The Snowball Effect of Self Care

Everyone has negative thoughts. I would imagine it’s a pretty common occurrence for many. Sometimes the negative thought or feeling is small. A floating thought like I can’t do this. It comes and goes. Often time that thought turns into a feeling followed by beliefs we have about ourselves. For me, sometimes the negative thought or feeling can be easily dealt with right away. I am able to use my positive self talk to wash away the doubt and bad feelings. The deeper the negativity (or pain) the harder that becomes. The biggest question is how do you stop the negative from snowballing. What starts out as a snowflake turns into an avalanche. There are times the process may seem quick but if I look deeper there are usually factors that are not obvious. I have realized that my self care is at the root of the snowball. I have never taken care of myself. I bend over backwards for other people which leaves me with very little and these days nothing. I’m completely out of orbit and any amount of turbulence sends me flying into the sun. The more self care and love I practice the better I feel. It’s all connected.

This is what I worked on in therapy today. Spiraling out of control and how to manage the snowball so that it doesn’t turn into an avalanche. What I struggle with most is that it’s not always a negative thought, it’s a feeling. A lot of time my thoughts are so buried deep that I don’t experience them until it turns into a feeling. These moments can be triggered by anything, including a positive interaction. It’s much easier to push away a random thought, than a feeling. This is difficult because you don’t always know what the trigger was. That’s been my experience in the past. I have gotten better with identifying the problem but that’s rarely.

One aspect of the snowball effect is that it goes both ways. Positivity can also snowball but the effects are more therapeutic, unless you go into mania. As quick as the negative snowball can spiral the positive snowball rolls much slower, at a snail’s pace it seems. I get so easily discouraged because I’m desperate for relief. For most of my life I have been a zombie, asleep at a wheel. So the chaos of my life hasn’t bothered me as much it does today. I was okay living in a constant blizzard. I got used to the fridgedness and snow. Now that I’m awake and aware I realize it’s much worse. It’s an avalanche. I just want to cut out the depression and pain out of my life but sadly it doesn’t work that way. Medicine and therapy can only go so far. The reality is that I will have to deal with the ups and downs for the rest of my life.

The key to happiness will be in how I prepare for the winter. That is one consistent part of my life. The storm!!!! I won’t be able to get rid of the storm entirely but if I continue to practice self love those storms won’t be as frequent or severe. Instead of tornadoes they will be your typical thunderstorms. Occasionally that storm can become severe. I am learning that if I have a protocol in cause of an emergency I will handle the event better. For example, having a safety place in place. Knowing the options when you have to take shelter from the storm instead of running around like a chicken with your head cut off in the middle of a tornado. I’m tired of seeing cows orbit me. The witch needs to stay home.

The positive and negative snowball are both connected. The less I take care of myself the easier for the negative snowball to take form. One way that happens for me is my apartment and how clean/dirty it is. One hurdle leads to another. One example is my kitchen. When I’m really depressed I don’t feel like making anything to eat. I go into scavenger hunt, like I’m a mouse on the run. I will eat anything that’s right in front of me, which usually means eating cold soup. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! If the storm has hit my kitchen I’m less likely to step foot into my kitchen as I become a pig wallowing in the mud, at least that’s what it feels like. Being aware my negativity takes form physically. I can see it clearly now and it’s not pretty. It’s the most uncomfortable and annoying feeling ever.

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When my kitchen is clean-ish I’m more likely to make something substantial. Like a microwave dish. If I have energy I might even cook. Which is a complete treat for me because I usually always eat frozen or canned food. Again, yuck! My eating habits also come into play with the snowballing. Eating canned soup isn’t fulfilling. It doesn’t make you feel good, it’s just gross. Now that I have identified that there are influencers to the snowball I can start to investigate better, that’s progress right there.

This is what I have learned about my kitchen research. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink is a snowball. The more dishes I pill on the bigger that snowball becomes. Eventually the mess with spill out onto the counter and before I know it I have a mini blizzard in my living room. When it gets this severe I don’t even like walking by my kitchen. Nobody wants to look at a disaster zone. So what can I do:

