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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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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.

 

Living in a War Zone: What it’s Like to Live with PTSD

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TRIGGER WARNING: Please be advised that the topics in this post are related to sexual abuse/assault and my experiences as a sexual abuse survivor.

After the past couple of days being triggered by the Weinstein situation I thought it might be helpful for others to be able to look outside in on someone who suffers from PTSD. Posttraumatic stress disorder is a mental health problem that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event, like combat, a natural disaster, a car accident, or sexual assault. An estimated 7.8 percent of Americans will experience PTSD at some point in their lives, with women (10.4%) twice as likely as men (5%) to develop PTSD. About 3.6 percent of U.S. adults aged 18 to 54 (5.2 million people) have PTSD during the course of a given year.

Unless you’ve experienced PTSD it’s probably tough to imagine what it’s like living with PTSD. I describe it like living in a war zone. You know that you’re surrounded by danger and at any given time bombs could be dropped around you. There usually is no warning or signs it will occur. Once the bombs start to fall you frantically search out any way to take cover. This is very problematic when you have an episode out in public. Years ago when I was working for Xerox I was triggered during work. Thankfully I was working overtime and no one was around me. I felt so unsafe that I got underneath my desk for protection. That is what it’s like to suffer from PTSD.

Depending on the trigger and how extreme the fallout is from it will determine how quickly it will take to come out of that PTSD bubble. Often times I don’t even know that I have been triggered. Weeks later I find myself extremely depressed and feel like it’s the end of the world. It’s at my worst that I realize that I’m in a PTSD episode. I know that I have had a trigger but don’t always know what has triggered me… and I don’t ever find out. Occasionally if the trigger is profound enough I will know right away. Like for example, the whole me too phenomenon on Facebook. When the trigger is that profound it can push me over the edge.

Like I said most of the time I don’t know the trigger and it’s not always specific to a trauma, even though it’s probably somewhere there deep inside. Then there are times that the trigger corresponds to the traumatic event that caused me to have PTSD. When the trigger is related to the traumatic act it puts me into dangerous waters. This was true with me being triggered by the news of Weinstein and people sharing the phrase “not me” on social media. I have spent a great amount of time in PTSD bubbles that I have a better understanding of each episode of PTSD but it never makes it any easier.

My PTSD is centered around the sexual abuse that occurred when I was in my early teens. Most the time I’m not able to talk about it as it becomes too much. I’ve lived with it long enough to know that I need to be careful with who I share this information with, at least the details of the abuse. I can say that I’m a survivor but if I get asked questions about it I will put up the floodgates. Sometimes it’s just easier to not say anything, as most people will want more information out of curiosity. I control when and what I say when it comes to the sexual abuse. When you get triggered I don’t have that choice. It’s like opening pandora’s box. Once that lid has been lifted the flood water starts gushing out uncontrollably. It’s very much like in Alice in Wonderland when she starts to cry, it’s very easy to get washed away.

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It’s easy to push away a few articles and not have to know the details. When you are on social media anytime something big like the Weinstein news hits everyone knows pretty quickly. I started to see a few “me too” posts in my feed which wasn’t trigger as I could easily scroll past them and they started off being just those two words. Once it caught on my whole feed was filled full of victims admitting to have had some sort of sexual abuse. That’s when it started to be overwhelming. I learned a long time ago that I’m a sponge when it comes to others pain. It’s easy for me to get taken under from it, as the person becomes a mirror and I see my own pain.

I couldn’t get away from it. Once you’re triggered you can’t flip that switch back off. It’s just not possible. For me, when I’m triggered by something relating to the actual sexual abuse I get transported back to that time and place. So by Monday evening I was in the cabin that I was sexually abused in. Every door I tried to open would lead me back into that cabin. I could close my eyes and see every aspect of that cabin from the wooden walls to the musty cabin smell. I have a photographic memory of that cabin in all senses. I can hear the band that was playing in the messhall. I can feel the fabric of the sheets. When I close my eyes I can even walk through that cabin.

Once I’m transported back to that cabin then I start to have flashbacks of the sexual abuse. This is what really pushes me over the edge. The images are persistent and extreme. I relive every moment of the abuse. My mind races like I’m in a race to the finish line. It’s unsettling and alters every aspect of your life when you are in the belly of the beast. You try with all your might to get the images out of your head. In the past when I get this triggered it’s ended with me being hospitalized as it takes me to dangerous levels. I either become suicidal or feel like I’m going crazy… that’s how intense the flashbacks are.

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When you have a flashback you relive not only the physical assault but the feelings that arise because of the evil act done to you. Deep feelings of shame and guilt. A dirtiness that no soap will wash away. I didn’t just get triggered by the sexual act and the feelings that were attached from it but the rejection that occurred when I finally told my family seven years later.

At first I was triggered just on the size and scope of those affected by sexual abuse. People started to share personal stories. I couldn’t escape it. I was spiraling out of control already when I started to see some women question the validity of men also saying me too as well. One article I read said that male victims should just sit down and listen, that this movement wasn’t about them. These comments just stoked the fires of my PTSD. Each comment reminded me of a pain that occurred when my family didn’t believe me when I came forward about the sexual abuse. I was hearing my family tell me again and again that my pain and feelings weren’t valid… that I should just go back into the closet like a good little boy.

