Trauma Spilling Out Into My Dreams

*****Trigger Warning. I talk about mental illness, sexual abuse and suicide.*****

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I have been in this current PTSD episode since July of last year. Anyone who has PTSD will probably say that living with PTSD is much like living in a war zone, especially when you are in trigger mode. Often times you can’t control the flooding of emotion from your traumatic experiences. One example are flashbacks. I have had moments where I’m back to the root of my pain. For example, the cabin where I was molested. When I flashback I lose all sense of time and I time travel back to the past. I’m back to that cabin. The imagery is so vivid that I could probably paint and exact replica of the way the cabin looked. Everything from the musty smell that comes from old cabins to the band playing at the club house. I can hear and sense the wind sweeping through the window in the bedroom where it all happened. A lot of times I relive some of the aftermath of the trauma. Like going to the shower to wash off the filth or walking up to my parents door to tell them what happened and never did. Finally to the couch that I slept in each night after you know happened and he went to bed. Someone once told me that PTSD is like opening a door to escape from the danger and each door you open leads you back to the danger. There is no escaping it. I live in that world constantly.

So you can imagine how troubling that all is when you experience it. The last six months have been hell. I’m finally at the root of the fallout. A nuclear bomb tore my being apart and I tried to deal with the best way I could as a kid. That meant putting the horrible feelings into a box. Locking it and hiding it so good that I didn’t even remember there was even a box in the first place. Much like in Wreck it Ralph when King Candy/Turbo hides Vanellope’s code so that he can take over and erase her memory. That’s essentially what an abuser does. Which meant hiding the fallout behind a candyland of my own. So much sugary sweet that it would rot your mouth out. Eventually the Cy-Bugs will start to eat away at the candy facade to hunt you down. Since my Mom died in 2012, the veil between the two worlds has been lifted and I have been on the run ever since.

During this last year, I have worked hard to cope with the aftermath. I’m learning to not let the trauma swallow me whole like it’s done in the past. Which means not pushing away the horrible events and the feelings that result of the bad events. In order to heal, you must relive these horrible moments as an adult. Now when I flashback to events like the abuse I allow myself to feel the pain and let me tell you there isn’t anymore gut punching that that. Especially when it’s related to my Mom dying or anything related to the emotional abuse from my father. Every bad feeling finds its way to the surface like the Cy-Bugs and I must blast each one away. This episode is different than any in the past because I’m triggered by every trauma in my life. So you are talking about four big traumas in my life. In the past, an episode was related to only one trigger. The last big PTSD breakdown was in 2004-2005 and that was related to the childhood sexual abuse. Now it’s everything. No longer can I run from the trauma and there are a million Cy-Bugs ready to kill me.

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If you don’t have PTSD it might be difficult to understand what it’s like. I describe it like constantly feeling in danger. Like the predator is stalking you and waiting for the right moment to rip your jugular apart. It’s a war zone from which you can’t escape. At any moment the opposition could throw a bomb your way. Friends and family become strangers, and strangers become enemies. You can’t trust anyone, including yourself. Your primary goal in these situations is to stay alive, which means hiding any way you can. One way I do this is to isolate in my home. Many times the predator is at my back door, determined to track me down. Even the faint sound from my breath could tip him off, so I have to stay frozen. There is nothing more scary than having to live in those life threatening moments again. Many of these situations I don’t realize that I’m in the past. It’s only been the last few years that I have started to sense them earlier on. In the past, I would get triggered and not realize that I was triggered. I would get very depressed and weeks later I start to realize something happened. Then I realize that I have been triggered. Most the time I don’t even know what has triggered me.

That’s is different from this current PTSD episode. I know exactly when I’m triggered because they are played out like I’m watching a movie at the theater. So I spend my waking hours trying to battle all the Cy-Bugs. I have use my coping techniques to destroy each predator, one bug at a time. I have to remind me that I’m no longer in danger and I have escaped that traumatic place. I tell myself that it’s not my fault at all. That I’m lovable and the reason the person hurt me is because of something they are lacking. I use to think it was my fault. That because my child self couldn’t find a reason why someone would hurt me (that was supposed to love and protect me), it meant that inside something was wrong. That meant believing that I was unlovable. Too emotional. Too much. My light was used against me and I was brainwashed into believing that my light was too blinding. So I extinguished it and grew up in darkness. The darkness has ate away my soul and poisoned my veins, and now it’s a do or die situation. I have been the closest to the trauma killing me than ever before. In January, I wrote a suicide note and had a plan. So I am in “Danger, Will Robinson” mode. The fire alarms are blaring and I can’t find out a way to put out the fires but I’m trying.

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This all goes out the window, when my trauma spill out into my dreams. The Cy-Bugs have burrowed so deep that they have reached my subconscious. They are trying to kill me from the inside out, which is another Disney movie. We can only have one metaphor at a time. So I’m not going down that road. Anyways I have started to have PTSD nightmares. There not your typical boogie man nightmares either. I re-enact the trauma, like it’s Unsolved Mysteries, but in new ways. For example, I will have nightmares where my Mom dies in new ways. She never dies in the hospital. One night I dreamed that both my parents died when we went to Disney World, which is one of the few wonderful moments from my childhood. I loved our trip to Orlando, as it was a dream of mine to go to Disney. So to have my wonderful memories turned into nightmare is just cruel. Hiding trauma, pain and insecurity is much like putting air into a balloon. That balloon can only take so much before it finds relief any way it can. So it will either explode or it will go flying across the room, like a chick with its head cut off. The Cy-Bugs have found the trap door to my soul and now are torturing me through my dreams, which you absolutely can’t control. My dreams are so vivid and real, that it feels like I’m awake when I’m enduring the dreams. It’s like I have an out of body experience. I’m awake watching the dream on the big screen. It reminds me of shows like Grey’s Anatomy when they have viewing windows into surgery rooms so students can watch surgeries. I get to watch my guts being ripped apart, every single time.

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Each time I wake up, I feel like I’m dying. I haven’t felt a more horrible feeling than that. I can’t even begin to describe it. It’s like someone has put me in a giant can and shaked me about. I’m dizzy and disoriented. Time comes to a screeching halt. I can feel the insides being ripped apart one piece of flesh at a time. I spend the nights having my guts punched repeatedly. It’s like I have amnesia when I wake up and I forget all my coping mechanisms. The world that we no is gone and I forget all my coping skills. I lose all sense of reality. So the first few hours are hell, as I slowly wake up from the trauma. So the dreams where my Mom dies I relive the true feelings I felt the morning she died. I have had so many PTSD nightmares related to my Mom’s death that I could write a book. Of all the traumas, that was the most horrific. It almost destroyed me. Since 2012, I haven’t been able to bounce back from a nervous breakdown.

The dreams are non-stop. There isn’t a night that I go without a PTSD nightmare. They stopped momentarily when my psychiatrist put me on Prazosin, which is for PTSD dreams. That didn’t last long and the nightmares returned. I’m at a fairly high dose too. This morning I awoke to another PTSD dream. During the night I woke up, like I usually do and I was relieved to that regular, non-scary dreams. Finally some relief, or so I thought. I laid back down and the Cy-Bugs returned. This nightmare was related to the rejection from the people who were supposed to love me unconditionally. They all came together to confront me on how embarrassing it was for them that I have been living this way. I’m supposed to hid my pain and pretend like nothing happened. Which means being like everyone else and hold down a job. I haven’t had too many positive people in my life. There was one person who always loved and supported me, no matter what. Everytime we’d have a family function I would always gravitate to my lesbian aunt. She could see me for who I was and never judged me. She was my safety net. Prior to this hospitalization I have only had one person ever visit me and that was during my first hospitalization in 2000 when I first started to deal with the childhood sexual abuse. I can remember that moment very clearly today. After that visit, I never had any friends or family visit me during my other hospitalizations. My hospization in January I finally had a friend come visit me, who surprised me. I had always dreamed of having a visitor. Each time I would watch friends and family come visit their loved ones, and no one would ever come for me. This time someone did and I was pure joy and happiness.

Even though my relationship with my Mom was complicated, she loved me deeply. In the end, she was only one of the few who stuck it out. When she died I lost that resource and the world became a dark, dangerous place. I no longer had my superhero to come rescue me. She was murdered in front of me, like Bruce Wayne in Batman. Last year I lost one of the remaining people in my life who was light. My aunt gave up on me and rejected me finally. It broke my heart as I love her deeply. This time the person chose to leave me, unlike my Mom dying. I was too broken for my Aunt and she could no longer deal with my damager. I should point out that I rarely reached out to her for help and when I did it was just sending her a message asking her opinion on something. I never cried on her shoulders and she didn’t really have to live around my trauma but she was judging me from the sidelines and she wasn’t ever at the games. I was deleted off facebook and blocked. She ignored my messages wondering what I did to deserve this. I was erased and it destroyed me. So this dream was related to that and my heart was broke last night, all over again.

I’m alone with my pain, grief and sorrow. There isn’t a more horrible feeling than that. It’s like floating away into outer space. Eventually you float so far that all you can see is darkness. The black hole finally swallows you whole. The only thing surrounding you are all the angry, evil voices inside your head.

I just want relief. I live in pain during the days and that only intensifies when I sleep. Many nights I have multiple ptsd dreams about different traumas. One night I had the worst PTSD dreams ever. One dream was related to my Mom dying and the other was the sexual abuse. The two main traumas in my life. I woke up dying. If I didn’t have therapy in a couple hours it probably would have killed me. That’s how intense the dreams were.

I’m getting to the point where I’m just lost. I’m desperate for them to go away and it doesn’t appear that they will anytime soon. I can’t take a higher dose of the PTSD med because of my blood pressure dropping to dangerous levels. Which means I’m stuck with my dreams. The only thing I can control is the aftermath and I’m doing the best I can. In some ways I have mastered them but not really. I have just gotten better on coping with them. They still hurt like hell, that hasn’t changed, but the time period isn’t as long usually. They are intense enough that I’m exhausted. This morning I woke up feeling so tired. Not again, I thought. I had jinxed myself by thinking I was going to have a night just living with Freddy Krueger. Nope, the devil was there instead.