  1. When I use dishes clean them right away. Don’t leave them in the sink. This can be tough when making a big meal. Often times after I cook a big meal I don’t feel like cleaning. It takes all my energy out of me. One thing that helps me is to minimize the use of kitchen utensils. My crockpot is one example. All I need to do is throw in the ingredients and let them sit for hours. When it’s done all I have to clean up is the crock pot thingy and the dish I used to store leftovers in.
  2. Whenever you buy meat, clean it right when you get home. Prepare it however you normally would and freeze them individually. I buy chicken in the family packs because it’s considerably cheaper. If I leave it in the fridge it will sit in there and I will forget about it. There is nothing more upsetting than expensive food going back. I can only afford so much meat a month. Lately when I get home. I clean and cut the meat right away. I will go as far as cut up the chicken into small pieces. I use to just freeze the whole package but that doesn’t help me down the road when I have no energy. So I seperate the chicken by meals. So when I want to make a dish all I need to do is unthaw the meat and I’m done. All I need to do is throw away the plastic bag. This can be done with any meat, especially hamburger. If you can afford it, you can even by meat that’s already prepared.
  3. Buy paper plates, bowls and plastic silverware. This will reduce the dirty dishes big time. Yeah, I know the major downfall is environmental but you can’t fix everything at once. This is just temporary until you can function better. Now I’m more likely to make food and it’s much easier to clean up. I have also learned how quickly the mess and clutter starts to pile up. Now when the dirty dishes pile up (and they do) I can just toss them in a trash bag.
  4. Trash bags are your friends. I keep a makeshift trash can using an old vacuum box. I keep that in my living room. So when I don’t have much energy to clean I can quickly toss everything in the trash.
  5. I have made a makeshift shower seat using a plastic shower curtain and a folding like chair. Taking a shower takes a lot of my energy and I’m lucky if I wash more than once a week. A big struggle with my energy is my weight. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 360 pounds. Now that I have made it easier to get clean I’m more likely to use my shower. I keep a cup in there and can take my time. Be careful with your shower curtain. Make sure that water doesn’t leak out from it onto the floor. You will have a flooded bathroom if you use the shower head. If I’m not as winded coming out of the shower I’m more likely to brush my teeth and style my hair. Monday was one of those days. I took a long hot shower and got really clean. This gave me the energy to brush my teeth, blow dry and style my hair, and shave with a razor. I had a full beard too. I would never had done that if I didn’t have the seat. Practicing self care led to one positive step to another. The better I feel about myself the less depressed I become. Not taking care of my chores and personal grooming only increases my depression. I’m learning it can trigger me as well. I can feel decent and look at my mess. I will want to clean it up and feel overwhelmed. My feel good mood can quickly turn sour just by looking at my mess or feeling dirty. Eventually the mess gets so severe I have to do something about it. Whenever I do a deep clean I always feel better and the results are pretty dramatic.
  6. Managing my medicine times (which improves my sleep schedule) is one way I can manage my depression. I have started to set reminders on my phone to take my medicine at set times. My sleep schedule is all over the place, which means inconsistent medicine times which will make my depression worse. No matter what I make sure to take my meds. If I’m sleeping I take the meds and go back to bed. If I’m awake and don’t want to sleep, I take my night time meds…. which include meds that help me to sleep. Eventually the meds will kick in, helping me stay on a schedule. If I go to sleep anytime after 6am more than likely my mood will be affected. I hate waking up in the evening. Having an off sleep schedule also affects my mood. The early I can get to bed the better. So for me, it’s by 4am. I usually sleep 12 hours so that would mean waking up at 4pm. While that’s probably crazy sleeping hours for most it works for me. I have never been a morning person. I’ve set my alarm for 3 am/pm. At night by 5am I start to get sleepy. In the afternoon by 3pm I’m more awake and more likely to stay up when I’m awoken by the alarm. See how one thing leads to another positive change. There is freedom in knowing that the pendulum turns both ways.
  7. Another medicine related self care step is having your medicine put in pill packs. If you are like me you take a lot of meds and at different times. This can lead to missed doses by either forgetting or not feeling like getting each pill out the bottles. Now my pills are separated by time of day. I also have my medicine delivered so that I don’t forget to get my medicine refilled. At my old pharmacy if my depression was really bad I wouldn’t go to get my prescription. If I miss one day of psych meds the mood decreases pretty dramatically. They will also follow up with my doctors if I don’t have a refill or with me if I need to go in to see the doctor. Now I rarely miss a dose.
  8. Being proactive with anything related to scheduling and keeping appointments. I make sure to enter an appointment right away into my google calendar and I set numerous reminders so I don’t forget. If it’s an appointment to for med refills it’s extremely important to make those appointments. One pebble leads to another until my vase is full of stones and I can’t get out.
  9. Transportation is one barrier for me. I don’t have a car and often times my depression keeps me from taking the city bus. Especially if my anxiety is high. Going to various medical appointments becomes problematic because there are a lot of steps. One that has helped me big time is having a caseworker. I know this might not be possible for many but it wouldn’t hurt checking with your mental health department for your county to seeing if you qualify for one. Even if you can’t or don’t want one there are steps that can be taken to make going to appointments easier. Asking a friend to take you is one way. In the past I would cancel appointments because I wouldn’t leave the house. If I have someone come to my apartment complex I will definitely go. It helps to keep me accountable. Some areas even have local buses that are curbside. I know my city does but it doesn’t go outside my city and all my appointments are in Lansing, which is the bigger city near me. My city bus company offers service to people with disabilities too that go outside of the city but the requirements are a lot more difficult to get approved but if you can get a doctor to fill it out and get approved then that will be one barrier lifted for you. I’m looking into it for myself but I would be limited because it’s $5 round trip. So I couldn’t afford it always. Having multiple options is always a good thing. Planning also helps me take the city bus. Knowing when the bus times are and coordinating my trip around those times will make me more likely to use the bus. Limiting my time on city buses will alleviate the anxiety and make my trips less stressful.
  10. Making grocery shopping easier. Going to the grocery store is one source of anxiety for me. It can be very overwhelming to me, which leads to me not going. If I don’t have food I like and can make easily, then I will go hungry and the snowball is formed. I try to make lists now and keep my visits as brief as I can. In the past, I would only go to the grocery store once or twice a month. Which makes for a lot of work. Only limiting myself to so many items helps to decrease my anxiety. I don’t worry about spending so much money, nor does it take me that long to check out. In addition, when I get home it doesn’t take a lot of energy to put away everything. I also keep a list. This will keep me on track. A lot of time is spent not knowing what to get or ever spending, then getting overwhelmed because I have too much. See how quickly that snowball forms. Having a list also decreases the time you spend in the grocery store. This is really helpful if you don’t like crowds. If I want to get some larger items that I can’t carry from the bus stop I can either take my local bus or use the shopping bus that my complex has once a week. Even then I still only make small lists. I’m trying to increase my fiber so getting gallons of water are heavy. Another source of stress is bagging my own groceries now that most places have mostly self check out. I get so stressed out because I feel like I have to rush or people will get angry. So I kill myself to get out of there quickly. Now my grocery store has shop and scan. Now I use my smart phone to scan and bag items one at a time. This helps me keep on budget too. If I spend too much I can easily remove something rather than have a worker manually void it at the register. I can take my time and am not rushed. Which makes a huge difference. If I can’t do this then I will use a lane with a cashier. My embarrassment for using food stamps only gets in the way in terms of my depression. Another tip to making get groceries easier is getting reusable grocery bags. Not only is it environmentally good but you can also carry more. They are sturdy and won’t spill. There is nothing worse than groceries gushing out of a broken bag.

So these are the steps I’m taking to manage the snow in my life. The better I take care of myself, the less depressed I feel or at the very least if I get triggered it will lesson the severity of the episode. Now these steps might not all work for you and that’s okay. It’s a trial and error process. Do what works for you. It’s taken me over twenty years to have the experience and know how to not only come up with this list but follow through on the steps. It’s so easy to only see what you’re not doing or feel the affects from the inaction. A lot of times it only takes a crumble of doubt to cover up a mountain of good. In the past six months I have come a long ways. I have fallen into the trap of not being able to seperate the good from the bad. Now I’m able to see my successes. One is that I have been in therapy since 2013 and rarely do I miss an appointment. I have never stuck out therapy. The only other time was when I lived in Chicago. I was in therapy for a year and a half, until I self destructed and ran away from my problems. I haven’t done that this time. This last year I have not wanted to go to therapy at all both due to physically leaving my apartment and not wanting to talk about my pain. I pushed myself to go every single time. I only was able to do that because I put a plan into place. Like having a regular scheduled appointment and having a ride each week take me there.

The hardest part of healing for me is not giving myself such a hard time. Being so critical just get’s in my way. So I look at this current PTSD episode (that I have been since Jul of last year) as a do what I have to do, when I have to do it. Meaning I allow for imperfections. I expect change to happen overnight. Again the positive snowball starts off with one snowflake at a time. I have so much in my life that I need to work on. Focusing on the big picture only leads to me giving up. So breaking that up in small segments will help me living a more healthy and happy lifestyle. Now I try to not beat myself up when I drink a lot of pepsi or let my kitchen get messy. Pepsi is one prime example. Honestly I don’t need to be drinking Pepsi because of my weight but it’s a big crutch for me. I have so much else going on that I have to work on that I have allowed myself to have pepsi when I want to. I still push myself but I no longer try to stop drinking pepsi. I think what good is not drinking pepsi if I push my mental health the point of ending my life. I have such a perfect idea of what my life should be, usually based off what society says I need to be. Right now my apartment is pretty messy, outside my kitchen and that’s okay. The one good thing lately is that the clutter is starting to get on my nerves. So I can only avoid it so long before it makes me mad. Just working at one step at a time has helped me dramatically during this PTSD episode. Like I said it’s all connected.

