Few things are worse than poverty. Struggling to make ends meet from week to week, month to month takes a toll on you, both mentally and physically. Stress and anxiety corrupt your mind, deprives you of sleep, destroys your appetite. Stomach pains are common with me. Sometimes excruciating pain prevents me from doing—or even wanting to do—anything. Toss bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) into the picture and you’ve got a mess on your hands. Even on Klonopin and Prozac, I’m a mess. My anxiety slices through the mellowing effects of the drugs and locks me in a sort of stasis and I fight to overcome my anxiety and live a somewhat effective life.
Poverty spikes my anxiety, especially when bills pile up and rent is due and we don’t have enough money to cover everything. The stress sometimes paralyzes me, as it does now: currently, we’re behind on rent—we were short last month, we don’t have enough to cover next month’s rent, and no way of generating that money in such a short amount of time. In addition, my car tires are in rough shape. I have to fill them every day. It’s only a matter of time before I step outside to go to work and find four flat, dead tires.As we crawled into November, behind on rent, I looked to the future and saw Christmas. Anxiety consumed me. How would I raise money to catch up on rent, replace my tires so I could get back and forth to work, and find money to get our kids Christmas presents? We have no savings, no credit cards, no means of borrowing money—or prospects of paying it back anytime soon. So I created a GoFundMe campaign to try to raise money. I wanted to raise enough money to catch up on rent, get a head start on next month’s rent, buy new tires, and use the rest to give the kids a decent Christmas—nothing elaborate, but I wanted to get them something; they’re good kids who understand our situation; they rarely if ever ask for anything; and they endure our poverty with good humor and spirits; so I wanted to give them something.
In hindsight, my solution was a bad one: crowdfunding. But it was the only option I had.
Sidebar: I know it sounds as if I’m fishing for pity. I’m not. I’m simply trying to explain my rationalization here, my way of thinking, which, granted, my bipolar and GAD often skews.
The key to a successful crowdfunding campaign is no different than succeeding in business or as an artist. Marketing—it can make or break you.
In hindsight, my solution was a bad one: spam.
Sidebar: Of course, I didn’t view it as spam. In the midst of weeks’ long anxiety attack, I saw it more as a desperate act by an increasingly desperate family trying to raise money to pay for rent, presents, etc. But now that I can assess the situation more objectively, I see it for what it was: spam.
So anyway …
I posted online, starting once a day then several times a day. Then I thought tweeting it to celebrities might work. The objective wasn’t to pander to them for money; instead, I hoped they’d retweet the link. They didn’t. A few people donated. Then a few more. Some of them I know. Some I don’t. To them, I’m truly and generally grateful. I sincerely appreciate the donations.
As time flew by, I grew more desperate. Anxiety defined and redefined me. I tried to find a second job, put in several applications, and waited. Most jobs were seasonal. I didn’t care. I needed something longer term, but I was willing to take anything. I applied everywhere. And I promote my GoFundMe campaign online. November blast past us and December skipped along. As we raced toward Christmas and the new month—when we needed presents and when rent would be due again—anxiety overwhelmed me. I tweeted my link more frequently, articulating my desperation.
I needed to somehow find compassionate people willing to help dig a family out of a hole. Most families as poor as us don’t create crowdfunding campaigns; instead, they endure their hardships. But I couldn’t—neither physically nor emotionally. I wanted a respite, I needed a break, I craved wiggle room so the anxiety would evaporate, and I just wanted to feel the tension in my muscles dissolve. If you could somehow quantify pride and ego, mine would appear on the lower side of the scale, believe it or not. I’m never above asking for help if I need it. I’m not bullied into non-action by pride or ego. I need help. Please. Help me. I’d rather ask for help and not get it than suffer.
That no one would hire me part time—a few people eventually called, but my fulltime hours conflicted with their desired schedule—that most people ignored my pleas, that a few friends and strangers did, in fact, help out, frustrated and excited me, and it kept me on edge. Days away from Christmas now and rocketing toward the new month, desperation and panic set in. That’s when I settled into the habit of tweeting the link to more or less anyone famous that I happened to follow online. Since I only tend to follow celebrities whose works I enjoyed, the thought of them reaching out to help me stirred irrationally and mushy feelings. That someone of their stature would help a nobody like me in a time of desperation could have been amazing.
Sidebar: Early in my campaign the creator-slash-executive-producer of a TV show my family and I loves donated 50 dollars to the campaign. This person is and remains awesome and a source of inspiration.
