September 10, 1987

Article at The Sydney Morning Herald

NEWS | When life skates on the borderline

Tracey Caruthers: I never saw myself ending up in such a situation.” 

WILSON da SILVA

“WHEN my mother died, there was just no life left for me,” said Tracey Caruthers, 37 (not her real name). “I had had the baby only just five weeks before that. I had the funeral expenses and the rent went up. From there, it got progressively worse.” 

Ms Caruthers is a divorced mother of three. Strongly independent, she finds herself today bankrupt and emotionally listless.

“For eight months I’ve just been walking around in a dream. Just drifting. A couple of weeks after mother’s death I started seeing a psychiatrist, then a social worker.”

In this traumatic period another agent took over management of her flat and the rent went from $70 to $125. Six weeks after her mother died in December she was evicted from her flat.

She now pays $170 a week for an older flat in Bondi, receives rental assistance, a reduced pension, and works odd jobs when she can to support herself and her three boys. She is visited regularly by a social worker, and together they work at rebuilding her confidence.

“It’s funny in a way, I never saw myself ending up in such a situation. I’m very independent, I was always the one helping other people. But things just suddenly got out of control.”

Tracey’s mother became severely ill in November last year following recurring problems with her heart and kidneys. She survived two major operations, but a third in November left her changed.

“They sent her back on Christmas Eve, saying she would be alright. But she looked wrong, tired and drawn-out, not talking. Finally, on Boxing Day, I took her back, and she died at the hospital.”

Tracey said that she had been prepared for her mother’s death in both of the earlier operations, but had been led to believe that the last one had been successful.

“They said she was fine. To me she wasn’t. They shouldn’t have sent her home.”

Two of her sons, a 13-year-old and a 15-year-old, have part-time jobs and sometimes help in managing the home finances.

“The eldest one here even supports me every now and then. When I haven’t got the money for milk or bread, or whatever, he might offer $20 to see us through.”

Depression is a problem she constantly faces.

“I’m just surviving, I’m existing, just holding on. On the borderline. I’m tempted sometimes to give up, but I’ve got the kids. I could just as easily go, but I can’t leave them with no-one.

“I’m strong. I’ll get knocked down a lot. But I’m afraid of the day I get knocked down and won’t be able to get up.

“I just don’t know what’s going to happen to me. I can’t tell you what’s going to happen tomorrow.”