The more I work on self care/love, the more relief I get from depression. I just need to practice it to make permanent. Well those are my thoughts for the night. Does anyone else have some mental health life hacks that help manage their depression, anxiety, etc. I always love hearing new ideas. I get amnesia with the obvious stuff. So let me know what tips you have.

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Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Tonight I went to see my nephew play basketball. He was just moved up to Varsity. I hadn’t got a chance to see him play this year and it was important for me to see a game. My nephew goes to the same high school as I did. Dansville is a rural community that is so small it’s a village. While the big city has become more liberal many small towns haven’t changed. My niece is in High School too and she’s told me stories of how some of the students are towards anyone who is different. So nothing has changed since I went there in the early 90’s.

So you can imagine my nervousness in going back there as my tranself. Everyone there knows the old me, the fake me. While I haven’t started to transition much I have long hair and I usually wear it up in a headband. So it’s easy to notice a change. I almost thought about not going in the fear of being triggered and spiralling out of control in January but I pushed myself. I woke up and I didn’t want to leave the apartment, which isn’t fun to go through. I kept putting off getting ready, which leads to more anxiety because then I’m rushed. I have learned to leave a lot of extra time so I’m not pressured. Thankfully I didn’t procrastinate too long. One of the biggest diphorias that I have is my beard. Usually I don’t have the energy because of depression to really do anything about it. I struggle with basic grooming like brushing your teeth, let alone shaving.

I was going to just blend in, out of fears of embarrassing my family (which is totally me, they are great about it) and fear of being called out. So far I have been a wallflower both by necessity and choice. With not shaving my beards I will definitely get looks if I dress more feminine. Plus I don’t have any clothing other than sweats and tshirts. So I’m rather limited. I started to go down that road and I stopped myself. No, I’m going to be. So I went to my mirror and used my hair clippers to shave off my beard. Usually that’s what I do. I don’t shave I just shave the facial hair off and leave stubble. Not today. I took a shower and afterwards I shaved my face. It felt so great. I can’t wait to get to the point with my depression that I can shave more often. It’s definitely going to be a challenge. I hope as I further transition I will start to feel better about myself and will want to shave, and be motivated to do so. This May, I will start on hormones so that will be a big change for me. So I’m both excited and nervous about this new journey. I wish the hormones got rid of my facial hair but it only thins it out. Most trans women use either laser or electrolysis. Right now I can’t afford it. Plus I’m a big chicken. So shaving is my only option.

Like I said usually I just put my hair up in my head band and I don’t style my hair. I have been attempting to style my hair, which has been a challenge because I have really frizzy hair. I recently got some tips from my therapist and I used them with my hair dryer. After I was done I actually loved it, which is rare for me to like something exterior. As I looked into the mirror I was happy with what I saw, which never happens. Recently one of the ladies at my complex gave me a shirt that was too big for me. It’s blue and soft. So I decided to wear that as it’s kind of feminine. So I put that over a tshirt. I even painted my nails. So I walked out of my apartment a different person, my most authentic self. It felt wonderful. I even got some compliments from the ladies in my complex.

I used a blow dryer and some curling gel. It’s the first time I liked my hair.

As I was getting ready I was grooving to the dance station on Pandora. Dance music really helps to lift my spirit. So that helped with my nervousness. That’s until I stepped out of my apartment. The nerves started to swell up in my stomach and I thought I was going to explode. I started using my coping techniques that I learned in the hospital last month. It’s called tapping. It’s basically using something physical to ground yourself to reality. I can dissociate easily and it helps keep me floating away. Tapping is like it sounds. You say a phrase like, I love and accept myself. While you repeat this you tap various parts of your body to the beat. It starts with karate chopping your hands together and goes to your face, then your chest and stomach, and finally your head. You repeat this until you don’t need to anymore. It really helps me. So I used a simple version which is just doing the karate chop. I would look silly doing the full version in public. Though if that’s what you have to do, do it. It’s better to look silly and stay calm, than it is to have an anxiety attack.

Finally my bus came. I had about an hour ride to Dansville and I did my best to calm my nerves. As I got closer my nerves turned into excitement. They just built a new high school and this was the first time I saw it. When I got there I instantly fell in love with the new school, especially the gym. I was nervous when I walked into the gym, as it’s in an open area at the top of the gym. Everyone in the bleachers can see you. At that point I said fuck it and did my own thing. I had also decided if someone called me by my dead name I was going to tell them that my name is now Kaelie. I didn’t have to do that but I was prepared. Even before I knew I was trans I really didn’t care to see most of the people I grew up with. They are the types that you run into the store that you make an effort to not be seen. High school was a tough time for me so I have no interest returning to that time. It’s funny how we live in a Facebook world now and the people who didn’t treat you so well growing up get amnesia. So your bullies are now trying to add you on Facebook. NO THANK YOU! ūüôā

I was really happy to see my family. Especially my two nieces and nephew. I love them with all my heart and I’ve missed them. The game was great. The Dansville Aggies won by a lot and my nephew got to play, so I was happy for that. I wished I would have gotten him see him play at his JV games as he played all the time but at least I got to see him play, and he was happy to see me. So that made me feel good. I’m not really into sports. I really don’t know what goes on but I like basketball. The team is very good and it was fun to watch my nephew and rest of the boys play. One of the boys is like 6ft6 and can dunk it. That was fun to watch. I love the excitement of the fans. The roar from the cheering. The halftime buzzer and cheerleaders. While I didn’t play sports in school I did video the High School basketball games for the team. So I got to ride with the teams to games, so that was fun. That’s my only experience with sports.

So the game ended and I waited for my nephew to come out. It was very nice to see him. He’s so kind and sweet. I’m so proud to be his uncle aunt. All the kids are very well behaved and I’m so blessed to have them in my life. I was so glad I ended up going. The only person from school I care to see actually took me home. We were good friends in school and have remained friends since. She was the first non-family that I came out to. We both worked at the same bank in our early twenties. She’s real and authentic, and wants nothing to do with the bullshit like I do. It was really good to see her and I was so thankful to have a ride from her, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to go. The bus doesn’t run that late.