What worries me is that eventually I will get to a point where they nightmares will eat away at my conscious and finally kill me. I’m fighting so hard to keep the Cy-Bugs at bay but my defenses are low and my army is now just me. Right now my coping skills are whispers and I’m holding onto them for dear life. I will say that the hours I’m awake have started to get a bit better. I have started to enjoy some of my days and I have started to blossom a little bit. I’ve become less scared and have started to want to leave the house. I have more energy than I have in a long while. Which means keeping up with chores better, though right now I’m rather behind. I can only take it so long before I have to start cleaning. I know that these are good signs.

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I feel myself slipping and that scares the hell out of me. One of the PTSD dreams last week was related to my Father hurting me. I spiralled into a deep depression. Probably the worst in years. I wasn’t suicidal. I was just in complete darkness weighed down by the pain. I was sluggish and lethargic. Up to my neck in muck, with poisonous fog all around. This time I knew what had caused the spiral and was able to process it with my therapist. I have been able to recover mostly and that’s progress. I guess what troubles me about these spirals is that they will eventually hit the bottom like I did in January. This was very close. I know the next time I might not be as fortunate and might be successful at ending my life. I feel like I’m racing for time, not knowing when I will finally drown in the trauma.

So while I have become good at coping with my waking hours, I can’t control my nightmares and they are not giving up. They are seeping into every waking hour and I keep batting them away. I’m just desperate for some rest. I want to be able to move forward and these fucking nightmares keep trying to pull me under. Leave me alone. Today was one of the first days where I had a more fuck it attitudes towards my nightmares. I have tried to escape (flight) them, and I have certainly been frozen, now that remains is fight. If they won’t stop then I’m going to kill every last one of them. So as scary as all of this is and I live in constant fear, I’m not letting the pain and trauma win. To do so is to give up control to everyone who has caused me harm. Nope. Not going to happen anymore. You are not worthy of my anger, pain and sorrow. It is you that is lacking what you fear in me. My light can’t be estinugused and you tried with all your might. The only thing that it’s done is made me stronger. I have come to realize that not only am I unstoppable but unbreakable as are. So have at it mother fucking PTSD dreams. I’m ready for you know, with a baseball bat in hand. I’m determined to conquer my dreams. It’s a do or die situation. This is the final batter and I will not give up until I succeed.

It’s so easy to only see the failures. I’m learning to see the victories. Here are my wins so far:

  • I have been in therapy since 2012
  • On psych meds since 2012
  • Escaped homelessness
  • Have my own apartment by myself
  • I finally have a psychiatrist
  • I have a case worker
  • I have not missed a therapy appointment and go no matter what
  • Lost nearly 90 lbs
  • Started to take the bus again
  • Back to working on Dragzilla, my comic book
  • Using my grounding exercises
  • Being honest with myself
  • Starting to process the deep wounds
  • Using mental health lifehacks, to my life easier
  • Came out as Trans
  • In the process of take hormones
  • Dealt with the loss of my Mom
  • Working on overcoming the constant need to please people
  • Working on self care
  • Cutting out people in my life who are not good for me
  • Loving myself
  • Starting to make friends
  • Going to my trans support group
  • Getting help when I need it, like being hospitalized
  • Taking risks like making new connections
  • Being myself and not hiding my light
  • Not taking things personal. What others feel about me is not my business.
  • Finally have my independence
  • Stability for the first time ever. I no longer have to live in fear of losing my housing due to the inability to pay my rent or due to someone else. I live alone and no one can tell me what to do. I can leave my apartment messy. I can cook in the middle of the night. I can sleep in until afternoon and no one can say a damn thing.
  • Starting to blog again
  • Taking steps to not relapse. Like ensuring I take my meds with pill packs and delivery of my meds right to my apartment.
  • Advocating for myself and letting the professionals in my life what I need. Liking getting rides to appointments from my caseworker. Otherwise I might not have gone.
  • Coming up with an action plan with my therapist, when I’m not safe. I send her a text saying 911, if I’m going to kill myself and she will call 911.
  • I had a sculpture in an art show in NYC. A fight foot tree made out of eyewear material
  • Had a rose sculpture at Art Prize in Grand Rapids that got me the sculpture commission in NYC.

Until this year I wouldn’t have been able to recognize all these wins. The smallest crumble will eventually make a cookie. I have come so far and I’m back on track. I’m near the finish line I just have to keep moving forward. Do what I need to do, when I need to do it. Survive the storm. Eventually it will pass. They always do. That’s one of the few constants in my life, having them eventually end. Now I’m preparing better for each one and putting to place action plans to keep myself safe.

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So as tough as last night was, I won this battle. It didn’t really take me under. I felt horrible for about 15 minutes and then started to process it by writing this post. Other’s reality is not my own. So my family can judge me for my mental illness, that’s their right but that is not my truth. They can’t take away my triumphs. They just can’t handle my guatemalaness. (That’s a Birdcage joke)

They weren’t there for me during my bad times. Therefore they won’t be there for my successes. This time that’s my choice, not theirs. I deserve nothing but the best. I am going to use my light to help other people. I have value in this world and am going to only seek out people who want to be in my life, and will make an effort to want to see me. My differences are my strengths, like my artistic ability with my comic book.

So I’m on my way and screw my PTSD dreams. I’m working on healing the wounds one trauma at a time. Eventually the ptsd dreams will just be a regular nightmare. I will wake up and be like wow that was a crazy nightmare, and move on with my day. I won’t even feel bad about it. Dreams are just dreams, they are not based on reality. I haven’t been able to see that this year but I’m learning to. One ptsd dream at a time.

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Being Homeless Doesn’t Make Me Less

This isn’t the first time I have been homeless. In 2016, I was homeless for two days. I slept in a park in Chicago and the rest of the time was spent at a Starbucks. Thankfully I found a friend to stay with so I didn’t have to go to the homeless shelter. This time was different. I found myself in a situation that I had nowhere to go. Many times in my life I have been faced with homelessness but I was always able to find a way to escape being homeless. Now I’m 41 and don’t have the strength to fake it anymore. I’m tired of running and living without any stability, which is detrimental for someone living with a mental illness. Recently I looked back on the last fifteen years and realized that I had move twenty times, most of those were sudden and I had to scramble to find housing. Usually it meant running aka moving out of state. My twenties and thirties I tried desperately to escape the trauma of my past. I failed miserably. When my Mom died in 2012 everything came crashing down. I had no more energy to give trying to be someone I wasn’t and burying the pain deep inside.

So I had to deal with the pain. My Mom was the one person I had who was my champion and losing her made the world a much darker place. It wasn’t until a suicide attempt in 2013 that I started to take care of my mental health. I started to taking antidepressants and going to therapy regularly. This helped bring me out of the helpless dark pit I had been in but I still struggled greatly. The first two years after my Mom died I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, nor did I think I wanted to. A world without my Mom was unfathomable. The grief was raw and deep. I had never endured pain like that. Thankfully I was able to beat the beast and got to a point where I accepted my Mom’s death and was able to move forward from the pain.

I’ve tried hard the last two years to find alternative housing but for various reasons it hasn’t worked out. One roommate was a psycho and another ended up selling his house. I have had to move four times in that time period. This last time I just couldn’t take it anymore. While things had improved with my mental health I was still enduring severe bouts of depression. I’m talking about the deep, dark depression. I would do okay for weeks then I would get triggered, sending me into a dark spiral to the pits of hell. I started to become a wallflower. I hide in the corner of the place I stayed. I tried my best to stay out of the way of others. I would go weeks without talking to anyone other than my therapist. My weight had become uncontrollable. I was over 430 lbs and my mobility was horrible. I could barely walk a few feet without getting tired. I also couldn’t stand for very long. My quality life was horrible. I was alive but not living. I tolerated this for the last five years. Recently something changed within me and I’m not quite sure what caused it. I just woke up and said fuck this to hell. I deserve so much more.

For a good year I was drinking a two liter of Pepsi a day. It had been such a crutch for my anxiety and depression. Up until a month ago I was unwilling to stop drinking Pepsi at all. It felt impossible. I had decided that I would try to become more physically active. That I could manage doing a few steps at a time. On April 15th, I went to the Michigan Democratic Convention in Detroit. Doing something like this meant a lot of walking and I knew that I needed to prepare so the week prior I started to walk with a fabulous cane that my friend gave me. I was determined to get to Detroit, through an ice storm, to support a candidate that fought for those in need. I finally got there and while I was able to walk a bit farther but was still limited because of my mobility. Just walking to the area where the convention was held took a lot of me physically. So I sat most of the time. I sat as I saw the world flash by me. It was a great day and it really helped me put life in perspective.

It was also tough because I went from spending years by myself to being surrounded by a ton of people, that was also why I didn’t do much. I wanted to go to the LGBTQ caucus and vote for Dana Nessel. I did that and was exhausted so I just sat until it was time for the bus to leave. I left inspired seeing so many people step up to make a difference by running for office. I have always wanted to make a difference in this world. In the past I gave so much of myself that it would leave me empty. I use to think that making a difference meant going into service like being a therapist which meant giving up my artistic ability. One of the gifts the universe has given me. I have always been great at taking care of other people including being a fierce advocate for those in need. I was horrible at taking care of myself which just made my mental health even worse.

After 2012, I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t take care of myself, let alone anyone else. I had various attempts at embracing my art but I always gave up because I didn’t believe that I deserved it… nor did I think anyone wanted it. It wasn’t until 2015 when I made a 5ft tree out of eyewear material that I realized the impact that my art had on other people. Even though I was starting to feel better about myself I still struggled to live in a world that needed me. I would fall into these traps of trying to save the world, which meant neglecting my own world. I did so once again after the convention. I decided I was going to run for office, which meant putting my recovery on the shelf. It was really the first time I had ever felt that empowered. Something had clicked in me that I can’t explain. It was then that I deserved nothing but the best.

Overnight I went from not wanting to stop drinking Pepsi to doing so within a week. I also started to walk a lot more. On top of all of that I started to drink water and eat more healthier. Within weeks I started to notice drastic changes in my mobility. I could finally bend down and touch my toes. I hadn’t been able to do that in over five years. I also started to be able to go longer distances. It felt great to start taking care of myself again. My weight kept me from enjoying my 10 year niece. I couldn’t do much with her if it meant getting off the couch. I realized that I was setting a very bad example for my nieces and nephew. I didn’t want them to see me dying on that couch. My health had started to deteriorate lately from my blood pressure to having asthma. I had wasted so much time hiding in fear and I feel like I have this time clock that I need to beat. My fear is that I will die without doing what I was meant to do. I knew if I didn’t make some changes I would die before it was my time. So these factors also contributed to making a change. In December I had a cyst and have had an open wound since then. It’s been slow to heal because of my weight and that scared the crap out of me.

