I can’t even open my own front door.

This is an article that I wrote for the Guardian in December that I didn’t post on my blog, because I hadn’t done anything ‘political’ on here for so long that I didn’t want to scare people away. But I am who I am, and this is a very big part of who I am, so if you’re here for just the cheap recipes, then I make no apology for talking a little about why I started writing them in the first place.

TRIGGER WARNINGS: Anxiety, trauma, mental health, PTSD, debt, poverty.

My head in my hands, choking out words, tears rushing down hot, humiliated cheeks, I raised my head to look at the array of varying expressions looking back from the other side of the room; a Labour MP, two Conservative peers, and a Conservative MP looked back, a mixture of horror and sympathy as I publicly crashed and burned. Fear and humiliation and self-loathing leaping on me like a set of hyenas, as I sobbed: “I can’t even answer my telephone, any more. If it’s an unknown number, if it rings early in the morning, or I don’t know who it is. I can’t even open my own front door. It’s not the same front door, as the one I sat with my back to, morning and afternoon, cowering as bailiffs battered on the other side of it. It’s not the same phone number. It’s not the same front door. I’m not in debt. There are no more final demands, no more red capital letters, no more threats. But … I can’t even open my own front door.”

I gave evidence at the all-party parliamentary group inquiry into hunger and food bank use in the UK a few months ago, one of over 1,000 pieces of evidence heard by the committee – expecting to recount a story told and retold at party conferences, charity events, radio interviews, to journalists, again and again and again over the past two and a half years. But the APPG wanted more than ‘hunger hurts’. They asked, probed, dug, questioned, opening up the old wounds, and made notes as I trembled in my seat, recalling nights of wrapping a baby up in a vest and a babygro and a dressing gown before putting him down to sleep. Of going to bed shortly afterwards because there’s nothing else to do, and it’s dark, and cold, and you sold the telly, so you go to bed at 7pm and curl up beside him and hold him, because it feels like the only good thing you have. Of being asked, very quietly, by a member of staff at my local children’s centre if a food bank referral form would help us out “for a little while”, as she noticed us having seconds at lunch, and thirds, and three or four sugars in endless cups of tea, of offering to wash up and boxing up the leftovers to take home, away from the eyes of the other mums in the group.

I talked about the unexpectedness of it all, of applying for flexible working hours and day work roles in the fire service before I resigned, of applying for every job I saw in the 18 months afterwards – care work, shop work, minimum wage work, apprenticeships at £80 a week to be told I was “too old” at 23, when the 16-year-olds were cheaper to hire. Of the bank charges that mounted up when bills bounced, and the late payment charges, and how quickly a £6 water charge can spiral into hundreds of pounds in late fees and bank charges, and nobody will give you the smallest of overdrafts, to tide you over, because those charges and subsequent interest are worth far more to a high street bank..

I staggered out of parliament, clutching a friend, shaking and crying. I went home, phoned my partner at work, and wept down the line. The mental breakdown I had been holding back for two and a half years through keeping busy, writing books, smiling for the cameras, crashed down around me.

Poverty took me from being the girl who was always the lead in the school play, to a woman who can’t open her own front door. I suffer panic attacks, anxiety attacks, seemingly random triggers that immobilise me, render me useless but simultaneously unable to explain myself. I’ve cancelled talks and events, crushed into a corner of my sofa, sobbing until my guts ache at the drop of a final demand letter from a years-old debt landing on my door mat. One doorbell ringing unexpectedly last April sent me scuttling to hide at the top of my landing, peering fearfully down the hallway until whoever it was went away. I often miss interviews, because a certain broadcasting corporation calls from unknown or withheld numbers, and I just can’t bring myself to answer them. I’ve lost count of the number of people who tell me my poverty wasn’t real enough, or long enough, or whatever their particular factors deem to be poor enough – and all I can say to them, is that I can’t even open my own front door.

This article first appeared in the Guardian on 10th December 2014.

Jack Monroe. Also on Twitter & Instagram @MsJackMonroe

Books available at Hive, who deliver to your local independent bookshop – please try to support independent retail where you can, and this is a really easy way to do it: http://www.hive.co.uk/by/jack-monroe/21868634/

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Categories: Blog, NEWS

116 Comments »

  1. Liking this almost seemed the wrong thing to do, because it’s certainly not something I would wish on anyone, but it’s an impressive, important and deserving of attention article.