So now I’m floating on cloud nine and happy. I came inside the complex and I was just so at ease. As I walked to my apartment it was the first time it felt like I was at home. I feel like I’m starting to come out of my cocoon and I’m so relieved at that. I just need to be patient and hold on. It’s tough right now because most of my days are spent alone. Making new friends takes time and I have very little connection to the outside world. So it’s nice when I can get out and see the world. As I make new connections I know that my environment will change, especially when spring comes. I just have to remember this being alone thing is temporary. I thank my lucky stars that I finally have my own place, and one where I’m not worried of losing my housing due to the inability to work or because of someone else. As long as I pay my rent and don’t do anything out of the ordinary I will have a place.

I’m on the right track and doing what I need to in order to heal. People say fake it until you make it. I have always hated that saying because it reminded me of my family and others who have looked down upon me that I didn’t fake it with the big stuff like the abuse. I can’t fake it anymore, it does damage to me. So hearing that phrase just triggers me. Today I came up with an updated version. Be it, until you become it. That is more my style. I don’t think faking is the appropriate word. That’s the thing about therapy and healing, do what works for you and that’s just what I am doing.

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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There Wouldn’t be Pride without the Stonewall Riots

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While we celebrate June for pride month it’s important to remember where we came from and those who have fought for the freedoms we have today, including the activists who continue to fight today.¬†Some people question why there is a need for a gay pride and I have to respond why not? In reality that answer is much deeper. When you are an oppressed class of society safety is huge and the way you get that is to find your own tribe. Being LGBTQ it’s sometimes tough to find others like you, other than online or in the bars. Pride offers another venue to connect to others but also celebrate who we are and the strides we’ve made. It’s also to show that more work needs to be done, to advocate for change. More importantly it’s to honor those before us who have paid our way to where we are today, as we are doing for future LGBTQ generations. There is so much work left to be done in terms of LGBTQ equality. LGBTQ pride is not only a celebration but a declaration that our community isn’t going anywhere. We have fought with blood, sweat and tears for the rights we have today, and we refuse to let anyone take them away. We also stand up for those who are having to endure hate and discrimination currently. So many LGBTQ people live in hiding in fear of rejection, hate and harm, including murder for many. Until all of the LGBTQ is free, none of us really are. It’s important to stand up and fight for those who aren’t able to, in the hopes that one day they will have the courage to do the same.

Many people don’t realize¬†that pride started from the Stonewall Riots. It was the inciting incident for LGBTQ equality and June is Pride month because of Stonewall. The Stonewall riots were a series of demonstrations by the members of the LGBT community in New York city. The demonstrations were against a police raid that took place in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969 at the Stonewall Inn that was in Greenwich Village of NYC. It is well know that these events led to the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the fight for LGBTQ rights in the USA.

Gay people weren’t accepted in most establishments the 1950’s and 1960’s. During this time the LGBTQ community faced an anti-gay legal system. Many anti-gay groups in the United States were out to prove that gay people couldn’t be integrated into society. Various social and political movements in the late 1960s like the civil right and anti-Vietnam War movement server as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.

The Stonewall Inn was known to be popular among the poorest and most marginalized people in the gay community: drag queens, transgender people, African Americans, effeminate young men, butch lesbians, male prostitutes, and homeless youth. These marginalized groups were at the forefront of the Stonewall Riots. The raids by the NYC police department were routine in the 1960s. The police’s treatment of the Stonewall Inn and the LGBTQ partons inside the club was the inciting incident that incited the riots. The gay residents of Greenwich Village organized into activist groups who sought to establish places for the LGBTQ to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

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Martha P. Johnson was¬†an outspoken advocate for trans people of color. She played a large role in the Stonewall Riots and co-founded the Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries (STAR) alone with Sylvia Rivera,¬†a group committed to helping homeless transgender youth in New York City.¬†Martha found joy as a drag queen amidst the nightlife of Christopher Street. She designed all her own costumes and quickly became a prominet fixture in the LGBTQ community serving as a drag mother by helping homeless and struggling LGBTQ youth. She also traveled the world as a successful drag queen with Hot Peaches.¬†Martha was known for her outlandish hats and glamorous jewlrey. She was fearless and bold. Often times people would as Martha what the “P” in her name stood for, to which she replied “pay it no mind.”

Tragically, at the age of 46, Martha’s body was found in the Hudson River. Her death was ruled as a suicide, despite claims from her friends and other members of the local LGBTQ community that she was not suicidal. The New York City Anti-Violence Project has re-opened this investigation.¬†In 2015,¬†The Marsha P. Johnson Institute¬†was established. Its mission is to defend and protect the human rights of transgender and gender nonconforming communities.

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Even after the Stonewall riots, the LGBTQ community in New York City faced gender, race, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Six months later, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for the LGBTQ community. Over the next few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the United States the and the world. The first gay pride marches took place in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago on June 28, 1970. They commemorated the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were in other cities. In 2016, the Stonewall Inn was honored as a national monument. So it’s important that remember the activists who sacrificed so much in order for equality.

It feels strange looking at pride differently as in the past when I identified as a gay male. Now that I realize I’m transgender pride has taken on a new meaning. Though until I can transition more it won’t feel as natural or satisfying. I still look mostly male especially because I have a beard for the homeless shelter. I still remember my first gay pride. It was at the Lansing (Michigan) gay pride when I was in my early 20’s. I don’t think I have ever felt more free and accepted in a group before. It was sea upon sea of the rainbows. This was back during my dancing days so of course I went to the pride dance that night at the Paradise nightclub in downtown Lansing. I loved that place. They had a huge dance floor and my favorite thing was their gogo cage that they had. Most of my time was spent in that cage whenever I danced there. Sadly it closed years ago. Lot’s of great memories that I will not ever forget.

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I organized and MC’ed the Join the Impact rally in Columbus, Ohio on Nov 7, 2008. Which were rallies held across America and the world in response to Proposition 8 (which legalized same sex marriage) being overturned in California.

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This is me at the National Equality March in ‎October 11, 2009. 

I have also been to some bigger city prides, which are fantastic and so much fun. My first one was when I was living in Chicago. Their parade was massive and went through boystown and parts of downtown. There were spectators all over. One of the years I rode on a double decker bus, on the top level. It was so much fun. They also had a festival with entertainment. I love the big city prides because usually it’s a week full of pride events leading up to the actual day. Columbus, Ohio really knows how to pride it up. One of my favorite drag queens Nina West always holds a pride drag show the week before. There are various other drag shows and other events prior.

