Pitch Black, No Light in Sight

S2E21_Red_eyes_glowing_in_the_pitch_black_shadows

So I’m in the deep pits of depression hell. I haven’t felt like this in a while and it’s unsettling. Words can’t describe how horrible this feels to be this depressed. Everything you see is pitch black, with no light. This isn’t just another depressive episode as it’s connected to something deep and painful.

I had to force myself out of the apartment today. I didn’t want to leave the darkness but I did anyways. I even brushed my teeth. If it wasn’t for Pokemon Go I probably wouldn’t have left. There was a challenge that gave a dragon Pokemon, that’s rare. So I ventured out into the light. I already am noticing changes in my mobility. I’m back to it hurting to walk, though it’s not as bad as before. I get to downtown and my phone starts to act up. I realize that my data plan had lapsed and it meant a wasted trip downtown. I tried to use WIFI but the phone I have is horrible. Even when I have data it doesn’t always work well. I was able to get wifi to work to get the challenge but wasn’t able to do anything else.

I’ve been compulsively eating, which is something I haven’t done in a long while. It’s part of why I feel so low. I have been beating myself up for falling back to my old ways of drinking Pepsi. I’m having mobility issues again and so far it’s not been enough to stop drinking Pepsi. Yesterday I was frustrated with my lack of mobility and I was determined to stop drinking Pepsi. Well that was until I got frustrated by not being able to play Pokemon Go downtown and all I wanted to do was pig out. It’s all I could think about. Screw it if I couldn’t walk and play Pokemon Go then I was going to numb out my bad feelings with junk food. So I went to the Dollar General and got twenty dollars worth of junk food.

As I was walking home I had very obsessively, loud thoughts. I repeated out loud that I was a loser, among other things. Deep inside I feel completely worthless. I still have parts of me who believe that not to be true but it’s fading away. I’m trapped in this trigger and have yet to find my way out. It’s like walking in a maze in the darkest of nights. All you can feel is dead space.

For me, there are various stages of my depression. There is the typical generalized depression. It’s low grade and manageable. Then there’s a more situational depression that’s caused by my environment or situation. It’s more moderate and can dip into severe depending on how stressful the situation is. Finally there is the depression episode that I am currently in that is triggered by something painful (usually the emotional or sexual abuse) in the past. It’s severe and crippling. While the first two stages I can get through in a couple of weeks the latter stage can take months to find the exit. It affects every aspect of my life. It’s like walking through the muck in fog as thick as pea soup. You’re lethargic and have no energy. It sucks the life out of you and everything you enjoy. I’m struggling to find joy in Pokemon even.

This stage of depression I start to pull away from everything. I don’t want to do anything including going to therapy or take my meds. Everything becomes a chore and it’s easy to lose track of time. I sleep a lot. I go to bed really late. My bed becomes a safe zone and stepping off that cloud is like walking through lava. Once I’m triggered I become vulnerable to any and all pain in the past. A sexual abuse trigger can stir up some other trauma in my life. My dreams have also lately been a cause of discomfort as well. I have been dreaming of situations in the past that have caused insecurity and hurt feelings. Like not getting the part I wanted in a play. Single rejections that don’t seem significant but added together become an avalanche of self doubt and insecurity.

This level of depression has you coming and going. You become paranoid and your mind is taken hostage by the pain. You drift off into comforts that you really shouldn’t be considering like suicide. Sometimes it’s the only relief, knowing that you have that option if it gets too intense. You won’t understand this if you’ve not suffered from depression. For me, it has nothing to do with wanting to die. I just want the pain to end. You just get tired of constantly suffering. People start to get panicky when you start to talk about suicide. Their first thought is to call the police. Why doesn’t anyone ever think about being there for the person. The police should be the last resort. It certainly shouldn’t be the only action. Trust me if I was really suicidal I wouldn’t be talking so openly about this subject. It’s just another stigma that keeps people from getting the help they need. In your mind you think I can’t talk about this or someone will call the police, so you keep it hidden and it only snowballs to the point where you can’t verbalize the pain anymore.

The toughest part of this stage of depression is the isolation and the one struggle with living alone. I have very little interaction with people. I have no one I see regularly, other than the neighbors I walk past. I’m not talking about people to reach out to, which would be nice, but just people to talk about regular stuff with. To get outside of your mind and into the normality of life. The deeper you go into isolation the harder it is to come out of it. I’m on my second week of isolation and I’m starting to crack. You would think I would be on cloud nine having my own place but that’s mental illness for you. I feel very detached right now. I can look at my apartment and see it’s nice but I can’t feel it.

I think what adds to this level of depression is dissociating. It goes hand and hand with PTSD. In the past, I have had to cope with trauma by emotionally leaving the situation. The further I would float away the safer I would be but now the complete detachment just makes me worse as I can still see what’s going on. It’s like watching myself on tv. I see everything that I’m enduring like the overeating but it’s so out of control that I can’t stop it.

So some how, some way I gotta get myself out of this level of depression. I hope I get some relief soon because I really want to get my life back on track. I have come so far and want to start enjoying life. Not be bogged down by the pain of my past and the people who hurt me.

 

Advertisements

The Judgements From Others Is Not True

I think that most people have some sort of judgment of some kind or another. You see someone do or say something that you think is inappropriate and your first response a lot of the time is judgment. Like for example, a way someone is dressed. Maybe it’s a women on the bus who is wearing too revealing clothing or someone who is big wearing too tight clothing. This week I read about a broadway actress who was judged by the costume she was wearing. The woman who wrote the review was judging the actress on her appearance, comparing her to other women on stage who weren’t big. The review (NYT) used words like bigger and described appropriate attire for a fat person as that. Even after this woman was called out for her behavior she had no clue that she was judging the actress. That’s a problem so many have been brainwashed to judging others that they don’t realize they are doing it or they do but they don’t care.