    • Thank you for posting this. I recognise all these thoughts and feelings, although I was very lucky and had amazing parents who would always help me out, but being a grown woman asking off her parents is demoralising and I felt ashamed. My reasoning is that I would do what I needed to for me son. I’m a single parent and he’s the only good thing in my life. Then I hit a full time job in a school and was earning and paying my own way, I felt good! Now they’ve told me to to government budget cuts I can’t be kept on so now I have no job in September. I feel like I’ve been thrown a sucker punch. 41 years old and back to square one again, fighting very hard to stay positive and look to the future.

  2. Oh Jack, you’ve broken my heart all over again.

    You have done and are doing everything you possibly can to help yourself and others in a similar situation.

    Now’s the time to heal though. Get help if you need to, but find a way to move forward. For yourself and your family x

  3. It must have hurt to write that. People who haven’t been through it can’t possibly know the screaming panic that hits in the early hours. Good on you Jack, I hope you find release and comfort.

    • I didn’t mean any harm… still waiting for my comment to be approved… is there a reason?

      A Gypsie’s Wife Your comment is awaiting moderation.

      February 19, 2015 at 1:10 pm It must have hurt to write that. People who haven’t been through it can’t possibly know the screaming panic that hits in the early hours. Good on you Jack, I hope you find release and comfort.

  4. This is heartbreaking. You are very inspiring. Anxiety is a constant battle. Sending you best wishes, and thank you for sharing this.

  5. Jack,
    My heart goes out to you, although I’ve never known the level of poverty you have experienced, I have feared phone calls, letters & knocks at the door.
    It feels as though you were put through the wringer to prove something that should be reasonably obvious, it is almost as though they were punishing you.
    What does not help the plight of those in need are program’s about people on benefits such as “Benefit Street”, as it gives the rest of us a bad name.
    Catherine

    Sent from my iPhone

  6. Jack,
    Your activism brought me to your site. No apologies needed.

    I think too, it is good for all to know that work, money, even a partner, don’t erase the problems created by poverty.

    You are one of many who were forced into poverty. Glad you’re one of the few who fought and found a way out. There are many still fighting, and many more who need some spark of hope to restart.

  7. I relate to this. I’m scared of phones anyway but an unexpected doorbell ring can bring me out in a cold sweat and have me hiding. Even though my debts are under control, my anxiety isn’t.

  8. I thank you for telling your story. It is so important in its commonality that it needs to be public knowledge. Few people have a real idea of how difficult and soul destroying job hunting is, let alone trying to do it whilst cold and starving. I am so pleased that things are now so much better for you. I became poor a few years ago as I left a full time job to start an environmental charity. It’s very hard to be publicly applauded for the good you are doing when you go home to a cold house and the rent payment only possible due to credit card overpayments. Things are better now but the shame never really goes away.

  9. And re-reading this is why I am so pleased whenever I see you insta or tweet photos that show the happiness and regained fiscal security you now have.

    It is a brave post that makes my eyes burn with tears and throat choke with anger at a society that treats people this way.

  10. This brought tears to my eyes in the memory of a similar time in my life. I also experience triggers at random times that come out of the blue which catapult me back into that time 26 yrs ago. You are definitely not alone in this and very brave and courageous to post about it so clearly. Thank you

    • Jack I found your blog in a time when I felt like this and it had contributed to my anxiety and depression thankfully things have improved a bit as they have for you. Karma dealt it’s hand out to you in giving you a break from the poverty you were dealt with and it really proves that sometimes ‘good things happen to good people’ & you deserved it Jack. You have helped so many people by teaching them how to cope with what they have realistically, instead of lecturing them about organic chickens (I do love Jamie though). I think maybe go to the gp ( as I have had to) & seek help to help deal with these ‘undealt’ with / buried emotions. X

  11. It will get better and you’re not alone.

    I faced pretty desperate poverty some years back when, as the main breadwinner for our family, we had to manage on maternity pay for a few months. My husband wasn’t well at the time and selling things to pay for food, whilst ignoring the council tax, cancelling the DD for the gas and electricity and just biding our time was the only reality.

    Years on, despite now being a partner in a business, comfortable financially and to all appearances stable, I too still dread the withheld numbers, the unexpected knocks at the door.

    It gets better, you will reach a point where it’s a decision rather than a reaction, to answer or not answer.

    And remember – just because a door is knocked or a phone is rung, it doesn’t mean that you are obliged to answer. That door is there for a reason – to protect you, when you need it.

  12. You shouldn’t have to apologise, for any of it. What you have been through is real and your past inevitably affects your present. I hope that enough that is good, for long enough helps you through. Never forget how many real people you have helped through your incredible honesty and hard work.