Their festival is massive, taking over a whole park. There are lots of vendors and fun things to buy. They also have multiple stages for various live acts. My favorite part of pride weekend is on Sunday when they have their annual fundraiser Bat n‚Äô Rouge.¬†The Columbus Lesbian and Gay Softball Association raise money for various LGBTQ non-profits around the area. The best part of it is that the players dress up usually in drag as various celebrities and characters. It’s a lot of fun. Their tag line is that it’s the only time softball is a drag. ūüôā

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One of my favorite parts is there are cheerleaders for both time, many of them are drag queens. Hygiene’s and Monistat’s are always a hoot to watch as they usually are up to no good. Columbus is one of the cities I miss the most and it’s due in part to Bat’n’Rouge and Pride. I really miss Bat’n’Rouge it’s just a blast and fun to hang out with friends while you eat and drink. One year I worked the beer tent for charity. Over 2k people show up each year, they even have tents that you can rent out.

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Me during Bat’n’Rouge 2009

One trend lately that I’ve struggled to accept is requiring an entrance fee to the festivals. It’s the one place many people have to be accepted and around those like them. Teenagers are one prime example and many of them couldn’t afford the money, so they would miss out. We should rob anyone of pride. I get that the organizations need to pay for the costs of running an event such as this but there should be something in place in case people won’t able to pay.

While we do finally have marriage equality we still have so far to come. For so many LGBTQ people grow up in areas that aren’t accepting. Children and Adults are still being rejected for being different. Things are better for many but not all. The one nice thing about the popularity lately with pride events is that smaller cities and towns are holding their own.¬†Yonkers Pride in Yonkers, NY just had their first pride this past weekend. The cities population is over 200k. There are also other LGBTQ pride events across the globe, even in places like Russia where it’s dangerous to be out of the closet. Even though we have marriage equality gay people still can be fired from their jobs or losing housing.

The transgender community lately has been getting hit the hardest in terms of discrimination from the Trump administration rolling back the protects of trans students and Trump trying to ban transgender service people. Not to mention the various states who have tried to ban transgender people from using the bathrooms in the gender they identify as. In addition there are states like Oklahoma who are passing laws where organizations can discriminate against LGBTQ families who want to adopt. It’s almost weekly you hear about another hate crime against the LGBTQ community, especially those who are transgender.

One of the latest victims of a hate crime was the killing of Blaze Bernstein, who was home visiting his family on winter break. Blaze was gay and jewish. He’s now being honored by a movement called Blaze it Forward. It a movement where people do good things for strangers and say to them to Blaze it forward, a take of the pay it forward ideology.

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One of the most well known victims of a hate crime is Matthew Shepard.¬†He was an American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6, 1998.¬†Following her son’s murder, Judy Shepard became a prominent LGBT rights activist and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation. Shepard’s death inspired notable films, novels, plays, songs, and other works. Matthew Shepard’s murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels. In October 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and on October 28, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the legislation into law.

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This administration is working hard to overturn every advance for LGBTQ equality. Even marriage equality could be at risk with this administration. Not to mention the conditions for LGBTQ communities in the world, who are much more harsh towards their population. It was reported that more than 100 male residents of the Chechen Republic, a part of the Russian Federation, have been abducted, held prisoner and tortured by authorities targeting them based on their perceived sexual orientation. An unknown number of the men, whom authorities detained on suspicion of being gay or bisexual, have reportedly died after being held in what human rights groups and eyewitnesses have called concentration camps.

The fight for equality is long from over.

Some people might understand why there are pride festivals and that’s okay. These celebrations aren’t for them. As the country becomes more accepting of those who are LGBTQ things will continue to improve, which has increased the attendance of many pride celebrations both in queer people feeling they can come out in public without ridicule and our straight allies who want to celebrate us. I say go ahead and hate us. These bigots are missing out on some very fabulous and fun people.

Even though I don’t go to pride every year, mostly due to my mental illness, I still makes me feel safe that I have a place to go if I so choose. I’m happy that our current and future LGBTQ generations will have a place to go for acceptance and to celebrate all the colors of the rainbow. So happy pride month. I’m excited to be able to go to Lansing Gay Pride again this weekend.

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The Various Characters on the Street

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I’m trying to look at being homeless as a new adventure. Some days are easier to embrace that than others. It’s easy to judge a book by it’s cover but if you look deeper sometimes you will be surprised. This works in reverse too. When you’re homeless it’s natural to be cautious. It’s important in staying safe. There are all types living on the street. Lots of people are unpredictable and it’s tough to judge this in others. There are those who are nice one day and unkind the next. A good portion have some sort of mental illness. Sometimes you just have to sit back and wish them well. Engaging a lot of times causes you more trouble than good and doing so could put you in danger. There are some exceptions to the rule. Here are some of my observations of those living on the street.

My roommate is very low key and I’m so fortunate to have him share the room with me. Not everyone is so lucky. Many of the guys who live in the men’s shelter aren’t to be trusted or at the very least aren’t fun to share a room with. Quite a few drink as well so they come to the shelter drunk and often times that causes problems. It’s the only shelter in town that the homeless can drink. Most nights there is some sort of argument and often times leads to an altercation. Cops are also often called to the homeless shelter. One guy stunk up the room so bad that his roommate had to tell the staff. He also slept naked. Most the guys aren’t quiet either. Last night during the NBA finals you could hear them very loud and my room is all the way on the end of the dorm.

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My roommate is 70 years old. He’s very easy going and is pretty quiet. He was living in an apartment where the owner was a slumlord. The tenant below brought in cockroaches that infested the whole building and the owner wouldn’t do anything. The city ended up having to shut down the whole place. He had nowhere to go or no money so he had to live in a shelter. He just was in the hospital for ten days as his health isn’t the greatest. Thankfully he’s got approved for a house via section 8 and soon will be out of the shelter, hopefully within the next few weeks. We have talked many nights about the riff raff in the shelter. We are a lot of like in many ways. Some people who are homeless are so out of choice. For some there tired of the system, which is horrible and the resources out there are slim. Others like the lifestyle. Neither one of us is like that. My first roommate was similar but he didn’t talk at all. He was also an older guy with a big ole beard. He left first thing in the morning and usually didn’t get back to the dorms until the latest possible time being 8:30pm.

As I’ve stated, many of the homeless have some sort of mental illness. There is this one lady named sister Mary. She is a black lady who always wore some sort of hair wrap and a dress. Sister Mary was always pulling her suitcase everywhere she went. If she wasn’t in the day shelter she was hanging outside in front of the building. She’s a character putting it lightly. Mary was one of those homeless who had two sides, actually three. One side was kind hearted and funny. Another side was a little nonsensical like her blurting out stuff about the bible and patriotism. She would just burst out into song singing America the Beautiful. She was definitely a patriot. She talked a lot about the United States. She never mentioned Trump, so that was a good thing. Oh, as far as I know she was never a sister. Though you never know maybe she was. The last side was not always very friendly. When she’d get frustrated she’d become rude and non-responsive. I learned to keep my distance when I noticed this side of her.

