This is Your Brain on Poverty

This is your brain on poverty

Everyone has their own thoughts on what causes poverty. Different pundits opine about what fixes financial woes for families in the 21st century.

Half the time, I sit here reading those things, shaking my head. While rolling my eyes, I wonder how they would survive what I’ve survived.  Would any of these idiots still be alive at the end of a month on a poverty-grade salary?

Of course, before this sort of thing hit my family, I was also one of those jerks shooting my mouth off.

Apologies to anyone on the receiving end of my faulty opinions.

One of the issues that I have rarely seen addressed related to poverty is what it does to your mind and emotions. Poverty has a dramatic affect on your mental and emotional health.

The “Right” Foundation

This is your brain on Poverty

I come at it from a somewhat different perspective as many people. I grew up in a comfortable middle-class family. We didn’t have much but had far more than what my family has had in the last 20 years.

My husband and I were doing quite well for ourselves in the first part of our marriage too. He was a skilled tradesman, and I worked at a large printing company before having kids. I was also perpetually working various side hustles with my design and writing skills.

Rubber Paychecks

In the early 2000s, that life of comfort ended. After we bought a house and had five kids, the bottom fell out of our finances. First, work cut his hours, then cut his pay. One day my husband showed up at work only to find it boarded up, and our last two paychecks bounced. Good times.

Overnight, I had to get even more frugal than I was before. There were no jobs available paying the same as what we had earned. We had no option but to settle for a pay cut. I had to figure out how to take care of a family of seven on 1/3rd of what we had been living on. During this time, as you may remember, expenses for basics shot up quickly.

After a long while, we finally slipped into foreclosure on our house.

During this season, I could focus my mind on saving money and being hyper-frugal on most days. I could think clearly enough to do what I needed to do to survive.  I could think of creative ways to provide the kids with some semblance of a happy childhood.

A Decade of Poverty Fries Brain Cells

Once we slid into foreclosure, I gotta say, my brain turned to mush. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

The mental and emotional stress of the situation broke me. It made my ability to think clearly and rationally about a way out of this mess was non-existent.

Since that time, now that our situation is slowly on the mend, I reflect on that time often.  I find myself wondering about the brain to mush issue.

I realize first of all that our climb up and out is not due to anything I have done.  The grace of God is what lifted us out.  I wonder if this mental stress is part of what keeps people in poverty.  Barring Divine intervention, of course.

I wonder…

How much does the stress that this places on people keep them down? Or lead to the inability to lift oneself out of the situation as everyone says we are “supposed to” do?

My time in poverty only lasted just over a decade.

We started from a position of what some call privilege.  Educated, skilled, with lots of drive. Yet, we could do no more than tread water to stay afloat. After a while, we went under before things got better.

If someone grows up in this situation, or if you live your whole life in this situation, what then? What does this do to that person’s ability to make the so-called better choices that lift you up?

Pragmatic goals

I’m a big believer in goals and pressing onwards and all that. I write frequently about goals.

I’m also a pragmatist.

You can’t always plan to get out of poverty because there are factors there outside of your control.

I know people think you can, and I hope they never have to learn the lessons I’ve learned the hard way. All we can do is work hard and work smart, and trust God for the results.

Sometimes even that is beyond our abilities. The stress of living in poverty takes its toll, making hard and smart work more difficult.

Living below the poverty line is stressful.

Anyone who climbs out on their own without someone leaning over the edge, grabbing them by the hands and guiding them out is a miracle, and much stronger than I.

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