  13. Hi Jack – Thanks for your courage, honesty & integrity, in sharing this. You are SO much more than a source of inspiring budget-busting recipes!
    We should all acknowledge that poverty eats away at confidence & self-worth – it remains in the “emotional memory”: even when there is a little more money in the bank, it lives in the bones. It always has done – Mayhew’s “London Labour & the London Poor” (1851) reflected how marginalised the poor were in what was then the richest city in the world. Sadly, how little has changed…history repeating itself…

    By speaking out & sharing your experience you have shown guts & determination, & a tenacity to come back fighting – showing how turning what you discovered out of necessity developed into a culinary art.
    Sometime the ‘personal’ has to become ‘political’……
    Thank you.

  14. I have just wept silent tears reading this. I know that fear of the door only too well, even though I, too, have not had direct experience of it for a few years now. Still, the fear remains. A beautiful, honest, open and heartfelt piece of writing that only those who have experienced similar, can ever truly relate to.

  15. I’ve felt like I’ve been in poverty, struggling to eat and pay bills even in spite of having a job. But my sister had it way worse than I did. She was jobless, under 25 and fighting with the council to get the full rate of benefits, and she had to chose her rent and bills over eating most of the time. I don’t think even she had it bad as you did. You are so brave and strong. I hope I never end up in the same situation, but if I do I hope I can be as brave as you were, even though you felt you were living in fear. Others in similar situations haven’t coped nearly as well. I just hope your pain broke through those tough politician hides.

  16. I read this at the time on the Guardian. A well written article that helps people to understand what it is like to have very little. It worries me that people say “you haven’t suffered enough”, no one should have to suffer in this day and age, here. There is enough to go round.

  17. Thank you for sharing this. If anything is ever going to get better, we need this being shared and told and retold. I’m sorry that it takes such a toll on you, but you’re our voice and we appreciate you. Thank you for using your platform. Too many people make good and forget where they came from, their loyalty changes, they change. The poor and suffering too often have no voice at all.

  18. Some people just don’t understand. We have just enough to scrape by on but my Daughter had a debt collector round last year and was so afraid of this man she finally told me about him. I went down and saw to this low life who was very intimidating and full of threats.

    I paid the man off in full but my Daughter is still having panic attacks now nearly a year on.

    My heart goes out to anyone in the same position x

  19. Jack, whatever the situation, you are a winner. NOT meant to patronise or be sarky. Because you fight your corner and come out (at leastt to my mind) more determined and ready to what is right
    You are a girl called jack with guts and determination and the will to care for your public. To stand up for the issues of poverty and decent low priced meals (with I may add a real flair), flying the flag for the LGBT , giving hope to thousands. And you gave, (and STILL give ) your child the best with what you could. I’m absolutely sure. Keep doing what you do, Jack.

  20. Bless you. You should never had to go through what you did, and I realise it doesn’t take away from the fear you feel, but you are an inspiration to so many people. What you are describing is like PTSD, it gets you when you don’t expect it, it makes you anxious about things others might consider normal, and it effects your life in ways you never expected it to.

    It will get better. You have stood through tough times (understatement I know) and this is your mind and body trying to keep you safe, still, it is the deepest parts of you trying to do what you did forever: keep yourself (and your child) safe. In a way that’s incredible because you were that strong to survive it. In other ways it is horrendous because you should now know you’re safe. You should be safe.

    I will pray for you, and hope forever that you stay safe long enough that your body and mind let you relax and enjoy what you have in all it’s fullness. You have been so strong – well done – hopefully you can now just be you.

    Thank you for being so honest.

    *big awkward run-away-afterwards hugs*

  21. You explained that situation very well. Even after the causes of being without money, without an income are dealt with, its hard to come back from the feeling of utter fear every time the phone rings or the door bell goes. I dont think it ever leaves you, even years later. I grew up in such an environment, and now I am facing the same monster with my own children. Its no accident that all this is taking place during tory governments.
    Thank you for being able to write it down.

  22. I have 24 years of this life since the two short years of that life. Yet, there are still moments where it intrudes. Decisions which the issues of that time have no bearing on, yet I am influenced by.

    It gets better. But in my experience, being flat broke and desperate never leaves you. All you can do is try to make it of use, somehow, to yourself or others. And you do.