I started to be able to go outside to play with my niece. It was so rewarding and it gave me the courage to fight harder. Then once again I found myself in a situation where I had nowhere to go. I can’t explain the level of panic that goes through your body from having the ground fall from under your feet. I couldn’t endure that panic anymore. I had to do something about it. I finally realized that I deserved so much better. I was unwilling to tolerate anything bad. Since October of last year I realized that I needed to be hospitalized to get my mental health on check but I had put it off due to fear of being confined to a hospital and what it meant after I left… living in a homeless shelter. So I put it off until I couldn’t handle it anymore.

I had no choice but to take the leap I had been avoiding. I checked myself into the hospital and spent two weeks in a psychiatric program. One of the reasons that I wanted to make a change was that I missed being around people and doing fun things. I would see people share pictures and stories on Facebook about the fun things they were having with their friends. I wasn’t having any of that. I longed for friends again. Sure I had friends all over the country but no one in person to really spend time with.

Being hospitalized isn’t fun let alone being in a psych ward. You are stuck, with no way out. All the doors off the floor are locked, even the elevator you had to use a key card to operate. You are surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know, some who have severe mental illness. One day I was awoken to the woman next to my room screaming at the top of her lungs. Each sentence made no sense and it was like she was talking to a room full of people. She was loud and violent. This went on for a good hour. Later that day she was talking like she was the devil and ended up having to be subdued and sent to the other side of psych ward for the worse cases. Another patient was extremely abrasive and confrontational. So much so that he had to have a tech with him at all times as he was unpredictable. I avoided him like the plague. He treated other patients horribly usually those who couldn’t stand up for themselves.

Overall most of the patients were amazing. It really opened my eyes about the world. It wasn’t my first time in a psych hospital. It was my fifth time. Each time was just as scary as the first. The last major hospitalization was in 2014 when I was living in Chicago. During that time I met a lot of wonderful people who I became friends with afterwards. A few I’m still friends with.

This time was no different. I really feel that I was meant to be at this hospital. Originally I wanted to go to another hospital that my therapist recommended but they wouldn’t take me because of my weight, which just added to shame of my weight. It’s so humiliating to be told that you’re too fat to be admitted to a hospital. Even the place I ended up had to give me a hospital bed because my weight. In the past, this would have led me into a spiral out of control but this time that didn’t happen. It just added fuel to the fire to fight. I kept drinking water and made sure to go to all the groups. It was the first time that I wanted the help because I realized I deserved to heal.

By the second week there was a small group formed. We spent many nights playing games and talking. It was like our own breakfast club. It was amazing. What was most amazing about the experience is I finally felt accepted for who I am inside, a transgender woman. About six months ago I came to the realization that I was trans. I had worked hard with my therapist to become more comfortable in my skin. Prior to being homeless I had decided to change my name to Drew and I had started to tell people.

One thing I struggled with was how I could have gone 41 years and not have known that I was trans. Looking back I now know there were many signs. I had always said that inside I was a woman with a male body. I had thought that was because I was a gay male but recently I realized that it was much deeper than sexual orientation. Working on my comic book Dragzilla, the story of a drag queen superhero who fights high kicks one high kick at a time, helped me to discover that I was trans. I had created this character not realizing that I was Dragzilla and the stories I were writing were my own. Dragzilla not only gave me purpose but she saved me… I saved me…

At first I wasn’t going to say anything about being trans in the hospital because of fear. I was afraid of how others would respond, especially patients. There is a lot of ignorance out there and I have seen how many treat trans people. I was put in a room with four men and something didn’t feel right. I was going to stay silent but I started to look at my hospital band and it listed me as a male. It got to a point where that m became so large and loud that I had to tell my doctor. You would think that we live in a time where medical professionals would be educated and empathic to being trans but that’s not the reality. So I was nervous. My last therapist made transphobic comments before I realized that I was trans. I stopped seeing her after that and now I have a wonderful therapist who has helped me embrace my transness.

The doctor right away asked if it would be okay if I got my own room. The staff also started to use female pronouns. They even asked if I had another name that I wanted to be called. I said yes but that I wasn’t ready to go by Drew because it would confuse the patients and I wasn’t sure I was ready for the rejection. It was until I realized once again I was living in fear of what others thought about me. I was changing who I am because of others so I told the staff that I wanted to be called Drew. I even changed the name on my door to Drew. I started to tell patients that I trusted, the breakfast club. They accepted me fully and I felt like I was on cloud nine. The first person embraced me from the start, she was amazing and totally fabulous. It was because of her that gave me the strength to start talking about being transgender openly. Everyone was so supportive and accepting.

All my life I have felt like no one saw me for who I really am. This was the first time that I was being seen for the fabulous, beautiful person I am. I finally was embracing who I was both inside and out. I didn’t have to hide anymore. I was free.

I really feel like the hospital prepared me for living in a homeless shelter. The hospital forced me to interact with strangers and be able to tolerate an uncomfortable situation. I was also walking a lot more, which definitely has made a difference being homeless. I have to walk everywhere. On Monday, I had to walk a mile to get to a place to spend the day, as the buses were closed due to the holiday. A month ago I couldn’t even go a few hundred feet.

The difference today is that I’m forced to walk because I have to take the bus if I want to do anything and staying in the day shelter all my time would drive me crazy. There is no comfort at all. It’s basically folding chairs and a room. Plus people are loud and there is only a few desks. My big issue with being homeless (outside of safety) is finding things to do during the day. You need to leave the night shelter by 7am and you’re not able to come back until 6pm. So that’s a lot of time to fill, especially in this heat.

When I first started walking before I was homeless it was controlled. I could choose how far and would stop when I was tired. Now I don’t have a choice and I am not able to take breaks like I did in the past. Previously I could take a day break to allow my body to rest. Lately I’ve pushed my body so far it’s tough to walk a few blocks. I hate that feeling you get when you are so exhausted and sore that you start to panic. It feels like a million miles away until you can rest. I can’t do this is a common thought. Though I push through, stopping as often as I need. The heat doesn’t help matters either.

I get so frustrated. I’m at the point where I want to do so much more than I can. I would like to be able to walk as far as I want without any pain or discomfort. I’m having to push through in order to leave the shelter today and it’s tough. Like today I wasn’t going to leave the day shelter because I had an appointment at 11am but the kitchen wasn’t really stocked. They had cereal but no milk. Yogurt but no spoons. Stale donuts and that was it. So I didn’t eat this morning. I wasn’t going to leave because my body needed a rest. I’m having trouble walking very far because of my thighs, they hurt when I move. I had two hours to kill before my appointment and I was starving. There is a Burger King a few blocks away and I dreaded the walk knowing how hard it would be and it was. There is such a sense of relief when you make it to your destination. BK even had lounge chairs so I got a cheap meal and relaxed for an hour. Thankfully there was a store across the street where I bought some Motrin and that helped get me home, which was a struggle.

The conditions of the day shelter are very minimal. I have been leaving each but tried to stay there after my appointment was done as I didn’t think I had the strength to do the walking needed to go to the library. That was until people again were being unbearable and I just had to leave. It was either my santity or my body and this time my sanity was the priority. If it hadn’t been for the Motrin I wouldn’t have been able to walk the four blocks needed. I’ve started to have charley horses and those are horrible. I hope my body holds on long enough until I can get through this patch.

It’s almost been a week of living in the homeless shelter and it definitely isn’t easy. It’s not as scary as I thought but it’s pretty miserable. You learn to go without many things and one big one is comfort. When you are with a home of your own you take for granted the luxuries given like a comfy couch, your own shower and being able to cook in your own kitchen. When you are homeless there are no comfy couches where you can watch tv from. There is no privacy when you take a shower and you have no control over the kitchen where you live.

I hear all the time that being homeless is a choice. That those living in shelters do so because they want to. Some would like to make it out to be this fun, luxurious lifestyle when that couldn’t be further from the truth. You go without a lot. The soup kitchens have very basic food and it’s very much like prison food. A prime example was today for breakfast as I already stated, this is nothing new. The shelter is understaffed and funded so they do what they can. Often times I skip the meals because there is nothing I will eat. They usually have lots of granola bars, sometimes sweets but not very much in terms of substance that will fill you up and keep you satisfied. A lot of times I stay hungry. Then I will splurge and buy fast food. I won’t be able to do that often on my minimal income I get from state disability of $200 a month. I’m already low on funds.

Being MTF trans I was hoping that the homeless shelter would be able to accomodate me by not being around men but that didn’t happen. Thankfully I have really started to transition, other than growing out my hair. So I can kind of blend in but it’s still tough. They acted like I could get seperate show time and that didn’t happen either. So I’m doing what I have to in order to survive. At first I worried about using the shower around men but now I just don’t care. I get in and out as fast as I can. I don’t have the energy to worry about it. I have enough on my plate already. This shelter does have seperate rooms so that helps. I still have to share it with a man but it could be a lot worse like the other shelters it’s all open bedding. So I’m looking at the blessings.

Some might see this as me not being grateful but that’s not true. I’m thankful for what I have but I believe it’s important that the general public is educated to know what it’s like both in removing the stigma and getting the help that the shelters and homeless need.

Like I said the biggest challenge is finding places to go during the day. Thankfully the library is close and I can get on their computers 3 hours a day. I can also use their table’s to work on my comic book. Though on weekends I have no choice but to go to the hospital cafeteria. One thing I have noticed is craving a regular life, having a purpose. Surviving isn’t a great purpose. Yes, I have my comic book but the homeless life leaves you with tunnel vision. Today I just couldn’t take being in the shelter and I bolted out the doors. I keep hoping that someone I know in the area will invite me over to hang out but that hasn’t happened. I have even put out hints on Facebook with no luck. Even with going to public places there is no privacy or a way to relax. There is no alone time. It’s one thing to be having fun with your friends it’s another thing to be out by yourself trying to relax.

