Today I’m A BLT

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As much as I love bacon, this post isn’t about food. Lately I have been struggling with having nothing sufficient to do outside of my apartment. I’m talking about anything with meaning, that gets me out of the house. Occasionally I do get out of the house, like my transgender meetings but those aren’t consistent and only happen once in a while. I go weeks without very little contact with the outside world. When I do it’s just brief hello’s in the hallway of my apartment building. That’s not enough to live off of.

All last year, I didn’t want to leave my apartment because of PTSD. Now that I want to venture out occasionally I’m stuck in this inbetween world. Now you might suggest volunteering but the problem is that I’m awaiting my second SSI disability appeal court date. The judge could use it against me. The last one did because I made a sculpture and went to NYC with it. So I have to be very careful. I have been waiting since 2014 and it’s crucial that I get approved, as it will improve my quality of life. Currently I live off state disability and if I told you how little I got you’d probably wonder how I lived off so little for so long. It’s not easy and leads to a very miserable life.

I’m not saying that I don’t have purpose because I do. I have my comic book is a huge reason to live. I’m still in the early stages of the creation so that means it has very little to do with the outside world. Plus it’s difficult to create when I’m really depressed. It zaps all creative energy out of me. It becomes painful to create, as it forces me to see my talents and good inside. Even still it means staying in my apartment for long periods of time. More times than not, I don’t want to be in my apartment. I get so bored and lonely that I start to feel like I’m losing it. The alternative to dealing with the uneasiness is to sleep. You can only sleep for so long before it starts to drive you mad. A big part of me wants connection and the other part is beyond frightened from it. Sometimes even my transgender support groups (as wonderful they are for me) can become difficult for me to endure. The last one I had to leave early due to anxiety.

I’m currently have the scared rabbit syndrome, something I have made up. A rabbit’s life can be full of danger. It’s small and fragile, living in a world full of predators ready to rip it’s head off. Out of protection the rabbit lives in a hole in the ground, where it’s generally safe. Well safer than above ground. Occasionally the rabbit will have to leave the comforts of the rabbit hole for food. It doesn’t just come out of it’s home full force. It will peek out to look for dangers. When it feels like it is safe to come out it does slowly. The rabbit is constantly on guard while it scavenges for food. Even the littlest sound will send the rabbit darting back downunder the rabbit hole.

That is where I live. I have used up all my reserves and now must venture out into the real world. I get spooked very easily and have ran back into my rabbit hole more times than I can count. I can’t hide here any longer though, it’s killing me. I no longer have the mental capacity to brave the darkness anymore. So I have a sort of forced solitude.

I could take another year to a decision on my SSI case and god forbid if it doesn’t go my way. So I have to deal with this solitude somehow, some way. Making new friends is a long process. Unfortunately cultivating friendships isn’t like growing sea monkeys. It’s going to take more time than I need to endure this solitude. So I’m going to have to cope with it the best I can. I think the key is practicing self love. Following the steps that led me to where I am today. Even though I struggle greatly and suffer a lot, my quality of life has improved in the last year. I finally have a place of my own. I have a therapist and psychiatrist I adore. I have stability which is something I have never had. I just need to hold on until this storm passes and I can venture out more openly and freely. So that means dealing with constantly being bored, lonely and tired most days.

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Yes, I’m Alone

A common phrase when someone is struggling and vocalizes such is… you’re not alone. I have been guilty of doing this myself. In theory it’s true. In the collective whole of our universe odds are that there is at least one person going through what you are. So in that sense it is correct that we’re aren’t alone. When it comes to someone suffering in silence that doesn’t matter. What good is someone across the country going to do in giving me support that I need, want and deserve. They become empty words with no meaning. That’s why I myself need to stop using this phrase as it’s not helpful, nor is it empathic. I’m learning that you show people things by action. In this case, rather than say they aren’t alone make an effort so that they aren’t alone like they use to be.

The last year has been extremely difficult for me. Most of the time in that year was spent alone. I’m not over exaggerating this either. For the first part of it the isolation was a choice because of how severe the symptoms of my PTSD were. Even then I didn’t have people coming knocking on my door to see how I was doing. I was suffering in silence, like so many with mental illness do. I had no friends near me and I had become estranged from my family. If it weren’t for my therapy and case management appoints I wouldn’t have seen anyone, other than the residents where I live.

After my almost suicide attempt in January this year, I have started to want to venture out into the world but am limited due to winter and costs, and the lack of friends. I’m working on making new friends, that just takes time. Maybe a better thing to say is, you won’t be alone forever. Well even that is problematic I guess. I think the issue is that many feel the need to give solutions to the person in need. Most the time when I’m struggling I just want to know that someone is there to listen to me. I have suffered most of my life from depression. I have learned that no one can fix my problems, let alone my mental illness. I just don’t want to suffer in silence anymore. Most the time we aren’t able to say I need support. This what we really mean when we say we are alone. Sadly most aren’t able to decipher the code.

Sadly you don’t just create new relationships that are long lasting overnight. It takes time to just create one friendship, let alone a support system. Again most the time I don’t want to talk about my problems, I just don’t want to be alone. I want to forget about the darkness by laughing and having fun. Sitting on the couch and watching a movie. Going for a walk with someone you care about. Basic human connection is something that is missing in my life. I both crave and fear it. I call it the scared rabbit syndrome. Those who with mental illness are like rabbits. There is potential danger all around us. So we stay in our rabbit holes most of the time but occasionally we have to venture out for food. Sometimes we must flee our rabbit hole if danger is brought into our homes. Most don’t lose support systems overnight either. So many don’t understand mental illness. Heck most of us with mental illness don’t either most the time. Stigma leads to a big ole pile of nothing. So we are forced into isolation.

I have tried since 2006 to venture out of the rabbit hole but I get spooked easily and every time I fled to the safety of my rabbit hole. This has led to a life of being alone. I have moved from city to city, state to state trying to run from my past and problems. It has led me into a dire state. I have pushed away everyone out of the fear of losing them. It was safer to be alone than to have my heartbroken. At least that’s what I thought. After twenty years of doing this I realize how wrong I was but it’s too late. I can’t change what has happened. I can only try to rebuild my world. I’m starting all over and that’s tough enough, let alone with a mental illness.

