How Poverty is Zapping my Brainpower

There have been quite a few articles recently written about how studies show that being in a state of poverty does terrible things to your mental health.  It’s all fine and dandy to read about people who have been reduced down to a statistic, a set of numbers that you can post to Facebook and say “Isn’t this sad?” and then go about your day.  Unless you’re one of the people in that statistic.  Then it becomes reading about your life, and how much of the population simply doesn’t understand something that is such a major part of your daily reality.


I’m one of those people.


Unless I have extra photography work in a given month, I make juuuuuust enough to pay my old bills.  My new house requires about $300 more out of my pocket than I’ve been paying for the last several years, a number I was comfortable with based on the idea that I’d be getting a different job.  But, ironically, the chronic state of semi-panic that I pretty much exist in these days makes it hard to have enough of an attention span to actually work on finding a job.  Or do much of anything, really.


You know that feeling when you have too much on your plate, and you can’t remember what you were supposed to be doing?  That is my life.  It’s exacerbated by my bipolar disorder from time to time – when I’m manic, I tend to hyper focus to the detriment of everything else, and when I’m depressed, I have a decent amount of energy, but I feel like I drop about 40 IQ points – my brain just feels like someone threw some rocks in the gears.  But even on a normal day, without other mental health issues coming into play, “poverty brain” does more to destroy my productivity than pretty much anything else.




You know how when you have a really bad headache and it feels like you can’t concentrate on anything, or think about anything hard, or do much more than deal with what is immediately in front of you?  That’s what poverty brain feels like.


I have so much anxiety and stress buzzing around that there isn’t really room for anything else but what is right in front of me.  Even that can be difficult – if I suddenly am reminded of some bill that’s overdue, or a ticket I need to pay, or a fee I’m going to need to pay to get some sort of paperwork done, all of a sudden I’ll think about where I can possibly squeeze money from in my already tightly wound budget.  And then, like coming out of a trance, I’ll realize that I’ve been standing in the kitchen staring blankly at the counter for 5 minutes and not only do I no longer remember what I needed to do, but I also now can’t remember what solution I just came up with.  It pretty profoundly effects pretty much everything I do – sometimes these days it feels like I can’t even keep up a conversation because I’m already having one with myself somewhere in the back of my head, in a voice that I can’t seem to shut up.


Hopefully, I will be able to find a better job soon and I’ll be able to build a little bit of breathing room into my life.  My life always seems to work out somehow, and I have something of a safety net, so I consider myself among the lucky ones.  But, next time you wonder why poor people seem to have so much trouble with the basic tasks of life, please do me a favor and remember this post.

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