Just like hate, judgment is a learned trait. I grew up in a family who had mastered the art of judgment. Anytime I tell people I grew up in a Southern Baptist family most people gasp. It’s common knowledge that judgment is a key fundamental in that religion, as is fire and brimstone. God is the ultimate judge and all his followers are bailiffs, or even executioners in many cases. I think judgment comes from fear. Those who are fanatical in their beliefs are comforted when they pass judgment on anything that doesn’t fit into their norms. Some use God and religion as a way to come to terms with life. Rather than floating into outer space they anchor themselves to an ideology. Now I’m not saying that’s wrong, it’s only when you try to force others to fit into your box that’s when it becomes a problem. A lot of people use judgment as an excuse to belittle someone else. If anyone tries to live their life outside of their strict rules then they must do whatever they can to silence them because letting it go will crack their fragile bubble.

It’s when judgment is turned into a form of brainwashing that it becomes very problematic and a lifelong battle of getting away from the trauma that’s caused. Most people think it’s as simple as letting go of the past and I wish that were true. When the judgment turns into poison it’s hardwired into your brain. If you don’t deal with the trauma then it’s covered up and you become injured anytime a future judgment happens. Most the times you don’t have a clue that the feelings that surface from a current judgment has nothing to do with said act, it’s what it triggers from the old judgments. Endure enough judgments like that they it just reinforces the personalization until the judgment is internalized.

I’m struggling to deal with the heart of my trauma, the judgments from my father and family. These judgments were so intense that I took them on as my own and built a world around them. So it’s only natural the next twenty years would be a total shit show. There is no amount of trash that can be piled on top of something so deep, raw and dark to hide it. Doing so just creates a monster that will control you for as long as you let it. Now I have taken control of myself again. Which means I must deal with this trauma like it’s the first time it’s happening to me. I honestly feel like crap. It’s a sickness with no medicine to cure it. You just must suffer through.

So what did I learn from my father, many years ago:

He told me that I was going to hell (over and over) so that meant that I’m not worthy of an afterlife, nor do I deserve to see the people I love again like my Mom and sister. If God is going to let me burn for an eternity for doing nothing that must mean that inside I’m bad. God became the judge, jury and executioner. That is not true.

I was told that I was going to get AIDS (from being gay) and that I would die alone in the hospital. That the friends I had made from coming out would abandon me at the end. That meant I deserve to suffer and be in pain. I’m unlovable and not worthy of healthy relationships where I’m valued and supported. Unworthy of friendships that are unconditional and there for me when I need them the most. That is not true.

I also was told that apart of having AIDS that I would finally lose weight, like I had always wanted. That meant that I was a fat slob. That the only way to cope with the pain was to numb it out with food. I didn’t deserve a healthy body with boundaries and limitations. Moderation. I wasn’t worthy of taking care of myself. That is not true.

My father told me that I needed to forgive and forget the sexual abuse that my cousin did to me. This was said to me the day after I came out about the abuse, after he found out that I was upset that he went hunting with my cousin. This confirmed to me that my father didn’t love me, nor was I worthy of his care, love and affection. That my father would rather to have the person who caused me great harm to be his son. I wasn’t good enough. I was too fat, too fem and not worthy of having a loving father. This was the father I deserved. In my mind, I had no way to rationalize someone treating me this way when I hadn’t done anything wrong. So that meant that inside I was missing something. That I was the one at fault. I wasn’t good enough. Unlovable. Laughable. A hideous monster. That is not true.

Honestly I could go on and on with all the things that my father did and said to me. I could write a book. The fact of the matter is that none of these things are true. My father is the biggest liar there is. My brain knows this but my heart is still holding onto these untruths. It’s why I struggle so much when I am triggered. While I have worked hard the last year there are still parts of me who believe him. Thankfully the healthy parts of me are stronger than the pain and hurt. I’m not going to lie it hurts like hell. It physically is draining and feels like the worst flu you can imagine. I have to fight off the voices telling me that I’m hideous and worthless. They are trying to drag me under and I refuse to let them.

I just can’t wait for the day that these voices and untruths no longer have any strength or pull. I don’t want these judgments anymore. People in my life want me to just to move on from the past yet they are the ones that keep bringing it up. I want to be free and it feels like I will never away from this trauma.

I wish people could see the level of pain that I feel, then maybe they might treat me differently. I constantly feel like I have to validate the pain, what others have done to me. I shouldn’t have to explain the pain from someone else. The only thing that I do need reinforced is my value and worth. I just took a shower (I didn’t want to) and I kept having to repeat to myself that I was worthy. So I just need to keep practicing self love, especially when I don’t want to do anything. That’s the part of depression that is tough. Everything becomes an uphill battle. You’re already held down by the pain and then you have to carry it up Mount Everest. So you have everything fighting against you.

This week has been very tough. I feel like I’m playing a game of tug and war. I’m tired of having mud slung at me. I have too much to live for to be wallering in the mud but in order for me to move on I must endure this trauma one last time. I must correct the mistakes and properly heal, one wound at a time.

If You Can’t Handle My Struggles, You Don’t Get to Experience my Happiness

If you haven’t been through some sort of trauma or loss it might be hard to imagine what it’s like to be triggered and instantly flashback to that time and place where the pain is at. It cuts deep, right to the core. You lose all sense of reality and are in your own horror story. That’s what it’s like to live with triggers when you have PTSD. Often times the trigger is small and insignificant but other times they are a roar. It’s especially difficult when it comes from another person, one you love. Yesterday was one of those days.