The fact of the matter is this. I have no one I see regularly. I don’t get to do fun things. I have a few friends that I’m trying to cultivate but nothing consistent. I’m what I call, under the radar. I’m not in anyone’s circle currently. So usually I’m an afterthought. I’m not saying that people don’t care about me because they do. I’m just saying that I’m not close enough to people to be in contact with them regularly. I thought I had found a friend like that to only have been mistaken majorly. I’m desperate to be in other’s circle. I see close friends out together and it drives me mad. I’m like an eager puppy willing to do anything I can to be apart of their world.

I haven’t been close to anyone in a long while. My Mom was the closest person I was close to and she passed away in 2012. I have friends but they all live far away in Facebook land. I just would like to meet one person who was consistent in wanting to be my friend. I get tired of always being the one trying so hard. When will my day come when someone sees my value to the point that they want to be apart of my world and not just be a passing thought. Someone who wants to regularly see me and makes efforts to hang out with me or at the very least check up on me regularly, not just when I’m in crisis mode.

When I was close to killing myself earlier this year I had people step forward for support but a week after I returned home that all stopped. I was alone again with very little support. You don’t just get to the point where you want to die then all of sudden after a few weeks of intense therapy are cured of that need to die. It takes a long while to heal from something that intense.

When you have anxiety, depression and especially PTSD going out into the world can be very problematic. On good days I struggle to be around people I know. I have times when I can’t leave my apartment. The other day I convinced myself that it was safe to go to the grocery store. I had to fight hard to stay present on the city bus. Then the grocery store was a madhouse. It took a lot of energy to get through those few hours. Mental illness robs you of so much. Stability, relationships, life, energy, health, etc. Being poor makes my situation even more difficult. I’m limited to where I can go and being alone in the world is very scary. If you think being alone with someone is scary, think what it’s like to be out in public with a lot of people. Each person is a potential threat. When I’m in PTSD danger mode I look for safe places to hide. The past few days I have had this uncontrollable urge to hide underneath my computer desk. If that doesn’t give you an idea of the severity of my symptoms, then nothing will.

I guess my point is that my situation is complex and being alone is just a symptom of a much larger problem. I have started to venture out into the world. I have been going to my transgender support groups and went to a pool party a few weeks ago. What I struggle with most lately is the consistently of these connections. I will have a huge connection one day and a bunch of isolation the next. It causes me to crash and burn. This was especially true the weekend of the pool party. The day before was my first meeting of the support group that I started. It was the best weekend I have had in over fifteen years. By Sunday night I was already starting to spiral out of control. I was desperate to keep that connection and the further I slipped away the more out of control my mental health became.

Two weeks later I’m struggling big time. I’m having a hard time staying present. I’m desperate to fill this void. I was supposed to hang out with a friend early this week but I had a bad day and had to cancel. See how that works. I finally have a date with a friend and I have a PTSD day. Fuck!!!

I hate being alone but I often get overstimulated by constant connection, like I did that weekend. I float away so high that I start to have an out of body experience when I start to drift off. I guess it’s balance is what I lack currently. Until I make some close friends I will continue to be alone and that sucks because I need support now. I have been alone for most of the last ten years and now I’m awake. I can’t do it anymore. Which is why I’m fighting so hard to get past the fears and insecurities. Fear and abandonment keep me from happiness. I have been making a lot of progress. I had a friendship recently that ended, not by my choice. I really cared for this person but my problems was too much for this person. I finally thought I found that one person but it wasn’t the case. That rejection and abandonment would have sent me spiralling into the sun last year. This time it hurt like hell but I stayed grounded. So that feels good. Still sucks majorly.

I just want people to give me a chance and stick it out with me. I fear I have this ticking clock attached to my back. I guess that’s why I feel so desperate. I know all it takes is one break for me to be successful in ending my life. That’s why I panic every time I have a depressive/ptsd episode. I can quickly spiral out of control. I’m talking about seconds and I lose all sense of reality. I no longer have a bright light to keep me on this earth and that frightens me senseless. I have so much to live for and so much left to do. I have wasted so many years and I just want to be happy. Everything is a chore. Nothing comes easy. Even breathing is difficult. I don’t really want to die, I just want the suffering to end.

So I just hope I have enough time to wait for the support system I deserve and need. In life that is not a guarantee. So while I’m alone now and in the foreseen future I probably will be. I hope that is not always the case. So if you are reading this and someone says to you that they are alone. Rather than say the obvious, just be there for them. Take them out to dinner, ask them over. Be there for them without any solutions or conditions. Show them that they aren’t alone and be persistent. That’s the only way we will believe you when when someone says we aren’t alone, when someone has the facts to back that up.

The Symptoms of Isolation

This is my apartment in its current state. Yes, it’s pretty messy. For me though it’s not as bad at it can be. I use to have great shame over how bad I let my apartment. The shame is from what others think about me. What will they say if they see my disaster zone. Many would and have judged me. They think I’m just a lazy slob. All of this just adds to the overwhelming state that takes me over when the trash can starts to fill up. My kitchen lately has been fairly clean, well at least for me. This is rather new and it’s felt nice to go into my kitchen to make something to eat.

Lately I’ve slowly noticed it get messy. I was aware it was happen but didn’t feel like taking the steps needed to stop the mess from spreading. This is usually a warning sign that my depression is creeping up on me and if I’m not careful it will knock me out. The past few days I have been very depressed but I haven’t quite put my finger on why? I don’t know if it’s left over depression from the following week, that I was feeling better from. Either way yesterday was filled full of pitch black nothingness. For me, there’s a deeper level than the typical darkness from depression. Not only does everything I see and feel emotionally, my body feels it physically. It’s like a depression cement truck runs me over. I’m lethargic and sluggish. Everything is a blur and all I can do is survive in my bed. This is usually when I sleep it away but you can only sleep so much before it hits you.

When I wake up I feel extremely disconnected. I feel no emotion just the aftermath of the depression. I have this out of body experience and when I start to return to my body it makes me feel like I’m on pins and needles. That’s where I am at now. It’s like this subdued panic attack. I’m super uncomfortable and feel every nerve in my body. I cleaned my kitchen, even the floor which I haven’t slept in ages. I took the trash out and even emptied my spoiled milk in my fridge. I tend to forget stuff like that, until it explodes. Yeah, that happened to me this past summer. Talk about gross.

