a long time ago! I could have saved myself a lot of frustration.” Maybe a person needs to tackle things themselves and see what they are capable of doing before turning to an expert – if only to appreciate the difference an expert can make.

Here’s something to consider though; if you’re going to use the services of an expert, you’d better be ready to get to work. Two weeks ago I met a woman who’s last job interview was in 1998. 1998! She applied for 3 jobs after some coaching and landed not one but two interviews. Of those two interviews, she got a job offer on one which she’s accepted and the other one has yet to short-list their candidates. While happy, she commented just yesterday to me, “I didn’t think it would happen this fast!”

Then there is another woman I worked with over the same two weeks. 64 years old, and she not only secured a job last Friday, she’s got another interview today plus she’s made the short-list for her dream job in two weeks time. Suddenly she’s going from desperation to interviewing with leverage; any new job offer has to beat what she’s already doing.

Yet, looking for a job appears so easy doesn’t it? Why call on an expert or consider paying someone to do what you could do for yourself or get your best friend to do for you? Hey if you do it yourself and it works, I applaud you. You’ve either got lucky or you’ve got the required skills.

However, if you want to get results with a higher probability of success, reach out to an Expert in the field near you.

 

Under Pressure?


The things to know about pressure are:

  1. What is causing it?
  2. How much can you take?
  3. How long can you take it?
  4. What can you do to ease it off?
  5. What can you do to end it?

Under pressure. Carrying around a burden for a short period is something most people are used to doing. Think of the pressure of an upcoming exam, your expectation of a first kiss, sitting beside the Driver Examiner as you do your driving test, watching your favourite team bat in the bottom of the ninth, down a run and down to your last at bat.

You might find the above examples bring back memories for you of tremendous pressure; or conversely you might see the examples I’ve provided as relatively minor sources of stress or none whatsoever. It really depends on the person and how you perceive each event. Of equal importance is how many other sources of stress you’re experiencing at a given moment.

So while going to the game to, ‘get away from it all’ for a couple of hours might be your friends idea of helping you cope with whatever stress you’re under, it could all backfire and be just the thing that sets you off. It may just put you over the top while those around you are hopeful for win but not incapacitated while the outcome is in jeopardy. Yes, you could be exiting the ballpark in the 8th inning and nowhere in sight in a close ball game, just unable to deal with one more potentially stressful event.

Looking for work, looking to get ahead at work; even just looking to keep the job you’ve got now, these too may be immense sources of frustration from which pressure to succeed is incredible. My experience assisting people with their employment aspirations continues to show that almost every job seeker has multiple sources of stress in their lives. If getting a job was the only thing they worried about and had to concentrate on things would be easier. By easier, I mean their concentration level and focus would be sharper, their ability to put into action the necessary steps to find the work better, and this would make the period of unemployment shorter.

However, finding work isn’t all that’s going on. There’s bills piling up, rent and child support to pay, reliable childcare to find, late buses to deal with, dirty clothes to clean and keep up-to-date. There are utility costs and interest on unpaid credit cards to pay down, expectations of family and friends to, “just get a job why don’t you!” that constantly irritate, resumes to write, ink for the printer to buy, food needed for the table, a throbbing toothache and growing anxiety that you’ll always be a burden. On the outside of course, you’re doing your best to fit in, look normal, smile to world and not let on that you’re floundering.

Really though, you’ve been under these pressures for so long, this constant state of chaos has become your new normal. Maybe that’s why self-medicating, forgetting everything for a couple of hours, seemed like something you could handle. Yeah, that didn’t work out as planned. Nope, when you’re honest with yourself you know you’ve got yet another problem, and you know it because you’re on the hunt for your next fix far too often; you’ve become dependent and that’s so typical of just how you see yourself.

No column is going to give you the fix for all the above, nor would I try. If you’re fortunate enough to have none of the above as your personal issue, you might be thinking I’m laying things on rather thick; that surely only a very rare few deal with what I’ve laid out altogether. I know you’re mistaken in that belief. In fact, I welcome the comments of any and all readers who might want to back up what I’ve said with their own experiences. It’s so hard to cope and focus on just getting and then holding down a job when a job is only one of maybe 30 things that are going on and adding to one’s pressure.

I suppose a good analogy is a juggler. If you start with only two balls, you might be able to go without dropping one or both fairly easily. Okay, add another. Now keep that going without dropping one – not for a few seconds but rather for 20 minutes. Could you? Okay add some more; not one more you understand – 4 or 9. At what point did it become overwhelming? Are you surprised with how little you could actually handle when a professional makes juggling look not only easy but actually fun?

I tell you this…take a single parent of two, one of which has a learning disability, add in no job, dependency on social assistance and food banks, no internet, mounting bills, seeing a Credit Counsellor, a Mental Health Counsellor, a Family Doctor, frequent meetings with a School Vice-Principal to discuss behaviour problems at school, and volunteering at her child’s school 4 days a week, and you’ve likely got someone who out of necessity, has become an expert on how to deal with stress. To us on the outside, it looks like a life in chaos. The worst things we could say is, “I think it’s time you thought about getting a job. Don’t you want your kids to be proud of you?”