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.

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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.

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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.

Dis-Abled

Well, I canceled my internet and my HBO NOW (no!!) and I paid up my Con Ed and my prepaid phone.  I’m all paid up and I’m about to have even less money than I’ve been living on.

And, yes, I will talk candidly about money and not having enough.  Most people don’t have enough and why don’t we just talk about it in exact numbers?

************************************************************************

Well, I got approved for Disability and my income is just enough to pay my rent with a jolly $15 left over.  I sobbed and slammed doors and screamed and panicked when I got the income notice from Social Security.

Now I have to take steps.  I have to go to this office and that office.  I have to apply for extra income.  I have to wait and panic and be even hungrier for at least a few months.  The steps aren’t even clear.  Do I know that I’ll get extra income the first time I apply?  Will I have to appeal that decision too?

I first applied for Social Security Disability Income in May of 2014.  I was turned down in July.  I was in the shelter then.  My case manager, who kicked ass, appealed online (marvel that I didn’t have to go to the Social Security office!).  I got my appeals hearing in November, 2015.  Nightmare. Nightmare. I got the judge’s decision in late January.  I got the award notice in the fourth week of February.  Got all that?

My lawyer insists I’m entitled to retroactive Disability pay.  Social Security awarded me none.  I had my heart set on buying a used diesel pickup and moving out to a country road upstate.  I need quiet.  Now.  I need it now.  I could afford the rent in the middle of nowhere.  The truck could be converted to biodiesel.  I could live within driving distance of a train or bus to commute to the city twice a week for therapy.

I begged for more anxiety meds from my psychiatrist.  Thank god for him.  He’s my fourth psychiatrist within the past three years – all at the same clinic.  Psychiatrists and therapists can really suck, but, at last, not mine. I have the Dream Team now, bitch.

I dearly wish I could work.  It’s just all the panic attacks, all the PTSD symptoms.  Sometimes it seems like everything triggers me.  Nothing doesn’t set me off.  Fuck, I’m embarrassed by my intense reactions to odors and people’s conversations; to sounds; to someone standing behind me. I’m surprised by triggers that I didn’t know I had. I. Can’t. Work. Yet I’m dying to. I’m dying to go back to school. School? I can’t even concentrate on reading a short story. Let’s get healed. Let me heal, please, please. Please let me heal so that I can read a book and go back to school. I’ll figure the student loans out. I promise. Just…please.

Fuck, I had all these plans, and they have to wait. I have to adjust my expectations and my goals. My social worker here at my housing told me that student loans are forgiven once you get Disability (they’re not…or only in some cases, and it’s a complicated rubric). Thanks, dum-dum, for getting my hopes up. [My long-defaulted loans have totally fucked my credit, and I’ve never made enough income to turn it around].

There are all kinds of magical rumors about Disability floating around. I have come to believe that Social Security Administration workers are kept in the dark about a lot of this stuff. They sure as hell don’t have the answers you need. There’s really a different answer for each person for every damn little or big thing.

And humiliation is built into every layer of the system. Oh dammit, I can’t do any more today. I’m exhausted and I had so much coffee. Ttfn. XOXO