This is what it’s like to be triggered. You start to live these moments over again which I have done in the following paragraphs below. Once you start down this path you fall down the rabbit hole and can’t stop it until you come to the end. So if you don’t want to go through the gory details scroll to the end to finish this blog post.

It was then I went into the danger zone. I went seven years without telling my family. I didn’t tell anyone about the abuse because I didn’t think anyone would be believe me. Those seven years of my life were complete hell. Each day that passed chipped away any self esteem and self worth that I had. I remember crying myself to sleep at night because I didn’t think anyone loved me. My abuser was my cousin, who lived down the street from me with my grandmother. I couldn’t get away from him. All that time I knew this dark secret that I couldn’t share and I had to watch my parents love him. My grandmother didn’t drive so that meant my Mom had to drive him everywhere he wanted to go.

My cousin was the start of the family. Everyone loved him. He was the stereotypical jock. He was the captain of the Football and Basketball team. All the girls in school loved him and all the boys wanted to be him. I on the other hand was not. I was the boy who always wore sweat pants. I was the sensitive one. I didn’t fit my family’s mold of what a boy should be. Chad (I hate saying/seeing his name still to this day) was the son that my Father had always wanted. He hunted and fished. My father and him would go hunting all the time. Each time destroyed me. I so desperately wanted to tell someone but the fear was too much. He could do no wrong. This wouldn’t change when I came out about the abuse to my family. My worst fears came true.

While most of my family didn’t validate or believe me my Mom did… She never once doubted me and when she found out who abused me she wanted nothing to do with him. My father was different. He believed me but he didn’t care. The next day he went hunting with him. When my Father found out I was upset he told me that I needed to forgive and forget. The rest of the adults of the family chastised me. Being gay was worse than being a child molester. How dare he spread shame onto the family and say such horrible things about their beloved Chad. My Aunt told my mom that boys will be boys like we were just playing a game.

I wasn’t the only cousin in my family who was molested. I was just the only one who spoke about it. To make matters worse is that the adults of the family knew of the abuse and did nothing. When my cousin sexually abused me he stole my innocence and left behind the belief that I was unlovable and worthless. I became an object that he could own. I was bullied in school pretty frequently and whenever he saw someone bully me he would stop it… but then he’d turn around and bully me. I was his property.

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When my family rejected me they confirmed that I was unlovable and worthless. I had seven years of practice and by the time they were done with me I was left broken. When I came out about the abuse I also came out of the closet. While my Mother believed the abuse happened the news of me being gay took precedence. I lived in Southern Baptist family which was all about fire and brimstone. Being gay meant burning in hell for eternity. So you can imagine how my parents reacted to the news that I was gay. My Mom cried for weeks. I was called abnormal. Told over and over that I was going to hell.

The brunt of the emotional abuse was by the hands of my Father. He used the bible as a weapon. God we the jury, judge and executioner. The words he repeated and over brainwashed me into believing that I was going to burn in flames in eternity. If I had any self esteem left my father extinguished them that day. I was told that I would die of AIDS, that I had always wanted to lose weight and I finally would get that chance. He painted this picture of me dying alone in the hospital from AIDS. His words and voice are forever in my ear…

The next year was pure hell for me. I was cut off from everything. It almost destroyed me. Before I came I out I bought a computer. Living the rural Midwest there weren’t anyone like me nearby. The internet was a great refuge. I not only was able to connect to other gay people but also sexual abuse survivors. Well when I came out they took away that connection. I’ve never felt so alone and scared in my life. My father was right. I was living in hell. I got the typical responses like how do you know you are gay? or why don’t you at least try… My parents proved that their love had conditions and just furthered my beliefs that I was unlovable.

Finally things went back to how they were before. It was like I was back in the closet. Everyone knew but no one talked about. It ate away at my soul. I was never kicked out or forced into a conversion camp but how my family treated me would forever alter me. I would spend the next twenty years getting myself in similar situations which would further damage me.

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I’ve gone through periods where I would get triggered so deeply about the abuse that it would end with me being hospitalized. The first time was in 2000. It was the first time that the abuse sent me spiralling into a nervous breakdown. Pain is like putting air into a balloon. You can only put so much air into the balloon before it either explodes or goes flying around the room like a chicken with it’s head cut off. I couldn’t take the trauma anymore and went cray cray. I went from not being able to say his name to obsessively repeating his name over and over. I couldn’t stop saying his name. I was in the hospital for about a month and when I was released I went back to pretending like I was okay.

I went back to work and everyday life while deep inside I was dying. I wanted nothing to do with talking about the past so I dug a hole into my chest and buried the pain. Fast forward to 2004. I finally was free from my past. I had moved to Chicago, away from the rural nightmare. I was surrounded by bright lights and gay people. It felt like I was in heaven. I finally found my home but my past caught up to me. No matter how much success I achieved and the happiness I found would equal to the beliefs that I didn’t deserve anything good. I slowly started to self destruct because the good things I had finally achieved scared me senseless. I had the greatest job I had ever had with equally great health insurance. My manager at Xerox was also the best I had ever had. When you work in customer service often times you are seen as a number. You’re a robot to management. If you are great at what you do they run you into the ground because the rest of the employees don’t value the work quite like you do. I finally had a boss who saw my potential and appreciated my hard work. I was even on track to get a promotion to be a trainer. I had even gotten involved with the LGBT group at GE, as a leader.

