Making Progress

I became homeless on July 1st last year. But a week ago yesterday – I finally got a place to call home again. It’s subsidized community housing for homeless people with mental health issues – which means there is onsite staff to make sure the residents are ok & taking their medicine & going to therapy. I have a studio apartment all to myself. It’s in the Lower East Side close to East Village Access (EVA) the place where I go for group therapy. I’m still in shock that I ended up in a place this nice.

But it only happened because of the help I got from EVA and my Bellevue Home Health Coordinator. I’ve been very lucky to have so many dedicated professionals in my corner. That’s never happened before. (Sad to say but the people at my shelter were not so helpful.) And after seven and a half months wandering in the maze of the NYC system I understand now why some people give up.

Despite what you might think there are really only two kinds of homeless people – those who have given up hope of any real change and those who haven’t quite yet. If you don’t believe what the social workers tell you it does make sense that you wouldn’t want to put up with all the petty bs that goes with trying to work within the shelter system. Everyone who walks through the door already has a lot of issues and stress they are trying to deal with. (Not very well obviously.) But the shelters that are supposed to lift you up all too often seem designed instead to break you by piling it on even more.

I wish I could tell you what kept me from giving up when I saw others like me walk out the door. Hope is a tricky thing. You don’t always know where it comes from or how to hold onto to it. But by some miracle I’ve made it this far.

This is only the first step to getting my life in some kind of order. Now I’ve got to find the nerve to take the next one.

Wish me luck.

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A Little Birthday Love

Today (February 3rd) is my mother’s AND my grandfather’s birthday. Grandpa always liked to call Momma his birthday present. If they were still alive Momma would be 79 years old and Grandpa 103. Now I’M feeling old.

Grandpa was a Southern Baptist preacher. He was as much of a conservative as I’ve always been a flaming liberal. And yet we connected. I can still remember as a little girl how I would look up at him and see this big mountain of a man. (He wasn’t that tall – but he was broad.) He was my rock – the one man I could always count on. He might shake his head over my nutty ways. But I knew he had my back.

Momma was my cheerleader and biggest fan. She never had the slightest doubt that I could do whatever I wanted. She didn’t really care what – as long as it made me happy. And with my overactive imagination I came up with a lot of interesting possibilities. When I was around seven or eight I loved to watch this cartoon show “The Harlem Globe Trotters” that was loosely (VERY loosely) based on the real life professional basketball team. I distinctly remember telling Momma that when I grew up I was going to join their team. God knows how she managed to keep a straight face. But she didn’t argue. She just went right out and bought me a basketball. I’m your stereotypical bookworm and anything but athletically inclined. So that particular fancy didn’t last long. It didn’t matter. Like every other crazy idea I came up with she just knew I could make it happen if I really wanted it.

They’ve been gone so many years now. But even after all this time I can still feel their love – their unconditional love. And how precious and rare it was.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!
Happy Birthday Momma!

Miss you.

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This Is Who I Am

Back in Regency England there was an infamous courtesan by the name of Harriette Wilson. When it came time for her to retire, she decided to write her “memoirs”. She would write a draft of a chapter then send copies of it to all the men mentioned in it by name. If a gentleman paid her a nice sum of money she’d remove all reference to him. If not, she’d let it stand. Some of her former clients included both royalty and members of Parliament. So a lot of them did pay. But not everyone.

When the Duke of Wellington received his copy he had only one response. “Publish and be damned!” I’ve always admired his nerve. He understood that secrets only have the power you allow them.

My family’s history reads like a bad soap opera. But what’s always hurt us the most were the secrets we kept – or tried to keep. From each other and from the world. I suppose I’m going to the opposite extreme, but this is what I need to do for me.

This past November I left Florida and headed to New York. Florida is becoming more and more hostile to the homeless. I didn’t really expect much in the way of help. I just figured there were more shelters in NYC and maybe the cops would be more likely to leave me alone. What I got was a lot more, from a lot of different sources.

But I still struggled with my depression. So in December, I voluntarily checked into the psychiatric ward of a local hospital. I’ve had suicidal thoughts a number of times before in my life. But this time was different. I’d reached the point where I just didn’t trust myself not to try something.

