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Arbeit Macht Frei (part II)

February 10, 2013

I tried to hang myself Monday.

I had been working at Jiffy Lube since September, for minimum wage.  When I was brought on they told me the job would be full time with possible overtime, but the past 1 or 2 months I’d been given variable hours, more like 25-32 hours per week on average, and not just during the holidays either.  Even before they reduced my hours it had been frustrating, because I made too much money to get food stamps but at minimum wage, all that did was make me dependent on the local food bank.  I wasn’t too bothered, though, because I was interviewing for better things and had come very close (I thought) to being hired for a full-time job doing mental health peer advocacy work, something I actually care about.  Being told someone else had been hired was what precipitated the suicide attempt.

Before working at Jiffy Lube I had worked at a telephone survey place called Abt SRBI, all evening and weekend shifts.  The hourly pay was better, but they had a nasty habit there of booking people for 6-7 hour shifts and then telling them they’d have to go home 3 hours early because there wasn’t enough work.

I’m a musician.  There’s equipment, amps and mikes and things, that I want to make enough money to save up for.  I could not live like this.

I had been on Wellbutrin since December 12th.  It hadn’t made a difference, any more than the other pills had–no side effects, no desired effects either.  At the follow-up visit, my doctor asked how long I’d been depressed, and when I told her, she said I had treatment-resistant depression and suggested either antipsychotics or electroshock.  Instead, I looked up the instructions online and bought a piece of rope at the surplus store.  I tied a noose knot on one end and secured it to a bookshelf on my bedroom wall.  I put my neck in the loop and began to sat down.  Then I thought, maybe I haven’t yet exhausted all the possibilities.  Luckily I live in an area with a peer respite house, a place where you can go when you’re in crisis that isn’t a hospital, but a healing environment with privacy and nobody forcing drugs on you and someone there to talk to 24/7 if you want it.  I called them and stayed there for the week.  While there, my depression lessened a bit.  But the anger did not lessen at all.

I am putting out a call for donations from readers of this blog.  I’m asking for money because I’m in kind of a catch-22 situation right now–I’m $900 in debt from a car accident several months ago and the precarity of my finances means that every hour of work I do counts, but at the same time, the fact that this precarity is due to a deliberate policy decision on the part of my employers means that, day by day, my job is becoming nearly impossible to stand working at emotionally.  I feel like any minute I might either physically collapse or open up my mouth and tell the truth.  I deal with this mostly by constant snacking to stuff the feelings down, which has its own problems as I’m not currently getting any food stamps.  Hence, the appeal to the little PayPal button on the right-hand side of the page.

This isn’t just about me, though.  I know I’m not the only person in this country whose job is killing them.  We might even be in the majority now–certainly when I look at Craigslist job postings in my area, most of the ones I see are part time.  And the political rhetoric I hear on the news is so focused on jobs this, jobs that, green jobs, welfare to work programs, “job creators” etc., but what the hell is the point of having a job if all it allows you to do is earn just enough to fulfill the basic conditions of physical survival so you can work another day?  All those conservatives saying we’re lazy and should just get a job–well, why should we, when work doesn’t pay?  I imagine a hub, maybe a Tumblr blog along the lines of “We Are The 99%”, where all of us working poor can share our very real grievances.  And then I imagine us all just going on strike.  How much business would still be run in this country, do you think, if everyone forced to work part time said “fuck it” and just stayed home?  Or better yet, said “fuck you” in picket lines, out in the streets?  Or better yet, took over their factories and retail stores, locked the bosses out, kept all the money earned?

I think of the aborted French revolution of May 1968.  A slogan from that time comes to mind: “Don’t negotiate with bosses, abolish them.”  And another slogan, if you can call it that, a piece of graffiti written by someone who maybe was working at the time and just as close to death as I was:

“We want to live.”

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Dick Petit permalink
    May 3, 2013 4:05 am

    Your “Arbeit Macht Frei” is a well written piece of prose that succinctly states the thoughts of most of us working for wages. BTW, there is a small spelling error in the third or forth line of “Arbeit Macht Frei” where you have posted the word “or” instead of the word “for”.

    “What’s it all for?” I’ve never quite figured it out, after working for more than 42 years past college graduation. Eventually, you’ll have a bit of luck and land a job that pays enough to get by, with a tiny bit more that covers an occasional movie or possibly a hobby. If you get more lucky, you might earn enough to make payments on a home, instead of paying rent. It will still likely take nearly every dollar you earn just to get by, unless you become obsessed with hoarding wealth at the expense of caring about and helping other people. Most people will not become wealthy by working for a wage, even for a “good” wage or salary. Even doctors and lawyers usually only reach the level of “comfortable” rather than having everything they could want. Inflation and health issues will consume a major part of your income, in your future.

    Entertainers like some movie stars, some musicians, some writers, and some athletes can make millions of dollars by entertaining millions of people. Many of those only lose it all due to unwise choices.

    Believe it or not, religion can be a big help to you in becoming happier. Sometimes the doctrines of organized religion can impede your relationship with God and keep you from becoming happy. If you are a Christian, I found that the book “The Shack” helped me to understand the relationship of mankind to the Trinity. At the very least, you’ll find the story entertaining, but it might just change your life.

    When I was much younger, I grieved over the loss of my first love for years and became deeply depressed. Eventually, I decided that suicide was the solution. I put on some instrumental sitar music while contemplating, nearly in tears, the ideal “accidental” suicide for me. Ravi Shankar was the musical artist. At one point in that raga, he repeatedly played a series of three note triplets descending down the neck of the instrument from a high pitch to a low one. For some reason, the music made me smile and I suddenly realized that sadness was not a solid basis for suicide. Sadness can end in seconds with only a little music. Never again have I considered suicide as a result of sadness.

    I am sorry not to have a Paypal account to temporarily mitigate your financial situation in a small way. Good luck to you, though. Please read “The Shack”, too.

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