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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

Please to Forgive

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A Time-Honored Technique

I have every intention of repaying my debts but it's going to take some time.

Michael David Crawford, Consulting Software Engineer
mdcrawford@gmail.com

September 5, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

I called Bonita from a payphone at the Granville SkyTrain station underneath the downtown Hudson Bay Company store. Payphones are hard to find now that everyone has a cell phone, but I never used to need a cell as I worked out of my home for eight years before moving to Vancouver. My new boss was completely dumbfounded when I told him I didn't have one.

This payphone was an even rarer find as it was in a quiet, out-of-the-way corner. The payphone near my office is on a crowded, busy street with noisy tour buses going by every couple of minutes. I took the opportunity to talk to Bonita for over an hour, as I didn't plan on walking back to the Westin until late. I will explain in a later diary why I made the right choice to buy an AT&T prepaid calling card from Wal-Mart; it's the best calling card I've ever used.

Towards the end of our conversation I said to Bonita, "I want you to do something for me. I know it will be difficult. I really want you to spend some time thinking about it:"

"I want you to imagine a life filled with abundance."

After I connected to the free wireless at the Bute and Robson Blenz Coffee, I found the following message in my inbox:

Hey Mike,

Hope everything is going well. Just thought I'd tell you those $AUTO_COMPANY people have started calling again.

See you. -- R.


F.,

I'm copying you on this reply to R. because she told me $AUTO_COMPANY has been calling her again.

I'm very sorry I ever gave either of you as credit references. I won't ever do that again. I expect F. is getting calls too. She got really pissed at me about it last time.

I'll be mailing a payment Friday and will call to tell them it's on its way after I mail it. I'm afraid it doesn't do any good to tell $AUTO_COMPANY when I'm planning to mail a check; they keep calling until I can tell them it's actually on the way.

Whenever they call, just tell them that they can reach me at (XXX) YYY-ZZZZ. If they protest that it's been disconnected, tell them that it's still the correct phone number and that it will be reconnected when I get my next paycheck.

Things were pretty rough for Bonita and I for a while, but they just got a lot better: today was my second day on the job at an impressively well-managed software company in Vancouver, British Columbia. My salary is $REDACTED, more than twice as much as I was making from my website advertising.

I gave up consulting a long time ago because so many of my clients were deadbeats. I had great hopes of making a good living from my websites, but it turns out that my ad revenue fluctuates wildly from month to month. With all the debts we have, we never could save enough to ride out the bad months.

Even better is that I am still earning money from my website. It wasn't enough to meet all our expenses, but now that it's in addition to my salary, it will be enough to finally pay off all our debts and get some money in the bank for the first time in years. We might even be able to buy a house again!

My company is going to buy me a mobile phone soon; when they do I'll send each of you the number. Until then email is best, or if you use MSN Messenger you can instant message me at $REDACTED.

But, I beg of you, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't tell $AUTO_COMPANY or anyone but our close friends and family that I moved to Vancouver. Why? Because I need to evade the legal summonses that some of my creditors would like to serve on me. If they are able to serve me I have absolutely no defense for defaulting on about twenty thousand dollars in loans, and they would be able to get the judge to take from Bonita and myself what few possessions we have left so they can be sold to pay off our debts.

I have every intention of repaying all these people, but it's going to take some time. When the time does come I'm going to retain an attorney - I know a good one back in Maine who will do it - to negotiate a settlement.

In the Summer of 2003 Bonita and I spent a couple of hours talking things over with a bankruptcy attorney. It turned out that bankruptcy would not have worked for us, mainly because most of my debts are past-due taxes, and bankruptcy won't wipe out tax bills. Between my business' and our personal taxes, we owe about fifty thousand dollars to the IRS. The IRS would have simply taken our house in Owl's Head and sold it, and Bonita and I would have been homeless.

Also, because my computers, software and technical books are owned by my corporation , I wouldn't have been permitted to keep them as tools of my trade as I could have were I a sole proprietor. Instead the bankruptcy court would have seized all of my company's stock and sold off all of its assets, then given the proceeds to our creditors.

Say What?

"You may be surprised to hear that I suffer from a devastating and poorly understood mental illness. I'd like to tell you what it's like to live inside my head."

Read all about it:

Our decision to sell our house and move to Canada had a great deal to do with wanting to avoid losing everything we owned and becoming homeless. While it was a fresh start, my consulting work was going so poorly in the months before we moved that I wound up in the emergency room, paranoid and hallucinating just a month and a half after we arrived. It took a couple of years of very slow, painful work with an occupational therapist to get me back to where I could work productively again.