  23. Hi Jack, as someone who has been through tough times financially and eating pasta every day, I know that my experience cannot come close to yours. However you have shown yourself to be brave and stronger than most to stand up to critics, to the government and tell them like it is. Hang in there. Don’t let them get you down. You are an amazing person and someone that everyone should look up to. I am not a religious person so sending positive thoughts your way and hope that things improve. Pippa

  24. Take time to heal..PTSD is something very serious.Take care of yourself before you helping others.You are a brave woman

  25. So sad and sorry to read that what seemed your happy ever after hasn’t turned out how your supporters hoped. I do hope your getting appropriate help and support. I wish you well and hope your feeling better soon. X

  26. I’m so very sorry that this happened to you Jack.
    I was unemployed for 4.5 years but found work just as my credit cards maxed out. There but for the Grace of God…
    I had started to avoid opening the mail to avoid final demands & those ubiquitous phone calls.
    I’m now on a debt management program & am in work keeping my head just above water.
    I’m very happy for you that your life has turned a corner (by your own hard work & a tiny bit of luck) & that you have Allegra & your children to support you. Respect! Xxx

  27. Fair play for your honesty Jack, most people couldn’t/wouldn’t be able to tell the world. And as far as your “poverty wasn’t real enough, or long enough, or whatever their particular factors deem to be poor enough” that is something usually lamented by people with plenty of money in their pockets who don’t have to concern themselves with the issue other than making a statement to the press or to appear more “in touch with the people” as with politicians. Its not putting people off Jack, its showing you are human 🙂

  28. It’s not through weakness that you experienced all these ghastly effects. It’s because you were forced to be strong against appalling odds for far too long. Just remind – and congratulate – yourself that you have been a superb mother through the toughest of times, and remember that plenty of people respect you and your achievements. You’re allowed some cathartic down-time, because if you aren’t, nobody is!
    Good to see you’re able to talk about it openly now. You will be ok, I promise, Jack. Love to you and your family. X

  29. Jack, This sounds like post traumatic stress to me. You’ve been through the mill (and a particularly horrific mill at that) and it will take time for that panic, terror and fear you were so used to feeling to go away. Your mind and body are designed to protect you and they learn from experience. Your experiences have taught them to react like this out of self preservation. It can be unlearned. My advice is seek help in some form of counseling. I hope you feel better soon. Your blogs and recipes have helped so many people, you deserve a bit of peace. Hope it all works out. Keep on battling!

  30. Just like necessity is the mother of invention – your poverty led (or forced) you to create some truly marvellous recipes.

    It is a testament to your generous character that you have shared the recipes and now others can benefit whether they are part of a family or single unit.

  31. (S)He who feels it knows it. Poverty is a humiliation, end of.
    And it humiliates all of us; it is a reminder that that which seemed to have been fought and paid for in the blood of rank and file soldiers and trade unionists was only on loan to us.

    And like polio and smallpox, it will always start to spread unless there is extreme vigilance and an utter lack of complacency.

    I’m glad that you put this on your blog, because it reminded me why I started reading it.
    (But thanks for the recipes too!)

  32. Dear Jack,
    You are an inspiration to my daughter and myself. I lived through some similar times in London. SO brave of you to not just pretend that a little bit of celebrity is the panacea for past trauma.
    I heard you speak at the Barbican Observer ‘ideas day’ so glad I went.

  33. Dear Jack, thank you for sharing your experiences and your life as well as your recipes. I read your blog for both. Please consider getting counselling (and possibly medication) if you aren’t already. Anxiety and panic attacks are something you can get under control, there are lots of strategies to help you out of this horrible experience. Please look after yourself so that you can continue to live life to the full, love your family and speak out for those who have no voice.
    Love from an anxiety survivor

  34. This has had me in tears because it perfectly summarises my life right now. Prompting my daughter to, again, because she does not understand why mummy cries, or shuts the curtains or dresses her in so many uncomfortable, second-hand layers.
    Reading that for you, and so many of your commenters, things got better is so helpful. It fills me with hope that one day we too will be looking backwards, or forwards, anything but the unrelenting here and now.

    • Felt I had to reply to you Hiranski. I was homeless for 4 years from 19 years old, with 2 daughters, one a baby, one a toddler. When the elder was 5, she went to 7 schools in her first term and there were long periods when we had no money, at all. It was a horrendous time, and has had a long lasting impact.
      It is one of the reasons I write under the moniker Thrifty Lesley enabling people to feed themselves for £1 a day.
      My reason to reply is to offer some hope. It can feel horribly lonely when you are the adult having to hold everything together. However… Keep on buggering on as the saying goes, and sooner or later, you’ll crack it, and things will start to improve.
      I am in my 60’s now and since that horrible time I have met the man I have been with for 38 years, trained to work in IT and had a great career there, left to run a successful business and we are now reaping the financial rewards of that and I have a very busy life whizzing round seeing all my friends. My life couldn’t be more different.
      You aren’t alone, hang on in there

  35. The cruelty of the fact that because of your strength and courage in speaking out about your experiences, you’ve been targeted by vicious, blinkered idiots is hard to understand. You’ve done so much good for people, and that’s what you’ll be remembered for – not the stupid DM articles about you or the abuse from internet morons but for how what you’ve done has changed lives.

