Am I a Negative Nancy?

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Someone recently said that I’m negative, well the last two months. It was a friendship that I decided to end due to the fact that it was toxic. I give people too many chances and I was pushed to my limit when the person lashed out at me calling me negative. I mean that wasn’t the only reason I ended our friendship but it was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It did plant a seed in me, as much as I have tried to not let it. I’m strong enough to realize that this person lashing out at me had nothing to do with me but still it did open a wound in regards to the stigma related to depression. That those with depression are just negative and need to be more positive. I wish the cure to depression was only positive affirmations but that’s not the reality. Sure mindfulness is one part of the healing process but it’s this idea that it can be cured by a sunny disposition is harmful to those who suffer from depression.

Many don’t realize that I sometimes just wake up feeling depressed. Yes, sometimes it’s related to my environment and/or trigger but a lot of times it has to do with my brain chemistry. It affects more than just my mind. I get almost like flu symptoms. It feels like my skin is crawling and I have this heavy fog that clouds my brain.

I try to have a positive outlook on life and what I endure but sometimes it’s difficult. I have few people I can talk to about what I’m enduring. So my only outlet is to post on Facebook. Those who read my posts might think that I’m just being negative. If they had to live my life for one day I think they would be more empathetic towards me.

If you could only hear all the positive self talk that I must do when my demons are at my door. You just can’t hear them. To survive this long under so much pressure means that I’m a pro at surviving. That doesn’t mean my quality life is any better. The experience have given me the tricks of the trade to lesson the symptoms, though when I’m super depressed nothing helps.

When you see me posting on Facebook it means that I’m deep in turmoil. I don’t just automatically post when I feel something. When I do it means I have sit in misery for hours, if not days. If I shared what was in my head, then you’d really think I was negative. The demons in my head are loud, evil and up to no good. This is what I fight against daily. When my depression is at my worst I have this gigantic mob that take up space in my consciousness. They follow me everywhere I go and there is nowhere to run and hide. No relief to be seen. I can only just wait it out. Practice self care and hold onto dear life.

Some argue that I am sharing way too much information online. They’d rather me suffer in silence I guess. Like Shrek always says, better out than in. Oh wait, he was talking about something entirely different but it applies to this as well. Honestly I wish I didn’t have to share things so openly but my support system currently is my therapist. So it’s either release the tension openly or let it fester and eat me up inside.

Last weekend was a really difficult weekend for me. The last two months my psychiatrist has been trying different medicines to find a better fit for me. This latest attempt set my depression spiraling and I was struggling to keep afloat. Once again I was very close to be hospitalized. Whenever I have a bad episode like this I become very hopeless that the suffering will ever stop. Each time I dig myself out of that hole and start to feel better I get this sense that maybe this will be the day. The day when I get out of this bad place in my life. Where I will suffer less and live more. So when a few weeks later my depression takes a hit then I go back to being hopeless. I have cycled like this for the past twenty years.

I had a psychiatrist appointment this past Monday and he put me on a new med. By Wednesday, I was feeling dramatically better. I had two days where I felt like myself. That was until last night when I could feel the depression coming on and I dreaded it. I can hear the voices getting louder, the demons who haunt me. Today has been tough, not because of the depression but because what the depression comes from. Being aware gives you clarity but sometimes your helpless to stop the car crash.

I’m so extremely lonely. It’s unbearable most the time. I struggle just to get out of bed. I have very little energy and most my days are spent alone. I have no one. I’m like one of the old ladies I live with. No one comes to visit me. No one calls. I don’t talk to anyone regularly, other than my therapist. My days are spent watching tv and being on social media. It’s not to say that I haven’t tried to have a more fulfilling life but it’s not come by easy. You just don’t pull a support system out of thin air. I miss the days of having so many friends that I was doing something all the time. I miss going to the movies and laughing so hard you almost fall on the floor. I miss going to parties and eating good food. I miss my family. I miss my Mom.

I want so much out of life and often times I have no energy to reach for the stars. All the energy I have to just get through each day. I have to remind myself of what my favorite drag queens says. Rupaul says, what other people think of you is not your business! Some people might think I’m just being negative but those people don’t have to live my life. If you really cared about me then rather than judge me from the sidelines you’d reach out for support. It’s so much easier to pass judgment in silence. I don’t have time to worry about the naysayers. I have enough to deal with.

