College Dreams

Last night I dreamt I went to MIT. I was so excited! So excited! I’m almost crying thinking about it. I couldn’t wait to be with other smart weirdos. But I wandered around all day with my plaid suitcase trying to find my room. The whole place looked like an upscale indoor – outdoor shopping plaza.

In real life, I am actually going back to college. So that’s good, right?

I’ve Moved On and Adopted a Cat

I never posted this, because I’m trying to protect my privacy. However, reading back over some of my posts, it’s clear that I never said here that I was able to move out of the subsidized housing system, and into a place of my own. Yipee!  Things are better.

I adopted a cat, too! She was at the shelter for two years.

2016-11-27-21-22-55 20161202_221910

Meow.  Thanks for reading.

more on self-care during these times // trigger warning: news and politics

I guess I’m not alone:

Friend, writer and L.A. comic Angel Castillo on self-care

Compassion, self care, guilt, motivation.

A post shared by Angel M. Castillo (@angelmarticastillo) on

Building and maintaining community is so important right now.  Being unable to tolerate being in groups of people, most especially protests, one thing that has made such a difference to me has been regularly connecting with my like-minded people on the phone.  These people have become my family.

Social media can be helpful, but also very tricky.  I drew back from fb (I just hate doing free advertising for them, so I tell myself that by abbreviating the name of the site, and by not linking to it, I’m waging a small protest.  Yeah, right, kat).  Yet, I get so much from instant messaging with certain folks.  I get to give and receive emotional support.  I get to learn that I’m not alone in my outrage, fear, anger and in feeling kinda helpless…Kinda ‘What the hell do I do to change my country?  I’m so freaking lost!’  I get to have dialogue with people, and I value that highly, particularly right now.  Plus, that’s the only place where I’m in contact with certain friends-who-are-family.

My social media self-care strategy is something like this:  I dart in real quick on all the sites I use (like, with a hand covering one eye).   I do a quick glance.  If I see something that triggers me, I look at it for a quick sec to check whether or not it’s news from a reliable source (not triggering // not a polemic from the left or the right).  If it passes the test, then I open up the article.  I scan the article, applying the same safeties.  If it passes the second test, then I start reading.  If I come across something that triggers me (the way I know is that I start having a panic attack), I skip it, and then scan the rest of the piece.  If anything jumps out, I stop reading and get outta there.  Otherwise, I read it.

So, social media sites can be helpful and hurtful.  I’ve found valuable information, both news and what friends are saying and experiencing.  I’ve also found meaningful daily connection and support.  If you can get through the potential obstacles, you find your community.  This is what I’m learning.

Follow Angel M. Castillo on Instagram    Twitter  and tumblr

 

Madeleine Albright’s Response to Executive Order

Most of you have seen the draft executive order on immigration and refugees that the President is expected to sign. If signed as written, it would ban Syrian refugees from entering our country, suspend the entire refugee program for 120 days, cut in half the number of refugees we can admit, and halt all travel from certain Muslim countries.

Having looked at the draft, I felt I had no choice but to speak out against it in the strongest possible terms.

In doing so, I want to make three points.

First, it is a cruel measure that represents a stark departure from America’s core values. We have a proud tradition of sheltering those fleeing violence and persecution, and have always been the world leader in refugee resettlement. As a refugee myself who fled the communist takeover of Czechoslovakia, I personally benefited from this country’s generosity and its tradition of openness. This order would end that tradition, and discriminate against those fleeing a brutal civil war in Syria. It does not represent who we are as a country.

Second, this measure would directly harm our security interests. As you all know, the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East poses an extraordinary threat to the stability of that region and to our allies in Europe. We need to be doing more, not less, to alleviate the problem – and one important way to do that is to accept a modest number of thoroughly vetted refugees. The signing of this executive order would send a terrible signal to our allies in Europe and in the Middle East, who will now have an excuse to do less. It will also be a gift to ISIS, which has been telling Muslims around the world that the west is their enemy. I have no doubt they will use this order as propaganda to support that claim.

Third, there is no data to support the idea that refugees pose a threat. This policy is based on fear, not facts. The refugee vetting process is robust and thorough. It already consists of over 20 steps, ensuring that refugees are vetted more intensively than any other category of traveler.

The process typically takes 18-24 months, and is conducted while they are still overseas. I am concerned that this order’s attempts at “extreme vetting” will effectively halt our ability to accept anyone at all. . When the administration makes wild claims about Syrian refugees pouring over our borders, they are relying on alternative facts – or as I like to call it, fiction.

The truth is that America can simultaneously protect the security of our borders and our citizens and maintain our country’s long tradition of welcoming those who have nowhere else to turn. These goals are not mutually exclusive. Indeed, they are the obligation of a country built by immigrants.