Whenever I do decided to clean it takes every bit of energy I have to complete it. I get tired very easily and have to take breaks often. I have learned when I tackle the mess to not take on too much. At least in your mind. I easily get discouraged and overwhelmed when I look at my apartment as a whole. So lately I have been tackling one area at a time. Sometimes I have to break it up in even smaller chunks, like just cleaning the stuff out of the counter and putting the dirty dishes in the sink. Like I have done tonight.

One thing I have realized lately is that isolating triggers something deep inside of me from the start of the trauma. Growing up the isolation was forced. A way to protect myself from the other parts of the house. Early on, I learned I could escape the monsters by hiding under my covers, leading to a lifetime of isolation. So I hid underneath my covers, waiting for the bad things to go away but they never did. This was especially true when I came out of the closet at the age of 18 in 1995. That next year was hell. I had no one. I was stuck in rural America, surrounded by cornfields. Prior to coming out, I got a computer from the money I got from graduating. This was wonderful for me as I finally found a link to the outside world. I was able to talk to other sexual abuse survivors and other queer people. I finally had found the light at the end of this dark isolating tunnel.

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Well that was until I came out and had it all taken from me. It was the back in the day of dial up. When my parents found out that I was an abomination they took away the only communication I had to the outside world. It was probably the darkest year of my life. The damage that was done I have fought my adult life to overcome and I’m not even close to unearthing the harm done. After about a year the dust settled and my family stopped talking about me going to hell. It was like my parents had amnesia. It was like it never happened. I tried my best to move forward but my growth was stunted, and I have struggled ever since.

It’s my biggest coping mechanism now. It’s how I deal with everything. So now when I get triggered I go into my cave because that’s all I have known. Eventually my safety cave turns into a prison. No matter how often I hide in that dark place the danger never went away. It followed me across the country. I have hide so long that it’s become a way of life. Since 2012, I have spent most of my time in seclusion.

This last year was no different. Honestly it’s probably the deepest I have been in that cave in ages. This time the triggers were unlike anything I had experienced my life. Each painful moment showed up on my doorstep last July. In the past, the door was locked and all it could do was sit on my porch and taunt me from the sidelines. Occasionally it would find a crack and seep in but usually it was one trigger at a time. In 2004, I had my first major PTSD episode. This lead to multiple hospitalizations and treatments. I never got over it. I just put a bandaid on the pain (like I learned to do) and ran back home. To the only place I have known. During those two years, living in Chicago, it was some of the best times in my life. It was a strange time. I had some of my most painful experiences and most memorable ones as well. Eventually the pain overtook the good and I self destructed. I gave up a great job (that I was going places in) with the best manager that I had ever had. Every job I have ever had has taken advantage that I will work my ass off. My manager at that job valued me and I was rewarded for it. I had great insurance which allowed me to get the help I needed. In addition, I had more friends that I had ever known. I was very social and went out often. My favorite thing to do was to go the gay club for country nights. The dance floor has always been my escape. I two stepped my way into the galaxy. I was alive and free but not for every long. The darkness wasn’t going to let me go. Deep inside I didn’t deserve anything good, especially not like this.

Since them I have been living in between triggers and isolation. Like a scared rabbit, I will occasionally venture out into the light. That is until something spokes me and I tumble back down the rabbit hole. I wish I had the life of Alice. The queen of hearts has been taken over by something even more scarier. It doesn’t want want heads, it feeds off souls. The white rabbit is dead, so is tweedle dee and tweedle dum. The mad hatter is locked away in the cells of his insanity. Everything is covered in this thick, gooey muck.

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After my recent hospitalization I have started to venture out into the real world. It’s the first time in a long while that I wanted to leave my apartment but I have been trapped. Again in a forced isolation. It was after a few weeks of feeling absolutely horrible, close to what I was before I was hospitalized. It dawned on me why I was feeling so low. Isolation triggers the original trauma. The root of all my problems. So when I isolate in the present I flashback to 1995 and am forced to relive that year. The longer I isolate the more the past takes me over. Until I’m frozen in time and can only feel the damage and pain. The most scary moments of my life, I’m forced to endure again. The difference is that don’t realize that I’m out of that bad place. I lose all sense of time and reality. In my mind, my abusers are in the other room… waiting for me to go asleep. My apartment is once again surrounded by cornfields where the skeletons my family tried to erase.

When I get startled I just stay in the doorway of the rabbit hole. The longer I stay there the deeper I go. It starts by being triggered. For example, having a PTSD nightmare. Which is my nightly tradition. Lately this has been a gigantic trigger and I Think that’s what happened this week. My natural response is to not move or make a sound. If you’re not quiet the predator will devour you as their midnight snack. Until recently I haven’t been able to distinguish the difference between a real and false threat. They are all the same to me, and something I can wait to find out. Isolation has been come second nature and the only way I have lived for over twenty years.

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This time is different for a couple different reasons. First I’m at the core of the trauma, which is why I’m getting triggered by every single traumatic event that caused the PTSD. From the sexual and emotional abuse, and the loss of my Mom. There are five big traumas that have followed me into adulthood. I no longer can hide from the trauma as it’s killing me. Each one is out to finish what they started. Out for the kill. Another difference is that I’m fighting for my life, finally. This PTSD is much more intense because I no longer have the luxury of anesthetics or pain killers. I’m forced to lay on the operating table as my insides are torn open and left to heal naturally. I can feel and see everything that happened. There isn’t anything more horrific or torturous than that.

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The pain has gotten so intense that it’s found the back door into my subconscious. So I can’t get away from it. I’m awake every day of the week. That’s one form of isolation that I am having to deal with not by choice. There is no way I can wake up. I just have to dream the bad events away and deal with the aftermath when I wake up. One thing that I’m struggling with currently is that part of my isolation is due to my environment. I don’t have anyone to spend time with really, so I spend most of my time. I’m working on making new friends but that takes time. Right now I’m not in anyone’s radar aka someone’s inner circle. I know people love and care about me but right now I’m just an occasional thought in a busy person’s life. No one is at fault, it’s just part of life. Most people aren’t in my shoes. They have families and close friends to spend time with.