I crave for connection but am very careful as I don’t know who to trust. Many people at the shelter keep to themselves. There are definitely groups that stick together and they’re usually loud and unpredictable. People are suspicious and that’s to be expected. There are all types here at the shelter and sometimes it’s tough to tell the difference. I hear people talk about being on parole and others just talking nonsense, and it makes me really nervous. Safety is a huge issue with being homeless. People are desperate and some are willing whatever they have to in order to get by. Sometimes people are just greedy. For example, at the kitchen the other day they had maybe 10 small cartons of chocolate milk. One woman got three and she tried to get a fourth.

The other day I ran into this woman in line for the kitchen. I almost wasn’t even going to go down to the kitchen but I thought I would see what they were having. MK was her name. She had short hair with a pink bow in it. She was wearing a tutu like shirt with some cute pattern on it. It was in the high 80’s and she had a faux fur scarf on. She was a mix of Hello Kitty and a club kid. I knew right away I was going to like her before I started talking to her. Once in a while they will have something substantial in regards to food. This time they had scraps of ham. I will admit that I’m rather picky and don’t like things like salad, etc… which is usually what they have. So whenever they have meat like this it’s a treat. For me, whenever I get something like that I will gobble it up like I haven’t eaten in weeks. I got a plate and started to sit down. At first I wasn’t going to sit next to her out of shyness but today I decided to sit down next to her.

Her personality matched her appearance. She was bubbly and full of life. MK reminded me a cross between Hello Kitty and a club kid. Her voice reminded me of Shirley Temple or Betty Boop. She was adorable and fabulous. It was very interesting sitting and talking to her. She noticed that I drank Crystal Light and started to give me tips on mixing different flavors. I told her that I was  trying to be more healthy and she said that she was diabetic so she understood. MK’s boyfriend was just as interesting. He had a goth look to him with face tattoos and piercings. His name was Kraven or something like that. They both live on the streets, I think in the woods. Both were in their early 20’s. MK talked about loving to cook and missing the ability to do so. It’s interesting to talk to the homeless and hear about their lives before. I hope to run into them again as they were interesting to talk to and was my first real connection with someone on the streets. Most people I can’t relate to because no one is as flamboyant as I am. MK was unique and special. I felt like I could be myself with her and I knew she wouldn’t judge me. That’s something I don’t get with the rest of the homeless population. I keep my transness to myself for the most part. I still wear my headband so I’m able to embrace who I am in a small way.

The last few days I have been feeling a bit down because the reality has set in. That this will be my life for a while. Just repeating day after day. Having to leave at 7am each morning and having to find a place to stay. A lot of the times I feel so alone and I cope with it the best I can. It still catches up to me occasionally. Lately I keep wanting to call my Mom. It’s the thought, I should call my Mom she will make feel better but then I realize that I can’t and that makes me sad. I had a dream last night about her where she died all over again. Usually there is a moment where she dies and comes back to life, only to die all over again. I feel those moments of grief all over again. It’s just as intense when it first happened in 2012. The rest of the day I’m left with this aching sorrow.

My Mom was the one person I had. Our relationship was complicated at times but I knew that she loved me. She was always there for me. I no longer have this relationship. The struggle with living with a mental illness is often times you isolate yourself. You get into your head that you don’t deserve love. So you push people away or you get your life so far off track that you find yourself with no friends. For me, I moved away from all my friends and a life I loved because I self destructed. Deep down inside I didn’t believe that I deserved all this love and support. I have struggled ever since.

After my Mom died, I went inward. I was living in a small city with little money and no car. Making friends was almost impossible especially if I wanted someone LGBTQ. I went almost five years of talking to very few people. I became almost a hermit. For weeks my therapist was really the only person I would talk to, at least in detail. If it weren’t for my visits with my niece I probably wouldn’t have any other substantial connection. The longer you isolate the harder it is to come out of it. I would have moments where I tried to venture out into the world but it always led to me getting spooked and I would head back down to the rabbit hole. When you are homeless you don’t have a hole to hide in, well I guess you could find a place in the woods but I don’t have what it takes for that.

Now that I’ve awoken I have this sense of urgency of needing to get my life together. Recently my health has deteriorated and it has scared me senseless. I have wasted too much time living in fear and hiding. There are no guarantees and I don’t want to die without leaving something behind. Now that I’m taking better care of my body it feels great. The upside of being homeless is the walking and that’s helping me to lose weight. I just have to get past this phase of pain. I went from not moving at all to walking daily at least a mile. Before May my days consisted of waking up in the couch I slept in and watching tv. Only getting up to eat and use the bathroom. So it’s definitely been a major adjustment. The motrin is definitely helping. Today it was easier to walk, though I was still in pain and discomfort. My biggest issue is my lower back because I carry a backpack. I’ve tried to lighten the load as much as possible but it’s still pretty heavy because I carry supplies for comic book. Eventually I will be able to walk with ease and be able to go longer distances. I can’t wait for that day.

Next week I can file for section 8 housing. You have to be homeless for 14 days before you can be put on the waitlist. The only way to get on the waitlist these days is to be homeless. The waitlist hasn’t been open to the public in years. I’ve checked off and on for five years and I haven’t seen it open once. Even with being homeless it can take anywhere from three months to a year to get your voucher. Once you have the voucher you can live anywhere in your county that takes the voucher and then you pay 30% of your income. A few people in the shelter had recently received theirs and both had to wait six months. So it could be a long haul for me. I’m struggling one week in and can’t imagine what I will be like in six months. I just hope that it doesn’t take this long.

There are a few complexes that are project based near the shelter, that have seperate waitlists. One in particular has had a lot of crime there. The local news station did a report about the crime a year ago. So that’s a concern of mine. I almost rather wait it out until I can get a voucher, so then I can choose where I live. There is an apartment complex that I applied for in early May that is promising. It’s in a fairly nice part of the city. The only issue is I need to find a doctor who will say that I’m disabled. My primary care physician isn’t able to sign it because of the health department. It’s against their policies to get involved. Ideally a psychiatrist would be able to fill out the HUD form but I can’t find one who takes Medicaid for my county.

This speaks volumes to our current system. So many people who are homeless have some sort of mental illness but because resources are slim people find themselves in bad shape. If you don’t treat mental illness it can cycle into other types of mental illness like psychosis. Many of the homeless are veterans who have PTSD. What is sad that my Community Mental Health (Lansing) covers three counties and their services are pitiful. You can only see their psychiatrists if you have what they consider a more serious mental illness like schizophrenia. They can afford a new four story building but they can’t offer psychiatry care to those with Medicaid. For someone with mental illness being seen by a psychiatrist is extremely important as you need the medicine management. I’m forced to get my medicine managed by my pcp, who is not equipped to properly adjust my medicine based off my needs. So I just get by. I have to be hospitalized in order to get my medicine back on track, when they start to not help me. It’s sad that is what it takes to get healthier.

People think that there is all this help for those who are poor but honestly there isn’t. The resources out there are maxed out. Most think if you become homeless that you can get help right away. That’s not the case. There is no offense in homelessness, only defense. I could very well be living in a homeless shelter for a good year and that’s no way to live but you must do whatever you have to survive.

All the shelters have time limits. The one I’m in now has a time limit of 30 days. It’s possible to get an extension but it’s minimal. So that means jumping from one shelter to the next. For me, that’s even more problematic because at least the one I’m at is more secure and safe being FTM transgender. The other shelters are open dorms with hundreds of bed all next to each other. There is a city mission that you can stay for 90 days but there is no where to hold your stuff so what you have you must carry around. Currently I can leave most of my stuff in my room and it’s for the most part secure as no one is allowed upstairs during day time hours. I just hope they can accommodate me for being trans because otherwise my life will get even more hectic.

On weekends there is no day shelter where I stay, nor is the kitchen open. So you must find alternative places to stay and eat. Which I usually do anyways but there is something about not having the day shelter that makes me feel panicky. I guess as basic as it is I know that it’s there. There’s this fear when you are out in public that you will be asked to leave because you’re seen as loitering. Even at the library I fear if I stay too long they will confront me and tell me to leave. This is especially true on Sundays when I usually go to the hospital cafeteria because the library is only open for a short period of time. I use my privilege to my benefit and know that there are some people who don’t have that luxury. Sometimes it’s easy to tell if someone is homeless. The problem with the length of time it takes to get housing is when people start to deteriorate. Six months down the road I’m sure I won’t look as put together as I am just one week in being homeless. Right now I carry most of my life in a bookbag and I can make myself look like a student but eventually people will notice if I come to a public place too often.

These are all the things that run through my head. Some are just in my head and others are real dangers/fears. I have days where I feel good and being homeless doesn’t feel as scary but then others where it just gets to me. Overall I am handing it pretty well. Recently I had a friend who messaged me about me being through a rough patch and at first I thought what rough patch. At first being homeless felt like the scariest thing ever but once I faced it the truth was it wasn’t scary at all. I mean at times it is but overall it’s just annoying and uncomfortable. Of all the things I have endured in my life enduring homelessness is minimal compared to the pain I faced in the past. I was able to survive my Mom dying, so this is nothing. Once I was able to move past the pain and grief of losing my Mom then nothing else will ever hurt me again, at least to that level of pain.

I don’t have time or energy to worry about stupid shit anymore. Like whether someone wants to be in my life or not. I use to let something like destroy me but now I just don’t have the time to hurt over it. I’m too busy trying to figure out how I’m going to eat or sleep, or just staying safe being on the streets. Figuring out how I will do my laundry and make it so I’m not dirty. I’m just trying to survive.

I have this new sense of strength. My will power has always been a struggle but lately it’s like the energizer bunny. I know where I’m going is so much better than were I have been. I’m finally learning to love and accept myself. I just have no more fucks to give and the few left over I’m shedding one by one. Others can judge me all they want. As RuPaul says, that’s not business. One day I will look back at this time as test of my strength. It will be proof that I can tackle any problem. That nothing is too big or scary for me to overcome. You can’t get much lower than living on the streets. I guess that’s part of where my resolve comes from. There’s great power in realizing that no one can kick you further down than already. Often times it was from your own doing.

For over ten years I have tolerated horrible things. I felt like I was less than and built a life where I was a pitiful, useless person. This was especially true the last five years. Losing my Mom knocked me to the ground and I stopped trying to get back up. So I accepted the fact that I was going to stay on the ground until I died. I stopped believing that I could get up. I also thought I deserved to be on the floor. The thing about misery is that you can only handle so much before something is done. You either end it all or you start fighting. This time I was closer than ever to giving it up but I had this mustard seed of fight left in me and as I pushed myself more the bigger I realized it was. Now I realize that my strength was always ginormous it was just covered by a ton of trash. These experiences are only adding to my strength and brilliance.