My grandmother probably had no intention of triggering me. She is 92 years old and can’t help it. She’s looking through life with different goggles on. While she’s been through her own struggles and trauma she’s not gone through mine. No one really knows what it’s like to deal with grief, loss and trauma. Each pain is unique and each person just as different at the next.

I love my grandmother with all my heart. I haven’t always made attempts to see her. My mental illness has gotten in my way so many times and my relationships have severely been impacted. In my mind, I have believed I didn’t deserve love. So of course I shut away anyone who tried to love me. Isolation is a game that depression plays on you. You will never win no matter what kind of hand you have. You can have a hand of all aces and still lose in the end.

I have made attempts to be in her life. I get the sense that no matter what certain people in my life will always only see me as who I use to be. They talk to me about moving on from the past but they’re not including themselves and how they see me. It’s taken me 42 years and all my adult life to get to this point where I’m finally embracing the real me. I’m finally healing from all those old wounds. Moving on from the past isn’t something that can be forced, nor is there a time table that others expect you to move forward. When you endure decades of living in the past it’s a tough task to overcome. For me, it took being miserable long enough to start fighting back.

I’m the strongest I have ever been that means dealing with a lot of past trauma. The deepest darkest sorrows. Darkness as pitch black as a night without stars or a moon. The only thing that remains is the pain and rejection. You’ve ripped off the bandaid and you must experience it for the first time in your new healthy state. It hurts like hell and shakes you to the core. I don’t have the luxury of hiding anymore though I try with all my might to do so. No amount of Pepsi or junk food will drown out these tearful cries for help. I must endure them if I’m to move on.

Yesterday was one of those days. I was so happy to get a call from my grandmother, asking me to lunch. She was a comfortable stranger and I was so content to see her again. I have missed so much time with her and others, and now time is ticking against me but the sad reality is you can’t force things. You can try all you want but sometimes people can’t move past from your past deeds. Maybe they think it’s just a rouse.

My grandmother knows what my father did to me and for a time she tried to push a relationship onto me. The typical well he’s your father and you must respect him. Then after years of that she stopped. I thought finally she realized the seriousness of what he did to me. Finally she believed me and validated the pain. For many years she didn’t say a word about it. She would occasionally mention him but it wasn’t anything about me. I would just nod and agree, waiting for the next topic to talk about. I got good at changing the subject.

I’m sure her aging has caused her to go back to the old ways. I’m also sure that she’s had a change of heart due to her own ticking clock. She just wants to see her son and grandchild finally get along. I want that same relationship but it will never happen, at least not in the way I need it too. You can’t make someone love you. I learned that a long time ago. Since my Mom died I have had moments of my own changes of heart but those quickly faded at the realization that nothing has changed with him. He’s still the same person who hurt me so many years ago. He’s still just as fanatical with God.

If I’m to ever make a go at life I have to keep our worlds separate. I use to hate him. That almost destroyed me. I no longer hate anyone who caused great harm to me. People that were suppose to love and protect me but didn’t. I use to take the blame but it never was my fault. While I’m awake now that doesn’t mean that I’m gullible. I’m strong enough to realize that I’m the one that’s changed.

I use to think I was deserving of his pain and rejection. That was my purpose in life. Deep inside I was unlovable. That was the biggest lie of them all and I no longer believe that. He’s not worthy of my tears, nor my happiness and joy. I have earned this peace of mind. I have wasted so much time in pain and suffering, that I refuse to put it at risk. This is my time, my life. I can do whatever I want to. I have spent enough time in my shoes that I know what works and what doesn’t. People might have the best intentions of giving you input and advice as to how you should lead your life but usually it has nothing to do with them. I find it interesting that people who have made NO attempt in helping you heal show up at the end with all their opinions about your life. Those who act like they are concerned for you but are just really judging you.

If people really were concerned for you they would take action with you personally. They would help you find a therapist, maybe even offer to take you. Instead they talk about you to others who know you. All the shoulds and shouldn’ts. The woulda, coulda and shoulda.

I got to this point today, all on my own. I had no one to talk to, other than my therapist. I had no numbers to call in the middle of the night when I felt like I was doing. I did it by myself. I use to think that as a weakness but now I realize it’s strength. I’m the strongest person there is, well one of them.

Many hurtful words were transmitted yesterday and unfortunately some seeped in but not enough to stop the progress I’m making. My heart is guarded now by a secret garden. Now that doesn’t mean that I’m not suffering today because I am but I now realize that this pain will pass. I just must endure it, let the poison run out of my wounds. That is the only way to heal. You can’t stuff the wound expecting it to heal, it will only become infected with disease. So when you finally unearth that wound you must clean it and leave it open to heal. That’s when the real hard work begins.

I’m not going to lie, there is a part of me that wants to do but it’s faint and I’m stronger. So much stronger. I must let go of the need for validation of my pain from other people, especially the ones closet to me. It will never happen. That was clear to me yesterday. As I sit across from her I started to float away as she continued to lecture me on respecting my father and letting go of the past. I had checked out but I was still feeling the pain seep out. I tried to justify the pain with examples and it wasn’t good enough to warrant not having a relationship with him. Well that was wrong but that was the past. She even acknowledged that he hadn’t changed. That his views were just as radical as before. I couldn’t understand why she was doing this. I even told her that wasn’t why I wanted to see her. Finally after she started to see that I was upset and stopped. She apologized a couple of times but the wound was sliced open. She dropped me off, at my new place, and I was left stunned and unsure what happened.