Also it’s been a very brutal winter, so that’s where the forced isolation comes into. If it weren’t for my medical appointments I probably wouldn’t leave my apartment. I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be in my apartment. I got that way when I was in the hospital. I did everything I could to not stay in that empty sterile room. This past Monday I went to my nephew’s basketball game and it was one of the better nights I have had in a long while. I was able to see some people I loved. I was also able to be my true self, a trans woman. I got home that night and I felt free. As I was walking down my hallway I was so relieved. I felt at home. The next day I was back to square one. Isolation. That’s the problem right now and something I have always struggled with in isolation. The connection isn’t consistent. It comes and goes much like the seasons. Even a month can feel like a lifetime of not spending quality time with a person. I’m not talking about seeing people in passing or at meetings like my trans support group. Those moments are great and how you make deeper connections but I long for the days where I can go to movies with people. Spend a night playing board games. Laughing and having fun. Sadly this will take longer than I need it to.

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Another forced isolation is that I’m poor and don’t have a car. I’m limited to where I go, especially in the winter. When I get really depressed just brushing my teeth is tough, let alone getting on the bus and traveling to somewhere. Even still you can only go to so many places alone before you get extremely lonely. I think that’s what triggers me most is realizing that no one will come save me, much like when I was a teenager. My current isolation reminds me of that dark, scary, lonely time. In many ways, I’m still in that house. The difference is that I am adult and have a lot more resources. Even growing up that room wasn’t mine. It was eventually taken from me and I was thrown out onto the streets. This time my room is my own. As long as I pay my rent and do what I need to do, I won’t lose my housing. I finally have stability, something I have never had.

So now I just have to endure this time of my life, where I am forced to relive the past… in order to move forward. I’m learning how quickly my triggers can possess me. Here is one prime example. After therapy I went to the grocery store to get food for dinner. Rarely do I make an actual meal. There is a crock pot recipe that I love. It’s a tater tot casserole with chicken, cheese, bacon and of course tater tots. It’s rather experience so I can usually only make it once a month. My kitchen was fairly clean but the rest of my apartment wasn’t. My bathroom was still messy from getting ready on Monday and the clutter was started to pile up in my living room. That’s something I realized lately, how quickly my apartment can get dirty. It only takes a few days, especially if you make a big meal.

When the dish was I done I had two days of deliciousness but I didn’t have the energy to clean up. So I left it. It wasn’t super messy but it looked like it. I had stuff all over and it didn’t make me feel good. One big issue that I’m having is my bed. There are times I love being in bed. It’s the most refreshing moment for me when I have a good meal and a soft place to watch tv, or play games. This meal gives me two days full of delicious food which is a rarity for me. I loved the feeling I gave me. At some point the good feelings were replaced by darkness. I have never lived my life in moderations. It’s always been all or nothing. As I haven’t always had the comforts of my own place I try to soak up anytime I can take refuge in the soft appeal that comfort gives. I never know when that comfort will be take from me, like it always has been before. So I hold onto dear life. The fear builds and I will protect the comfort I have found, any way I can. It’s a mix of everything good, bad and indifferent.

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Since Thursday night I have spent most of my time in bed, like I usually do but this time I was sleeping a lot and not eating very well. Sometimes I get triggered I overeat. When I went to the grocery store they still had paczki left from last week. I absolutely love them. I got a box and it hit the right tune. It was soothing the trigger. Most the food I eat isn’t very appealing. It doesn’t taste that well. Anytime I find something I love I will only eat that. Like Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese. I will only eat those items until I get sick of them. With sweets I take it a step further. They taste so sweet and good, that I will only eat that for a period of time. Yesterday I returned to the store and bought three more boxes. They were gone by this morning. As I eat each one I feel sadness that soon I will not have anymore, as the custard tastes so delicious. Especially knowing that it will be another year before I can have more. So now I’m only left with my depression and food that I don’t like. I have the Stouffer’s Mac and cheese but even those I’m getting tired of. One trigger for a deep depression is not eating well or at all. When I get this depressed the only lights I turn on is the tv. After sleeping almost 24 hours I woke up at 8pm feeling so very disconnected. I wanted to sleep more because I didn’t want to deal with the isolation. That wasn’t an option because I was too annoyed and feeling awful. All I could feel and see was the mess. My living room floor was filled full of pop bottles and trash. That’s probably why I keep the lights off. I could smell the raw chicken in the trash can. I couldn’t take it anymore and got up to clean the kitchen. I couldn’t stand that fowl odor so I took that out first. I cleaned the floors and the counter. I put food away and put the few dirty dishes I had into the sinks. It felt good and it’s back to looking cleanish.

Recently I have putting turning on dance music to help get me out of a bad place. When I was a bundle of nerves Monday night, I turned on the music and it helped me get ready. So right away I turned the music on tonight and cleaned my kitchen. Afterwards I went into my living room to start cleaning and got overwhelmed. Typically when I get overwhelmed like this I will go inward and feel even worse. I’m learning to be okay with the imperfection. I did what I could, when I could do it. That’s what I’m telling myself during this PTSD cycle. Eventually it will go away and I must do whatever it takes to survive. So if that means leaving part of my apartment messy that’s okay. One positive step will lead to another. Now I will pick up the trash near my bed, that can’t leave. It’s mostly the clutter stuff like laundry and boxes.

Some might see the picture above and think, why is she posting this? Judgements are something I’m use to. I use to hold a great amount of shame and guilt with how I have lived my life. I have beaten myself to a pulp over it. While I still struggle with shame, overall I don’t live wallow in that shame. This year I let a good friend see my apartment at the worst. It was a big step for me and it wasn’t easy. A few weeks later she came over to help me clean up the apartment. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever did for me. It make me realize that it wasn’t something to be ashamed for.