I had the most friends I had ever had. I was happy… really happy… I had my own apartment. A beautiful garden apartment. Like I said the past started to creep up on me and I started to unravel. I had never lived in a city with such a large gay population. I felt like a kid in the candy store. When you’re violated sexually it’s easy to feel like an object. My dating life up prior had only confirmed those feelings. Most men wanted only one thing from me and that always was sex. So I gave them what they wanted because I was brainwashed into believing that was my purpose. The lines between sex and love were welded together. The harder I tried to pull them apart the more entangled I became.

When your life is filled full of heartache, disappointment and pain you learn to numb out the pain anyway you can. When I came out and struggled to find someone to love me I desperately took anything I could. Something was better than nothing. Prior to moving to Chicago I fell in love with a man who just didn’t have the capacity to love me back. Though he made it seem like he could until he got what he wanted. Once I served his purpose he was gone. He was just another man who used me and then rejected me. My cousin was my first rejection and each rejection after that instilled the idea that I was property deeper. It was the final rejection before I gave up on love. I thought he loved me. About a month later he had a secret to tell me. He had an STD and didn’t tell me because he was afraid I wouldn’t be interested in him. I foolishly believed he meant for love but instead he meant sex. When my feelings for him because too much he ended things with me. He just used me for sex. The last time I felt such devastation was when my cousin rejected me. You see once he found that women could give him what he wanted he threw me away like I was trash. I forced me to love him like a painful addiction. He got me high on his attention and then left me to detox. He was my first love and my first rejection.

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This man who I loved put me in harms way because he wanted to have sex with me. I stayed with him even after he told me because I thought he loved me but he did not. Afterwards I gave men whatever they wanted. I couldn’t take one more rejection and trust being lied to, so I gave men what they wanted.

The internet was both a blessing and a curse for me. What giveth taketh away as they say. The abuse taught me that from pain comes pleasure. I was desperate for attention. Sex gave me that. If I could find guys who wanted to have sex with such a hideous beast like me then that must mean that I’m attractive. The pleasure from one night stands were intense but they didn’t last. I would leave through their door and into the cabin that I was abused in. I fell into this cycle many times. Sometimes I would spend hours even days looking for someone who would have sex with me. The longer it took to find a hookup the more desperate I would get.

Because I didn’t think I deserved anything good and had no value to my life I started to engage in risky behavior. My Father told me that I deserved AIDS so I did whatever I could to contract it through unprotected sex. It was a self-fulfilling prophesy. I was so worthless that I didn’t deserve to live. I was so miserable that even in my subconscious I wanted to die. Whenever I would hook up I would immediately feel dirty. I would always shower afterwards like I did when I was sexually abused. Each time I relived those moments over and over again. Then I would become suicidal which led me to be hospital again.

My time in Chicago was the first time I started to process the sexual abuse and everything that occurred because of it. I found an amazing therapist and started to open up slowly to her. I even joined a survivor group for me. I was making progress but it wasn’t enough to take over the bad. I couldn’t break the broken record of hooking up because deep down inside I believe that was all I was worth. I did what I always did and ran away. That was always my solution when life got to be too much. I went back into hiding. My time in Chicago included both the best and worst times of my life.

2006 was the last time I dealt with the sexual abuse. The abuse was a book that I put back on the shelf… I knew that it was there but I didn’t dare look at it let alone open it and read the pages. I went back to life and tried to survive like everyone else. I failed miserably. I moved to another city and got into a relationship with an abusive man. The abuse was always emotional but it was starting to lean towards the physical. I almost stayed because I didn’t think I could find anyone else… that was what I deserved. The last straw was when he tried to hit me in the head with a big stick. It was fight or flight. What could have been a wonderful life turned into turmoil because I invited the beast into my life once again. This time I didn’t wait for him to leave me, as it could have been my death.

Again I went back to faking it. I moved back home to Michigan. I struggled but I did what I always did and I survived. That came to a screeching halt when my Mom got Cancer in 2012. We found out the horrible news in April and by September she was gone. My worst fear had come true. While our relationship was flawed I knew she loved me. Through it all she was always there for me. She came to accept me being gay. She would even ask me about my dating life. One of the last memories I have of her is her standing up for me to a homophobic cousin of hers who did the typical he’s going to hell and needs to be saved. She let her have it. To have her stand up for me meant the world to me. I often wonder if she knew she was dying.

My Mom had a rare form of Cancer called Carcinoid because it was so rare not many doctors were able to treat it. We couldn’t find anyone in Michigan to help her and had to go to Nashville to get her help. She needed to have the tumor removed. We drove down to Nashville for her surgery. It never dawned on me that she wouldn’t return home alive. Sometime that first week after surgery she got an infection and had to have an emergency surgery. After the second surgery she had to be sedated and put on life support. The last 21 days of her life were in an ICU. During that time I didn’t leave her room. I couldn’t leave her side. I was a boy once again desperately holding onto the woman who gave me life. Up until the end I didn’t lose hope.