Refugees should not be viewed as a certain burden or potential terrorists. They have already made great contributions to our national life. Syrian refugees are learning English, getting good jobs, buying homes, and starting businesses. In other words, they are doing what other generations of refugees – including my own – did. And I have no doubt that, if given the opportunity, they will become an essential part of our American fabric.

Yesterday, I tweeted about my own background. I was raised a Catholic, married an Episcopalian and then found out I was Jewish. I said in my tweet that should a registry of Muslims be instituted by this administration, I would add my name to such a list.

Such a registry is not included in the language of this order, but by targeting Muslim-majority countries for immigration bans and by expressing a clear preference for refugees who are religious minorities, there’s no question this order is biased against Muslims. And when one faith is targeted, it puts us all at risk.

When I came here as a child, I will never forget sailing into New York Harbor for the first time and seeing the Statue of Liberty. It proclaims “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” There is no fine print on the Statue of Liberty, and today she is weeping because of the actions of President Trump.

#RefugeesWelcome

Advocating for Social Justice While Managing Your Health Condition

That’s it. The end is here. It happened. Our President, his Cabinet and our Congress are already at work. They’re going to make the poor poorer, and make it even less safe for people of color, refugees and immigrants, the climate, LGBTQ+ individuals, and those of us who have particular health challenges or Disabilities.  That barely describes the minimum of potential damage.

I’ve been limiting my news intake to sources like ProPublica , Democracy Now!, and the odd Washington Post  or Guardian article that someone posts on facebook. I can’t listen to soundbites of Donald Trump without having PTSD flashbacks about my dad. It’s like hearing my dad all over again.

However, a friend pointed out that I can’t hide. I thought about it, and she’s right. As an articulate, educated person with skin color privilege and a bourgeois/middle class/wealthy background, I get so many passes.

Living below the poverty line for most of my adulthood, and then going through the NYC shelter and benefits system opened my eyes to how many passes I get. I wonder how helpful it is to name the instances here. It may just be hurtful. But you can ask me, and if we have trust between us, I’ll tell you. You just have to take my word for it.

So now it’s time for those of us with white privilege to advocate, advocate, advocate. I admit I’m new at it. I’m on a limited income, but I give a monthly pittance to the news sites I mentioned above. I’ll put the donate buttons for ProPublica and Democracy Now! below. I sent a little money to the bail fund for Inauguration Day (#J20) activists. I’ll put a link to the activist group below. I bought an issue of The Social Justice Journal from AK Press .  I plan to read it when I am reasonably sure that I won’t get a migraine from reading.

We need to follow #BlackLivesMatter.  We need to listen to what the Latino community is telling us they need from us.  They’re really spelling it all out for us:  Police aggression; wage theft; ICE raids against nonviolent criminals; slavery in the prison system; the disproportionately high number of people with brown skin who are arrested, prosecuted and incarcerated; and where the money from the private prison industry goes.

Let’s really fucking talk about this!  How do those of us who have chronic or acute health conditions manage our health and still participate?  How do those of you who have a demanding job, or 3 low-paying jobs, or a hard day with the kids all by yourself do it?  What do you tell your kids about hate?

I know that I stay away from cable news and most newspapers.  I absolutely do not read the President’s tweets, unless I see a debate among activist friends on facebook.  However, I glance at it quickly, consider the source, see if I can find some good reporting on it and GET OUT OF THERE FAST.  Then I write in my journal a little, or sing really loud to Lemonade, or take an angry nap, or go for a walk if I’m down with that.  Or I order a massive amount of Penne Alla Vodka and a pizza.  God, I can’t wait for John Oliver to come back.

How do I be Bi-Queer-Fluid and out and stay safe?  What about having Disabilities and staying safe, particularly Mental Health conditions?

I know I sure as hell am scrambling to get back into a BA program and planning to get as many degrees as I need to in order to be employable:  Because as we speak, this administration is putting together policies that will dismantle Medicare, Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act, Food Stamps, Cash Assistance, Unemployment and Social Security benefits.  Yes, that’s what the previous four or five administrations have been doing, but it’s looking like this one will do it faster, louder and with less accountability.

There’s so much to talk about.

I normally don’t get comments, but please contribute!

In solidarity,

-kat

donate to Democracy Now!

donate to ProPublica

donate to the National Lawyers Guild, who represented arrestees on #J20

Advice

If you’re feeling helpless listening to your friend, try not to reach for your handy advice bag. You have no idea how meaningful it is to simply be there.

Sitting quietly with someone while they feel their emotions is powerful. It’s power. You’re not taking on their stuff. You’re not trying to fix it. You’re sitting there, being present with them. You’re holding down the fort, creating a kind of safety, so they can feel their feelings. They can feel assured that you aren’t judging them, and maybe that gives them a millisecond when they can stop judging themselves.