I can do anything I set my mind to. I deserve great things and will make them happen. You don’t realize how important independence is to your health until you lose it. That’s the difference about today is that I’m finally living life on my terms and I’m determined to do whatever it takes to take back my independence. I crave for the stability that comes with independence. I know some people in my life have judged me for my life choices, like going for disability but the thing is they haven’t had to endure the things I have had in life. They’ve not had to walk in my shows. They’ve also not been able to have the knowledge and experience of the twenty years of my adult life. They don’t see the patterns and broken record that I have been on. The years of instability due to my mental illness. I recently counted up the number times I have moved since 2016 and it was over 20 times. Most of them were similar situations like I am today but back then I had the strength to move to another city or state. I no longer can live that way.

I’m finally taking both my physical and mental health serious. I’m treating my depression, anxiety and PTSD like Diabetes. I know realize that I must manage my systems until I die. That means taking medicine and being in therapy for the rest of my life. A big part of why I can endure what I am today is from taking care of myself. I have always been horrible at doing that. Since 2013, I have been on medicine and in therapy. I have never stuck to anything that long. This is a huge accomplishment for me. It’s been five years that I have stuck to treatment and the only other time was a year and a half back in 2004. I use to wait for other people to validate both the pain and progress. Whenever I didn’t get that it would send me spirally back into the grief and sorrow. Now I realize that the only person I need it from is myself.

You will wait a lifetime for other people to treat you the way you deserve. I’ve learned you can’t make anyone like or love you. Either they do or they don’t. You shouldn’t have to convince people to be in your life. If you do what kind of relationship is that anyways? I want people in my life who embrace who I am and realize that I am a treasure. Friends who make an effort to be in my life and enjoy my company just as much as I enjoy theirs. I miss playing board games and laughing. Going out to dinner with friends and talking about life. Seeing the latest sci-fi/fantasy movie in the theater. Having small get togethers at my place, where I cook for others. I want the life I have always dreamed of but was too afraid to make it happen.

I’m going to embrace the gifts the universe has gave me and fulfill the legacy I was meant to achieve. I will make Dragzilla a success. I hope that she can save others like she did me. I really feel like that is something I was meant to do. I believe in my idea fully and feel it’s something that the world needs to hear. We still live in a world where this a lot of hate, especially towards those who are LGBTQ+. So many queer people don’t have anyone to look up to, many of them children. I know what it’s like to be treated less than because of who you are inside. That kind of trauma eats away at your soul. Growing up I didn’t have many people to look up to. So I turned to Superman and Wonder Woman. I know that Dragzilla has that power as well. Actually I do. A while ago I realized that I was Dragzilla. The stories I was telling were my own. I’m the superhero of my story.

I’m not powerless. I’m powerful. It’s the struggles and hardships that define my character. The trials and tribulations I endure are not flaws, they are strengths. These hardships and experiences have made me into the beautifully fabulous person I am today. My light is shining as bright as ever and I will no longer dim it because of the fears and wishes of others. It’s not helping anyone to be hiding my light. Overcoming homelessness will be just another part of my story. It will be a testament to my strength and resilience. So whatever life brings me I will persevere. I will persist regardless the size or strength the opponent is. I realize now that I can handle anything.

The following quote sums this all up.

Our Deepest Fear
By Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us;
It’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we’re liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

 

The Meeting of the Minds

That’s what I call my nightly visits with my neighbors. When I first moved into this apartment complex I would notice a group of residents sitting by the pool. They were there every night. They were always so friendly. At first it was a little off putting as I’m kind of reserved and shy. I’m from that way of don’t talk to strangers. Plus if I’m in the middle of a depression/PTSD episode then I’m even more inward. It’s not like I’m unsociable. I just get nervous around new groups of people. If the people I love will hurt me, what will strangers do. It’s that sort of thing. Plus when you’re gay you learn to stick towards people like you.

At first I would just say hello and goodbye whenever I went to the pool until one night I had the courage to sit with them. Eventually it would become a nightly thing for me to do. Regardless of how bad of a day I’ve had I know that I have that to look forward to. Lately my depression has started to fight with me and I’ve struggled to get out of the house. In the past it would be common for me to not leave my house for days, even weeks. Lately I’ve had days where I didn’t want to leave the house but I force myself. Today was one of those days. I’ve not been feeling good physically so that just made me want to stay in but I forced myself into the shower and went down there for the meeting.

Saturday I didn’t make it down there. It was the first time in weeks that I didn’t go but I didn’t let that mood keep me down for long as Sunday I was back down there. I even had one of the neighbors ask where I was. So that made me feel good to know that someone cared enough to miss me. It’s so easy (especially with PTSD) to think that everyone is against you, when that’s always been your experience. I’ve been forcing myself out of that comfort zone and it’s become one of my favorite things to do.

Lately I’ve been opening up to them more. I was really nervous to tell them that I was gay and had a disability. As much as I love them, they do have the tendency to gab. They know everything that goes on at the complex down to who lives where . As you start to get to know people better people start to ask you questions like what do you do for work, etc. They had started to do that with me and it made me nervous. Plus they see me all the time and they have to wonder what is my deal. I know they’ve made reference to other people like me who aren’t working. In the back of my head I wonder will they judge me but I’m at the point in my life where I don’t have time to worry about stuff like that.

A few days ago I let a few of the residents know I was gay. It was brief but I had let the cat out of the bag. Tonight I went even further. I had mentioned that I had a bad experience at  Doctor here in town and they started to ask questions. At first I wasn’t going to go into it but I said what the heck and spilled the bins. Then the whole group (about seven of us) started to talk about being gay,etc. No one verbally chastised me or made me feel less. They were supportive and listened. It was really nice. A few of them said that they had gay people in their family too. It was really refreshing to be around a new group of people and be accepted.

I also know that they were going to start putting things together about my disability. I talked on more than one occasion about going to the doctors and knew they were going to ask more questions. The potential rejection for being gay is nothing new and it’s something I’ve become accustomed to. My disablity on the other hand is something I’m ashamed of. I know I shouldn’t but that’s the way I feel. If I had a physical ailment then I’d feel less like people were judging me. A little later they started talking about one of the residents who use to come around all the time and now has stopped and barely talks to anyone. One of the residents talked about how he’s known him for a long time and referenced to him having a mental illness as being odd.

I started to take it personal. It felt like he was calling me odd. I quickly checked those feelings at the door. Then they started to talk about well maybe he has depression to which I chimned in about my experience, that there were times I would isolate myself and didn’t want to be around other people. I even mentioned that I had PTSD. It was really self affirming to stand up for myself and others in my situation. There is so much stigma still about anything related to mental illness. After I started to open up a few other people mentioned that they had taken anti-depressants in the past. I’ve learned that not everyone is out to get you, nor do they mean any harm. Sometimes people just need to be educated and shown a different way.

We talked about everything for about five minutes and then moved onto something. We talk about everything. They ask me how I’m doing and ask me what I did today, to which I replied not much. Our meetings are a great release as we can talk about our day or what’s bothering us. Cats are often a topic of conversation as we have adopted a stray cat named Mazzie. She always comes up and makes the rounds getting attention from each of us. She’s like our mascot. It took her a while to get use to me but now she comes through my legs and lets me pet her. For the longest time she’d sit at the edge of the pool and stare at me forever.

I kind of feel like this is my own Golden Girls. We all care about each other and look out for each other. One of the residents fell recently while walking and sprained her ankle and broke her toe. She’s not been able to come out with us the past few nights. Every Tuesday the complex has coffee and donuts in the morning. This morning one of my neighbors brought her a few donuts. Another neighbor brought her a card with all our names on it. Just like the Golden Girls sometimes we get on each other nerves. Like we have a Rose of the group. I sometimes wonder what they say about me when I’m not there. lol Though if you’re a quiet one they don’t tend to talk about you. I’ve never heard anyone talk about two of the residents who are a couple I think. They remind me of the Odd Couple. They’re a lot like me we talk but it’s not really heated.

If you’re quirky or a spitfire someone is going to have something to say when you’re gone. Like one of the neighbors is really sassy. I love her. Recently we got the pool maintenance guys a thank you card and she drew obscene pictures on it, well obscene for old people. She’s always picking on other people but in a good hearted way. She’s one of my favorites. She’s always so personable and always accessorize fabulously. One of the ladies is the opposite of that. She’s kind of your typical grumpy old woman types. I mean she’s not grumpy per say but occasionally she will be. It doesn’t occur all the time but when she gets going, watch out.

Since meeting with them nightly I know everything that goes on in the community. Today’s topic was the local Kmart closing. It was brought up numerous times today. Also the local buffet place Old Country Buffet closed on Monday unexpectedly. That was also a hot topic. Who needs a newspaper when you have them. Just because most of them are older occasionally they talk about stuff that make me blush like condoms and vibrators. So anything is game for discussion. Many of the residents don’t have family nearby and this is it for them. People get busy with their lives and it’s easy to get left behind. Many of the residents in my group have lived at the complex for a very long time. Like over ten years. I’m the newbie.

So far we’ve had an indian summer. Today was near 80 and that’s rare for Michigan. I know sooner or later the cold weather will arrive. I’m rather dreading winter for many reasons but mainly because our meetings will be sparse. Winter has always been tough for me in terms of my depression. Any type of forced isolation just magnifies my depression and PTSD. So it makes me nervous knowing I won’t have these nightly visits to boost my morale. I think I might check with the office to see if we can have the clubhouse one night a week for our meetings. If I had my own place I’d open up my home to them.

So it’s been really nice to make these friendships. It’s really helped with my depression and PTSD. I’ve had some very tough weeks and these meetings have kept me grounded. Thankfully I have an intake appointment for therapy this week, so that will help. There’s a depression support group that I would like to check out as well. I just need to keep myself busy this summer. I hope to get a YMCA membership soon. That will help fill the void of not being able to swim. Oh how I miss the pool. It’s such torture to sit next to an empty, covered pool. It was a great summer so I really shouldn’t complain. My neighbors also have helped with my transition of moving away from my family, which was very difficult. So I’m thankful for this place and I love being their neighbor.