  36. Jesus! I didn’t expect that 😦 I have been reading your blog for a very long time, I love how honest you are and I always love a no-fuss, money saving recipe without any fancy pants ingredients. I knew your story and when I originally read it, I was moved to tears (I have 2 children and although things are great for me now, I have been on the brink of poverty at one point in my life, so it wasn’t hard at all to put myself in your shoes). But this is different because you seem so together now, I had no idea that you were going through all of this and again, I was moved to tears and more than a little choked up. Take care of yourself and your family, you are clearly a very strong woman and you will get through this BUT it’s OK to cry, feel bad or angry, or even to be traumatised by what you have been through. Don’t fight it or hold it in, that’s the worse thing you can do, just let it all out, every last negative thought and feeling – and those around you that care about you the most WILL support you through it, as you would support them.

  37. I just want to send you a HUGE hug, Jack. Your story resonates with mine, and I can wholeheartedly say that you’re not alone. To you, and to anyone else who’s been through – or is going through this – you’re not alone. You are not debt, and all the crap that comes along with it to hold you down. You are a wonderful caring, loving human being and you deserve a place in this world. To you – and to everyone – make sure the world knows your stories in the hope that eventually politicians will wake up and attempt to begin to understand.

  38. (S)He who feels it knows it.
    Poverty is a humiliation, end of.
    And it humiliates all of us; it is a reminder that what seemed to have been fought and paid for in the blood of soldiers and trade unionists was only on loan to us. And like polio and smallpox, it will reappear unless there is extreme vigilance and an utter lack of complacency.
    I’m glad that you put this on your blog, because it reminded me why I started reading it.
    (But thanks for the recipes too!)

  39. Reblogged this on My Random Ruminations. and commented:
    My experience of being poor is nothing near as severe as this, but I have panic attacks every time a new bill arrives. I have bought treats for my niece, and partner but got nothing for myself because I can’t justify having a bar of chocolate, or a bag of chips.

    I live on a set income, a very small set income. Anything good I have, I have thanks to the generosity of my friends and family…yeah this piece speaks very loudly to me.

  40. Jack, you forgot a few bits though.
    Crying your eyes out when you see the postman walking up the path, or getting so excited when you see him walk straight past your house as there are no bills for you that day.
    I also used to panic when the kids had no school uniform day as i didn’t have the two pound coins they needed to take in too. I hated those times 😦

  41. Jack
    Don’t stop. I am exactly where you are, minus a partner. My behaviour is the same, though I do not reside in England (I am Canadian) the issues are the same for anyone living in a country that ascribed to austerity as a salve for the elites. Please carry on (when you are able), we are here to support you and we love your voice. You are brilliant. Keep safe, we are here. Nora

  42. I wonder how many of us sat here in tears reading your post today? Jack – you are held in love by thousands – such a courageous woman, a loving mother and partner. We all wish you peace and happiness.

  43. (I am sorry if this is a duplicate-having trouble signing in).
    Stay safe Jack, take your time, and when you are ready…keep on! We support you and understand, all too well, exactly your feelings. Anyone living in a country that ascribed to austerity is fully aware of your situation. I live in Canada and sat opposite a deputy minister with a group of twenty activists (from doctors to elderly ladies who feed the unfed) and listened to her explain how her department surplus could not be used for the assistance of those unable to pay for food. There are good people out here, and wherever we are…we love to hear/read your strong intelligent voice. When you are ready. xx Nora

  44. I know exactly what you’re going through and all I can say is it’s your body’s way of saying ‘enough now it’s time to look after you from within’ take each day as it comes and before you close your eye’s at bedtime praise yourself for the achievements you’ve made that day even if it’s just getting dressed or cooking a delicious meal it’s an achievement. Don’t rush yourself it’s not a race. You’re a brave and inspirational young woman and I’d like to thank you for sharing this with us that’s in itself is an achievement 🙂 Sending healing energy, love and hugs to you xx

  45. Jack,this is liberating for me to read and reflect upon.I can identify with everything you recall and with coming out the other side .

  46. Honest, direct, an inspiration to a lot of people who’ve ‘gone through the mill’ like you, and have suffered, and possibly still are, but have come out stronger. Keep on keeping on Jack; we’re with you!

  47. Your so much braver then you think. It’s a terrible thing to have to go threw no one should suffer this badly over such a simple thing, being warm, safe and fed. We are one of the wealthiest contreys in the world.
    I think alot of people think it will never happen to them but all it takes is one bad day to spiral in to sea of debt and poverty. You have managed to do so much and come so far well done you.
    Thank you for everything you put out in to this world.