It’s a thing. It’s called “Holding the Space.” I don’t know whether or not that should be capitalized. I’ve forgotten a lot of grammar and punctuation lessons, because I haven’t been in school in so long. Do me a favor? Don’t tell me how I can get back to school. Just trust that I’m doing what I can. Cuz, for real, you don’t understand, and it’s fine to not understand. Just don’t play like you do. Just listen.

People always suggest meditation to me because I have chronic panic attacks that impede my living and functionality. I don’t like meditation. It doesn’t work. Stop suggesting it. You have to feel safe in order to meditate. Maybe one day I’ll feel safe. In the meantime, shut up. Same goes for yoga.

See, you’re just talking over me cuz you don’t want to believe that there’s nothing that’ll fix me right now while we’re talking. We might be friends an entire lifetime and I’ll never be fixed to your satisfaction. You’re uncomfortable. You feel helpless. You don’t know what to say or do.

Advice is more about the person who’s giving it than the person it’s being given to. Advice is when someone gets very agitated by what you’re saying: you’ve hit a nerve, and they can relate, but they don’t want to touch that nerve, so they kinda go after you.

Here’s what: say nothing. Have you heard of “Active Listening?” It’s listening without interruption while your friend/partner/client speaks their truth. There are a few steps to it. One is paraphrasing what the person said, or even repeating exactly what they said back to them. A second step might be just listening quietly and saying “Oh my goodness,” or “Holy shit,” or “That’s so messed up. I wish this weren’t happening to you.” It’s important to avoid saying “I understand,” because no one really understands another person’s experience. Say “I hear what you’re saying. You have all my sympathy.”

Now, some people tend to bristle when receiving sympathy. They’re not used to it. They’d prefer advice, I think. I can’t speak for them. Maybe they’ve never been to therapy and that’s very uncomfortable for them. Maybe they’ve never told anyone what they’re telling you, and it doesn’t matter what you say – they’ll be mad at you. Maybe they suddenly found themselves speaking this unspeakable thing out loud and they’re trying to shut it back in its box, instead of talking about it while you listen sympathetically.

There’s a fine line. Hey – I want to make things better for people who are suffering, especially if I love them. I feel helpless and angry and hurt when I hear what obstacles they’re facing, and I want to make the obstacles go away. It’s just that has never worked for me. There’s a backlash. I gave them the wrong advice, or I missed out on a moment of being there for someone by pushing them away with advice. It’s the being there that has the most meaning.

Ow, My Depression! ~trigger alert~

I’m so depressed today that I dare not tell anyone. They would be ashamed of me. I’m ashamed of myself.

I’m shaking with anxiety. My kitchen and apartment seem foul to me, especially the fridge, and I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I’m going to eat gelato, and proably drink cream later. It’s the depression. The effort it takes for me to keep clean is too much sometimes. That’s why I want to live alone. I’m so ashamed of how I live, even though there are probably 17,000 depressed people within a 1000 mile radius of here who are embarrassed by how they live.

I keep people away from my life. I keep them away from my home. I hate my housing: Congregate Care Level II HUD-subsidized housing. The staff watches my every move. Cameras everywhere except inside the apartments (as far as I know). They know – the staff always knows whether or not I’m home. It’s because the front desk person has to record in a notebook whenever a resident exits or enters. There’s just the one entrance. They have a monitor in front of them with all the camera feeds from the hallways and building entrance and lobby. If they want me, they know I’m home. They’ll buzz my intercom over and over. They’ll come knock on my door. The case manager will call my phone.

I’m in an abusive relationship with my housing. Every step I take to protect myself seems to incite some kind of retaliatory behavior. They start treating me like I can’t be trusted; like I’m incapable. They patronize me; they condescend to me. They laugh and pooh-pooh my very real problems. They interrupt me when I’m speaking. They ask intrusive questions – the same ones – over and over; and their shtick is that they need to continually evaluate and therefore they’re allowed to ask the same instrusive questions every time they see me. It’s a design. The program is designed to give me the feeling that I don’t know what’s real and what’s not. It’s designed to give me the feeling that I’m crazy, incapable, dependent, and also undeserving of support and trust.

Their formula keeps me trapped in my home, because I don’t want each of my exits and entrances recorded…because I deserve privacy and independence…because I don’t want to run into nosy staff every time I leave or come home. There’s only one way in and out of the building. It’s all very “Big Brother Is Watching You.”

You want out of the shelter, you submit to them. They get to change the rules whenever they want.

I sit in my apartment and shake with fear. The meds don’t touch it, this anxiety. It’s not anxiety. It’s pure fear of being abused. It’s pure fear of being violated. The answer to an abusive relationship? GET. OUT. Get out! Get out! Get out! Don’t try to reason with an abuser. Just get the fuck out however you have to.