The last day of her life I was awoken in the early hours of Sunday morning to my Mom surrounded by Doctors, nurses and other staff. The only lung left had collapsed and her vitals had reached dangerous levels. They put her on dialysis and i was told if her numbers didn’t improve she would die. Hours had passed and her numbers continued to drop. She was dying and there was nothing I could do to stop. I stayed by her side until the end. I held her tight as I sobbed. The person who was always there for me to comfort in my hour of need was slipping away from my grasp. I had no one to turn to. I was alone in a big city, hours away from home. She was taken off life support. My tears drenched her hospital gown as I watched her flatline on the EKG machine. It was slow, one heartbeat escaping at a time… she was gone… I lost the one person who truly loved me.

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Life as I knew it was over. I couldn’t imagine a world without my Mom. Once again my mental health spiraled out of control. I had struggled with depression most of my life but I was always able to snap out of it. This was the first time that didn’t happen. Suicidal thoughts were pretty common for me when I was at my worst but this was the first time I had a plan. I didn’t want to live anymore. I couldn’t take the grief. No matter how hard I tried to escape that hospital room I couldn’t get away from the grief. I was drowning in tears. I had the pills in my hand ready to take. That’s how close I came to killing myself. Thankfully I put a desperate plea for help on Facebook. That was the only way I knew how to ask for help. Losing my Mom was another traumatic experience that added another level to my PTSD.

Again I was hospitalized but because I didn’t have insurance I was sent to a halfway like house. While I didn’t quite get the help I needed it did start the process of me getting the help. I was put on medicine and when I was released I was setup with a therapist. The next four years I stayed on my medicine and continued therapy. The past four years haven’t been easy by any means. While the medicine helps with the helplessness I still cycle in and out of deep depression. I’ve tried really hard to live on my own and start a new life one where I treat my mental illness like the disease it is. I never stuck with anything for very long. Stability wasn’t a luxury that I was given. I gotten use to having to pick up everything and moving. In fifteen years I had to move twenty times.

I’ve been on medicine since 2013. I’ve also consistently been in therapy even when I had to find a new therapist which I had to do four times in four years. The person I use to be would have given up after the first time. Trust is huge when opening your wounds to a stranger but my life hadn’t gotten so bad that I knew I had to keep pushing forward. So I kept jumping hurdles. In the last year I’ve had to move three times, not by my choosing. The last move was to the town near my family. Finally I thought I could settle down but it was not meant to be.

I recently discovered that while I’ve made a lot of progress since 2013 I have not been living. I have just been surviving and miserable at that. I’m homeless and have nowhere to go but a homeless shelter. Whenever I start to think of going to live in a shelter my mind goes to dangerous places. Lately my depression has been very severe. I go weeks without showering. Everything is a chore. Even brushing my teeth is like climbing Mount Everest. No matter how horrible I’m feeling I make sure to go to therapy every week. No matter what I know that I have therapy. It’s the only consistent thing in my life.

This is where we go back to the present day. We are outside the PTSD bubble, at least in the blog post. Sadly in real life I’m still inside the bubble trying to find my way out.

So life was hunky-dory (well not really) until a few days ago… This is what it’s like to be triggered. You get transported back into time. It’s unstoppable. It hooks you like a fish and drags you under the current. I already had a lot on my plate already. Homelessness doesn’t suit me. It doesn’t suit anyone actually but it’s the situation I’m in.

Since the trigger has started I’m trying the best I can to not lose my mind… It’s not been easy. I come in and out of conscious constantly. Just when I think I have escaped the abuse is replayed in depths of my mind. You’re talking about the worst feelings you could imagine. At the heart of the pain is scared, little boy. Who is damaged and hurting. It’s like Voldemort when Harry Potter destroys the last horcrux. The forces trying to keep me down are just as scary and dangerous. The pit is the darkest of night. There is no light. There is only misery and suffering. These forces are always at my doorstep waiting for the first opportunity to drag me under.

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I might be weak. I might not be able to run any longer. I might be slow but I’m still moving forward… crawling… I’m fighting harder than I ever have before. I’ve not come this far to have some trigger do me in. For now I’m okay. I’m outside the cabin but I know at any moment I will be back in the bedroom where this all began. That’s the bad thing about being in a PTSD episode it’s like being lost. You have no map to guide you home. Sometimes the only way out of an episode is through a hospitalization. That’s where I’m heading. It’s where I must go if I ever want to make this a go. If I really am going to live I must go to the place of unknown. It’s scary to have to venture home in a land unknown. It’s like walking in the darkness. You don’t know if your next step will be your last.

But you gotta keep trying. Sure deep down inside I still believe I’m worthless and unlovable. Yes, I’m in a PTSD bubble and it’s unknown when I will find my way out. I have all of this fighting against me. It’s held me behind for too long. I’m tired of giving into it. I can’t do that any longer. It’s slowly killing me. I might be at the end of my rope but I still have hold of it. So I will continue to fighting and speaking out. I might not have a lot left but I have my voice… My will to fight… and my family…

I matter. My mind knows this. I’m aware that there is a disconnect between my mind and my heart. The darkness has my heart trapped and the path destroyed. I feel it deep within. It’s what’s kept me alive. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring but I know I want more out of life. I deserve so much more than the life I have lived. I somehow gotta learn a new. Start on a new path because I know the world needs me.