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So I’m learning that these situations are symptoms of my mental illness. I’m not lazy whatsoever. I just have moments where I have absolutely no energy. I’m not like those without have a mental illness. So of course I’m going to have a different life than them. Realizing that things like neglecting chores is a symptom takes away a lot of the shame and guilt. It’s the missing puzzle piece that’s been long gone. Now I treat my mental illness like someone with diabetes. I take medicine and go to my necessary doctors to treat my disease. I’m no longer in denial. Being aware is half the battle. I have conquered that conflict and now it’s time to do the hard work. Which means walking through hell again so that I can put that time of my life in the chapter of my life. It’s time to say goodbye.

Nowhere To Go: Managing Your Mental Illness When You are Homeless

 

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My biggest fear prior to being homeless was having to cope with triggers when I was homeless. It’s one thing to have a depressive episode from the comforts of your home but it’s an entirely different thing when you have nowhere to go when you are homeless. There aren’t any safe places. Everywhere you go is a danger zone. This fact kept me in misery for far too long. I have off and on been potentially homeless the last few years. Looking back I wish I had the courage to just take that jump and go into homelessness earlier. Sadly I wasn’t prepared or ready to face the dangers like I am now.

The biggest hurdle to being homeless was the fear and it’s one of the big issues I face with, I always have. Fear has kept me from living since my Mom passed away in 2012. I stayed near my family and didn’t move because I lived in constant fear that they would die to. It was extremely crippling and it made me absolutely miserable. Of course there is a lot more to my mental illness than fear but that’s a biggie. Once I pulled the bandaid off from going to the hospital and then the shelter the situation was no longer as scary. Actually overall it’s not scary at all. Now when things happen like the fight in the day shelter things quickly escalate into frightening but overall it’s not fear or fright that really gets to me. It’s the uncomfortableness and lack of privacy that gets me. You lose all normalcy to life. The first week is scary. The second week is uncomfortable and the third week it starts to get to you.

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What I miss most is the comforts of a home. Today was the first time I have stepped foot into a home in over six weeks and it was only briefly. Today’s temperatures are going to be over 94 with the heat index over 100 degrees. So I had a guy want to hookup with me. Usually I’m like no thank you but today it was hot and he had air conditioning. Plus he picked me up in his nice car that had really cold ac. We get to his house and it was nice. The best part was his huge comfy bed that I lay in for a good thirty minutes. It was like heaven. I felt like I was floating on cotton candy. While things didn’t go as planned with the hookup I at least got to have some comfort for just a little bit. Plus he dropped me off at the library and gave me a cold coke. So I haven’t done a lot of walking.

You start to crave the normal things to life and when you don’t get them it starts to eat away at your psyche. Overall my mental health has been very good since I was out of the hospital last month but this week it’s started to deteriorate as I was starting to get more overwhelmed by being homeless. It didn’t help that Wednesday I had confrontations with two not so nice people. As hard as I tried those two negative interactions left a crack for the depression to seep into. I just haven’t been able to shake this depressed feeling. It’s not one thought either. I just feel depressed and it’s not just because I’m sick. Though I do think that is adding to it. What people don’t understand about depression is that it’s not always an effect of a trigger. Sometimes you just wake up feeling bad. There is something about your brain chemistry that’s off and it sends you into a fog for the rest of the day.

It’s tough to not let things bring you down when you suffer from depression and that’s even more complicated when you have a mental illness. The past three weeks my depression has been okay, it’s not really been at the surface as I had many other things to worry about but now it’s in the mix. It’s overwhelming because I’m having to fight so many other things and now I have to add fighting my negative thoughts and feelings. Add the extreme heat and I just feel like I’m about to go mad. I was dreading today because of the heat. The weekends are the worst because the day shelter isn’t open so you have to walk to get somewhere cooler. On Sundays the buses don’t run until 9am so I had to wait outside for an hour and that is just a miserable feeling. To not have anywhere to go, so you just have to sit in a place you don’t want to. It doesn’t help with how you feel.

Being homeless you are forced to go outside of your comfort zone and that’s even more so the case when you have something like PTSD. Thankfully so far my PTSD has been in check but it’s always a concern. You have times when you are in a PTSD bubble that being around others becomes problematic. Friends and family become strangers and strangers become enemies. You aren’t able to trust anyone. Your world turns into a war zone and there is NOWHERE to hide. So for now that’s in check and I’m thankful for that.

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I think what’s most unsettling is that even though life has been really tough for the past three weeks I have felt the best about myself in a very long time. I have felt so empowered by this experience and it’s lifted me up in some tough times but the last couple of days it’s been a constant struggle. I wake up feeling horrible. Every muscle in my body hurts. It’s tough just walking a few steps. My mind is as thick as pea soup. I feel so defeated and discouraged. I’m worn out with no relief in sight. I hope it’s just the bronchitis because I’m not liking this at all. This will be my third day on antibiotics so I hope I get better soon because this feels unbearable. At times on the verge of losing it, at least it feels that way. It’s these thoughts of not being able to handle life like this.

You just want to scream but no words can escape. They are all stuck in the puzzle of your mind, with jagged little shards of glass poking out. I can handle a lot but it’s the physical pain that’s lately that’s been getting to me. I have to walk. I don’t have a choice. It’s not a fun feeling to have to push through. Feet turn into miles and hills into mountains.

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It’s not helping that it’s taking longer than I expected to get my own place. I was approved for a one bedroom apartment of my own a week ago but the manager of the complex has no urgency. Originally the move in date was going to be the 21st and that’s fast approaching. The main hurdle is getting my Doctor to sign some paperwork to prove that I’m disabled, otherwise I will not being able to move in because it’s only for the elderly and those with a disability. For whatever reason my Doctor hasn’t been getting the faxes and it’s not because he’s not trying. He’s just as frustrated as I am and the lady at the office doesn’t seem to care.

On the 23rd of June will be my thirty days at the shelter, which is the length of stay at this shelter. You can get a two week extension after that but that’s it. So that has me worried because the other two shelters are pretty dangerous especially for someone who is transgender. The homeless shelter is going to pay for the next six months of rent and they need information from the complex manager that she’s not giving. So all of this will just add days to my homelessness and it’s extremely frustrated. In the back of mind I’m thinking, maybe it’s not going to work out. That’s my depression talking. Until I get my doctor to sign that paperwork I won’t be at ease. Without it I won’t get this apartment. It feels like everything is hanging on this paperwork and it’s driving me loco.

