Last time I got on a scale was July 2012. After being told I was looking healthier and thinner I decided it was time to get back on a scale again. So earlier this month I weighed myself, only to find that I was ten pounds lighter than I was in July! This should have made me excited, I mean I had lost weight, shouldn't I be happy about that?!?! The thing was I wasn't really happy about it, because unlike the people I told I had lost weight too, I knew how the weight had really come off...
There are really two reasons why I lost those ten pounds. The first reason I imagine is because I have been sick for around 3 months now. Everything from colds, ear infections, sinus infections, stomach problems, and various other health issues. Let's face it, when you're sick you just don't feel like eating. So not really the healthiest way to lose weight, but I imagine it's been a contributing factor.
I believe the bigger reason that I lost weight though was because I didn't have food to eat. I haven't been shy about sharing that this past year has been difficult for me, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and financially. It's difficult to share, but it's something more people need to understand which is why I'm sharing. In August of last year I applied for, and was a part of, the Food Stamp Program. I had gone for about a month eating one meal a day, and making the saltine crackers in my pantry stretch for as long as I could. Realizing that I couldn't make things work anymore on my own was a difficult, and bitter pill to swallow. I've said it before, and I will continue to say it, because it continues to be true. If it wasn't for the continuing generosity of my parents I'd be living in a box on the streets of Denver. Their generosity can only go so far though, times are tough for them too. So when I still hadn't found work, my savings account was struggling, and my parents couldn't help more I decided it was time to ask for help.
Applying for any public assistance is a difficult process. I know that for me I always had an image of someone who abused the system in my head, and I admit it even I have been guilty of judging people on public assistance. Although there are people that abuse the system, they are the exception, not the rule. Part of the application process is a personal interview, and when I went for mine there was a wide range of people sitting waiting for their interviews as well. During my interview they informed me because I wasn't working at the time I would have to be a part of an employment program that would help me find work. This program is a total other story (waste of time and resources in my opinion since they really don't help you find employment...but that rant is for another day). After spending a day in an 8 hour employment course that I swear was 6.5 hours of, "How you need to put your criminal history on an application," and "These are employers that are felon friendly. And one hour of, "This is a job application, and this is how you fill it out." I was given my food stamps and told I would need to volunteer 30 hours a week at a location determined for me in order to remain active in the program. Anyways this employment program is the reason I was only able to have food stamps for a short time.
I got a job. You would think this was a good thing, and that everyone involved in the public assistance program would have been happy about that, but this wasn't the case. My job doesn't guarantee a set amount of hours each week. My hours vary from 10-30 hours a week, and I'm also paid slightly above federal minimum wage. In Colorado you have to have a job with 30 hours or more a week, or that pays you a certain amount each week to be exempt from the employment program. With my current job I wasn't meeting those criteria. I was informed that I would need to continue volunteering 30 hours a week (30 minutes from my home) to continue receiving my benefits. After finding that out I dropped out of the food stamp program. Not because I disagreed with the volunteering aspect of the program, or because I didn't need the help in buying food, but because I couldn't see myself working 30 hours a week, volunteering 30 hours a week, and being able to afford the gas for everything! I think their is a flaw in the system, and I now totally understand why we get the image of people on public assistance that we do. I actually would have continued to receive my benefits had I not found a job, I feel like I was punished for trying to find a better situation for myself. Again though, a story for another day.
I had to ask for help, because I was in a situation that was difficult, and still am. Although I'm doing better now that I'm working, it's still not enough. I've had to defer paying back my student loans from grad school because there was no way I could pay them. I don't make enough with my job in a month to even cover my rent, yet alone my other costs of living. I'm still having to ask for help...but I'm not going hungry anymore. Since I weighed myself a few weeks ago, I have actually gained a pound. In the past this would have upset me, I want to keep losing weight, but I also want to be healthy about it. Even if Colorado never works out for me (which I hope really isn't the case!) I will not be afraid or ashamed to ask for help again. Don't let your fears of being judged stop you from asking for help when you need it, whatever your situation.