  48. Jack – you may be surprised at how many people I know who are now objectively wealthy but who still panic over money, bills, unexpected household crises – because they or maybe their parents once experienced that gut wrenching insecurity of not knowing how they were gong to pay the latest bill. It seems that for many people it doesn’t go away – and the outside world would wonder how on earth someone who earns way above the national average could be insecure about money.

  49. Reading your blog and how you’ve struggled catapulted me into volunteering at my local food bank in Nottingham. You have absolutely nothing to apologise for, as many others have said. I see our food bank clients drilled into the ground by cruel welfare sanctions, low income, illness, mental health problems and addictions. Thank you for being the brave voice of many.
    Very best wishes to you and your family.

  50. I act the same way if I get any type of letter from benefits/council etc. Posting this on your blog is useful as a reminder to those of us who come for cheap recipes that there is a solid REASON behind creating the recipes in the first place. You are known for your recipes but you are also know for your anti-poverty work. Posting this reminds us all that the effects of poverty don’t just go away when some money comes in. Imagining people can just “get a job” and everything will be fine is harder when confronted with with the after-effects. Well done you for telling those in Parliament Hearing about this is an important part of your campaigning, so why not post it on your blog.
    Take care of yourself. I know personally how exhausting it can be to put on the “happy mask” and pretend to the world that everything’s fine. I hope you have time to take off the mask and be yourself.

  51. (((HUGGS)))

    It’s woderful what you are doing, that you have been able to raise awareness will help others. I’m so very sorry for all you had to go through but you are through now and still helping other – keep sight of that!

    Understanding your anxiety will help you to find coping strategys and move forward.

    Wishing you peace & happiness

  52. I am lucky enough to work for CAP (Christians against Poverty) who were an incredible source of he to me when I was in a really bad financial situation. The support, advice, and practical hands on help is completely free and ongoing; the support is priceless. I wish more people know about organisations like this who just want to help those who need it.

  53. Am I right in assuming that little or nothing has come out of the APPG inquiry? Of course, it is still probably ongoing but what is the betting that its conclusions will be anodyne, its solutions feeble. Have any of the MPs who witnessed you that day come back to you? Having overcome the initial shock, they will probably sweep the memory under their political carpet. That is if they believed you in the first place. Which is why you need to keep up the fight and to keep hanging on in there. No one should be so poor. No one should be afraid of opening their own door. It is clear that you have plenty of friends and followers who all support you in what you are doing. 49 and counting posts prove that. And yes, get counselling, talk to friends, weep on your partner’s shoulder, hug your kids, get drunk, get angry, go on marches, write blogs, create recipes – do whatever it takes to keep on hanging in there. And if there are times you can’t answer the door, then so be it.

    Neil
    X

  54. Thank you for doing this. I’ve been there and know that sickening feeling, the feeling of shame, the nights without sleep. You’re a very inspirational woman

  55. We changed our bank on principle as we found the new way of charging for being overdrawn was immoral by penalising the poor for being overdrawn and taking advantage of them not having other options. Don’t ever forget why you started this, your voice is just much louder now and that can only benefit the people who often have no voice. Bravo. If you can’t make every interview that’s fine too, you started a revolution and it will keep going if you miss a few days!

  56. oh jack…so many ppl have, like me, admired you from your first blog. So sorry to hear that you are finding things tough….perhapa your body is saying…hey…can i have a rest now please?
    There will always be the random trolls and unkind ppl out there…dont know why they behave so badly but its just a fact of life.
    Rest up.. let your family look after you and ignore the idiots. They are only jealous!
    You have had such a tough time but now you should think of yourself..give yourself space to think…rest and relax…
    thia country needs brave youngsters like you..a breath of frsh air and commom sense

  57. I seriously think that we as a society need to revise some of our attitudes. Poverty should not be humiliating. A lot of people go through a period of poverty at some stage in their lives, and it shouldn’t define how they feel about themselves or their worth as human beings.
    I hope you soon beat your demons.

  58. This is the most ‘real’ blog post I have read in so long & I’m so pleased that I came across your site & I’m sure I will now be a avid follower. Every word had me hooked remembering what it was like to be brought up by another amazing single mum. Thank you x

  59. My thoughts are with you. Hopefully it’s getting better.
    Some counselling can really help and there’s no shame in asking for it- it’s like having over strained a joint and needing phisio.

  60. I was originally drawn to your site because you speak out about these matters – you know how it feels to have lived it and come out the other end and that is something I, and I’m sure many readers, relate to.

    I too have gone through these terrifying times (chronic gambler of an ex-husband) and lived to tell the tale. I continue to live on a budget and do well on it, but even now I struggle when using chip and pin machines at the store. I know there is money in there and that any fault would be an actual fault, rather than my account being depleted, but there will always be that physical memory etched into my nerve-endings and keeping me on edge every time I use it.