I have since been in the emergency room four more times, the last time just a month ago. I go so upset in the emergency room that the hospital called the police:

Three cops showed up expecting to haul me up to the inpatient unit in handcuffs, but it turned out they were much better trained at dealing with disturbed patients than the ignorant emergency room physician. I was in the emergency room for acute anxiety, the worst kind of fear there is; he just kept arguing with me that I really didn't have anything to worry about.

I tried to explain to him what active listening was and why he should practice it with me, but that just pissed him off. When I was unable to tolerate his abuse anymore I started shouting at him to get out of my exam room and leave me the Hell alone. That's when they called the police.

I asked one cop if she was familiar with active listening, and it turned out they all were. It only took about five minutes of chatting with the police for me to calm down enough that they all left. In the end the psychiatrist they finally managed to page just sent me home with a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol. That and a good night's sleep was all I needed to get back to work the next day.

(I was trained in active listening when I volunteered for the Suicide Prevention Service of Santa Cruz County. I've spoken to people standing at payphones holding loaded guns in their hands who had every intention of blowing their brains out after they finished speaking to me. All it ever required to convince them to unload their guns and go home to bed was an hour or so of active listening. In a year on the hotline, I never once had to call 911.)

If $AUTO_COMPANY insists on knowing where I live, give them the following postal address. It still works because Bonita is staying in Nova Scotia until she graduates from art school a year from now:

Michael D. Crawford
P.O. Box 164
Truro, NS B2N 5C1
Canada

That's the same address as $AUTO_COMPANY has on my account.

I'm absolutely certain I can bring my $AUTO_COMPANY payment completely up-to-date next month. In two or three months we're going to pay the loan off completely. When that happens I can be certain that $AUTO_COMPANY will never darken your doorstep again.

I can't be sure, but I think I may have escaped collection by fleeing the country. I don't think they could sue me in a Canadian court because my promissory notes are US contracts. I also don't have any assets in the United States anymore. But I don't know for sure. Until I'm able to pay off my debts, I don't want any process servers to know even what province I live in. All of these loans are in my name only; Bonita didn't co-sign any of them, so they can't collect from her.

M. used to be a process server. I went with him on his rounds one day. I know just how creative process servers can be.

Thank you for understanding, and for your kind friendship. -- Mike

F. replied immediately:

Fortunately, I haven't heard from them since I last read you the riot act, Mike. ;-) Let's hope they give up on R., too. I'm truly sorry you've been having such a rough time. I don't think it's a good idea to put down in writing all of the information you've provided below -- it reveals purposeful evasion of your legal debts. If your creditors should sue and (God forbid) subpoena R.'s or my hard disk data, this kind of information can be used against you. I'm not going to save the address or phone number because if they call me again, I'd rather be able to honestly say I don't know how to reach you.

I wish you the best. -- F.

To which I said:

Hi F.,

Thanks for understanding. As far as I know, it's not illegal to evade a process server. It's actually something of a time-honored technique. One of my old landlords ripped off my rent deposit by doing just that. I always paid my rent at her parents' house, and when she kept my deposit they refused to tell me where she lived.

I know it was on purpose because I got an itemized cleaning bill including hauling and dump fees, but I had actually left the place absolutely spotless and clean.

yer pal, Mike

Of course I expect F. to be dismayed that I'm posting our correspondence on my website for all to see, even my creditors. But I'm going to send her the link as soon as I post it. Here's what I'll say to explain why I'm not worried about the consequences:

When one has faced death by attempted suicide, as I have twice, or when one has lived for years almost continuously suicidal, as I did in my early twenties, one comes to understand that there are worse things to worry about than collection agents or process servers.

I'm not worried. Maybe, just for kicks, I'll ask $CREDIT_CARD_COMPANY for their fax number and send them this page. I'd just piss myself laughing.

My only real concern is that Bonita might suffer: that's why I took the job in Vancouver. If I was still single, I probably would have stuck it out as a consultant, as despite all the chaos it usually accomodates my illness much better than any other job I have ever had. But nothing makes me feel worse than to see Bonita cry because a client stiffed me or I lost a contract. I decided to give up consulting to give her a better life.

No, I don't have any fear of bill collectors or process servers. But there is someone who scares me absolutely shitless. I'll tell you all about them in my next Vancouver Diary. It's called My Deepest Fear.

While they have terrified me for over twenty years, I didn't used to work as hard as I do now to avoid them. I fear them all the more now, and have for a number of years struggled desperately to stay safe, because I know just how grievously Bonita would cry if I let them hurt me as I know they will if I don't work hard, every single day for the rest of my entire life, not to let them find me.

I'm so careful because I hate to see Bonita cry. I've said it before, I've said it to her, I've said it to everyone who will still long enough to listen:

If there were only one thing I could change about myself, it's that sometimes I make Bonita cry.

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