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Yes, I’m Alone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 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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The Meeting of the Minds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lonely Shade of Steel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There Is No Expiration On Dreams!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Living the Dysthymic Life

Depression can suck the life out of you. It can make everything bright in to muted colors. It can be loud and intrusive. Depression can turn you upside down and leave you dangling from the edge. Just when you think you’re free from it’s painful grip it pulls you back in.

I’ve spent a good portion of my life depressed. I’ve cycled in and out of deep depression more times than I can count or remember. They call that dysthymic, where you never really stop being depressed but you’re not at the rock bottom of a full depressive episode. It’s like the limbo of mental health.

My day to day life consists of me being alone hiding in the basement. The more depressed I become the less likely I am to take care of myself. I’m over 400 pounds and there are times I go hungry because I don’t have the energy to make a meal. I’ve learned to have food that doesn’t take a lot of effort but on a limited budget that’s not always easy. I go weeks sometimes without bathing and even longer doing laundry.

Why am I putting this out there? For starters it’s a part of my healing. I would like my life to mean something. I don’t want to just be this depressed person. By sharing my struggles and suffering I hope that I can help others. I know how it feels to be surrounded by people and yet still feel so alone. I’ve lived the shame that comes with not taking care of yourself.

I don’t do these things on purpose. I mean who would??? I’m literally torturing myself. I’m not lazy though some might think I am… This is what depression does. It turns you inside out. You bleed yet there is no blood, wound or scars. You scream but no words escape. You want the pain to end so badly that your mind starts to wander into the abyss.

I’ve done all of this most my life. I don’t know any other way but I’m trying to living a more stable life… One where I can be happy and have the things I deserve like a good pair of shoes, and more than one pair of pants. When you suffer depression you build a world around it and when you build a life on a shaky foundation the walls are going to crash. There is no way anything will stand up.

After my Mom died I spiraled into a deep depression. I have struggled ever since to pull myself back up. I constantly feel like I’m climbing Mount Everest. Imagine if every thing you did felt like that? Or felt like you were carrying 100 pound weights on both shoulders.

It’s very common for individuals who suffer from depression to have a secondary issue. When you feel bad you try to do whatever you can to feel better. Any way to numb the pain will do. Many turn to alcohol or drugs. I turn to food. To the point where I’m so heavy that mobility is an issue. I’ve spent over twenty years letting everything fall apart and now I’m learning to pick up the pieces. I’m not saying these things to have a pity party, they’re just the reality of depression. You not only have to combat the depression but all the secondary issues that go with it.

Which makes overcoming it much more difficult. I’ve ran all my life from the depression, pain and problems. This is the first time I’ve stuck around. I’m seeing a therapist regularly and have been on medicine to help control the depression for over two years. Unlike many illnesses there isn’t really a cure. You just learn to manage the symptoms.

I’ve never had stability and now that I’m getting older I so desperately long for it. I’m flawed but aren’t we all in some way or another. I’m also tired of falling apart and having to pick the pieces back up… starting all over. Some have the snap out of it attitude when dealing with someone with depression but it doesn’t work that way. I wish it did because I would have done that a long time ago. Depression doesn’t have visible symptoms like other illnesses do so many don’t validate the condition. So on top of everything you’re dealing with the depression, you also have the stigma that goes with it.

Some have said to me, in the past, why do you share these parts of yourself publicly? I do it because we shouldn’t have to hide. If we talked more about depression the stigma of getting help wouldn’t be there are severe. I also know that I’m not alone. So many people are in my shoes. If I can impact one life that would mean my suffering meant something. Twenty years of suffering has to mean something.

So I’m putting myself out there. I’m letting known my intentions to the universe. I want my story to make a difference in other people’s lives whether that’s through my story and/or my art. Not everyone will understand my struggles and that’s okay. I don’t do this for them, I do it for you. I also do it for me.

I matter. You matter. We all matter. Happiness is not a privilege. I don’t have much figured out and the future is very hazy but I hold onto hope that good things are yet to come. Until then I will just hold on for dear life and ride the storm out. You might not be able to see it always but the sun is always behind the clouds, even the darkness of night. We are meant to shine. While I don’t always feel good about myself and my self worth is fairly low I’m bound and determined to feel fabulous.