All my life I have had people tell me to move on from the past. Which usually meant keeping my mouth shut and pretending like nothing happened. When you silence a violent act you silence the victim. I won’t be silenced anymore.

I tried to defend myself, falling into my old patterns. I knew that certain people judged me for being so open about my struggles both on my blog and on Facebook. I’m empathic enough to feel things deeply. The silence says everything. I told her the things he said like I was going to die of AIDS and be alone in the hospital. It didn’t matter. Her need to fix things were a priority over my pain and suffering. I don’t blame her. Nor am I upset with her. I’m hurt, deeply but I will be okay. I know who I am finally and working on myself. I don’t need to be fixed. I just need to heal, allowed to flourish into the beautiful flower that I am inside.

I finally know my impact, even though my grandmother doesn’t. She made it clear how my Aunts felt about my airing my dirty laundry in a public forum. She even said they didn’t approve of me talking about my father either. I tried to convince her that people did find me inspirational and she stopped me, saying that no they didn’t. It was like she was yelling at me. It shook me to the core. She might not see my impact but I do. I understand that my message isn’t for everyone. There are those who will judge me and that’s their right. There are many out there who need to hear my voice. I hope that I’m their lighthouse leading them to shore like so many were for me, like my nieces and nephew. I know what it’s like to feel so alone and no one should have to endure this but they do.

Our pain, trauma and experiences aren’t dirty. Keeping the bottled up is what makes them dirty. There are others who will try with all their might to keep your pandora’s box closed. Don’t let them. Fight with all your might. Speak your truth no matter how loud the no’s are. Your voice is one of the greatest parts about you. The shame of others is not yours to take on. We don’t owe anyone anything.

So I’m going to live life the way I want to. It’s my choice to have a relationship with my father and I chose not to be apart of his toxicity. I love myself too much to endure the pain any longer. I will endure this pain one last time and then I will move on. Which means that I will have to suffer through this week. I will have to fight the needs to overeat. To numb out the pain. It’s already started and I’m struggling to fight but I am. I just have to get through these few days. I realize now that the storm always pass. I no longer will be swept under by other people’s floods. So while I might be eating junk food and drinking Pepsi like crazy I know that tomorrow is another day and I will get back on track. This trigger is just temporary. I will suffer for only a short time and I will push through. I don’t want to leave my apartment today but I’m going to anyways. I don’t want to brush my teeth but I will. I didn’t want to put the meat I bought last week in the freezer but I did. I didn’t want to write this post but I did. I didn’t want to call my grandmother today but I did.

I’ve learned that recovery is about pushing myself out of the discomfort. Do the things my mind tells me not to. Depression is a liar. While the diagnose and disease is real but I refuse to let it hold me down any longer. I will use my struggles and pain to help others. To spread awarenesses about the things that matter to me most like mental health and the homeless. Those with mental illness are some of the strongest people out there and so much stronger than those who try to deny it’s existence. If you beat homelessness you are the definition of strength. Those in my family couldn’t bear an ounce of that struggle. They live in luxurious, glass houses and have never had to endure the pain and struggles that I have. I use to want to be in their houses but I now realize it’s just a mirage. So I’m going to make my own home and fill it with the people who love and accept me for who I am. If you can’t handle me when I struggle, then you don’t get to experience me when I shine. Sure you can get a ticket but you will only be afford for the nose bleed seats.

The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow

Yesterday probably was the worst day so far being homeless. It was just an all around shitty day. I woke up feeling horrible from having an upper respiratory infection, that’s heading towards bronchitis. In the morning I try to get up and out of the room as quickly as I can but not yesterday. I don’t sleep very well in the shelter and even more so now that I’m sick. The Nyquil pills just don’t cut it like the liquid. So a combination of the lack of sleep, being sick and physically drained from all the walking just did me in. I got up late and had to rush around to get ready, which I hate doing. I forgot to take my medicine and I quickly put on dirty clothes because I haven’t been able to get to the laundry mat, nor do I have any cash for quarters. Each morning we have to take everything off the floor and put our stuff on the bed. Usually my stuff is very neat but this morning it wasn’t how I like it. I had took some laundry out of a bag that I needed and it was on top of the bed. It still was pretty neat but not how I like it. I brushed my teeth in my room, without any water and went on my way.

I had a meeting at 10 am with one of the workers who works on finding you housing. The staff have been acting like they had something lined up. That wasn’t the case which is fine because I had already found alternative housing. So the meeting was pretty uneventful he gave me a couple of more resources that might be available and that was it. I did find out that they will pay for six months rent once I get a place, so that’s good. By that point it was feeling better as I took Dayquil but still not great. At least I didn’t feel like biting everyone’s head off like a two headed monster. I quickly left for the bus so I could get out to the library, as it’s one of the few quiet places I have to go that’s safe. People don’t bother me and I can work on my comic book. At the day shelter it’s always loud and a lot of times there’s trouble. So I try to avoid that place as much as I can.

I love the library because I can get on the computer so I can write. Blogging has always been a therapeutic outlet for me. So it’s nice to sit down here and relax, and type out all my feelings. On a day like today it’s definitely needed therapy, especially since my therapist is on vacation this week. So yesterday I started to blog away and get my daily fix on a computer. Typing on my phone is so annoying. It was towards the end of my three hour limit when someone left something nasty about me about me being homeless on a Facebook group called Blaze it Forward. I had posted a week ago to see if I could find anyone near me to get to know. I was desperate for the comforts of a home so I posted in the group. Everyone was really nice and supportive. A few days later I had decided to ask for help, which I don’t like to do. The bookbag I had was really bad for my back, it was keeping me from walking very far as it killed my lower back. I also had spilled rice pudding all over the inside so it wasn’t exactly clean anymore. So I thought because this site was for paying it forward and helping people in need I would see if anyone would help me get a new backpack. People were kind enough and helped me get it. I really appreciated it. Now the new backpack doesn’t hurt me anymore. I can walk however ever much I wanted without it hurting my back. Plus I have more places to put my items in. I absolutely love it. It’s the nicest thing I own currently and I wear it proudly. When you get something new like this it makes you feel like a king. That’s how precious valuables are to someone homeless.

