Thursday, August 15, 2013

It’s Not Being Paranoid When It’s Happening To You

Merriam Webster’s Dictionary defines paranoia as:

A psychosis characterized by systematized delusions of persecution or grandeur usually without hallucinations
 A tendency on the part of an individual or group toward excessive or irrational suspiciousness and distrustfulness of others

There is no doubt that paranoia is a legitimate mental illness suffered by many individuals. However, what happens when a person experiences a series of what may be random but very real coincidences that have the same effect on their psyche and emotional well-being?  We have all watched movies or television shows about people who were telling the truth and not even their closest friends and family would believe them.  For the sake of entertainment, those stories are generally given a happy ending.  After all, what could be a crueler fate than telling the truth and not having those closest to you believe you or to be labeled as paranoid or delusional when your experiences are very real.  

Well sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, not all truth is quickly realized and not all truth tellers are vindicated.  Unlike actual paranoid schizophrenics, most people who find themselves in a situation in which their credibility is being constantly questioned just go silent.  It is easier.

Whether it’s a fictional story of a woman who thought she saw her missing child after 8 years; a mother who insists that a drug caused her child’s illnesses; a woman who knows that she was taken advantage of in a real estate deal; or a financial expert who tried to warn the world about the dangers of unregulated derivative trading, women are far more likely than men to be dismissed as exaggerating, over-reacting or paranoid. Faced with being labeled as having an emotional or mental defect most women choose the path of least resistance and stop talking.  Sometimes the battle to share your truth simply wears you down.

Today I experienced another in a long string of those seemingly random coincidences, which make you ask yourself,  “am I paranoid?”  The only comfort is knowing is that if you’re still asking yourself the question you most likely are not.  The secret fear however, is that if the coincidences keep up you soon will be.

As my friends on Facebook know I am a fan of the company JCLU Forever a faith inspired Christian t-shirt and apparel brand created by three girls who aren't ashamed to profess their faith to the world.

Since I love their clothing designs, believe in their message, I desperately needed to replace the wardrobe which I had to leave behind, especially the long sleeve white blouses that I wore while working in the garden.   I prefer long sleeve t-shirts because they’re multi-seasonal, great for layering, and protect me from plants and other objects to which I may have an allergic reaction.  It’s hard to find long-sleeve t-shirts in the summer, so I was really excited when I discovered that they had some in stock. 

So, after saving up enough money, I finally placed my order the first week of July and have been patiently waiting all of this time for it to arrive. Because they are a small business I wanted allow them plenty of time to process and ship the order. However, after a month had elapsed I became very concerned that the order had been lost or the items were out of stock or on back order. I emailed the company of August 9th and did not receive a reply so today I called them.

Imagine my shock when I was advised that the order had been shipped from their company on July 8th via the USPS.  However, when it arrived in Kearney, instead of being delivered to the house where I am currently staying, the package was re-routed to my former address in Philadelphia. The clothing for which I saved and have needed has been sitting in a post office in Philadelphia for the past month and no attempt has been made to notify me of the package at all.

Of course, you might understand if I had ordered an item to be sent to my former address in Philadelphia and it was never forwarded to Kearney but for the reverse to happen is another matter.

Here’s how this may have happened.  After leaving Philadelphia in April and finally arriving in Kearney, I filled out a USPS change of address form requesting that all of the mail for my parent’s household be forwarded to Kearney so I could do my best to clear up any outstanding issues.  Prior to leaving and in the subsequent few weeks after my departure, I notified all of the required parties of my mother's death, the sale of her home and my current situation, supplying anyone who asked with a death certificate or any other pertinent information. I advised any debtors that the title company as a deposit on inheritance taxes was holding all of the remaining proceeds from the sale of the house in escrow.  I only advised weeks after the settlement by an attorney that the amount that was being held was excessive and that I had not been obligated to sign the letter agreeing to hold the funds since clearly I would not have owed any inheritance taxes.  None of this had been explained to me at the time of settlement.  The only thing that was explained was that I would probably get the money back in five or six months after I filed inheritance taxes.  Meanwhile I have a few weeks to vacate my place of residence of the last 40 years and was left with no money to either find a new place to live or move my possessions.  Since the money being held in escrow is more than enough to pay any outstanding debts, I have advised debtors, not including any of my personal debts, to forward their bills, addressed to my mother’s estate to the title company.  I also left instructions with the new owner of the property.

However a month or two after my arrival in Kearney I started receiving all sorts of junk mail and bills addressed to my mother (not her estate) at this address. This was not forwarded mail but actual letters addressed directly to my mother, knowing that she is deceased and never left Philadelphia.  I even received a small check, addressed to my mother, which I did not cash but am holding as evidence.   Most of this mail, I marked as "Return to Sender/ Addressee Deceased", the rest I am holding as evidence of pattern of harassment that began in Philadelphia and seems to have followed me to Kearney.   The occasional prank or piece of junk mail, I can take in stride. However, after I started getting mail addressed to my father who passed away in 1991, I had had enough.

I went directly to the USPS website and filled out individual change of address requests.  For my mother, I requested that her mail be returned back to Philadelphia since her ashes are scattered on the lawn of her home.  For my father, I requested to have his mail forwarded to the cemetery in which he is buried. Of course, I know that was an extreme response but when you’re still receiving offers from scammers offering to buy your home months after you’re all but had to give it away and people who making light of your grief, you respond emotionally. 

I have no intention of ever returning to Philadelphia for any reason. I have been advised that after my formal declaration of my mother’s assets at the time that her estate was probated, I am not required to file inheritance taxes.  Since the proceeds of the house primarily went to paying the outstanding mortgage and there was little life insurance left, I technically inherited nothing.  When I signed the document agreeing to allow the title company to withhold the balance left over from the sale, I was not advised that I had any other option. My own real estate agent knew that I had no way of holding on to the house, since I had exhausted my personal savings during the years that I had been caring for my mother. All that I had left were my personal possession, which were sadly, in my mother’s house.

So maybe I am a little paranoid to wonder why the few packages that I ordered from other companies that were shipped via UPS and FedEx arrived to me without any problem, or wonder what other mail addressed to me is sitting in the post office in Philadelphia.  I don’t think so.  I think that my suspicions are very healthy.  I’m just glad I made that call today.  After a call to the local post office, I have been advised that my package will be forwarded to my current location.  I will update you when it arrives even though it would be much easier for me to go silent. 

All of this over a measly $5,000.00 which means little to those who are holding it but was my only chance to hold on to some of what my mother and I had worked our lives to save.  I had lost my mother to a dreadful disease and needed to hold on to a few memories.  I left with nothing but they still want more, my sanity

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