I wish they could cut the depression out of me or cure it. If it was always induced by a situation or event then it would make it so much easier. Thinking positive would work like everyone else think it does. The medicine helps but it really just mutes the severity of the symptoms. Being that I have nowhere to run and hide I’m learning to be resourceful. The other night when I started to sob I got the staff person to get me a private place to go. Leaving situations is another thing I have started to do. If I feel uncomfortable I just leave, no matter where I am at. I have days where I don’t feel like walking so I stay in the day shelter but then something happens and I’ve bolted at the door. When I realize that I can control things it improves my mood dramatically to know that I have choices. I’m not stuck anywhere, even in my mind.

I just want to get the heck out of the shelter and into my own place. It’s so close but so far away. After eight years I will have my own place again and it’s a freedom I miss deeply. This time will be different because I won’t lose my place when I spiral into a deep depression and can’t work. In the last fifteen years I have moved over twenty times because of that. That is no way to have stability and I’m desperate for it. It’s the instability that’s played havoc on my body both physically and mentally. I will finally have a safe place that I can call home. One where I won’t fear losing due to the inability to pay my rent. I can have friends over and I can lay in my comfortable bed all day if I choose to do so. I’m ready for some relief. I’m ready for a break.

 

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Lonely Shade of Steel

Of all the feelings I think lonely is the toughest. You can be surrounded by a group of people and still feel lonely. As many of you know, this has been a very tough week for me. I’ve constantly been living in the land of triggers. I went almost ten years without triggers (at least to this degree) and all of a sudden I’m getting them constantly.

I have the apartment to myself for the weekend and it’s reminded me how lonely I am. The world kept turning as I stay frozen in grief, depression and all that much. The world moved on without me. Tonight as I sat with my neighbors I could hear their loneliness too. They’re in similar situations as me. For many of us the interactions during our nightly get togethers are about the only ones we have. If it weren’t for the meetings most of us would never leave our apartment.

So while I have this strength of steel lately it doesn’t take away the loneliness and it’s not just romantic loneliness, which is a portion of it. Here I have a weekend alone and no one to spend it with. Everyone has moved on without but me. I’m still trying to get my life together. I’m so desperate for human connection that I find myself trying to hold onto our nightly visits as long as I can. I wonder what it will be like once winter sets in. That scares me, thinking I might lose these connections… at least until spring.

Being single and the thought of being alone for the rest of your life is rather frightening. I tried to fill my loneliness with pizza and netflix but it didn’t cover up my loneliness. I love musicals so I watched Rent for the first time in years. It’s one of my favorite musicals of all time. Re-watching it again tonight brought back a lot of nostalgic feelings. As tough as that period was for me I wish I could get it back. I was so full of life, ready to take on the world. I want to be in love again.

Seeing Angel and Colin together just added to my sadness. I wish I had that. I’ve certainly been in love but it’s always been one sided. I sometimes wonder if my chance went by and is long gone. I wonder will I die alone like my father said.

Depression deprives you of so much and one of them being friendship. In your darkest days you do whatever you can to push everything and everyone away. The last four years I’ve built this gigantic wall around me and it’s left me with a barren garden. The ground is hard as rock and the briar has grown so thick that you can’t see through it. Granted I’m working on mending my garden but that takes time. Friendships aren’t built overnight and all my good friends live far away. Everyone is busy with their lives (which is understandable) and here I am alone.

There’s this balance of wanting to be seen and wanting to be invisible. When you want to be seen you’re invisible to the whole world but the times you want to be invisible you’re seen. Invisibility is how a survivor keeps safe but it can also cause great harm. It can also leave you really lonely. I wish it were easier to make gay friendships. The options are pretty slim and what is out there is very focused on sex. I sometimes wonder do gay men have platonic friendships and if so where do they meet them? The bars use to be a meat market and now online has become the new, improved meat market. You can find the best new piece of man with a touch of a button or a swipe of a screen. I look online and I see a lot of lonely guys.

Being a gay man in a rural area is tough. We don’t have the diverse population that big cities have. What gay population there is it’s very skewed. Most are just looking for sex and the guys that say they’re looking for friendship won’t even respond to your message. I remember back in the day (yes I’m old) when you could have intelligent conversations online. Many of my friends I met online but that was years ago. That’s the problem when you run from your problems, you leave behind a trail of friendships. Thankfully Facebook connects us all but it’s not the same as having friends to do things with.

I miss having platonic friendships and for me it’s very important to have. Sex complicates things and I enjoy having that off the table. I can’t separate sex and the dirtiness so it’s why I need my friendships to be pure. It’s also why I’ve struggled with love. My last relationship was no different. At first things were great until I got triggered by something that happened to us while out at another couples place. I pretty much watched as my boyfriend (at the time) had sex with someone who was suppose to be my friend. Due to being a sexual abuse survivor I just stood there paralyzed not being able to say or do anything. After that I could barely touch or kiss my boyfriend. Our love had been spoiled and it was never the same. I didn’t realize until a year afterwards what happened. The event sent me in a downward spiral. So that’s been my track record with love. It’s been over six years since I’ve dated. Sometimes I think I’m okay with being single and other times I don’t.

I miss the intimacy and is something I’ve really haven’t had much of. It’s always been so brief and it’s usually been guys after one thing. Being overweight is tough enough let alone being fat in the gay community. Most the guys want nothing to do with you because you’re weight and the ones who like you’re weight only want you for your body. Neither group wants your heart. That just piles onto the feelings of being an object. So it’s been easier for me to stay single.

I miss the friendship. I miss the laughter. I miss hanging out with a group of friends at my place. I miss the get togethers. The nightly meetings with the residents is great but I need more. I can’t talk to them about everything. There is this age gap and they wouldn’t understand certain things. I’ve seen a few younger women who would come out to the pool. I wish I had the courage to befriend them. I miss having women friends. I wish there was a gay best friend app/site, where you can find your fag hag or vice versa. I make a fabulous gay best friend.