Well yesterday a woman felt the need to leave a comment a week after I had posted it in the group, saying I was asking for a lot. Instantly my heart sank. It was one of those days were it just took a whisper to knock me over. I felt guilt and shame. I was being judged and it didn’t make me feel good at all. I was giving this woman too much power and I tried to prevent it from getting to me but yesterday was tough. I felt like crying but I pushed through. It was a beautiful day out and it was really windy. So I decided to have a little picnic outside of the library. I sat down and ate my leftover pizza as the cool wind flowed through me. As nice as it felt I couldn’t stop thinking about this woman’s comment. It wasn’t just about her. Her ignorant, hurtful comment brought up my own shame for being homeless. The fact that I let myself get to this point where I was living in a homeless shelter. Her comment triggered every bad feeling I had about myself and it made me feel so little and alone. It’s easy to feel like the world is against you. So many people judge the homeless and look down upon them especially if they ask for help. They don’t have to say any words to you as you can see it in their stares. Overall I can push it aside but yesterday wasn’t one of those days.

I finished my picnic and headed to the bus station. As I was waiting for the bus the negative thoughts starting to flood in. They were loud and persistent. I had to use every last bit of strength in me to fight them away. I had enough on my plate to let my depression suck me under that bus. When I got to the day shelter I just wanted to chill and forget about that woman. I felt very drained and was enjoying the air conditioning. It was near dinner time and one of the main kitchen workers came up saying that they didn’t have any volunteers to pass out food. The room was full of people and no one was volunteering. Even though I was no way physically prepared to work nearly two hours on my feet I volunteered because it was the right thing to do and they had no one else. I couldn’t let people go hungry. It felt great to be giving back and it gave me purpose. I was determined to make the best of the day by helping other people.

At first it was only going to be me handing out food on eight different stations. We feed around 200 people and it gets pretty crazy at the start of dinner. Thankfully they found three more people to volunteer but only one was really helpful. The guy next to me was so slow that I had to do his other stations plus mine. If I didn’t pitch in we would have a line out the door and people get very inpatient. So I was working overtime to get people fed. I had never done this before and I really wasn’t trained but I went with it. It was a lot harder than I thought, especially because the kitchen was so short staffed. Usually they have one volunteer per food but not today. The guy next to me wasn’t carrying about portion control so the taco salad ran out quickly and that was it. After about 30 minutes the two (who weren’t good) ended up sneaking away and left. It was just me and another homeless woman, who was very helpful and nice. A half hour in my body was about to collapse. I looked at the clock and wondered how I was going to get through the next hour. I didn’t think about it, I just did what I had to do. People needed to eat and I couldn’t leave them empty handed. So I pushed through.

At first it was really rewarding even though I was beat but it turned quickly when the guy who is one of the main workers started to treat me poorly. I accidently had pushed the buffet table forward a little bit and I was trying to pull it back. He saw me and quickly pushed me aside and pulled it back. He goes you got to pull it like a man or something to that fact. Implying I was treating it like I was a boy. I have seen him enough to know the kind of attitude he has and this is how he is. He’s hard assed and doesn’t tolerate any sensitivity. He looks down upon it. It’s his way or the highway. One day there were no seats and I asked if there was somewhere else to sit to which he replied, you are just going to have to stand like the others. Well no one else was standing and he wasn’t very nice. Whenever I eat at the kitchen I do what I’m supposed to. I’m considerate and am not greedy. I say please and thank you. Which most don’t.

Once this guy got started he didn’t stop belittling me. I was enjoying working with Paulette, the other woman who volunteered. Once it slowed down we started talking and I mentioned how that a month ago I wasn’t barely able to walk a few hundred feet. I have been very proud of how far I have come. Well that didn’t make this guy happy and he started to tear me down by calling me lazy. Yes, he actually used the word lazy. I had enough fire in me to say it wasn’t from laziness and just went back to serving food.

Another thing that started to get to me were some of the homeless were just downright rude, demanding and greedy. I could have handled this if it weren’t for the worker giving me grief. One guy said I needed to wear a net around my beard. I wanted to tell him off and say that I was homeless too and that I was killing myself to feed your ungrateful ass. If it weren’t for me you wouldn’t be eating but I shut my mouth and went to the next person. Serving food wasn’t easy because a lot of people just stared at you confused when you asked them if they wanted the food I was serving. Which made it difficult at times to move the line but I did the best I can and I was always kind. Overall most the people were really cool and appreciative. It was nice when a few people came up to us and thanked us. Those who did that really made up for the unkind people before. I loved when it was slower because I could be myself and be more personable. There was this sweet old lady who came through the line and I enjoyed talking to her.

About halfway through we started to run out of certain items like the taco and macaroni salad. We had nothing to replace them with either so if you came later in the dinner service you just went without. The last fifteen minutes the only thing we had left were the entree and one of the green leafy salads, and not the kind everyone wanted with the tomatoes, cucumbers and mushrooms. I felt bad as people came through. We didn’t even have any desserts left to give out. Thankfully we had a lot of entree left so I tried to make up for it the best I could. I was really surprised how greedy some people were. If you go to the kitchen enough you know that they get low on food and they can only give out so much but that doesn’t stop people from demanding more. It’s one thing if they are knew but the ones who were demanding more knew better.

