Corned Beef Homelessness

I was humming “The Rising of the Moon,” today and remembering Saint Padraig’s Days past. Part of it was the entire discordance in my body, the rest of it was a mixture of too much green and random facts about Saint Pats. I had seizures all day, starting directly after the TVC Toastmaster’s Meeting began. This left me exhausted, and my mind was not on the evaluation.

I still did my best, but, instead of baseball I wanted to think about the children i used to know. When I was homeless, at the first shelter I was running under the presumption that there was no joy to be had there, no safety, no happiness, no love. So far this had been proven correct, until I woke up on Saint Patrick’s Day Morn. This was about four years ago, I was all alone in the world. What woke me was a soft bundle of skin clinging to me tightly, crying.

The little girl was blind, and could not tell where her mommy was, and I felt nice and safe. So, sitting up I carefully ran a hand down her back and asked her what her mother’s name was. It was an hour before wake up call, and the girl had just gone to the bathroom, but her mommy had left her there, or so she thought. I put my shoes on and forced my body to move. Once I had my footing we walked to the bathroom, through the snow, my coat wrapped around the girl. I was cold, but, she was smaller and I decided she likely needed it more than I did.

I could hear someone calling, “Maggie?” In the darkness, I could not see but I could hear her. “I hear my Mommy!” The relief filled the child and she wanted to run off, but was afraid because this was their first night at the Shelter and she had fallen a few times, trying to find her mother. We made it to the bathroom, over 500 yards from the main building. Her mother was in tears when she saw her child and scooped her up. “I thought you were gone forever.” They said this in unison. I took my coat, her mother had hers, and wrapped myself in it, creeping back to bed.

I tried to go back to sleep but it was too late for extra rest. Still, I reasoned this wouldn’t be a big deal. They often treated women like garbage there, I am certain they still do. This day was different, if you could ignore the fact that the men had a restroom inside the main building and did not have to go outside with wet hair, they even had six toilets instead of just two and theirs was accessible. I couldn’t ignore it but was told if I so much as protested I would be out with no shelter.

When we cleared the floor, set the tables and had our breakfast, a bowl of sugary cereal each, the children came in. They rarely got breakfast, unless someone saved it for them, first come first serve, and children without a home are just as reticent to leave their warm beds as those with. I often saved my cereal for a child, and this morning I presented it to Maggie, after it turned out there was no more food. She recognized my voice and told her mother I was the nice lady who had saved her. I smiled for the first time, since losing my home. For a moment I didn’t hurt so much either. Then my stomach started whining at me, it wasn’t hungry it was just the sheer amount of allergens I had to eat in order to not die. The knife’s edge I walked on had become narrower and more harrowing.

I pulled on the very shirt I wore today, one of the few I managed to salvage. It was my only green at that point. I let my hair down, liking how it felt. I felt pretty again, a first since my back injury and homelessness. I wanted to dance, though I did not trust my legs for that. Then the staff asked for volunteers to run arts and crafts. The adults all grumbled, no one wanted to bother with the kids. I raised my hand. I have this strange reaction to chances to do things, I usually say yes.

There were acrylic paints, glitter glues, glitter, glue, and a lot of paper. I was given the one pair of scissors and we set out to work. Maggie was the first to want to try something, so, I helped her cut out clover and let her smear the glue all over the paper. She was having a blast. I remember her laughter, “It’s gooey!” Her mother watched, but less carefully since I had returned her unharmed without knowing either of them. Another girl came over, then a boy, and they made green paper chains, then, on white paper we painted leprechauns. Soon, the entire building was covered in green.

That smile kept returning too. After the first chain was hung, a few of the men began to pin the decorations, growling out playfully, “We need more green over here.” Smiling as one of the kids ran a decoration over, the smiles started to spread. By the time the annual news cameras came, filming us just to show how great the people who run the place are everyone was smiling. I remember the reporter, a short man with a puce tie, muttering, “Why are they so damned happy? Don’t they know they are homeless?”

As we sat down, a kind man bringing me a plate as I had begun to fall over again I realized why I was happy. I had stopped focusing for one day on my homelessness, and had instead focused on making someone else happy. I wanted to make sure that those kids had a happy day. I wanted to see their smiles. It was cold out, snowing, but inside the warmth of family and friends was found. I also had the first meal that was not going to make me sick since arriving there. Corned Beef with a side of freshly mashed potatoes. There was enough for everyone, a rarity there. I even was allowed seconds on the meat and potatoes.

I hid from the camera, this was helped by the smile that would not abate, I could not stop grinning. After all, the children were laughing, our temporary home felt like a home for once and until it was time to sleep no one fought, there was no need to try to steal food, and we were all content. The next morning there was no green, just the cold snow. There was too little food once more and it all went back to being a gray existence, dull and painful. Except, that I still felt happy.

My happiness was not permanent, yet, my acceptance that I could feel happiness made it easier to exist in a state of contentment. Without that day, I might very well have been too depressed to fight for survival a month later, when I nearly froze to death. That shelter is a special hell, for those in need, for those who no one cares enough about. It is not up to code, safe, and they do not try to make you safe or happy. It was merely a whim that lead to that one day, a kindness so rarely given.

As more and more families lose their homes, they head to shelters just like that one. Today, I remembered my own agony as I fondled a bit of green paint hidden just inside my sleeve, the paint stain is left over from that day. I too considered why I kept the shirt, and I realized despite it being a bit uncomfortable, always too warm , I keep it because this shirt has memories attached. It isn’t just the shade of green that sets my hair afire, smooths my skin, and makes me feel absolutely beautiful. The beauty I feel is instead in the subconscious associations with happiness.