My neighbors have helped me blossom up again. I’ve become a lot more social and getting outside has helped me to lose weight. I’ve lost over 18 lbs so far. My blood sugar and bp are back to normal levels. My personal grooming has improved dramatically. So I’m on the right track. I just need to find alternatives to help cope with the winter and the loneliness.

 

I’m Unbreakable!

I had a light bulb moment today, rather bright one too. As I was walking home from my appointment this evening I had thought about some of my tough times. Walking for me isn’t easy. I’m 408 pounds (down from at least 425, probably closer to 450) and my knees aren’t in the greatest shape. So anytime I walk it’s rather painful. Often times I have this feeling of that I can’t make it. Feet turn into miles and I get these hallway moments like you see in the movies.

Tonight I pushed through that uncomfortable feeling as I knew I had to walk almost double what I normally do one way. I purposely planned on doing my assessment for therapy and psychiatry services at the end of my appointment to get blood drawn, as I knew I could walk home afterwards. So rather than have the medical transport driver take me home, I had him drop me off at my appointment. Initially I thought about doing on another day, which meant walking there and back. I figured I was less likely to go as the assessment was just a walk in. So having something scheduled would make me complete it. For someone with a mental illness, not having a therapist is problematic. I had struggled to find a place that took my insurance and thankfully my primary care doctor recommended this place.

It wasn’t until after 4pm that I finished the assessment. I hadn’t ate since 10pm last night, so I was starving. So I decided to walk to the Panda Express which I thought was closer than it really was, which made my walk home even longer than I originally anticipated. I will be honest, my first thought was to take the bus home. As I was eating in the nice air conditioned restaurant I saw the bus stop. It was hot out and I really didn’t want to walk home. Well the bus gods were not on my side today, as the last stop had come and gone. So I reluctantly made the truck home. Thankfully I had a soda to keep me refreshed and I just told myself that I would take a lot of breaks. I don’t do very well in the full sun, it drains my energy very quickly. Fat people aren’t meant to be out in the sun, we’re much like vampires.

I normally walk to the local grocery store, well at least the two times I went walking. One way it’s about a half mile if I don’t take any shortcuts and I usually do. Each way I have to take at least two breaks. By the time I’m home I’m usually pretty beat. So going home tonight I had to go twice as far one way. My first thought was take take a bunch of breaks. It helps to make the trip not so daunting but then I saw the time and it was getting close to the time I meet with all my neighbors. We sit around talking about everything. I call it the meeting of the minds. It’s really my highlight of my day. I wake up looking forward to it. I wasn’t going to miss tonight or be late. So I decided that I was going to cut my breaks in half. It was kind of a challenge to see how quickly I could get home. Each stop I barely sat for two minutes and off I went. By the last stop, which was almost 1/4 of the way home, I was exhausted and wanting to quit. That just wasn’t an option for many a reasons. I started to feel defeated again and then I thought about the hard times that I had endured throughout my life.

That’s when the light bulb exploded. Through all the suffering, pain and hard times I was still here. All those moments that I thought I had broken in two were just an illusion. Feeling broken isn’t something new for me but this last time felt definitive. I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to come back from losing my Mom. It was the ultimate defeat. I thought I was broken for good and I mean completely severed in two broken. Even in the toughest time in my life I was still alive and well, then it dawned on me…

I’m UNBREAKABLE!!!

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It was the greatest energy boost I could get. The rest of the way I just booked it home. It felt like I was running a marathon and was on the last leg to the finish line. I was determined to get home in time for the meeting of the minds and I did. As I made it to the lawn on the comlex I collapsed on the ground and just stared up into the blue sky and felt great. I took a deep breath and got up to go inside. The person I was two months ago would have never went downstairs to do some more walking in order to socialize with others both due to physical and mental reasons but today was different. I took another quick break in front of the chair. I got freshened up, grabbed my lawn chair and my water and I was out the door within ten minutes of getting home.

I made it on time too. We usually meet around 6:30 pm and  that’s when I got there. I was the first one. 7 pm rolled by and I was still alone. Then a few minutes later one of the residents came by and sat with me. I was so relieved. I thought I was going to be alone and that made me sad. When I don’t get to have my visits it’s a major bummer. So we sat and for an hour and talked. It was really nice. It feels great to be apart of the community. This complex I live at is unlike any other apartment complex that I’ve lived in before. Once a week on Tuesdays the complex has a coffee and donuts gathering in the community room at 8:30 AM. I’m not a morning person at all so today was the first day I was able to get up in time to make it, which was torture seeing all those donuts and not be able to eat them due to my lab appointment at 2 PM. So I took two of them home. It took all the willpower I had to not eat them. I put them aside and took a quick nap before my appointment.

All I could think about today was getting to have a donut. I wasn’t thinking about not being able to eat until evening when I scheduled my ride for so late in the afternoon. So I was starving. Finally after a long, productive day I was able to eat my donut at 8 PM and it was delicious! This football shaped long john donut felt like the reward from my marathon win and I enjoyed it.

Back to being unbreakable. Yes, I’m long winded, this I know. It was a huge revelation to have. This week hasn’t been very easy, well since Friday. Honestly it’s probably been the toughest few weeks in regards to my mental health since 2005. For a survivor of sexual abuse and one that has PTSD having flashbacks is a very common thing. As common they are each one is just as unsettling and jarring as the last one. Last Friday was the four year anniversary of my Mom’s death. Not thinking about what day it was I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for that day but I didn’t think about it until I was in room waiting for the doctor. Each minute that passed that room began to turn into my Mother’s hospital room. Even the nurses desk reminded me of the nurses station in the ICU unit my Mom was in.

September 9, 2012 was the day a hole was punched through my heart. I spent the last 21 days in her ICU room, rarely did I leave the room. I slept on the small couch in her ICU room, well slept isn’t really what it should be called. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time with a loved one in a hospital room knows what it’s like. Still to this day hearing the beeps from the machines send me panicking. The day she died was the worst day in my life. It was also the scariest and most alone day too. She had a rare form of Cancer and we had to travel to Nashville for anyone to help her, which was over nine hours from home in Michigan.

My Mom had stabilized and things weren’t looking good but we still had hope. My sister had just left to go home for a few days as the kids were starting school. Her stats has improved slightly.  There was no indication that things would go the way they did. She was stable and we held onto hope that she would recover. The next day I was awoken to my Mom being surrounded by Doctors, nurses and medical staff. Her one good lung (and that wasn’t the greatest) had collapsed and they had to put in an emergency tube into her chest to inflate the lung again. I was rushed out of the room not really knowing what was going on. They finally were able to stabilize her and I was relieved.

The next morning at 5AM I was awoken again to her being surrounded. This time things were much worse. Her kidneys were failing. They told me that they were going to put her on dialysis and that if things didn’t improve in four hours that she wasn’t going to make it. Again I was in shock but I held onto hope. Four hours passed and she didn’t improved. There was nothing more that they could do and wasn’t sure how much longer she’d live. Here I was in a foreign city, alone and eight hours away from home and everyone I loved. I never felt so hopeless and alone. I had no one to turn to. No one to help me. Normally my Mother was the person I ran to when I needed help and this time the woman who was always there for me was dying in front of me and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it. I sat behind the nurses station in shock. I felt like I was five years old again. My Mom’s last 21 days of her life she was on a breath machine so she was never awake after she went in for surgery. Never did we think that the words she spoke when she was taken in for her second surgery would be her last but they were. I wish I remember what she said…

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The last moments of her life was probably the most peaceful moment in my life. When she was taken off life support there was no movement or even a gasp. She laid there still as I watched her flatline. It wasn’t like you see in the movies. It felt like I could feel every last heartbeat. It was slow, almost eurythmic. She was gone. I felt so horrible for my sister who didn’t make it back in time before she died. Call it plausible deniability but up until the last hour of her life I still had so much hope. It never dawned on me that she could die from the surgery. I’m the biggest fear of death and I thought it would have come up prior but it didn’t. We anticipated a long road of recovery for my Mom but that wasn’t the case.

The next day we left Nashville but my heart/soul stayed in that hospital room. For over a year I spent every day in that room. I could close my eyes and I would end up back in that room. Even sleeping I would still be in that room. I almost thought I was never going to find a way out but eventually one of the doors was a way out. I was constantly in a flashback. Things got so bad that I had to be hospitalized and that helped me out of that room through therapy and medicine. I’ve worked very hard to stay out of that room and it’s been one of the toughest things for me. PTSD wasn’t something new as I have it with the abuse but this time it almost did me in… but it didn’t. I have spent a good portion of my adult life in and out of the hospital with depression and the PTSD but this time seemed final.

I thought I was broken for good and no amount of tape would put his humpty dumpty back together. I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be fully there for the rest of my life. I had gave up and didn’t want to fight anymore. I didn’t want to die anymore but I didn’t want to live either. So for almost three years I was a zombie. I lived in the land of the inbetweens. This year has been quite different (some by force) as I have this resolve and determination that I haven’t had before. A kind of fuck this shit attitude and I don’t mean the kind that you just don’t care about anything. The kind that you do care so much that you’re not willing to put up with the shit you use to. I’ve done my fair share of settling. I guess that’s what I was, I was settled into the fact that I was going to be half a person for the rest of my life.

Well not anymore. I have this willpower that’s intoxicating. I feel like I have on these boxing gloves that won’t come off. I’m kicking butt and taking names. I’m determined to build a better life for myself. A world with stability built on a solid foundation. So tonight I was reminded of all this. Through so many hard moments I was still alive and well, and still kicking. All this time I thought it had KO’ed me but it didn’t… not even close. I didn’t realize this until tonight as I was hot and tired, feeling like I was going to give up. I thought about my current pain and the pain I’ve endured the past thirty years and it didn’t even measure up to what I’ve went through.

I’ve been kicked down so many times, treated poorly and told I was worthless. For thirty years I’ve listened and took it to heart. I’ve believed everyone who has hurt me especially the ones who were suppose to love and protect me. I thought they didn’t love me because I was lacking something but all this time it was them and not me. These moments, those teardrops were all a reflection of them and who they were as a person. They were the ones who were without.