Usually the last fifteen minutes they call for seconds and anyone left can get more of whatever is left. If the food is really good there isn’t much left but if it isn’t there is usually plenty. Today there was plenty. Two big trays of the entree. There was no way they could give it all away. So I asked the manager of the kitchen if he wanted to call seconds as people were already asking. He said that it was okay and I called it. People started coming up with the trays they were using so I could give more. I didn’t take the tray to my side. They just put the tray over the buffet table and I put it on the plate. I didn’t touch their tray at all. Well this wasn’t how it was supposed to be done so I was publicly scolded for doing it the wrong way. Then I was also yelled at because I was giving out seconds when it wasn’t time yet. He kept arguing at me while the manager who told me to call seconds just sat there and not saying a word. Finally after a few minutes the manager told him that he allowed it. The manager was about to not say anything either. So I was flabbergasted. Still I just grinned and beared it.

At this point the mean worker tells the women that she can go eat and leaves me alone on the line to finish up. I was about to crash as I could barely move but once again I pushed through. It was 6pm and the kitchen closed. I was so relieved and was ready to go upstairs to the men’s dorm. As he was cleaning the tables he started barking at me about something. He was telling me to take the trays of food to the kitchen to cover up. He was ordering me to do more work. Something the volunteers don’t do. Usually when the dinner service is done they leave. So once again like the good worker bee I did what he asked for but then I was done. I didn’t care if this guy said anything else I was done and told him that I was leaving. The other woman he thanked profusely and told her how good of a job she did. I barely got a thanks. I could barely walk and I had to go back to the day shelter to get my belongings. It was so painful to carry my backpack upstairs.

Even though the guy treated me like shit I didn’t have the energy to let it get to me too much. I went upstairs exhausted but still feeling good about helping out. I was so hot and feeling horrible it took all my energy to get to my room. When I got to my room there was a note on my bed. At first I thought it was just to me. Occasionally they like to leave these notes about things that we aren’t doing right. This was one of those. Like I said every morning everything on the floor has to be put on the bed. There had been an inspection that day by upper management and the people who fund the shelter. They were not happy with the conditions they found in the rooms. I looked at the note and then my bed. I saw it wasn’t as neat as it usually is and everything just came crashing down upon me. It was like a tidal wave had took me under and I was drowning. I took it personal. If there hadn’t been more to the memo I wouldn’t have been so defeated. In the warning it was said going forward if your room wasn’t clean and your bed wasn’t made that you would get kicked out for the night. If you did it a second time you were out for good. I started to panic even though I really had no reason to as I’m usually pretty tidy. It’s tough to stay organized when you have nowhere to put things, they have no tables. So I have various bags that I have items stuffed in.

I went from defeat to anger. Then to rage and into sadness. Thankfully my roommate was cool and let me bitch up a storm. He wasn’t very happy either. We were joking about the conditions of the shelter and how they were worried if the beds were made. That was the biggest joke of the memo is the fact that the rooms are the cleanest part of the shelter. Our bathroom has a gaping hole where a sink use to be, that constantly drips water and floods part of the bathroom. There is a stall that’s out of order because people keep clogging it up. The other stall and urinals are always dirty with you know what and the shower is never cleaned. The floors of the men’s shelter are always dirty, so are the walls. The day shelter isn’t any better as the conditions are the same but worse because they lost their only custodian. So trash is overflowing. Floors are unswept and dirty as can be, and the bathroom is usually beyond nasty. Yesterday someone shit their pants and left their underwear behind the toilet. The urinal doesn’t flush and the floor is always littered with trash. They run out of food in the kitchen including utensils like spoons, etc. I could go on about the conditions but I think I painted you a pretty dirty picture.

Yet godforbid your bed is not made. That is an abomination. I wondered if the upper management was Miss Hannigan from Annie. I wouldn’t be surprised if she became the new manager of the men’s shelter. We will have to start mopping the floors on our hands and knees. We had a mandatory meeting at 8pm where the guy working overnight went over what happened, he wasn’t thrilled about it either. I guess he got yelled at too. The sad reality is those who needed to be at that meeting (the ones who leave their rooms mess) were the ones not at the meeting. I joked with my roommate that today they would get booted because they didn’t bother to pay attention.

Afterwards I tried to go to bed and just felt this sadness I couldn’t bear. I started to cry and was trying to hold it in the best I could because I didn’t want to sob in front of my roommate. The tears began to soak my pillow and I couldn’t take it anymore. As I bolted out the room I began to break down and thankfully the manager was in his office. At this point I was starting to sob and asked if there was a place I could go alone to cry. He quickly got up and found me a place, a private bathroom for the staff that was locked. It was dark and cool. I sat on the floor behind the door and just started to sob. I haven’t cried like this since my first heartbreak when I was 21. Everything hit me at once including my Mom’s death because it was in that moment that I needed my Mom and she wasn’t there. So I was alone and miserable. I had no one to turn to so I just hid in that bathroom for a good thirty minutes and let it all out. I have never felt more alone and desperate in my life. It felt like I couldn’t take it anymore.

https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10160614330985438&id=535005437

I looked at the open window and I really thought about jumping out of it. The pain was just too bearable. I begged God to listen to my tears. I cried out for my Mom. I’m not going to lie I was closer than ever to ending it all, then and there. Being homeless got to the point where it was just too unbearable and I didn’t feel like I could make it any further. I kept looking at that window as it was a relief to have that option. I continued to call out to my Mom and I repeated a song by Bette Midler from the movie Beaches. It always makes me cry and I was trying to release all the negative energy out of me. With each flood of tears I was starting to feel better. I had to get it out of me and then I just let it go. I stop trying to control the sobbing and let it take me over for a good five minutes. Then I saw this floating fuzzy thing in the room. It was something from a tree outside. It was slow moving and it was white. I could see it as clear as day. It graceful floated in front of me like it was dancing. It was so peaceful to watch and it calmed me. I felt my Mom’s presence and I felt safe.