I might not have had the support and help I desperately needed so many years ago but I can ensure that others do. I will do this by continuing to speak out and share my story. My life has to have meaning and purpose. I know what it’s like to be rejected, cast out. To have others not believe you. To have your suffering go unvalidated.

Others might argue that the me too movement is not the time for male survivors to come forward. Some might think we should just sit back and listen. While the experience of male victims might look differently than a woman the pain is the same. The same thing is stolen from each gender. If you start comparing pain in terms of number and strength is when you start to slip down the slippery slide.

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Predators don’t stop with women. Men can fall into the power trap too. I understand that women have had to take the brunt of the abuse and have been most visible but to disregard another genders experience because of that doesn’t help anyone. If the rules of society will ever change then we must look at all aspects of sexual abuse. There are gender norms and rules that we must overcome. Misogyny is the symptom of the disease that is toxic masculinity. The cycle of abuse repeats when the victims stay silent. To silence male victims won’t break the full cycle.

Whenever is the right time to talk about abuse. People are arguing that by including men in the conversation will take away from the experience of healing but if things will ever change doesn’t all parties have to be involved. Sexual abuse is only talked about when something big like Weinstein comes to the surface. It’s talked about for a while but then everyone goes back to normal and nothing ever changes. We need to have ongoing conversations about sexual abuse. Predators are expecting us to stay silence. That is where they get their strength from. There are more of us than there are of them. Power has controlled them and they feel like they own the world. It’s up to us to stand up to them using our voices to remind them where they belong.

If people don’t want to talk about men who abuse women then they certainly won’t when the victims are men. I learned this from my family. Homosexuality is the ultimate break of the gender norms. Why else would so many have a problem with it? If society won’t accept consensual same sex attraction then nonconsensual doesn’t stand a chance. That’s why I believe it’s important that all victims be included because if we waited for our time it will never come. You can honor both experiences without taking away from another.

These gender rules are ingrained into our social consciousness. I was watching the Big Bang Theory the other night. In the episode Howard is freaks out when he finds out he’s having a boy. He freaks out because he’s afraid that he won’t be able to teach him to do the things that men do. The character was comparing himself to the gender norms of being a man that all men are sportsmen. Howard doesn’t fit the gender norm. Sure it’s a fictional situation but it shows the pressure that men have to endure. When you fall short in comparing yourself to the typical male then it’s very easy to feel less than. To those who take advantage of power they believe in the rules and will do whatever they have to enforce them… to keep them alive. These men feel like they own the world and can do with it however they see fit. I’ve been around men like this all my life.

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While many of the cases of serial predators like Weinstein victimize women there are enough cases where the victims are boys and men to take notice. One example are the countless priests who molested many boys. That’s the ultimate betrayal to be violated by a supposed man of God. Just like the Weinstein case the Catholic church knew about the abuses for years. Think about all the boys lives who were forever changed. Being violated as a child is something you just don’t get over. I was molested before I hit puberty. I didn’t know what sex was. I had my innocence was stolen. These boys were abused within the same power structure. Another example is the Sandusky case. Here was another man in power who sexually assaulted young boys. The abuse went on for years and many people were aware of the allegations. Like the Catholic Church those involved in the football program at Penn State didn’t do a thing and they knew about it for years.

Boys who don’t fit the masculine mold grow up feeling less, many of them are bullied. They’re called names like sissy and are seen as subservient. Many of these boys attempt suicide. Toxic masculinity sets up boys and men to fail especially if you are GBTQ. Many boys who are GBTQ are kicked out and end up on the streets. To survive these boys are forced into prostitution which leads to sexual abuse including rape.

Researchers have found that 1 in 6 men have experienced abusive sexual experiences before age 18. Prevent Child Abuse America states that sexual abuse of boys is common, underreported, underrecognized, and undertreated. Sexual abuse of girls has been widely studied, leading to awareness of the risk factors and prevalence. Unfortunately, there have been relatively fewer studies done on sexual abuse of boys, leading to inadequate knowledge about the facts related to this topic. Some of the studies that are available have a high degree of subjectivity, poor sampling techniques, and poor designs with few control elements. Underreporting is a result of many issues. Boys are less likely than girls to report sexual abuse because of fear, the social stigma against homosexual behavior, the desire to appear self-reliant (boys grow up believing that they should not allow themselves to be harmed or talk about painful experiences), and the concern for loss of independence. Furthermore, evidence suggests that one in every three incidents of child sexual abuse are not remembered by the adults who experienced them, and that the younger the child was at the time of the abuse, and the closer the relationship to the abuser, the more likely one is that the child will not be able to recall the event.”

Men are also not exempt from sexual assault. Male rape victims are less likely to come forward those who do are usually disregarded. Rainn states that 1 out of every 10 rape victims are male. They further state that 21% of TGQN (transgender, genderqueer, nonconforming) college students have been sexually assaulted, compared to 18% of non-TGQN females, and 4% of non-TGQN males.