So Friday was a really tough day. I was stuck in this hospital room in a PTSD bubble. I was in full trigger mode. I could feel myself floating out of the room. I wanted to run as fast I could but I had the strength of mind to know that I needed to stay there in order to get the help I needed. So I pushed through. I was put through even more obstacles with the new doctor as he didn’t have the greatest bedside manner. I was already out of the room by that moment and I could feel myself go further away. I started to do some grounding exercises. I started to tap my leg repeatedly so fast it felt like I was in the middle of Kentucky Derby. Thankfully the student doctor was a woman and was very kind. She helped me gain exposure. I was in the middle of a major panic attack, probably the worst one in ten years. Panic attacks weren’t something new to me, as I have had them throughout different times in my life. Though up until a few months ago I hadn’t had one in a very long time. That was part of the reason I was there to see the doctor was for my anxiety. I had started to flashback about everything and I mean everything. Every bad moment in my life was being played back like I was in a movie theatre full of people.

Not only did I push through, I stood up for myself… which hasn’t always been my strong suit. I will take care and advocate fiercely for other people but my own. The Doctor was dangerously uninformed with the LGBTQ community and HIV/AIDS. He had referred to being negative as being clean… which is a huge NO NO as it’s deeply degrading. You get clean in a shower, not when you’re negative. I let him have it and I even wrote a complaint on the organization’s website. He was also very uninformed with the drug PrEP. It’s sad when the patient knows more about something than the doctor. I had also been fasting as I was hoping to get a glucose test completed because I’m prediabetic. My appointment was at 2:30pm and the doctor didn’t even get in my room until 4pm. So I had waited almost an hour in that room, in a panic attack and deep in a PTSD cycle. It was tough but I did. They kept me waiting so long that I missed the lab hours by thirty minutes as I didn’t get out until after 5pm. So I had fasted for nothing. I was triggered, angry and starving but I didn’t let it defeat me. I just pushed on and did what I had to do. That’s what I’ve always done. I might not be good at many things but I’m an expert at surviving.

Usually when I have a PTSD episode it can take me a week to come out of it but that night I was outside sitting with the residents like nothing had happen. That was new for me and it felt great. I still wasn’t close to 100% but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from enjoying my nightly visits with the round table, that’s what I call it. While I was aware of a lot that day it didn’t dawn on me that I was still full in the PTSD cycle. When I’m triggered friends and family become strangers, and strangers become enemies. Nothing and no one is safe. It’s like living in a war zone. It’s a horrible place to be. I have had episodes where I have hid underneath my desk at work, or barricaded my door.

Writing for me has always been a great release. It’s like journaling for me. Often times I don’t have anyone to talk to, so blogging helps with that. Therapy is the one time I have to talk and I don’t have that right now. Hopefully that will change soon as I did the assessment today and have the intake on Thursday. As I had said previously lately I’ve been having flashbacks about everything including the sexual abuse. The last ten years the sexual abuse hasn’t been on the forefront of my problems. I knew the pain was still there but it didn’t cause me a lot of problems, well at least not indirectly or at least I thought. Recently I’ve realized that monster has always been there, it was the puppet master directing me all this time. For the past ten years I didn’t want to talk about the abuse in detail. I could tell people it happened but I couldn’t go into detail it was just too hard. My latest therapist I saw her for one and half years and I never went into detail with her. Trust is huge when dealing with sexual abuse and that takes a long while.

Here’s the thing about trauma and pain, no matter how hard you try to hide it eventually the pain will seep through the cracks. My latest living situation reminded me of some bad times in my life, the early years. So it has triggered the sexual abuse, the mental abuse from my father and the loss of my Mom, and everything hurt in between. As I was writing my last post I began to open the gate and I was flooded by emotion. It felt like I was drowning.

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Very quickly my room turned into the room where I was molested. I was transported back to that time, very much like the other world in Stranger Things except the monster was my cousin. There was no escaping him and when I returned home just like Will I was never the same. So at 5am Monday morning I was back at that cabin on Long Lake in Michigan in the year 1986. I relived every scary, dirty moment. I mean everything. It was like it was happening for the first time. I reached out and could touch the walls. The other times I’ve been so triggered it ended with me being hospitalized. I was almost there but again I pushed through. The next day I felt horrible I didn’t end up getting to bed until noon but I made sure to wake up for my nightly visits with my neighbors. Again I pushed through the pain. It was tough to push through and remind myself that these people weren’t strangers, out to hurt me but I did it!

In the past, after a major PTSD episode I withdraw from everything and everyone. There have been times that I haven’t left the house for weeks. Everything goes downhill. I stop caring about anything including my personal grooming habits. I become more depressed until it gets so severe it snaps me out of it. That’s the worse thing about PTSD often times you don’t realize you’ve been triggered until weeks later. The last bad episode in May of 2013 I was in the middle of a month long trigger and I almost killed myself but yesterday was different. The past two months no matter what’s been thrown at me I’ve dodged every attack and jumped every hurdle. The more that’s thrown at me the stronger and more willful I become.

Tonight I was able to look back at the past four days and see all the strength in between all the bad moments. It’s never been not being strong enough. It’s always been not realizing how strong I really am. Looking back I just saw how strong I always was. I wasn’t the shadow, I was the tree… strong rooted in the earth and fuck anyone who tries to tell me otherwise. I don’t believe them anymore. Thirty years of deep suffering and pain, and I’m stronger than ever! It’s taken thirty years to discover that I’m UNBREAKABLE!!! So watch out world, I’m coming for you.

I will do what I’ve always done, get shit done. So if you try to stand in my way I’m just going to jump right over you. Obstacles don’t have a hold of me anymore. It’s not to say that tomorrow isn’t going to be easy because I know that healing takes a lot of hard work. Setbacks are normal and expected but the key is to get back up. It doesn’t matter how many times you do it, just as long as you keep doing it you will be golden. It would be nice if I could say tomorrow won’t be as hard as the last but I know that’s not how life works. I have to open back the wounds and heal some more. To get to where you need to go sometimes you have to travel back through the place that scares you the most. I think it’s important to remember that no matter what you endure in the future you’ll never be back to that moment in time. It might feel like you’re stuck in the past but really that’s just a lie. Nothing can hurt me any more deeply than losing my Mom and the abuse did. The flashbacks are bound to happen again and it might be just as severe if not more but I now realize that I have the tools to fight them. I have my sword and shield to battle all the demons. Plus I have my Mom who is now my guardian angel.

So the moral of the story is we’re much stronger than we realize. We wouldn’t have gotten this far if we weren’t. Surviving is the hardest thing in this world to do and once you’ve done enough of it you become a warrior. We are warriors. I’m ready for wherever the universe wants to take me and I will do whatever I have to in order to be happy. Everyone deserves that.

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There’s No Escaping This Day: Four Years of Grief

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You think after so long of grieving one would become an expert but sadly it doesn’t ever work that way. There never becomes a point in the process where you say to yourself this is over, now I can move on. The shift is gradual but there’s never a defining moment, and it never goes away. Life get’s easier but you can never put yourself back together the way it was before the loved one died.

It’s been four years since my Mom died and it still feels like it just happened. Lately I’ve been catching myself wanting to call her. I have these moments of I should call Mom and tell her about this… then when it dawns on me that I can’t I get to relive the grief all over. I’m dreading the 9th, that’s the day she died. I know that day exists but my heart can suffer anymore. It about killed me.

As hard as I try there’s no way of escaping the 9th. I honestly wish I could just sleep the whole day away but that’s not reality. I’ve gotten to the stage of grief that I don’t want to be reminded of the grief. I went through a long period where that’s all I wanted to talk about but now it’s just too painful to relive it all. There was even a time where just seeing her picture caused me a great amount of pain. Thankfully that’s mostly passed.

You cope with loss the best way YOU can. There is no roadmap and everyone does it differently. There is no timetable or schedule to follow. Take as long as you need to heal. I’m at year four and it’s still really difficult for me. The first two years were the most difficult. Those were times I constantly felt like the air was escaping my world. Every day was a danger will robinson moment. I wasn’t sure I was ever going to escape it but I did and you will too.

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I sometimes get caught up in the why’s. The other night I was swimming alone and feeling so lonely. I just looked up in the clear blue sky and asked why… to both my Mom and God… No one answered back. Though if someone did I think that would really scare the living daylights out of me. The why’s are natural, they’re all part of the process. You try to bargain with the loss, you’ll even argue with it. You might even scream and yell at the person or even god. I know I’ve screamed, well not at my Mom but just in general. Though I’ve gotten angry at her. Then I realize that I’m being selfish.

If my Mom were to have survived the surgery she would have been miserable and I would never want that for her. She gave so much in her lifetime it was her time for peace. She earned it.

I still struggle with the whole process and I still don’t have a firm grasp of the afterlife. I just hope that I get to see her one day. Earlier (again while in the pool. it’s where I do all my thinking.) I had this thought that I might not ever see her again and thought to myself that would suck. A few years ago that thought would have sent me spiralling out of control. I guess I’ve come to terms with the possibility. I don’t have anything figured out with this world. I barely can control my own emotions, thoughts and behaviors let alone think about the answers to all the worldly questions. All I can do is hope. I’m not sure what that will mean, while we be friends in the next life? siblings? I don’t know… I really hope she’s my Mom again. I can’t imagine a world where she isn’t my Mom.

I look in the world and I see a lot of grieving. As you get older it unfortunately becomes part of the process. Now that Facebook has connected us all it’s much easier to find the grief. It breaks my heart, especially when I see it’s a new loss. To think that someone else is hurting just as much as I did or more, feels unbearable. I would do anything to take away their pain. Sadly loss is the type of pain that you can’t fix. It’s not a cold or a broken bone. Grief is this whole that’s been carved out of your heart and no amount of patching will cover it.

The 9th reminds me of all that. For someone with PTSD getting away from the event that caused you such pain is a very troublesome and tough task. Every door you open leads you back to that room. You constantly feel like the floor is going to collapse underneath you. You relive each moment like you’re watching a movie on the big screen. For the first year I couldn’t leave the hospital room where my Mom died. Everything reminded me of that day. Even closing my eyes didn’t give me any peace as it didn’t take me to a different place. Closing my eyes was just like opening a door back into that room.

I wish I had some great advice to give about how to overcome grief, especially PTSD but all I can do is give my perspective. Many people won’t understand you or what you’re enduring. Try not to listen to or believe them. They’re not you and they don’t live in your shoes. I’ve heard that the amount of pain/grief that you feel for the loss of a person is equal to the amount you suffer. Well I loved my Mom very deeply and I suffered more than I ever have.

