Arbeit Macht Frei (part II)
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.”