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Sexual assault in the military are also significant. In 2014, ten percent of the 18,900 victims who came forward were male. Male victims are also less likely to come forward due to the stigma attached to toxic masculinity and military culture. Men are supposed to be tough. They don’t talk about their problems. Jim Hopper, a psychologist and researcher, and Russell Strand, a retired Criminal Investigative Service special agent, spoke about an aspect of sexual violence not often discussed: sexual assaults on men. There is a reluctance in men reporting assaults. So 87 percent of men attacked are not reporting it and “these are real men in real pain,” Hopper said. The pain is compounded by shame. Being sexually assaulted brings additional feelings of shame to a man because it works against the ideal of what it means to be a man, he said. Men who have been sexually assaulted believe they are not worthy of respect, Strand said. “Most people who sexually assault adult men are heterosexuals,” Hopper said. “And those same heterosexual men who are assaulting men are often the same men assaulting women.”

Many males won’t get help, he said, because they feel they won’t be believed, understood or supported. “Part of that is they know most people don’t expect men to be assaulted, that this can’t really happen to ‘a real man,’” Hopper said. They are also afraid of their friends or teammates finding out what happened to them, he said. They believe they will be looked at as less than a man, that they will be ostracized and shunned. And, many victims see the assault as the death-knell to their careers. So while the numbers might not be as high as the victimization of women the numbers make no difference in the trauma and long-term damage to the victim. To silence male victims for that reason only furthers the narrative that men won’t be believed or validated.

The likelihood that a person suffers suicidal or depressive thoughts increases after sexual violence. People who have been sexually assaulted are more likely to use drugs than the general public. Sexual violence also affects victims’ relationships with their family, friends, and co-workers. Long term effects can include guilt, self-blame, low self-esteem, negative self-image, problems with intimacy, sexual problems, addiction, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Not all experiences are the same for all victims. Each survivor has a unique set of challenges to face afterwards. Toxic masculinity plays a big role in the male victims in coming forward and getting help. That was the my reasoning for not coming forward. I waited seven years to speak out and when I did I was faced with rejection from my family. I’m not alone. I’ve heard men get laughed out of police departments when they try to report a rape. Many men hold onto these secrets into their forties and beyond all due to stigma.

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Sexual assault can hit men in all aspects of life including at home and in the workplace. According to a recent survey, about one-third of all working men reported at least one form of sexual harassment in the previous year.  Of the 7,809 sexual harassment charges filed in 2011 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commision (EEOC), 16.1 percent were filed by men. By 2013, this had risen to 17.6 percent. Again many male victims don’t come forward due to the stigma attached to male sexual abuse victims. I personally was groped at one of my previous jobs and management didn’t do anything. I ended up quitting because of it.

I’m not able to see how including men in the conversation about sexual assault takes anything away from women who are victims. Unless your argument is that all men are to blame, that somehow all men are inherently sexual deviants. I get it. I really do. Personally I don’t trust men, especially straight men. When I go shopping I pick the lanes that the cashier are men. I avoid eye contact with men. I have always felt more comfortable with women. Growing up all my friends were female. The men in my life who were suppose to love and support me were the ones to treat me poorly. This left me with a negative view on men. This was no different with gay men. I’ve been used for sex more times than not. I understand why women have the attitudes they do about me. This is why it’s important that I speak out and give me experiences on sexual abuse. Stigma leads to further victimization. It prevents victims from coming forward and getting the desperate help they need. Sexual abuse forever alters the lives of the victims. It’s not something you ever get over. You will go the rest of your life having to deal with the ramifications of being sexually assaulted. You’re outlook on life is permanently changed.

Men like Weinstein abuse others out of power. Toxic masculinity gives them permission to treat anyone like their are goods. In order to break the cycle of abuse we must talk about sexual abuse in the open. Doing so helps to extinguish the shame and guilt that occur because of the sexual abuse. As complex as sexual abuse is, the solution is multi-dimensional. If you argue that it’s a woman issue to you silence all the boys and men who aren’t accepted in the all boys club. Doesn’t separating the victims further adds to the power structure. When was the last time you saw a public campaign for male sexual abuse like the me too movement. The answer is probably never.

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What some probably don’t realize is that many of the men who had the courage to say me too were doing so for the first time. To speak out publically takes a lot of courage. It could have been the first step in them getting the help they need. Trust me male survivors are thrown a lot at them when they do come forward. If it could save one person isn’t it worth including all victims? Keeping male victims silent won’t stop these abuses from happening. The question that always comes up whenever a sexual assault scandal is publicized is how others can make a difference. I don’t have all the answers but I do believe that education and prevention early on will make a difference, at least in how quickly someone comes forward. The less stigma there is the more likely someone will come forward. Children need to learn about respect for their bodies and others. When I was sexually abused I didn’t even know what sex was and that was one reason I didn’t come forward earlier. If society only discusses sexual abuse during these scandals nothing will ever change.