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There were days that I could take Sister Mary and could see the loving person she was but there others where I had to put on my headsets to drown her out because of my mood. She talked a lot and was at times pestering. Many of the other homeless and even some of the staff didn’t care for her. She annoyed many people and rightfully so. At first she annoyed the heck out of me too. Eventually I was able to look past the bad to see the person she use to be. Occasionally she would get confused and ask for confirmation about something. I wondered if she didn’t have¬†early onset Dementia or Alzheimer’s. She was always talking about leaving on a bus, either going to Flint or Pittsburg. I guess she had been talking about in non-stop for months. A few days ago she got a check, bought a bus ticket and left. Everyone was surprised. Now that she’s gone I do miss her. She could be pretty comical if you looked past the annoyances. I wish her well and hope she finds what she’s looking for, including getting out of homelessness.

People will just disappear and you never really know what happened to them. Recently a lot of people got their Section 8 vouchers. I think 120 people were pulled, which is unheard of supposedly. I try my hardest to not judge people I encounter and it’s something I struggle with. Separating the person from the behavior is tough especially if the person is out of touch or a rough character. There are times you judge their character rightfully so. Some are just downright despicable and I make sure to stay far away from them. Yesterday there was an old man in a wheelchair who was hard of hearing and struggling. He needed to call for a cab. The lady working the front desk gave him a number and he attempted to use the phone on the other side of the room. You have to dial 9 to get an outside line and he couldn’t figure it out. There were a group of people next to him and not one person would help him. One of the women told him that it wasn’t her job. Then he was trying to figure out how to get to the front of the building which is not a straight shot. Again people just stared at him. I proceeded to help him and then someone is like go out this door right next to the day shelter, which usually isn’t where cabs go to. They usually use the main entrance. I ended up calling the cab company to make sure they went to the right place, they still went to the wrong place but thankfully a few minutes the driver went to where the old man was.

Life either spits you out in a few ways. It will leave you bitter, jaded and hateful. The victims of circumstances go from getting everything taken from them to then taking anything they can, even if it’s from ruthless methods. People like this feel like the world owes them whatever they take. Usually these types of people hang out with a group like them. Some become desperate and fall into part of that category. The difference is that they’re not assholes usually. The system is set up to fail the poor and homeless so getting out of homelessness isn’t easy and there are many, many obstacles in the way preventing you from getting stability. I would expect that if you’ve lived on the streets long enough and become desperate enough that you would do whatever you had to in order to survive. Then there are some who are the complete opposite. They keep to themselves and rarely talk to others. They accept the fate the world has brought them too.

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There is another woman named Mary who is one of those people. She rarely talks and stays in the same corner each day. I see many homeless who are dealing with some sort of addiction. It’s really sad to watch their lives fall apart and living just for the next high. To see people spiraling out of control breaks my heart. There was one man who worked at the shelter doing janitorial and was doing very well. The staff loved him and had high praise from him for what he had overcome. Recently someone came to the shelter trying to cause trouble. Supposedly there was an altercation between the two days ago. It was clear what the man was doing and it totally spooked the worker. You could tell that he was afraid that he would lose his job. You could see the gears grinding overtime in his brain. The next day he didn’t show up to work. It was payday and he chose to drink again. That night he was so drunk that the guys had to help him up the stairs to the men’s dorm. He used all his money to buy liquor. By the next day he had lost his job, which meant losing his housing too. The police had to escort him out. He was a good guy but his addiction got the best of him and it overtook him again. The other shelters in the area don’t allow drinking at all so where will he go? How will he get his next drink? It leads to nothing good. So many are like him. There is a lot of stigma out there towards addicts. People don’t see it as a valid disease, it’s a choice again. It’s easier to judge than it is to feel empathy towards someone who is struggling. Sadly this man didn’t believe he deserved anything good and so he went back to the life he could count on. I hope that one day he will see his worth as bigger than his addiction. Support is key to recovery and so many don’t have that.

So how do you tell the difference. Sometimes you can’t, at least not right away. If you live in the shelter long enough you start to see the patterns. One part of survival is being always alert of your surroundings. You learn the behaviors of other people and begin to pick them out early on. I’m no expert by any means but I’m learning. One day I’m highly skeptical of others, while others I’m more open minded but I still stay really hesitant. I tend to gravitate towards other women. Though you got to be careful because there are quite a few to not be trusted either. I’ve also learned if you become more friendly the more likely someone is going to ask something from you like money. Each day at the day shelter they give out snacks at 10am. The other day they had a whole box of cookies and I snatched that up. One of the guys tried to con me out of it. He’s like I will give you $4 for it and the amount kept going down when I said no. He eventually gave up. My instincts told me that he would say I would get you the money later and he wouldn’t.

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One law of the land is to not let anyone borrow your stuff, like chargers, phone, etc., because it’s easily for someone to steal it. You turn around and they are gone. The elderly are easy targets. One older black man gave his phone to another person thinking he was going to charge it. Four days later and he still hadn’t returned it. When staff confronted the guy he denied having it. Again another despicable person. Losing your phone is one of the biggest violations there are when you are homeless because all your information is in it. If someone took my phone I would have no access to the outside world. So when someone asks to use it I tell them it doesn’t have cell service, which it doesn’t. I don’t tell them that I use google voice to make calls when there is wifi. I feel bad not helping people because some truly have the best interest at heart but it’s just something I can’t risk.

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For someone who is LGBTQ being homeless can be even more complicated and dangerous. You really have to be on guard. If you live in a big city and are a homeless youth then there are options for you. If don’t live in NYC, LA or Chicago then the resources just aren’t there, especially if you’re homeless and identify as LGBTQ. I don’t know of any organization dedicated to helping LGBTQ adults recover from homelessness and that includes mental illness. I wish there was a program out there but so far there isn’t, at least not that I’m aware of and I have searched. Even though Lansing isn’t that big there is a gay man that is staying in my dorm. He lives a lot more openly than I do. The other day he was talking about gay pride right in the day shelter with a lot of people in it. He didn’t care. I respected that about him. It’s easy to see the men who are uncomfortable with him. I see the glares and stares. He’s very flamboyant. I’ve thought about trying to talk to him but he’s a bit unpredictable too. I have heard that he’s gone off on people before. I have seen it in small doses when he doesn’t agree with someone. He’s got this my way or the highway attitude. I’m sure he doesn’t out of protection. It’s a defense mechanism. I also think he’s got some sort of mental illness.¬† So I just appreciate him from afar. I have heard there have been other trans people come through the shelter. So we are out there. I keep being transgender on the downlow because I’m not passable at all and I worry it would put me in danger. I still do little things where I don’t hide all of who I am, like my headband. I’m putting my time in realizing that this place I’m in today is only temporary. It’s how I keep sane and from losing myself. I know it’s not the final destination.

