We all need reasons to get out of bed in the morning. For people like me who struggle with mental illness, I turn to folk wisdom: “Hearts starve as well as bodies / Give us bread, but give us roses.”

In other words, we need more from life than just a means to survive. To be our best selves and contribute to our communities, we need to experience joy.

As part of the 13.4 percent of Mainers who live under the poverty line (according to www.welfareinfo.org), I received $600 this year from the federal Earned Income Tax Credit. Access to this resource means I don’t have to choose between the weekly therapy sessions that keep me stable and the weekends off work that give me room to breath. I need both.

My past is speckled with overextension leading to expensive treatment programs. I no longer have the resources necessary to afford this kind of crisis. Experiencing life’s “roses” keeps me on track, out of treatment facilities, and motivated to pursue my goals.

As I gain independence, my finances mature. Soon I will be 26, off of my father’s health insurance, out of my mother’s apartment, graduating from Southern Maine Community College and trying to reconfigure my budget. Without L.D. 1491, the Maine Working Credit, when my income increases slightly after graduating, I will lose the cushion that allows me to experience a sense of security. I will lose the ability to access many of life’s pleasures.

When our legislators vote on whether they will increase the tax credit for low-income Mainers, I urge them to consider what it takes to move away from the restrictive reality that is surviving, and to consider how our community could evolve if more people had the ability to feed their hearts as well as their bodies.

Anna McKee


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