Gender norms are harmful to those who don’t fall within the spectrum. Boys and girls grow up feeling less than. They hide who they are to fit in. Sexual abuse is just one symptom of toxic masculinity. Children who are judged unfairly by these rules often develop low self-esteem and self-worth. This only furthers the cycle of abuse. The longer it takes to get help the more damage it causes. The stigma attached to sexual abuse can lead to further abuse down the road when victims put themselves in dangerous situations because they believe they deserve it. Our society has the tendency to blame the victim. When you’re sexually assaulted you have a part of you stolen and it’s something that can’t ever be return. The abuser plants a seed in you that you’re worthless and unlovable. They manipulate and convince you that you’re an object. How society often treats the victims only confirms that the abuser was right. Often times there is no vindication for the harm caused. Many abusers get away with their crimes. This only adds the false beliefs inflicted upon the victim. The rejection from others, when you do come forward, only adds salt to the wound. It further damages you. I think how my family treated me did just as much damage, if not more. I went eight years digging my grave and building my coffin. By the time I came out about the abuse I was already laying down in it. My family put the nails in my coffin and buried me alive. When you have to dig your way out of the ground it forever changes who you are. I’ve spent twenty plus years trying to dig myself out of that grave. To this day that empty grave still remains ready for me to catch me when I fall.

That’s why it’s very important to speak out about all injustices. Those who are strong enough to take a stand are able to liberate others who aren’t able to. It takes a great amount of courage and bravery to come forward. Victims face a lot in their life and it can lead to a very isolating life. The sea of me too’s are a reminder of the strength in numbers. There are more survivors than there are abusers. We must stick together if we are ever to change anything. Pain is universal. Sexual abuse doesn’t save anyone. It inflicts poison into everyone the predator abuses. Someone’s gender doesn’t exclude them from damage. No one is spared from that damage.

Not everyone will understand all of this. My message is not for everyone. I learned that along time ago. When I told my secret I was liberated and got my voice back. While NO is a simple word in terms of vocabulary the strength behind it is more powerful than any other word in the dictionary. Speaking out is my way of saying no. Every day I’m alive I say no. To my abusers. To society. To family who didn’t believe me. To those who try to silence me.

To the stigma attached to sexual abuse. I hope to remind others that they’re not alone. No one should have to suffer alone or feel left behind. Others are consciously choosing to disallow male victims in order to control their emotions. While that might seem like a natural choice does it really make the pain go away and who does it help. It only makes people feel left out and forgotten. The more we speak out and stand up for these injustices the chances are better to prevent further lives being forever damaged. The ultimate goal should be to protect children, women and men. I can’t go back in time to stop the abuse from happening to me, nor can I reverse the damage entirely but I can use my voice in the hopes of saving someone from the pain and misery I have lived.

If you are looking for help here are a few resources:

http://www.malesurvivor.org/

https://www.rainn.org/national-resources-sexual-assault-survivors-and-their-loved-ones

 

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Stop Derek from Being Homeless

https://www.gofundme.com/dereksnewhome

A few weeks ago I received an eviction from the people I rent a room from to be out of here by the end of the month. It was unexpected and unfounded. I’ve been a great tenant, paying my rent on time. I’ve come to find out that they want someone else to move in. Now they’re trying to push up my move out date by a week, which has left me scrambling for a new place to live. As it stands now the only option I have is to go live in a homeless shelter. I’m trying to raise enough money to help pay my rent (for my own place) until my SSI court date in Feb next year.
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I’m disabled and unable to work. I’m waiting for a court date for SSI disability, which will be Feb 2017. I’m hoping to raise enough money to get me through until that date. I’ve suffered from major depression disorder and PTSD most of my life. There hasn’t been a time in my adult life that I haven’t suffered from depression and PTSD. When I have a PTSD episode friends/family become strangers and strangers become enemies. It’s like being in a war zone. My current living situation has pushed me to my limit, as the last few months have been extremely stressful living here.

Stability is something I’ve never had and something I’m so desperate for. Being able to get my own place would bring that into my life. Lately I’ve made an effort to better my life. I’ve consistently been in therapy and on medicine since 2013, as well as seeing a psychiatrist. I’ve recently moved all my services to this county and having to move out of this town would put my health at risk.

I have a new therapist who I love. She’s working on a new treatment for those with PTSD called EMDR. It’s helps the patient to reprogram traumatic events into more healthy ways. I’ve finally taken my life back after four years of complete hell. In 2012, my Mom died from cancer causing me to spiral into a deep, dark depression. It’s taken me four years but I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. I’ve come to terms with my disablity and now realize that I need to treat it like diabetes.

I’ve tried to do this on my own and that doesn’t work. So I’m asking for help. I’m so very scared to be homeless. I’ve made a lot of progress the last few months and I want to keep moving forward. I’ve also started to embrace my art again by working on a new comic book. My passion for art has helped me through some very difficult times in my life. Having my own place would give me a safe space to create new works of art.

I’ve suffered for too long and finally realize that I deserve better. I’m taking my life back and I’m determined to get my own place. No matter what is thrown at me I don’t let it keep me down. Every time a hurdle is placed in front of me I clear it. I will keep climbing this mountain until I get a home of my own. While the last two months have been some of the worst times in my life it has helped me find an inner strength that I didn’t know was there. All this time I thought I was broken but I always rebound. Then it dawned on me through all the bad things in my life I’m still here. I’m strong as steel.

Thanks for taking the time to hear my story. Please consider sharing this campaign with everyone you know.

Here are some of my recent sketches of my comic book. Also follow my facebook page for DragZilla! DragZilla is the story of a gay man brutally attacked because he’s gay. He cries out for help and in his hour of need a glimmer of light appears. A goddess like entity, who goes by the name Glimmer, transforms him into a drag queen superhero. He starts off his journey to find justice for his attack but in the process becomes a beacon of light for the LGBTQ community. I’m really excited to have started work on this new project of mine. Having my own place would help me bring to life DragZilla!