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I’m fortunate and so many aren’t. When you look back at the homeless population it’s so easy to be disheartened to see so many people at such a low point. Last night a woman was crying in the lobby because a staff member laughed at her because of her situation. It was tough to watch her. I just wanted to give her a hugg. She talked about the low point of being homeless and how it feels to be judged. That’s one of the most sad aspects of homeless is how society treat us. Many see us as lepers, unworthy of any care. That being homeless is a choice and we could have done things differently. People judge you based on their own life experiences. Well if I am able to go to work and own a house, then everyone has those skills. So many walk by the homeless on the street and some even make fun of them. If it was a dog I could guarantee most would stop to help. It’s fine if you don’t want to help but keep your judgments to yourself. Most homeless haven’t had a decent warm meal in a long while. If you don’t want to give them money, offer to buy them dinner. In my early 20’s, I was with my sister and we saw a homeless guy on the corner of the street as we were driving. We stopped at the convenience store right near him and bought him a big brown bag full of stuff. To someone who is poor and struggling receiving such a gift is priceless. It’s easy to feel like the world has forgotten you and in many cases it has, so whenever someone does something kind like that it restores part of your faith in humanity.

The kindness doesn’t even have to be monetary. When you see someone homeless smile at them and see them for who they are inside. Each one of the homeless came from somewhere. Another experience I had with the homeless was when I was living in Chicago in 2004. It was in the middle of winter and I saw a lady taking refuge in the area of the bank where you need a debit/credit card to enter the lobby of the ATM. She had somehow found her way in and was staying warm. She was at least in her 60’s and was weathered. You could tell that she lived a hard life. I wondered what her life was like before she was homeless. What did she do? What made her happy? Did she have loved ones? I didn’t have a lot of cash on me so I gave the $5 bill I had in my pocket. I gave her a smile and left her to stay warm. As I started walking down the street two younger black men were walking my way. As they passed they said God bless you. There was no way that they could have seen what I did. It was confirmation of the good that I was doing.

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People question me about why I air my dirty laundry so publically. Some people just don’t get it and it’s not a message meant for them. I know what it’s like to be down and out. Forgotten. Less than. Unworthy. I’m open about my struggles for two reasons. First it’s therapeutic for me and often times it’s the only outlet I have to release the tension. My mental illness has led to me isolating and living a life like a hermit. My support system has struggled because of that. I mainly do it in order to help others. I have had my blog for a very long time and I have people comment about how my words have impacted them for the better. On an average day I have at least ten people view my blog. There there is my Facebook where I post more frequently. At times I don’t think anyone is seeing my posts then I find out later on that’s not the case. Not everyone is a vocal as I am. I feel like I’m making a difference while I’m taking care of myself.

My goal once I get out of homelessness is to be an advocate for the homeless. So many people need to be educated. The resources are severely lacking and funding needs to be increased. This will only happen if people get involved. Sadly with this current administration things will get worse before they get better. That’s why it’s so important to vote always because it’s people like the homeless and the poor who are hurt the most when rich people control our government. Ben Carson wants to make drastic cuts to HUD and increase what people have to pay for low income housing. What little there is could be take away. I wish people would look past to themselves but sadly many aren’t able to empathize until it happens to them like with the hurricanes in Texas and Florida last year. Just look at how our country has treated Puerto Rico. They have been forgotten and very little is being down. People are still without power and are homeless. This speaks to what the attitudes towards the homeless, especially those who are black and brown.

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If people knew what it really was like then we wouldn’t have such a high homeless population. The other day someone asked me what could be done proactively to prevent homelessness. I struggled to answer that because the solution is complex and will include improving many things. There isn’t one answer. Definitely the funding needs to be increased both for homeless shelters and low income housing. The number of people needing low income housing are way out numbered for what is available. The homeless shelters need a lot more money and support. The services are really bare bones and their resources are usually stretched to the max.

I don’t have the answers but that’s not going to stop me from trying to make it easier for those who are homeless. I do know one solution and that’s kindness. Do good. If you see someone in need, help them to your best ability. You could be the one hand that lifts them out of their struggles. Good deeds are the saving grace for so many. If you can’t donate to a shelter or buy someone food then volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Get to know the people and you will realize that we’re like everyone else. We want happiness and to live in peace. We deserve love just like everyone else. While being homeless is extremely tough I am blessed and forever changed for the experience and those I have meant. It’s taken being homeless to get my lifeforce back. I can only hope the same for all the other homeless people. I am better because of knowing all the characters of the street.

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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.

 

It’s Not My Fault

Today in therapy I had the realization that, after thirty years, I still blame myself for being sexually abused. Behind that blame is a lot of shame. While I knew there were still part of that blame still within me I didn’t know how deep and raw it was. I also didn’t realize how much remained after all these years. The last time I worked on blaming myself was in 2004. I spent almost two years working hard on the trauma. Prior to that time I had never really dealt with the abuse. During that time guilt and blame was something that I dealt with in length. I thought I had moved past it but I couldn’t be more wrong.

There were certainly signs but it wasn’t something on my radar.¬† Lately I’ve struggled with flashbacks. I haven’t been able to hide from the abuse.¬†Each year my Mom’s family would go on vacation up north in Michigan together. Usually that meant sharing a cabin with my Grandmother who raised my cousin. I can close my eyes and i’m in the cabin where I was abused at.¬†I can feel the walls of the room. The couch I slept on each night after my abuser took what he wanted from me. The shower where I couldn’t wash the shame. The band that was playing next door. I vividly remember it all. My memory is horrible but that week is crystal clear. I remember and can feel the guilt and shame… the fear of not knowing what had happened but knowing it was wrong.

Walking up to my parents door, ready to knock, to tell them what happened but turning away when I feared that they wouldn’t believe me. Not knowing how I would tell them that my male cousin had just sexually abused me. Instead I turned to that aqua blue couch with the old fashioned cloth. I can feel the patterns and how uncomfortable the couch was. I remember waking up in a panic early in the morning fearing that my family would question why I wasn’t sleeping with my cousin. How could I tell my parents that I didn’t want to sleep in the same bed?¬†So I went back into the lion’s den and waited for my cousin to get up. The next night I thought maybe it won’t happen again but it did. I would wait for it to happen… and then wait for him to go asleep… I would shower and sleep on the couch until the sun came up. Somehow I knew when to wake up.¬†For the next week I repeated this pattern.