I’m usually always down at the picnic table nightly with my neighbors for an hour or two, and I still get lonely. Even though I’ve opened up to a few of them by telling them I’m gay I still don’t feel like I can be my true self. I certainly don’t feel comfortable with telling them about my mental illness. Most of the group is in their 60’s and they’re reserved. I love spending time with them but it’s not the same hanging out with someone who you can be free with and talk about anything. Like they were talking about movies and I mentioned that I loved Ghostbusters. I could tell that it wasn’t their cup of tea. Even one of the residents was like oh those movies. I find myself censoring myself on certain things like anything related to being gay. They were talking about girdles and something about men not having to worry about that. I replied well that’s how I keep my girlish figure and that turned a few heads. I certainly wasn’t going to tell them that I did drag, as they’d probably not understand that. Maybe they would, who knows.

I have this big void in my life and I’m not sure what to fill it with. I feel so isolated from everyone. I really dislike suffering and that’s what I’ve been doing. I miss my family too. So I’m feeling a bunch of stuff this week and I’m trying hard to hold on for dear life. I keep repeating over and over that I’m strong as steel. I had to do that earlier at the picnic table when I was triggered by something one of the ladies said. I had to repeat it over and over, as I didn’t want them to see me triggered. I could feel myself dissociate. Thankfully I was able to use my ground exercises and was able to control it. That’s all I need them thinking I’m crazy. I love them but they love to gossip. They know everything that goes on at the complex.

I really understand what my Mom felt like all these years. She was also very lonely and it was very tough for her after my father divorced her. After my sister and I moved away I know she felt abandoned. I would do anything to go back and do things differently. Though the last years of her life the both of us would spend a lot of time together. I honestly thought she’d live another twenty years or so. I saw us like Dorothy and Sophia from the Golden Girls but that wasn’t the way it was meant to be.

I can’t wait to start therapy again. It’s become very clear that I need to get back into therapy with all the triggers and flashbacks as I have been having. It will be nice to have someone to talk to about the tough things in my life. I don’t have a lot of people to turn to. People will say things like you’re not alone. I get what they’re saying but the reality is that I am alone.

Til It Happens To You

You won’t know how I feel… Couldn’t be more of a powerful statement and for anyone who’s been at the end of victim shaming it really rings true. It’s common to hear things like it gets better in time or pull yourself together when you’re falling apart. We live in a society that interrogates the victim rather than the abuser. If you grow up in that world how else would someone feel if they’ve endured the abuse and are faced with coming forward.

From the start of Lady Gaga’s performance of Til It Happens To You my eyes began to leak to the point where I thought my eyeballs were about to burst from the sockets. I could hear my voice in her vibrato, it was loud and clear.

I went years of being silent, afraid what would happen if anyone found out. The silence ate away at my soul, it forever altered me. To this day, I still remember that first night going to my parents bedroom door and stopping myself from knocking. I was afraid that they wouldn’t believe me. I mean who would believe that my cousin was sexually abusing me, him being male as well. So I wiped away my tears and fell asleep on the couch. When morning appeared I tip toed back into the lion pit (the bed where I was abused) in order to not alarm anyone.

I woke up like nothing had happened and continued to do so for a week until our supposed vacation had ended… but the hell had just began for me. While most boys were going through puberty naturally I was forced into submission of it all. My innocence stolen in a matter of minutes. That was my first interaction with sex and it was more damaging than a lightning bolt to the brain.

For years, I hide it all… I grew up believing that I deserved it, that it was my fault. Why else would it happen to me? My body turned into a piece of meat, property for whoever wanted it. I gave away my soul like a stack of newspapers. I burrowed myself into that black abyss for the next seven years. I watched life pass me by. I desperately wanted to scream bloody murder by my lips were paralyzed. I had to put on a brave face and act like everything was okay but it wasn’t.

I was groomed into believing that was what love meant, to have it all taken from you. You’re not worth the salvation. So you suffer on, cry into your pillow and go on. No one even noticed that I cried myself to sleep almost every night. It was like my tears were attached to a silencer.

For SEVEN years I watched him raised up by my family. They all adored and loved him. I was the chunky, overly sensitive black sheep. I actually grew up believing my parents didn’t love me, that’s how damaging abuse is. If I didn’t speak up how else would they have known. They had no idea that I was dying inside every time they did something for him or praised him. My cousin was the star quarterback, the captain of his basketball team. The girls all wanted to be with him, the boys all wanted to be his friend.

I grew up believing that NO ONE wanted me…

To the point where one day I just exploded. One too many cracks in the dam to support any more tears. I was proven right. I had reason to doubt other’s believing me, as it came true. A father is suppose to protect his children, instead he went hunting with my abuser the next day. I was told to forgive and forget. How can you forget something like that, not the abuse but your Dad telling you that your feelings didn’t matter. It’s not something you ever get over. Another boulder piled on my grave.

Boys will be boys, others in my family said. Just get over it. He would never do that. I was shunned and exiled. How dare I speak up? My place was to stay silent, take the abuse. That’s how courage was repaid.

More times than not survivors pay the price of coming forward. Rather than lifted up others tear us further down. They’d rather add to the pain than face the reality and truth that something like this could happen. Sweep it under the rug.

“Until your world burns and crosses, until you’re at the end of your rope… til your standing in my shoes I don’t want to hear nothing from you… because you don’t know… til it happens to you… you won’t know how I feel…”

That’s what I’ve been yelling for so long. I’ve screamed so loud that my vocal cords are scorched. You do whatever you have to survive and I have. I won’t ever hear the words I need to hear from the people who’ve done me wrong and even then it would be too late. I’d rather have Lady Gaga sing to me any day. Her words are like kisses upon my pillow. That’s the power of coming forward, other’s hear the ballads of your bravery. Those who are struggling and so desperate to for some comfort. Someone to believe them, and not tell them it’s their fault. Most people don’t come out and say it’s your fault but it’s in the reflection of their words and actions.

For the last two hours I have listened to the song on repeat. Each time the melody is just as loud and clear as the moment before. I’ve cried so much I’ve ran out of tissue. The song is the anthem of the unbelieved, the castaways… There will be others who just won’t get the message, who will say things like what a mediocre song. This song isn’t for them. It’s for you and me. It’s for any survivor of sexual abuse/assault.