I just kept opening doors. There were times I was so exhausted that I could only peek through a window. I think the key is repetition. Never give up. Go at a snail’s pace if you have to, that’s still moving forward. You know your progress, no one else does. Many times I would have to remind myself that I was no longer in that room. I had to do that the other day. It’s four years and I still am having to do that. It sucks, I won’t lie but you gotta do what you need to do to survive.

Sometimes surviving is all you can do. Surviving is much like grief. There is no roadmaps, nor are there levels of experience. It’s not like a videogame where you level up and hit your max. If only it were that easy but life isn’t. I’ve survived for the past four years. I have jumped hurdles and I’ve hide in caves. I’ve done it all. There were days so dark that I couldn’t even feel my way out of it.

I did most of the grieving all on my own. I use to think that was a negative but thankfully these days I see that as a strength. I was single (still am) and had no one to turn to. I had very few people to talk to and the ones I did weren’t able to give me what I needed. So I went inward and shut myself off to the world. I thought to myself I can never be hurt like this again so to protect myself I shut everything out and I mean everything.

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I’ve always let other people reach my heart and it’s affected me deeply. My Mom dying was the final blow. I lost the one person who loved me for who I was one and even my relationship with her was flawed at times but through it all she was always there. She was the person I turned to when I felt most lost and scared. So during the most difficult time in my life I had no one to reach out to. The calls stopped and the people offering support went on to their busy lives. I mean that’s to be expected it’s apart of life. Grief pauses your world but the rest of the world keeps turning. It’s really hard to adjust to that. You just want to scream bloody murder until someone hears you but no matter how hard you try they keep moving past you.

I have always taken things too personal and I’ve never been able to figure out why. At a very early age my feelings, want and wishes were given away not by my choosing. I’ve spent a lifetime trying to overcome this and I’m not even close to figuring it out. While I still things personal there is one thing that’s changed. I finally give a fuck enough about myself that I can say hey that’s fucked up. I’ve tolerated less for too long. Finally I’m at the point in my life where I can say that. I know I deserve better. I might feel like I’m unloveable but that doesn’t make that true.

I’m getting a little off point but what I’m trying to say don’t take it personal if the people in your life can’t give you what you need. It has nothing to do with you and all to do with where they’re at. That doesn’t make the bad always it’s just a reality of life. I learned a long time ago when I started to get help for the sexual abuse and the depression that some people can’t handle other people’s pain and suffering. When I was first hospitalized for suicidal thoughts and depression I saw good friends disappear. People get uncomfortable and don’t know what to say. So they distance themselves not even realizing it.

You might not know what to say always but sometimes just saying hey that sucks can do a world of good. Everyone knows what heartbreak is like in some way or another. It’s basically rejection. Death is the ultimate rejection. While not everyone has had their heartbroken with love, most have faced rejection in their professional life or even with friends. So you might not know what it’s like to lose a parent but that doesn’t mean you have to know the answers. No one who grieves ever expects anyone to fix the problem. No solution or math equation will fix this problem.

If someone you love and care for is in pain reach out to them. Not everyone has the strength to reach out for support. I know I didn’t. With grief it’s so easy to get caught up in the fear, especially if you’ve lived your life that way. Push through your uncomfortableness. You could make a difference in that person’s life by just saying something as simple as I’m thinking about you. Empathizing doesn’t cost anything nor does it take any effort or skill. Sadly not everyone knows they have that tool in their toolbox.

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Do whatever necessary to ask for help. If you have to scream it upon the rooftop, do it! It might scare some people but if it gets you the help you need then it did the trick. Three years ago I was there in so much pain that it became unbearable. When pain gets so unmanageable with no release in sight, you become desperate for a solution. In many cases that means suicide. I don’t think I ever wanted to die I just wanted the pain to end. I think that’s a very common and dangerous misconception about anyone who goes down that road. Often times they’re seen as weak. I know when I had my breakdown there were some who judged me, especially the fact that I went so public with my help.

In April of 2013, six months after my Mom had passed, I tried to kill myself. Thankfully during my desperation I posted a suicide note on facebook which prompted a friend I met during my Mom died to call me. My dear friend talked me off the ledge and I got the help I needed. Yes it scared a lot of people and I wished I had the strength to do things differently but in the end it kept me alive. Who would want to take that away from someone over the fear of having something be so public. It’s the keeping things hidden and a secret that does more damage than good. Society needs to talk about the difficult stuff including suicide.

My depression and PTSD spiralled out of control and I was floating into outer space. I needed something to hold onto but as hard I fought I continued to spiral further out into the black abysses. I was trying to do everything alone and I was failing miserably. Everything was upside down. Therapy and medicine has helped me turn things backside up. I’ve even ventured out of the basement into a new place. Life still isn’t easy by any means and I’m still having to overcome obstacles but I see now that I have always had this strength.

I’ve always found it funny when someone says you’re stronger than you think. I think it’s funny because for me that’s never been the question of my strength. Obviously if we weren’t strong we wouldn’t have been to endure the pain but you just get tired of jumping hurdles. Even the greatest sprinters and hurdlers get tired every once in awhile. Relief is really all that’s needed. Just keep working at it. It might not be as quick as some might would like you to move but as long as you see progress that’s all that matters.

Sometimes you just have to admit when life sucks and sometimes it really does. The key is not to get caught up in that. I have and it’s not easy to dig yourself out of that hole. After all I’ve endured I’m still here. There’s great strength in that, knowing something didn’t kill you. No matter how long you rest just get back up. That’s what matters. Keep weathering the storm. The scars don’t weigh you down they become apart of your armor. Think of it like rain gear to help you battle future storms. The change in my life has brought new hurdles for me to jump and my scars are helping me get through it. I’m determined to build a happy life for myself built on a solid foundation this time. A home that is my own and no others. A place that I can do or say whatever I want and no one can say a word to me.

Independence and stability are often times taken for granted. For someone with a mental illness they become a lifeline. I’m done with the bottom always falling out from under me. I’m tired of suffering. I’m tired of hurting. So I will keep on fighting until I get what I deserve and can live my life the way I want… and the way Mama always wanted for me.

I hope I can make her proud and honor her legacy, while creating one of my own. So if you’re dealing with grief hang in there. Sometimes you’ve just have to hold on and ride out the storm. I can do this and so can you!

I Love you Mama. Huggs

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There Is No Expiration On Dreams!

I had a thought the other night, that my life hadn’t worked out the way I had expected it to. Then I thought about my Mom and how she must have felt the same way when her marriage of over 30 years ended… and her two kids (who she loved with all her heart) grew up and move away… There is this great sense of loss from the realization that you’re life isn’t anywhere near the way you had envisioned it to be so many years ago.

I just turned 40 this year and I’m having to start all over again. Very much like my Mom had to do when my father left her for the last time. Here she was in her early 5o’s having to face a scary world alone. Independance is frightening and not always comforting. Though my Mom finally had her freedom it came with a price. Being alone for someone who is codependent can be a very unsafe place. She gave her life up for her husband and kids. It wasn’t until recently that I understood the loss she felt when my sister and I left.

It heartbreaks me to know the pain she felt in the last ten years of her life. I would do anything I could to change things. My Mom had to fight for everything she had, against all odds. She could have given up but she didn’t. Living on her own was often times difficult both physically and emotionally. She suffered plenty and I will always regret not being able to make her life less painful.

My life also hasn’t been easy. I fight every single day. I fight the tears. I fight the demons. I look back at the last twenty years and I wonder where did that time go. For most of that time I’ve lived in fear. Fear has crippled me. It has stunted my growth. I’m trying very hard to overcome it all. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt so alone. Everything is scary.

I never thought I would end up this way barely able to take care of myself, with very little to my name . I don’t know who I want to be anymore or where I want to go but all’s not lost. I have hope and I’m determined to change my life for the better. I can’t keep living my life this way.

So I’m doing what I have to survive. There is one thing good thing that the sexual abuse has taught me and that’s how to survive in the darkest of environment. The abuse and the pain turned me into a Navy Seal. My Mom was exactly the same way.

While I might not know who I want to be there is one thing that I do know. Is that I want to be happy and I deserve to be. I’ve just have to keep on trucking through that muck. It’s not easy but it’s something I must do. I’m determined to get my freedom back no matter how hard and long I have to fight. Life is too short to settle and stay hidden.

So while I grieve over the person who I wished I had became. I will honor the person I grew up to be. I’ve always been on the same path I just took a few scenic routes to get to my destination. I still can be that person I’ve always wanted to be. I mean I already am. I’m strong and fearless. I’m an artist and I’m spiritual. I’m not perfect but my heart is pure. I must remind myself that you never get to a point in your life where you can’t get what you’ve always dreamed of. No matter how old you are there’s never a point where it’s too late. Our dreams don’t have expirations. That is something I need to remember during the days when I’m tired and feel like turning back. Going backwards won’t make my dreams come true but hard work and determination will.

So I’m starting down a new path. A place where I will build my foundation one pebble at a time. A foundation built on love, hope and dreams.

Depression Stigmata

I wish… that depression didn’t have such a stigma attached to it. I wish people wouldn’t question my symptoms because they can’t be seen like other illnesses. I wish I didn’t have depression but I do.

It’s easy to get trapped in thinking that you don’t deserve anything good especially kindness. Depression grabs ahold of you like cheetah to an antelope and it won’t let go until it’s gotten the kill.

Many times in my life I’ve felt weak, more times than not. Recently I was faced with something very difficult and the depression flood gates were opened wide up. The waves could have taken me under and washed me into sea but I stood still.

It’s not been easy. In a few days time I was transported to three years ago when I stuck in Nashville faced with the death of my sweet Mama. No matter how far I run I can’t see to get away from those two days. With the snap of my fingers I’m instantly transported back to that scary place. Where I’m alone and scared.

Even today I feel alone and scared but I refuse to give into the pain. I might end up homeless and alone but at least I’m still standing. No matter what is thrown my way I will survive it.

When you’ve faced depression head on for so many years you begin to rack up the scars. Look at them one by one and all you can see is the pain but if you’re able to look at them from afar you realize they’ve turned into armor.

The future is unknown. Even tomorrow is unknown. What I do know is that I deserve kindness. I deserve to be happy. We all do. I am not my depression. I’m so much more than that. So if you know someone struggling and you’re unsure how to handle the situation just show them kindness. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems but a little kindness goes a long ways.