Then I tweeted D**** C*****. A longtime fan of his music, I knew he’d spent decades preaching love and compassion. Certainly, if I could persuade anyone to feel the love and RT my plea, he’d do it. Then I experienced firsthand the phrase “be careful what you wish for”: C***** retweeted my post. As he did so, he questioned its veracity and implied I was lying about my situation, attempting to manipulate people during the holiday season, and that I was a shitty person for doing so. I responded and explained that it’s not a scam. My situation is bad, I told him. He responded by saying it was bullshit—i.e., nothing in my GoFundMe campaign was true; I was lying and manipulating people. I reiterated my claim. It’s true. My situation is bad. He claimed not to believe me, that I was bullshitting everyone. I replied but to no avail: he blocked me.
But some of his followers jumped on it before he blocked me. To summarize: they called me a liar, a fraud, lazy, irresponsible, and pathetic. Someone shared a link to my website—which they presumably found in my bio—and seemed to suggest it provided evidence that I was a liar or a fraud or perhaps psychotic—I’m not certain what they were implying when they shared the link to this site, to be honest. Later, someone tweeted that everyone should ignore me because I was clearly having an “episode,” and attributed this realization to the contents of this site. People tend to conflate bipolar or GAD with psychosis, and I’m assuming that what “episode” implied.
Sidebar: A few people offered genuine advice and positive messages but the overwhelming majority of C*****’s followers who jumped on this thread ridiculed and condemned me.
To flat-out call me a liar and a fraud targeting vulnerable people and using my children
to manipulate them, especially by a musician I’d admired for two decades, devastated me. The blow hit me viscerally. For him to block me while some of his followers piled onto the attack thrust me into a downward spiral. Depression blanketed me as I lay in bed. To ask for help, especially in a public forum, was somewhat embarrassing and humiliating. It’s not easy to commit to, even if you have little pride. Our situation is grim right now. We’re in a hole and we can’t get out of it. And no one seemed to believe me. Thanks to D**** C*****, some people think I’m a liar and a fraud for daring to ask people on social media for help. Thanks to C*****, some people don’t see me as a desperate person in search of help; they see me as either psychotic in the midst of psychosis or as a scam artist trying to manipulate people into giving me money for no reason.
In hindsight, I learned several lessons. Asking for help in a meritocracy is viewed as a weakness or a sign of laziness or fraud. Asking for help when you need it is viewed as begging, which is viewed as disgraceful, which is viewed as parasitic or fraudulent. Some old hippies who preached love and compassion didn’t—and don’t—always practice what they preach. People are quick to condemn and go out of their way to refuse to listen to you. And some people feel like their fighting to stay alive each and every day—and some people might say they empathize, they might even write songs about it, but their behavior betrays ambivalence at best or apathy at worst.
Sidebar: I’ve learned my lesson. No more asking for help. I’ll survive or perish on my own terms. And I’ll never listen to C*****’s music again. Fuck that old hippie. His generation may have given us great music and an explosion of subcultures, but they also gave us yuppies in the 80s and Trumpism now. Am I bitter? Yes. But I’m also severely depressed right now and feel more worthless than I’ve ever felt, and it’s thanks in part to my inability to find a second job as well as an old hippy who accused me of fraud without asking me a single question about my life. In his world, the world revolves around him, I suppose, and what he assumes is fact must, therefore, be factual, even if his beliefs are founded on false assumptions. So lesson learned. Be careful who you ask for help. Some people only pretend to care. And be careful what you wish for, especially if you’re desperate and act on impulses you should suppress.
I should’ve looked for a job months ago and not waited until I found myself in a situation in which unexpected expenses broke me and I found myself in need of help. In this society, we’re shamed if we ask for help. Lesson learned. Lesson fucking learned.
Post-script: I did take the time to delete most of my spam tweets and send a formal apology to most of the people to whom I directly tweeted the link. One man, a famous writer, kindly replied and told me not to worry about it. I won’t spam people anymore.
Daulton Dickey is a novelist, poet, and content creator currently living in Indiana with his wife and kids. He’s the author of A Peculiar Arrangement of Atoms: Stories, Still Life with Chattering Teeth and People-Shaped Things, and other stories, Elegiac Machinations: an experimental novella, and Bastard Virtues, a novel. Rooster Republic Press will publish his latest novel, Flesh Made World, later this year. Contact him at lostitfunhouse [at] gmail [dot] com