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This is not how Jill thought she would be living.
It wasn’t that long ago that Jill was working steadily in the community, building up her finances and enjoying life to the fullest.
Today, though, she suffers from fibromyalgia, which causes widespread pain in the muscles and soft tissues throughout the body. People with this syndrome often feel pain and/or tenderness even when there is no injury or inflammation. Fibromyalgia can also cause depression, decrease a person’s energy and cause an individual to have trouble sleeping.
Jill suffers from a great deal of pain from the fibromyalgia, and is unable to work. She lives entirely on public assistance, and has a very tough time getting by.
“I live on about $4,000 a year,” she said. She and her youngest child live in a home in The Plains, and the rent is paid by the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program. Her other children live with their father, and they stay with Jill on the weekends.
She receives Ohio Works First (OWF) funding for herself and her youngest son, and that results in $355 per month. She also receives funding from the Food Assistance Program, which provides enough food for two or three weeks.
“We do eat a lot of ramen noodles,” Jill said, explaining that she stretches the groceries as far as she can each month. She can’t buy many of the household items that she needs for her son, and she wishes she had the money to pay her bills and pay for the items her children need.
“We live from disconnect notice to disconnect notice,” Jill said.
It’s frustrating to not be able to work and then to have the public assistance funding come up short each month. It’s also frustrating to be stuck in this cycle, she added.
“To me, it’s almost impossible to get out of the system,” she said. If her youngest son’s father pays more in child support, that money will go to the state. If she finds another way to increase her income each month, her rent will go up. So if she is able to bring in any additional money each month, it doesn’t help her at all, she said.
“We struggle. It’s just a continuous struggle,” Jill said.
Before the fibromyalgia, Frietze worked in a hair salon. She had loyal customers, did well with her work and enjoyed her job.
“I’ve worked all my life. I’ve always worked,” Jill said.
After being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, though, she simply is unable to go back to work.
“I live in constant pain,” Jill said. The doctors said the pain would decrease, but it has not yet.
“It hurts to walk,” she said. She does what she can around the house with her pre-school age son, but it’s easy to see the pain on her face when the energetic and happy young boy jumps up onto her for a hug or bounces on her lap. Small things cause her great pain, and Jill has to be very careful.
Her neighbors help her get her son ready for preschool in the mornings, and also help with other work around the house. Jill explained that she often thinks that she will be able to do certain tasks at home, but when she starts the pain is too great and she has to stop.
“It sucks. It’s really awful,” Jill said.
Jill receives Medicaid, and said it is very helpful to have the insurance for herself and her son. She has had problems with some doctors who do not accept her type of insurance, but overall she has been happy with the Medicaid program.
Jill also applied for Social Security to see if she could receive assistance there, but she was denied.
Her children all help her and she wishes that she could do more for them. Her youngest son has grown up with his mother living in constant pain, and she has not been able to provide for him as she would have liked. Christmas and birthdays are very tough on Jill, as she can’t afford to get presents or do the special things she would like to do for her children.
She would move to a nicer home if she could afford it, and would make numerous changes in her life if she were able.
If the OWF monthly funding would be increased by $100, or by any substantial amount, it would make a big difference in her life for paying her bills on time, taking care of her children and living her life.
This isn’t the life that Jill wanted to live, and she never thought she would be in this position. The fibromyalgia makes life very difficult, and she needs a little more assistance from the safety net programs that are supposed to help people in need.
“It’s very hard,” Jill said.