I’m a Disabled College Student Supporting My Family

Photo by Manki Kim on Unsplash.

I am a physically and mentally disabled 19-year-old online college student. Over the past two years, I have given my mother $10,000. Doesn’t add up, right?

My mother went on EDD (worker’s compensation) for a year after developing work-related nerve damage in her back. My older brother didn’t take up the responsibility of helping the family financially, and although my twin sister has a job, she isn’t really contributing either. That left me.

I am a college student living on Section 8 in the poverty line. My dad sends me at least $150 a month due to a cut in my SSI check. The $10,000 I gave my mother came from my SSI and financial aid and honestly, I didn’t know how much I lost until I kept seeing everything I’d saved go down rapidly. 

I am still able to pay for my community college classes because my father is a retired veteran and that automatically qualifies me for the BOG waiver. After the VA pays their part of the tuition, the reminder is less than $30 which I pay with my credit card or have my mom give me what’s needed from my SSI money.

The interesting thing was that before I started giving my mother money, I was in the 39 percent club of Americans with emergency funds over $1,000. My savings grew so fast because of my financial aid, though that money began pouring out quickly because of my mother and sister’s wants and desires. I learned how to make additional income when desperate times called, because I am a goal-driven person. I am now a tutor which offers good money that I can put back into my savings. It’s not a full-time gig, of course, but it’s something.

My mother also recently started working again, but we still aren’t bringing in enough money. I told my mother to join Mary Kay or start a Shopify business, and I would help her sell things online. I want to work with my mom to pay off her debts and buy a house, but she doesn’t want any part of this plan. Instead, she keeps taking my money and all she does is guilt-trip me when I try to say no. Saying “I’m your only mother” and giving me her glaring eyes. I immediately felt shamed until I talked to my therapist who believes I need to learn how to say no and stand firm.

My mother already proved she didn’t care about my gas credit card when she took $50 out of my savings to help pay my sister’s phone bill, but let the gas credit card go past due on its payments. Whenever I tried to leave the house she would constantly remind me to bring the gas card and I felt tired and used. When I told her no I even mentioned what the counselor and many other people have said. It’s my credit she’s messing with and I don’t want to break the relationship, but it must stop now.

My mother would snap if I reminded her how much I’d given her, or asked her “How do you think the rent gets paid?” When my mother gets paid, she takes us out to eat and then spends the rest of the money like she’s throwing it out of a burning building. I realized that nothing will change the way I want it to — or as quickly as I want it to — but I still have to try to improve this situation. Now I say no, why I feel the way I feel, and what changes I would like to see because I am a person and I deserve to be treated with respect.

Alexis Corine McGowan often goes by the nickname Dr. Cutie Pie to build up self-confidence. Dr. Cutie Pie is a disabled multiracial individual who would like to leave a legacy that makes her cat-children proud and inspire the following generations. 

This story is part of The Billfold’s Financial Struggles series.

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