You are probably wondering how any victim could blame themselves and unless it happens to you it will seem illogical. My brain knows it wasn’t my fault but the other parts don’t. Guilt is a common occurrence for sexual abuse victims. It’s even more complicated when you are gay and your abuser is a male. Abuse is welded into pleasure and self-worth at an early age. When you reinforce these early beliefs for decades it becomes extremely difficult to pull apart that spider web.

It was during puberty that I became an object and my adult years confirmed that to be true. When I was abused I didn’t even know what sex was. I use to think that a woman got pregnant by touching feet with a man. That gives you an idea the frame of mind that I was in. My sexuality from the start was tainted. The abuse was the only thing I had to go by. I didn’t get to go through the typical thing teenage boys do. When something painful becomes pleasurable it becomes a vicious cycle. That’s where the guilt and shame stems from. If you find it pleasurable then you must have wanted that. Society does a good job of victim shaming. My family did when I finally told them eight years later. If enough people repeat these message then eventually sinks in. I was right to not trust my family the first night, which just made me feel even worse. Though I will say my Mom was different. She never doubted me and supported me fully. The rest of the family, including my father, were different.

My cousin was the star of the family. I was the black sheep. For eight years I held this dark secret and was forced to see my abuser often as he lived down the street with my grandmother. I grew up believing my family didn’t love me because of how close they were with him. My father loved my cousin because he hunted and played sports. I did not. I wasn’t worthy of his attention or affection. My grandmother didn’t drive which meant my Mom had to drive him everywhere he wanted. It killed me to watch and not be able to tell him. Many nights I cried myself to sleep.

The day after I told my father that I was abused he went hunting with my abuser. When he found out that I was upset he told me that I had to forgive and forget. All of this just furthered the dialogue that I deserved what happened.

This might sound fucked up but my cousin was my first love interest. I was groomed to fall in love with him. I didn’t ask for it. He took my heart. When he was done with me I was left with rejection, shame and guilt.

I blame myself because I didn’t stop it. That’s the problem with trauma from your childhood, it stunts your growth. So while my body and mind grew up the hurt part of me didn’t. Inside of me is that ten year old boy. So while I can verbalize it’s not my fault to my therapist, I don’t believe it.

I don’t want to believe it. I wish I didn’t. That belief has affected every aspect of my life. When good things happen to me I believe I don’t deserve them so I run away from them. My two years in Chicago were some of the best days of my life. I had my own place and a good job with benefits. I had the most friends that I had ever had. I was involved with the LGBTQ community. I had all of this and it wasn’t enough. I didn’t deserve these wonderful things so I self destructed. No amount of therapy could stop that and I had an absolutely wonderful therapist. I didn’t deserve her either. I tried really hard to be a productive citizen who didn’t have a mental illness and I failed miserably.¬† While my time in Chicago was some of the best times it was also some of the worst. I was hospitalized twice. I had never stuck with any job longer than a year. My job in Chicago lasted 1.5 years but I was on short term disability twice.¬†Life became too much and I returned back to the only thing I ever known.

I was groomed into accepting the bad as the truth. The darkness is comfortable. It’s all I have known. What will it take to overcome these beliefs? I’m not sure. There is a part of me that wishes I could just put the lid back on pandora’s box and pretend like nothing is wrong. Unfortunately that’s not possible. Once the abuse is out in the open it takes a long while to process. The flashbacks are troubling and I can’t control them. I wish I could deal with the trauma without them. It’s not as easy as wishing them away. It’s not a thought that you can make go away. A flashback is so much more than a thought, it’s an experience that uses all the senses. Very quickly you are transported back to that time. Every door you open leads you back into that room.

Others might think that I’m falling apart but honestly I’m doing great considering what I’m going through. In the past this type of awareness would have meant hospitalization. So far I haven’t had to go. I certainly have had moments where I was close to that but I have been able stabilize myself. I don’t think I have had this level of awareness. What makes this time different?

I think for starters I have stopped comparing myself to others. At least to the point where it prevents me from moving forward. I’ve stopped trying the person that others needed me to be. I will never be the typical person who works full-time. I have tried that for the last twenty years and I have failed every time I tried. I have started to take my mental illness serious for the disease that it is. I must manage the symptoms like someone with Diabetes. Each time in the past when I would try to work full-time I would crash into a downward spiral of depression. Workplaces only allow so many sick days before you’re fired. They don’t understand that with PTSD that there are just some days you can’t be convinced to leave your house. Each job that I lost would cause me to lose my insurance and housing.¬†The instability of the last twenty years has also contributed to the deterioration of my mental health.

So what is different about where I’m at today? For starters I have medicaid which allows me to receive continued treatment. I won’t lose this for not working. I know that many people won’t understand my decision to go for SSI disability but they’ve not had to live my life or endure what I have. I’m trying really hard to break the cycle. Going back to work would be a short term solution that would end with me quitting from a nervous breakdown. The next one could be my last and I can’t risk that. If I lose my insurance then I was certainly have another breakdown.

I’ve been in therapy since 2013 and have been on medicine since then as well. This is huge for me. I have never stuck anything out like this. It’s honestly my lifeline. Being on SSI disability will allow me to become more healthy. I won’t have to worry about losing my healthcare (that’s if Trump and the GOP doesn’t take it) from not being able to work. No matter what I know that I can go to therapy and get my medicine. Those two constants have become my stability. SSI will just add one more aspect. I’ve never had stability. Honestly I don’t think I have ever been this stable emotionally.

I have a therapist now that I really like and trust. I have seen various therapists the last four years and this is the first time I have been able to trust someone enough to talk about the sexual abuse in length. Today’s session was tough and I was able to get through it to the point it did put me in dangerous water. So that’s definitely progress.

My stability has allowed me to open up more about the trauma. Being able to recognize that I still blame myself is huge. I just need to continue what I’m doing. Keep moving forward. My therapist in Chicago told me that healing is like an onion, there are many layers. I really feel that I have hit the core or at the very least really close. As tough as it is to be aware of the abuse and the trauma it’s allowing me to heal.

I am able to verbalize that it’s not my fault. A month ago I didn’t even realize that I still blamed myself. Awareness is half the battle and I’m one step closer to believing that I deserve good things. I will continue to process the trauma until I don’t have to anymore.

I was a boy. The responsibility is not mine to own. I didn’t ask for it. I didn’t want it. I was groomed. I deserve love, respect and happiness. I have to stop letting my cousin and others control my body and happiness. I’m not an object. I wasn’t meant to be used or have things taken from. For the very first time I’m taking care of myself and able to see things more clearly. It’s allowed me to have some difficult realizations about myself and admit that I never really stopped blaming myself for the abuse. This was a huge step today and hopefully will allow me to heal. I’m one day closer to believing that I didn’t deserve the abuse, that it’s not my fault. It never was.

It’s not my fault.