There’s great power and taking a stand. Just like when the survivors joined Lady Gaga on stage holding hands with messages like not your fault and survivor written on their forearms. Having a voice is such an important tool for a survivor something so many take for granted, the ability to speak up and be believed. While NO might only have two letters in it, it’s one of the most powerful words ever spoken. We’ve had that right taken away for too long. This song is saying NO… to being silent… to speaking up…

Often times I feel my voice disappear. I can sing it loud and clear when it’s standing up for someone else. I’m a great champion for others… myself not so much. I’ve tolerated less for so long that I’ve forgotten there is any other way. That’s what is so great when others stand up it gives you the strength and courage to do the same. Whether it’s reporting it for the first time or the hundredth time. Healing is a lifelong battle for a survivor. There will times that your sea is calm. All it takes is one big wave and you relive those moments all over again.

You can’t control flashbacks (of the event) anymore you can control whether or not it’s going to rain.  Your brain is the camera and that negative is forever polarized into your consciousness. Often times it won’t take much. It could be a smell or a sound and instantly you’re back where it all began. I still can clearly picture the house where the abuse happened. There are a lot of things that I’ve forgotten as I’ve gotten older, that isn’t one of them. I remember the shower where I tried the filth off. Soap doesn’t reach your soul. I can close my eyes and see every part of that cabin. Anything to not see the act in that bed. Focus on the wall, on the curtains just don’t look down. Hide beneath your pillow and pretend you’re sleeping.

Until it happens to you, you’ll never know just how damaging sexual abuse is… and how prevalent it is. If we don’t speak up, nothing will change. That’s why the message of this song is so very important. To say to society it’s not okay to be marginalized.

It gets better in time we are told. I’m almost forty and it hasn’t got better but damn it all I’m determined to be happy. I fight daily, more than anyone will know. I shouldn’t have to fight so hard but that is the reality of life. I’m tired but I will keep on moving forward. My life has to mean something. If I can give comfort to another brother and sister who’s hiding from the same kind of demons then that will be my purpose.

I’m tired of feeling damaged, broken… unlovable… Currently I’m in the fuck it attitude. I’m done trying to convince others to believe me. I’ve spent most of my life desperately trying to plead my case with people who are both blind and deaf to my tears. I’ve done just about everything to drown out the pain to the point where I just want it all to end.

In the end, no matter why, I’m still here. There is great strength in that statement. I could be homeless tomorrow but I’m still here. I can’t let those who’ve hurt me win. I just can’t. I don’t want my life to have been in vain. I see Lady Gaga living her dreams (and her fears) and that gives me courage that one day I can do the same. Turn my pain, the hell into art in order to help others. I’m learning to embrace the light one day at a time.

I don’t know how I’m going to obtain it or when but I’m going to hold on until I achieve it. The future is unknown and I’m not confident about most things lately but there is one thing I’m certain about… My future is going to be better than my past. I will keep walking until I find my home.

If you’re reading this and have felt the same know that we walk the same path. I know how it feels to be alone, to feel so desperate it drives you mad. Hang in there. You’re worth it, as I am. I know how you feel…

Huggs

 

The Illusion of Fear

fear /fir/
noun
  1. an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.

Fear is a learned behavior and usually the result of getting hurt. Fear can protect you but it also can cause harm. It can keep you from living a fulfilling life.

I grew up in a family that was fear based. We were groomed to fear God and life itself. That’s the goal of fire and brimstone. The more you feared God (going to hell), the better your chances of getting into heaven. For me, that fear kept me in hell. At one point in my life I was so frightened by God that hearing his/her name would send me into panic attack mode.

To get away from that fear I pushed God away. It was the only way to cope with the idea of burning in flames for eternity was to stop believing in anything. I didn’t realize until recently how damning that was to my soul as well.

While I put the fear of God away it manifested itself in other fun ways. I replaced one fear for another like they were candy bars in vending machine. When you’re groomed to fear it’s often difficult to see anything else. As an adult various experiences confirmed that I had something to fear.

I would venture out into the world like a scared, little rabbit. Something would spook me and send me hopping for dear life back down the rabbit hole. For most of my adult life I’ve been single because of fear. The few relationships I’ve had always ended badly with me being devastated and heart broken. All my experiences with love resulted in misery so that hard wired into my brain that I had something to fear. I couldn’t risk getting hurt so it was easier to be single. I went over ten years of being single and the relationship that ended that streak was the worst relationship to date.

I almost stayed in an abusive relationship because of fear.

I’ve thought a lot about fear, for an example spiders. Spiders scare the hell out of me and I’ve often wondered why? What makes a spider scary but a ladybug cute. The thing about fear is that it’s not always based off experiences it can passed on from one generation to the next. The tipping point for me with spiders started when I watched the movie Arachnophobia. That scene in the barn freaked me out. I won’t give you the heebie jeebies by describing what happened. If you haven’t seen it let your imagination fill in the blanks.

Everyone has fears. My greatest fear was losing my Mom. I was so frightened to lose her that I made her invincible. It never dawned on me that she would die when she did. So you can imagine that when she died my fear spiralled out of control.

I was so afraid that something bad was going to happen to my family that I turned into a hermit. I would go weeks without ever leaving the house. I encapsulated myself in a fear bubble and it slowly sucked the life out of me. When my Mom died it opened the floodgates to anything happening. So if someone who I thought was immortal could die so could anyone else.

One of my favorite quotes is from the movie Strictly Ballroom, “A life lived in fear is a life half lived.” I’ve lived a half life.

In the last year I’ve worked really hard in therapy to overcome this fear but it still holds a knife to my throat. It no longer has me held hostage but I still give it more power than I should.

When you’ve surrounded yourself with fear for a good portion of your life it’s difficult to come out of the shadows. It’s quite like being in a dark room for a portion of time and immediately walking into full sunlight. Not only will it blind you but it can knock you off your feet. It can also send you fleeing for the comfort of the night but it’s a false sense of security as it keeps you from the warmth of the light.

I think the key to overcoming my fears is to face them head on. I’m frightened as hell to venture back into the world but I’m tired of being paralyzed by the fear. I’m safe but I’m miserable. This isn’t the life I want to lead. My Mama wanted more for me. I deserve more for myself.

Whenever I face my fears they’re never as gigantic or scary as I’ve imagined them to be. Illusion is the only thing fear has to hold onto. It’s all smoke and mirrors.