Monday, February 20, 2017

Food Stamps

I have made the decision to share this very personal piece of non-fiction writing not because I wear my shame with pride. And yes, I am deeply ashamed. I am sharing it because somehow, this letter that will probably never be sent (pointless) might help someone else realize that he or she is not alone. Though we suffer "invisible" illness, we, the mentally ill, deserve empathy and compassion and yes, when necessary, financial subsidies, to live the most effective possible lives. I am not on disability. The system has made it nearly impossible for mentally ill persons to be approved, certainly those without the means to afford legal representation. It's the classic Catch 22. I am currently receiving not one penny from the state, the federal government or anyone else. Food stamps were the only assistance I have ever received and several months ago, those were taken away, too. The following is completely true, my truth, my heartbreaking plea on deaf ears. I hope it helps you understand, just a little bit better, what I deal with every day of my life.
Thanks for reading,

To whom it may concern,

My name is Kari Murphy and I am writing to inquire as to why my SNAP benefits were arbitrarily taken away. At some point, without an interview, without asking me so much as one question or offering me an opportunity to explain my situation, you decided that I am an “able-bodied” person who has apparently “chosen” not to work. This couldn't be further from the truth.

I had one full-time job in my life, from 2000-2002, when my mental illness was clearly not nearly as severe and life-altering as it is now. I suffer from Pervasive Depressive Disorder and Anxiety and have been on medication and receiving therapy for both. I am mentally ill. I am not, by any means, “able-bodied” and my not being able to work is not a choice. I had my last job of any kind in 2007. I have not been able to work in ten years, TEN years, through no choice of my own. I attempted a part-time job in 2010 while still living in Florida and on the SNAP program, as a cashier at a Publix grocery store. I made it, by the skin of my teeth, through three days of training and a few hours of actual work before having to quit. Each of those four days began with hours of uncontrollable weeping and terror, begging my husband and the God of my understanding not to make me go. But I went, because I felt I had to, and spent each and every one of those minutes, hours and days while at “work” wishing I could run outside, across the parking lot into the four lanes of oncoming traffic because being dead seemed easier than continuing to pretend I was a normal healthy functioning human being.

I never made the CHOICE not to work. It is not my choice. I am very ill and in desperate need of financial assistance, which I was receiving for years through the SNAP food stamps program. I didn't get healthier. If anything, my conditions have continued to decline since my last job in 2007. I received benefits for years from SNAP because the agents of the Department of Social Services understood that I was sick and unable to work. I don't understand why this changed. I am not better. I never will be better. Mental illness cannot be cured. I am on medication and seeking therapy in an attempt to learn how to function more effectively in this world but for me, that will never include the ability to work a full-time job or perhaps even a part-time one. I don't understand why, without so much as a single question, my humanity has been disregarded and I was simply deemed “able-bodied” overnight.

It is my great shame that I am unable to work. It is anything but the “choice” of an “able-bodied” person. If I had my choice, I would be healthy and working and not constantly plagued by my illness. But it isn't my choice. I thought that the very purpose of the SNAP program was to help people in desperate need, of which I am one. None of this is my choice. I wish that you would understand this. Ask my doctor, ask my therapist, they would be happy to further explain if given the opportunity. Stop judging me based on a serious lack of information. Understand my need, my illness, my desperation. I am a person, yes, but by no means “able-bodied”.

Thank you for your consideration,

Kari Murphy

1 comment:

  1. This is happening everywhere and it breaks my heart. I am so sorry that you are going through this. Is there any sort of appeals process, or an umbudsman that you can utilize? My father was denied Medicaid benefits here in VA after years of recieving them. Through the help of friends I learned of the Umbudsman program and they helped me have his benefits reinstated. The man was completely disabled and dying of alzheimers disease and without any warning his benefits were halted. I hope that you are able to have this horrible injustice reversed. Sending you buckets of love and support!