    Thanks for all that you do Jack.

  61. I ache for you
    i have felt the same but i have not had the sheer determination you have shown
    i have been close to suicide but unlike you have not had the small ones to provide the need and drive you had.
    That’s why I revel in your recent happiness and joy. you deserve it.
    yet you do not forget those who still inhabit where we were. You still rage against those who deny that these things exist – and i admire you more for your point of view, your stance and your ability to put things in such clear and understandable terms that I cry again.
    i also am concerned for you. Don’t forget you and yours need the person I admire to spend time with them.and you deserve the opportunity.
    if it means withdrawal to beat the trolls, the arrows of ignorance – do it. none of your followers will deny that you deserve it.
    many of us respect and support you. far more than the idiots.
    all warm best wishes to you and yours.

  62. Jack, this is raw and painful, and reflects a time in my life where I experienced financial distress. Years later, install can’t open a bank statement or ask for a balance without feeling super anxious, and I have never been able to actually go into my bank for any meetings or device for at least seven years, despite times being better, the fear still exists. The door sometimes gets stuck on closed, but at least I know I can choose to answer it x bless you.

  63. A very brave comment and admission. I live daily on the bread line and dread a bill despite being in what peolple see as an well. Paid profession. Nursing. I worked hard at school and three plus years to qualify yet still struggling. Obviously choose wrong job. !

  64. Don’t feel ashamed for posting political stuff along with the recipes.
    Oh my. Jack I just want to give you a hug.
    This post makes a horrible sort of sense, because your experiences have to leave scars; many don’t just think about that. :/
    Good luck. I still keep you in my thoughts. I hope that, with time, things do get better mentally for you as they got better in other ways.
    *Hugs.*

  65. I know it’s scary, but as another person said, this is simply your body’s way of saying: “enough”. Don’t feel bad for anything as you have been through a lot and then watched your life turn on it’s head and zoom off in a completely different direction…that takes a while for your head to “catch up” (I’m going through similar but obviously under different circumstances).

    Rest, do what you have to do to get by and the world will still be waiting when you feel better. Things will get better and then you’ll realise how many people are rooting for you.

  66. Oh, sweetheart. I, and countless others, can relate to this. My debts ran to the ridiculous, hidden from me by an ex – partner (and my naivety/unwillingness to see what was happening) and I ended up in court, pleading ‘heart blindness’ and a desperate need to see the best in the man who had been my life for almost a decade. I was incredibly lucky; I was granted an annulment and I picked up what was left of my life, but I still can’t answer an unknown number. Even moving to a different country hasn’t done much to lessen the anxiety. Your strength in being able to speak on such an open, public platform is an inspiration, love, not something to apologise for.

  67. Jack. What courage! You have had a hard journey and now you need time to recover, the scars will remain, but they do fade in time. Twenty odd years on I still hesitate to answer a number withheld call and to answer a knock at the door. Please seek help you will heal faster.
    I love your politics, I love your recipes and I love your courage.
    Hugs and happiness to you an your family. x

  68. Jack

    I’m so sorry you feel so down. Please don’t give up you are an inspiration to many of us. Take some time out. Love and take care of yourself.
    You will bounce back and I bet feel stronger than ever. A big hug to you and yours.

  69. Oh Jack, what a heart-rending article. Years ago I had a road accident, and for quite a while afterwards I had flashbacks – thud, blackness, the taste of blood. I couldn’t control when or where they happened, they just happened, but I didn’t know what triggered them. These feelings you get when the doorbell goes or the phone rings sound like classic flashbacks, and those triggers are very understandable. All I can say is just keep telling yourself they are about something that you’ve done a brilliant job of consigning to history, and be assured that they will stop in time. Mine did, and now even the scars don’t bother me. I just think of them as trophies!

  70. Great post. It made me cry. As have many of the comments. It is just not right that so many people suffer and struggle without support in times of dire need. I really don’t know whet else to say, but thank you for sharing your story. People matter. Even small acts of kindness can have a huge impact on people’s lives. There but for the grace of God go us all. I hope action will be taken by the many, not just the few, to support all who need supporting. These people aren’t the ‘other’ – they are neighbours, school friends, colleagues even, people we might see every day. Rarely does anyone ask for help until things are desperate which always makes the problems harder to resolve. I can’t really articulate what I want to say very well. I suppose I’m trying to say I’m deeply saddened by your story and others like it and feel angry and frustrated that I can do so little to help. I hope it is of some comfort to know some people honestly, truly and deeply care. Love, K x

  71. Jack, I am another one brought to tears by your eloquence on this subject. After being a broke single mum, I can relate to this even 30 years on. You will feel better as time goes by, but some memories will linger. It is a joke in the family here that I have a huge pantry and everyone knows where to come for Armageddon, but I still can’t help myself when it comes to buying an extra can of something “just in case”. And I haven’t been hungry now for many years….but I remember.