I pulled myself together and cleaned off my face. I went to my room and I just laid down. I felt drained but empty in the sense that I let go of all the frustrations, anger and pain… well most of it. I still didn’t forget what happened and had no plans to ever help out the kitchen again. I value you my time and energy. I’m a hard worker and I refuse to be taken advantage of and mistreated anymore. I had trouble falling asleep and started to get hungry. I also hadn’t finished getting ready to bed, nor did I take my medicine. So even though I didn’t feel like moving and it was tough to do so I got up and did what I needed to do. I hadn’t ate since lunch. Whenever I get overworked both physically and emotionally I lose all of my appetite, food becomes sickening. By 9pm I was starving and thankfully I had more leftover pizza. I ate two slices and they tasted heavenly. I guzzled down my tropical punch Crystal Punch and felt so much better.

Usually my roommate likes to take control of the room. He closes the window because he gets too cold. Then he closes the door because it’s too noisy. Never does he ask if I’m okay with that. So he can sleep but I can’t. So last night I’m like I’m keeping the door opened and he didn’t say a word. He didn’t shut the window either. Which was nice because the room was nice and cool, so I was able to fall asleep fairly quickly. Otherwise I would have been sweaty all night and not being able to breath because the room had no air. I have asthma so my lungs were already in bad shape before I got sick and now I had just killed myself for almost two hours. By the time I got to the room I could barely breath, taking my inhaler didn’t help. So I was just happy I could fall asleep as I dreaded today thinking it would be absolutely painful.

Afterwards that was my fear, getting worse. I have to be careful because I can get bronchitis very easily and until you get it the Doctors won’t do anything for it. That’s what I hate about upper respiratory infections. You’re miserable and there is little that can be done to stop it. You just have to suffer through and hope it doesn’t get worse. That’s why I dreaded getting it because I knew what it would do to me. So I’m not getting better and my cough is getting worse. So I just pray that I feel better soon.

Again I woke up very tired and not feeling great this great. I was just going to put on dirty clothes and not clean myself. I just didn’t have the energy because I knew I had to make the bed spotless. If you piss me off enough I get petty and passive aggressive. So I was determined to make my bed look perfect. Last night out of all the stuff I had to do I also had to organize everything so everything was stuffed in all my bags neatly. Plus I changed all my bedding because I didn’t want to get kicked out for having dirty sheets. I also didn’t get a sheet to cover up with. I don’t make my bed, fuck that. I haven’t made my bed since I was a kid. I’m an adult I have the right to leave my bed ready to jump into. Beds are suppose to be comfortable. We don’t get a lot of time to get ready and out the door so I try to get out the door easily. So not having to make my bed is a plus and without a sheet I don’t have to. I just make the fitted sheet fit which it doesn’t because they are super loose and never stay on the mattress. I fluffled my pillows in spite and neatly stacked all my bags on the back corner of the bed.

I was about to leave dirty. I thought what’s the point in trying when I will just get dirty soon and I had very little energy left but it was strong enough to get me out of bed and into the shower. I got the last clean outfit I had, that’s very uncomfortable as it’s tight and showered. I refused to let yesterday defeat me. I wasn’t going to let it affect me today. I gave yesterday and the people in it way too much power. I was in the driver seat and I had no control over them. I got to the day shelter to wait for the first bus to the library. I just had to get out of there. While I waited I was very tired and still worn out. Thankfully I brought my pillow just in case I wanted to rest, which is tough for me to do sitting up. I started to feel remnants of bitterness and I didn’t like how it made me feel. I have realized lately that anger and negative feelings towards others only hurts me. So I try hard to let it go. So I got my pillow out, put on some relaxing music and rested my head on the pillow. I’m not sure if I fell asleep but I drifted off to the music. It was so relaxing and it felt so nice. I wish I could have just slept for hours like that but it’s too noisy there to do that, and uncomfortable. After about fifteen minutes I get up and feel completely relaxed.

While I have let it go I have learned my lesson. I will always be me but I will be more cautious how much I give myself. I have to set limits and speak up when my boundaries aren’t being honored. That’s the biggest thing that I’m working on. I always take care of everyone else and never have anything left for myself. I built a life around not taking care of myself. Finally I am starting to do that and I can’t be trapped any more. So I’m looking at yesterday as practice, apart of my training both in not taking things personally but not getting walked all over. I need to stop being a people pleaser because no matter how much you give it will never be enough to some people. A part me was like I’m not ever going to give myself again like this but that’s letting the win and I refuse to change who I am. I’m a good hearted person who is kind and thoughtful. I will take my energy and efforts to places that honor and cherish my work ethic. So as Bianca Del Rio (a famous RPDR drag queen) says, not today Satan. So when the kitchen asks me to help again because they know I will get stuff done and I work my ass off that’s what I’m going to say but more nicely.

That’s the problem with being an overachiever. Some people will take advantage of that especially if you are working with others who give far less than 100%. You have to pick up their slack because you do have work ethic and know it has to be done. So those over you will take advantage of your hard work by piling even more on top of you, like this man did yesterday. They know you won’t say no, it’s not apart of your worth ethic they think. That’s always been my problem with the jobs I have had in the past. Employers would always take advantage of me. I would work my ass off for six months and then I would get burnt out. You can only keep working like this before you start feeling used. So I would quit because I couldn’t handle the stress anymore. All the jobs I have had in the past have been like this. All but one that is. This just added to my mental illness and has lead me to the shape I am in today at the age of 41.