The Stigma of Having a Disability

Today I read an article about this woman with down’s syndrome and how she had got a job at her sister’s salon. When Jenna was asked what her favorite thing about working at the salon she stated that she didn’t have a favorite thing because she loved everything. Here was a beautiful woman just full of sunshine and she didn’t let her disability stand in the way of her being happy. Her sister is advocating for more businesses to hire those with disabilities especially those who have down’s syndrome.

The article made me think about my own disability and those with a mental illness. There is still a lot of stigma attached to having a disablity especially if it’s a mental illness. Whenever I tell someone new about my disability there is always this fear that I will be judged or they won’t like me. I’m learning to stop being a people pleaser but that takes practice.

Lately I’ve been spending my evenings sitting with my neighbors at the apartment complex I live in. When I first moved in I would notice a group of the residents sitting together and talking. At first I was a little put off by it, as I was very reserved and didn’t talk to many people, let alone people I didn’t know. They were always so friendly whenever I came to go swimming. It took me about a month and I started to join in on their conversations. Before long I became apart of the group and most evenings I’m outside with them talking about life. I love living here. These meetings give me something to look forward to, it’s really the highlight of my day. I’ve been very lonely lately and it’s really helped to fill that void. In the past I’ve always been very social so this has helped me blossom back into the social butterfly I use to be.

After you spend a good amount of time with people they start to ask questions and that always puts me in a very awkward situation wondering if I should tell them about my situation. I’m forty years old on disability. I have had this cover that I tell everyone that I’m a graphic designer which is true but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. What if I tell them and they don’t want to hang out with me anymore. Those are the things that go through my mind. Most of the residents are older and are on a fixed income as well but I know that some will wonder why I’m on disability so early in age. If I tell them I’m on disablity will they ask more questions as to what kind of disability.

My history with having a mental illness is not everyone understands it. Some don’t validate it as a disability because they can’t see the symptoms. If only mental health was treated just like general health then matters would be so much better. So if you have a disability that’s a mental illness you really have this stigma attached to you. People with depression and other mental illnesses are good at hiding it. On the outside it might seem that the person is happy but underneath is a lot of pain and suffering. I can see why some would see the disconnect but many of us have learned how to survive in a world full of stigma. Sometimes it’s easy to just pretend you’re okay.

If having a mental health disability wasn’t enough I also have the added stigma attached to being gay. I’ve always been really hesitant sharing that information with new straight people in my life. It took me about a month and it finally came up tonight. I’m in this new mode of not caring what people think, well I’m learning, so when one of the residents was talking about another resident who was in his 50s and not married implying he might be gay. She did the hand gesture to imply that he was gay. I started to cringe. I know she didn’t mean any harm by it but I couldn’t not leave the conversation without taking a stand. I didn’t confront her on it. I just made a couple of comments about that it’s not always the case about single men. Then another resident started talking about if you’re boyfriend is wearing nicer jewelry then you might having something to worry about. I replied well that wasn’t always the case, that not all gay people were fabulous like that. I then said that I was one of them but I said though I’m still fabulous. The one lady goes are you gay and I said yes. They laughed at that and we went on talking about something else.

In the back of my head I wondered were they thinking negatively of me now. Those are just fears and I can’t entertain them. Even if they did it has nothing to do with me. All I can do is be me and live the life the best of my ability. Some people will judge me and I really don’t need or want them in my life. It’s hard to let go of caring what people think of you. I’ve done it most of my life so it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I’m working on it. The same goes with having a disablity. Those who judge people with disabilities are the ones with the true disablity.

I think that’s the misconception that we’re half a person, were not able. I use to think my disability was just that. It made me feel like less of a person. I now see the value in myself and realize that my disability is what makes me special. Having to endure years of depression and PTSD has gave me the tools to help others who are walking down the same path as I have. I’m stronger and more empathetic for having to walk that path. I also judge life on one’s impact. You don’t have to have a college degree or even a job to impact other people. I know that I bring joy into people’s life. Just today I was talking with the complex manager and she talked about how she loved having me live here. She also talked about my joyful personality. It made me feel wonderful that she saw me for who I am. I don’t always feel that.

I think it’s important to not get caught up in those who don’t see you. Some people just don’t have the ability to see past something. That’s their flaw not yours. Sometimes you just have to let it go, which is tough as nails at times. Awareness is also important and something I’m working on creating with my blog. People can change and if other’s don’t take a stand and advocate for what they believe in, nothing will ever change. Some people don’t understand why I’m so public with my struggles. I know people judge me for that, even people in my own family. That’s just apart of the stigma, that you’re suppose to keep mental illnesses covered up. Being open about a mental illness will put shame and guilt upon the family name. This does more harm than good. They’re not living my life so they have no right to speak for me. They don’t have to fight the same battles nor have they had to experience what I did.

So I’m going to keep being me and live the life the way I want to. Being authentic will only help me to grow it will also give others the courage to do so as well. I will finish with one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson. We are all meant to shine…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Love you Mama. Huggs

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