I knew I’d had 3 or 4 major bouts of depression over my lifetime. But the doctor said what really was happening was that I had an ongoing depression (since childhood) and that the major episodes were piled on top of it. And when I thought about it it did make sense. He asked me why I’d waited so long to get help. Well, duh. I waited because it felt like normal to me.

I spent 3 weeks in the hospital – checking out on Christmas Eve. I’m now on anti-depressant medication for the first time. And I’m going to see a therapist. I’m coping. One day at a time.

I don’t see myself as some sort of inspiration. But I do know that there has never been any problem that was solved by not talking about it. I hope my blog will add just a little bit to the general public conversation about homelessness and suicide/mental illness. The more people who can talk about it – the easier it will get for others to ask for help. Those who survive are the ones who are able to ask for help – and then get it.

Howie Mandel felt really embarrassed when his struggle with OCD first became public. Until he realized he was making a difference. (http://www.upworthy.com/when-howie-mandel-revealed-his-most-intimate-secret-he-had-no-idea-he-was-live-on-air?c=bl3)

I refuse to be afraid to speak.

This is who I am.

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Still Homeless – But Relocated

So I’m still homeless – just now in a different state.

A lot of local governments in Florida (including Ft. Myers where I lived) are trying their best to criminalize homeless people as a way of dealing with the problem. For example if you fall asleep in the middle of the day in a public park the police can arrest you if they want to. Over half of the other homeless people I knew personally have been arrested for loitering/trespassing.

The local churches and Salvation Army in Ft. Myers are doing everything they can to help but there are only 2 shelters there and only one of them takes women. They are always full and I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse. Recently in Ft Lauderdale a 90 year old man was arrested for feeding the homeless.

So I decided I should leave Florida before I ended up getting arrested. I was getting tired of it anyway. My step-sister D. was right – after a while you do miss the change of seasons. It took a while but I saved up enough money for a Greyhound bus ticket to NYC.

I am staying in a shelter in the Manhattan area. Even though I am brand new to New York I am still eligible for help – and they have a LOT of different kinds of help available. I’ve already got a food stamp card & I have an appointment to see a therapist to treat my depression. I think if I can finally get a handle on my depression I may finally pull myself together. I’ve already decided that if the therapist recommends medication I will agree to give it a try.

As for work – my short stories are bringing in a tiny income. I also have written a few blog posts for a website. I think if I can beat back my depression then with a bit more energy I could make a full time income freelance copywriting – with a side income from my fiction. That’s my goal anyway.

Wish me luck! (Grin)

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And How Was Your Summer?

Well, this was a really fun summer. I did have a day job. The hourly pay was low and at times the stress was high but I still managed to get by. But the hours eventually dried up. So since the beginning of July I’ve been both jobless and homeless.

I’ve given up on getting another regular job. I’m tired of trying to fit my square peg self into yet another round hole. It’s time I faced it – I just wasn’t made for normal. Plus I’m too old (at 50) to appeal to employers anyway. I’m just going to have to rescue myself as a self employed person. I know I can do this if I only push myself enough. Butt in chair and produce – stories and blog posts for businesses.

I am still breathing. So I’m not done yet. There’s an old proverb that goes “Fall down seven times get up eight”. Here’s me getting up once again. Yay, me.

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My Favorite Mae West Quote

MAE WEST WHEN IM GOOD QUOTEMy favorite quote of hers. <G>

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Apparently the Slut Shaming Never Ends

I haven’t signed up for any dating sites like this woman. But damn, she is my hero.

Excerpt From the Huffington Post:

“After I got divorced last year, I wrote an OkCupid profile in which I let it be known that I’m down for casual sex. I don’t enjoy meaningless sex — which I had the last five years of my marriage — but I am all for high-octane adult fun.”

“Most of the men who wrote me got my sense of humor, and reached out in part because they thought I was funny. One man, however, took offense at my profile. He said, essentially, that I needed to grow up. He told me it was unseemly for a 50-year-old woman to speak so openly about sex and penis preferences (my facetiousness went about a mile over his head).”

I’d say I want to be her when I grow up except, sigh, I’m already of that “certain age”. Oh well, I still have a few more decades before I become the terror of the local nursing home center.

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