Tuesday 27 September 2016

I sit in the cold, with 40c in my purse, and wait for the candidates to come knocking

A single mother - who lives 15 minutes from Taoiseach Enda Kenny and wishes to remain anonymous - writes an open letter highlighting the ways the Government has failed her and her son

Published 18/02/2016 | 02:30

'I’ll then ask them to explain to me how the slogan ‘Let’s Keep the Recovery Going’ is justifiable when the people on the ground in the Taoiseach’s own constituency are being denied access to basic health recovery'. Photo: PA
'I’ll then ask them to explain to me how the slogan ‘Let’s Keep the Recovery Going’ is justifiable when the people on the ground in the Taoiseach’s own constituency are being denied access to basic health recovery'. Photo: PA

There are eight days to go until voting day in the General Election, in which I will cast my vote in the Mayo constituency, where the Taoiseach of our country lives less than 15 minutes away from me.

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As I type this, I am wearing gloves, earmuffs and a scarf inside my house, waiting for the first candidate to knock on my door to try to win my vote. I have yet to meet any politician at my door.

I have maybe four teabags in my cupboard and no coffee, so I hope if someone comes, they will be content to drink tap water while I show them how the tagline 'Let's Keep the Recovery Going' is simply a fantasy for those living on the poverty line.

I will tell them how my young child went to bed last night with two pairs of socks on and a hat; while I wore my scarf under a hoodie because we had no oil or coal to heat the house.

I will show them how draughty my rented accommodation is and let them see their own breath as fog as they speak to me.

I will tell them how I've been juggling single motherhood and my education for the last seven years and how I am now qualified with a CV packed with voluntary work and community involvement.

I'll show them my awards and professional references to prove that I am not the "lazy, single mother" the media paints us as when discussing welfare.

I will then tell them how the years of pressure to juggle the maintenance of a household - on an allowance that has been consistently cut by the austerity measures - with rising costs of childcare and increasing pressure to gain an education for employability, eventually caught up with me.

I will outline how I would stay awake until daylight calculating how I would make €217.80 stretch far enough to pay rent, childcare, petrol costs, heating, food and bills. It never did. So I spent further time making negotiations over the phone with Electric Ireland, begging them not to cut me off. I'll tell them how I also begged the welfare office to help me with subsidising childcare during the academic term and how I was refused rent supplement due to the fact that I had moved away from home for college.

I'll tell them how those barriers and slammed doors caused so much stress and pressure that I inevitably had a mental breakdown and fell into a state of immobilisation and minimum functioning.

I will tell then them how the mental health system failed me over and over again, refusing to acknowledge my immediate need for talk therapy and practical support. I will tell them how the health professionals simply prescribed medication for "depression and anxiety" and placed me on all sorts of waiting lists (that I still have yet to hear from a year later).

I will recall a time 12 months ago when I began to truly believe I was a failure as a mother and an overall human and thus believed my child would thrive better without me.

I believed what the Government, the media and the internet trolls were saying. I believed I was a drain on society and that I was "a waste of space and taxpayers' money".

In my medicated state, I decided the best thing to do was die and get out of everyone's way.

And so I tried that.

Luckily, I was unsuccessful in my attempt and brought to the local hospital by college staff.

I will then tell the local candidate how I was left on a trolley in a corridor in Mayo General Hospital for hours, going in and out of consciousness, only to be sent wobbling out the door late that night and told not to do it again.

I will explain that I am recovering now and doing so much better, but I have to make a serious effort to travel to Galway for the support I need, because the services in our own constituency do not have the funding to reduce the waiting lists. I'll explain that this is why the house is cold today and why they can hear my stomach rumbling.

Because this week I had to pay to travel to another county to get the support I need to maintain wellbeing and thus have to go without basic heat and food. I'll show them the pile of unpaid bills and open my purse to show them the 40c to get me to the end of the week.

Then I will tell them about a new, even scarier problem.

I will tell them about how my child is now also starting to show signs of mental unrest as he struggles to come to terms with his father's continuous absence. I will tell them how my beautiful, sweet, intelligent child has begun to blame himself for a decision made by a grown man to ignore his existence. He is angry and sad and confused about all the overwhelming feelings and worries that he is "going black on the inside".

I'll tell them that our GP has identified a need for him to speak to a professional immediately regarding his feelings for effective early intervention, but that the public system again has long waiting lists for children his age.

I'll tell them that I have rung over 20 private practitioners in the county and how each of them charges amounts that I can certainly not afford while living on the poverty line. And that in order for us to do so, we will have to cut our grocery shopping costs in half and say goodbye to heat entirely.

I'll then ask them to explain to me how the slogan 'Let's Keep the Recovery Going' is justifiable when the people on the ground in the Taoiseach's own constituency are being denied access to basic health recovery.

But, then again, will anyone even knock at all?

Name and address with the Editor, in order to preserve the anonymity of the young mother

Irish Independent

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