When I learned that I would be able to survive on SSDI (Disability Benefits), I was, at first, relieved. I believed that I would never have to work again. I could just collect my check, and live a decent life that way.
Over a period of years, I got between $600-$800 or so a month, and some other benefits, including EBT (food stamps), rent assistance, Medicare and Medicaid. All of this was very helpful and I was lucky to receive it.
That being said, it was not a lot of money. I got used to living on soup, frozen burritos, beef patties, and breakfast bars. I smoked cheap cigarettes– GPCs. I rarely if ever bought clothes. If I was lucky, I would travel once a year (my yearly trip to Chicago). I survived, for sure– but I did not thrive.
I did not want to recognize it, but I suffered a lack of self esteem from living this way. My family had a strict work ethic, and they tolerated my lifestyle but never really approved of it. I did have lots of free time, but I struggled to find things to do with it. Without my music project, I am not sure what I would have done.
Things are better, now that I have decided to return to the world of work and to get married. There are no longer mice running around my kitchen, or substantial and constant leaks in my bathroom. The tiles in my shower are not flaking from the wall.
I do understand how it feels to live a life of poverty now. Given that I was raised with plenty of resources, this was an eye opening experience. It’s something about me that not everyone might realize– I, too, waited every month for my EBT award to come through. I also collected “circuit breaker” benefits from my property taxes. I went for years wearing the same sneakers.
I lived on the dole with all of its advantages and disadvantages, and I chose to leave that life for a more independent one.