So while I won’t help the kitchen out anymore I will help in other places of the shelter and especially the staff I really like. It’s clear that upper management gave the employees a lot of trouble. You could see it today in their faces. The main manager of the shelter was out sweeping and you could see that even she was defeated. She’s usually full of energy and fire. She can get a little perturbed if you don’t do something but it’s nothing like this man downstairs. Usually she’s very nice, as long as you treat her with respect. I’ve seen her gone off on some fools and let me tell you she wins everytime. She kind of reminds me of Electric in my comic book Dragzilla. Honestly if it weren’t for the women workers the whole experience of living there would be pretty dismal. I have really bonded with many of the women. My favorite is Lucy. To work there you have to be to be stern because you have to put up with a lot of shit. People will walk all over you if you let them. Lucy isn’t afraid to let someone have it when they’re trying to play her or if they’re being rude. She will give it right back and then some. She’s told people to walk away. I just love her. As long as you treat her with respect and care she will do the same.

Lucy is like a mama bear. She will bite your head off if need be but once you are in her pack you’re her buddy. That’s how I have become. I would do whatever she wanted. One night the place was a disaster as the worker quit. So I helped her clean the place. She didn’t ask me I just did it. Lucy not only values my time and energy but she sees me for who I am and embraces me as Drew. She’s very cool with me being transgender. Lucy has been like that since day one. She doesn’t usually come up to people to say hello but she always does with me. Many evenings she sits at the employee desk in the day shelter and we just chat away. It’s my favorite part of the day. The other day when she got in the middle of the guy who was trying to beat up this women I didn’t think twice about protecting her. That’s just who I am. I protect and defend the people I care about. I’m fiercely loyal and nobody messes with the people I care for. Once you’re in my inner circle I got your back for life.

So even though I had convinced myself I wasn’t going to help for a while and I hesitantly offered to help Diane because I knew all that she did to accommodate me in the men’s shelter and how kind she’s been to me. Even though I could barely move and was still bitter I was willing to push myself further to help her out. I told her I couldn’t do much strenuous activity but I could clean the windows. She was appreciative of that and said she would get me some cleaner and that it was no rush. That’s the key she valued me and my time. Diane could have gotten the stuff then but she took my feelings into it and my body. So when I get back to the day shelter I’m going to help clean up the shelter because it needs it.

The sad reality it’s not really the employee’s fault that the place is in shambles. They just don’t have the time or energy to do everything. Many of them don’t get paid a lot, especially not what they give. They’re constantly stressed out and are often times running around like chicken with their heads cut off. Yes, there are a few bad apples there but many of them are good hearted and are there to make a difference. I have seen what they have to put up with and how mistreated they are. Honestly it breaks my heart. They have to deal with so many people with very little resources. They see the pain and struggles day after day. Yesterday a woman in her 40’s came into the shelter with two teenage boys. The one is 18 and the other is 16. The youngest has special needs. They have no family and have been living in the Mom’s car. I listened to Lucy tell them that the family shelters in town wouldn’t take teenagers and that the one that would wasn’t doing any intakes right now. Even the hotel program that Lucy runs is only good for three days. So what is this poor women to do? That’s the system that’s in place. So many people fall through the cracks. I can’t imagine what she’s having to endure. They showed up to dinner and my heart sank. I just wanted to grab all three of them and hugg them. I wish I had the place to give them. I would give them my place if I could. No child should have to live like this. Yet they do all the time.

The funding for the shelter is just the bare minimum and it’s obvious by the conditions. The shelter is understaffed. This morning there was no clean towels or wash clothes. The wash hadn’t been brought up yet, nor had it been done. Things like cleanliness go by the wayside because other pressing matters are more of a priority, like keeping a mother and her two children off the streets. The kitchen can only do so much with the little food they get and they have to make what they have last so it usually means food that’s not very filling. I heard the manager talk about the lack of resources lately. You can tell by the quality of the food and the fact that they ran out of food early. The guy who is running the kitchen is also doing what he can. He’s new and doesn’t really know how to cook. What he put together for the entree I guess was horrible. The meat was barely chewable and he only had so much to work with. You can’t turn fatty byproduct into New York strip steak.

There is trouble at the shelter all the time. It’s a daily occurrence. Cops are called out to the shelter all the time, so much they don’t take matters as serious as they should. People are passing out drunk often and they are carried away by ambulance every time. Fights happen all the time in both shelters. So many are loud and obnoxious, and have no care or consideration of others. They just don’t care and feel like the world owes them. So it’s a miserable environment for everyone involved. People are lost, frustrated and hopeless. Most just want the same thing; Independence, freedom. privacy, purpose, safety and happiness. That’s not found when you are homeless when you struggle with the basics like staying clean and feeding your hungry.

Today is a new day. Yesterday is over and I won’t be returning to that miserable day. While it might feel like Miss Hannigan is in control but in reality it’s Annie who wins in the end. She gets everything she’s dreamed of and deserves. As I’m going to do. The sun ☀ will come out tomorrow and it always does.

The Various Characters on the Street

Image result for homeless

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.

Image result for homeless shelters

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.

Image result for homeless

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.

Image result for homeless

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.

Related image

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.

Image result for lgbt homeless

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.

Image result for homeless

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.

Image result for homeless

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.

Image result for homeless

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.

Related image

Image result for homeless

The Meeting of the Minds

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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…

Image result for our deepest fear quote