  72. Thank you for telling your story, it certainly brought back memories from my past and I can relate to your experience. I just wanted to say that you are doing an amazing job and my kitchen has seen alot of your creations and my family have loved them – even the fussy ones!
    You have certainly helped us out and we are very grateful to you – Thank you Jack 🙂

  73. My husband and I have been lucky, we’ve always stayed just in credit. Now approaching our fiftieth birthdays we have no mortgage and some savings but I still think official envelopes are going to be bad news. You have done amazing things and one of them is being brave enough to write this article. It will get better and in the mean time if you’ll let me I’ll send you a big virtual hug x

  74. “the most powerful forms of giving are non-material. The gifts of caring, attention, appreciation, affection, love are some of the most precious gifts you can give, and they don’t cost you anything” (Deepak Chopra)

    you certainly show this with your time, attention, caring and campaigning.

    People like you Jack; keeps reminding people like me; that there is people who care!

  75. Jack, I love your recipes to death, and I’m really really grateful for them, but I come here for YOU, because YOUR story got my attention. Never apologize for sharing it.

    As a single, childless 20-something in the US, I’ve been chronically broke but never truly poor the way you have. No one ever turned off my water or my heat, and the only collections calls I ever received were related to a miscommunication over a medical bill [for which I did pay dearly, and which did hurt my credit, but it didn’t destroy my life].

    But I have often stayed afloat because of credit cards, leaving me with a lot of high-interest debt that I’m not sure I’ll ever get out from under. I have cried [a lot] when opening my mail. I have avoided the doctor too long and landed myself with emergency room bills. And all of that is enough to leave me deeply anxious and sad about money. Just thinking about it brings up emotions that are miserable and seemingly out of my control.

    What you went through was so much worse, and you didn’t just survive it, you made something amazing come out of it. That is so incredibly amazing.

    I’m so sorry to hear that you are still struggling with the psychological fallout from this trauma. Sending you all the love and virtual hugs that you are interested in accepting from a random internet stranger.

  76. Hi Jack
    I’m so glad your getting help, my ex ran off ten years ago and left me with a very confused hurt 15 yr old daughter, it was an abusive relationship but what broke me was the insecurity, fighting to save my house, the endless phone calls from companies wanting money, people turning up at the door to ask for the same. Ten years on I’ve paid all the debts and finished the mortgage, I’m a little better than I was but even now I can’t answer the phone unless it’s a number I know or a local number at least. The biggest thing I’ve learned is you go through a grieving process, crying is good for you holding everything inside is not good for you. Keep talking until you wake up one morning or go to sleep and it’s not the first or last thing you think about, above all don’t feel guilty! You have under gone a huge transformation over the past few years, personally and professionally. Finally after all that waffle learn to love yourself, your worth it!! xx

  77. Having lived under the black cloud myself, I know the power to immobilise that the door and the phone can have.

    Many years later I see more rainbows in those clouds. I find the more I get to actually be my PROPER TRUE SELF (and not just what someone else expects) the better I am in my head.

    Keep talking Jack..and not just about recipes. What you have to say important x

  78. Hi Jack….. Thank you for sharing what I know is paralysingly difficult.

    Physical trauma triggered my current dark space, trauma that in my mind completely threatened not only the one thing I can use to regulate my moods to some degree which is running, but also my ability work compete I the work sphere and subsequently my ability to support my partner. I dropped a carving knife on my foot severing a large tendon and the part of me I call “Chicken Licken” picked up the ball and ran and ran. My partner came home to find me howling every day for two weeks, and I felt like I was falling through something, unable to catch hold of anything. Now 10 days post surgery I’m in a limbo where I’ve worn myself out completely with the contents of my head I’m waiting for the cast to come off and access whether my worst fears will come true or not, it’s a bit like cooking a cake and not knowing if it’s worked or not until you take it out the oven. Like all things it will pass, i know that as it will for you. Hold on, we all deserve the piece that will return at some point.

  79. Thank you for sharing this, very well written, and from the heart. People do need to know, that the statistics they read about, contain the hidden reality of terrible personal struggle. Much respect to you for going through such an ordeal to help Parliament to understand this. I would just like to say, that panic attacks do go, the memory of such hard times does fade, and slowly, but surely you will feel strong again.

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