When you have nothing, you still have your soul, your life, and the ability to love.
Happy Saint Padraig’s Day. May the road rise to meet you, your friends and family greet you, and love fill your heart today.

Violence (Trigger Warning)

I keep rewriting this post. Violence is bad. We all know this. Violence is often celebrated in our culture. In the US most of the television shows, even for children, include some sort of violence or attempt to teach children what boys do and what girls do. Girls like fashion, pink, and hair. Boys like to fight, are great leaders, and work. Bull pucky. The media also rarely illustrates that women can be violent.

I am capable of killing. I am not capable of murder. I know that if I had to kill someone to defend myself or the ones I love, I could. I discovered this when I was young. I am very loyal, it is a part of my nature to protect people. This does come from my history with violent abuse. If I could take the pain then I could save my sister or brother. They used to do that as well. Each one of us did our best to be the only one in pain. I am capable of killing, but, I never have.

I have had run ins with so many things, my life sometimes reads like a fiction novel. I never used to think about writing nonfiction, so afraid of being told I had dreamed it all. My biological mother and I talked on the phone today, partially about violence. The violence of doctors.

When I was eight I began to see a psychologist. After the first meeting they handed my mother a prescription for Zoloft. The pills made me sleepy. I hated taking them, because I couldn’t think. My father was still around, and taking the pills at his house always meant more pain. My reflexes were already slow, how could I fight back? I mentioned this to my doctor and the threat came. “If you do not take your pills you will be locked up with the other worthless children.” This doctor was a man, I remember falling silent, wishing to tell my mother. He threatened too that if I told her that she would be sent away, abandoning the others. I took the pills.

This man is no longer a doctor, he tried this on a competent adult a few years ago. There was a scandal, it made the papers. This was just after I fired him. He was the first doctor I fired. I spent years after that taking more and more pills. At one time I was on six antidepressants, an anti psychotic, an anti epileptic medication that they thought would make me not depressed, birth control pills to try and force my body to have a period, and a few other things.

When I threw up, I had to take a second dose. Doctor’s orders. There are chunks of my life lost not just to suppressed memories but to my brain shutting down from the constant overdose. Most of the medications I was on were not approved for children, just adults over the age of eighteen. I reacted to most of them. Being allergic to so much, that is no surprise. Throwing up, bleeding with each dose, and hallucinations weren’t big enough side effects to be taken off of the drugs.

I was more violent during that time, as they tried to fix a chemical imbalance that did not exist, due to the drugs. They are not the only reason I lashed out at the world. Abuse does that, it teaches people to strike before they get hurt. I barely remember assaulting my best friend in High School. She touched my sandwich and teased me for it. I remember the anger and seeing her on the floor but not the act of hitting her in the head with a chunk of wood.

This was caught on film, there were witnesses. I went into a psychotic rage over food. I have some serious food issues, and I thought she was going to take my food. The fear of being deprived was so strong, that I had to protect myself. This was what I knew, I never knew people could share. I was a beast, primal in my reactions. She did not suffer permanent damage but was hospitalized for it. This lead to the only psychiatric hospitalization that benefited me. Hospital hiding the institution, feeding on itself and drugging children. Teaching them first hand who Nurse Ratchet was.

The reason being I finally needed help. I was shunted around the state, with my history and diagnoses no one wanted to treat me. It feels familiar at times with doctors, sending needles into my heart. I was misdiagnosed with mental health conditions. One to explain every disability. I was accused of things, such as self mutilation that came from my disabilities. I was lazy, I was stupid, I was just not good enough. Years of that, a decade in fact, of being told how worthless I was by doctors and I did not trust them.

I was sent to an experimental facility. The Ranch, as my family calls it, was a peer support program. We did see therapists, and we did have medication given to us but we lived in a boarding school environment. The program depended on it’s recipients to function. This made a difference, as I found people my age I could talk to. This was a first. I also learned I was not alone. At the other facilities you were shoved in until you behaved for three days or so, then went home. In and out like a yo yo.

Each of the children at the Ranch had been in and out as well. Most were not from New Mexico, but a few of us were granted access to keep diversity up. There was violence there, though there was also nature. The Ranch is the only place I have ever been able to drink the water. The water came straight out of the ground. The first thing the doctors did was take me off all of my meds. They gave me two months before they started me on another. They came so close to freeing me from my shackles of medication. The medicine they put me on did change things, it seemed to reverse some of the damage to my brain from the drugs that came before. I stopped losing my hair, I gained some weight and lost some girth. I even began to smile sometimes.

I also met horses. I was one with nature there. There was silence at times, and there was bonding. That was where I learned I could love. The fact is, my father was a diagnosed psychopath. Even knowing this these “great” doctors did not seem to consider that my behavior was environmental. The ranch is where I learned about PTSD. It is also where I learned that flashbacks were not just my burden.

One of the other dorms, full of boys, found a dog. I was triggered when the dog came to us bleeding. The flashback lasted for six hours. I relieved my father killing people’s pets because I liked them. I still cannot go into detail on those horrors without triggering myself. This poor dog was hungry, lost in the middle of no where, and then was assaulted. When he came to our dorm, my brain left. I woke up, and found that the world had for once stopped for me.

This was my turning point. It wasn’t being threatened with institutionalization in the adult hospital, it wasn’t the new drug. It was coming back to myself and finding that every girl had stopped what they were doing, had sat in a circle around me and the dog to which I was clinging and waited. When I stopped screaming, apparently I had been, my roommate asked what happened. When I told them, no one told me I lied, no one told me it was my fault. The first time in my life, someone hugged me and cried with me. No one punished me for needing help, a first in my life.

I was on the cusp of adulthood when this finally happened. I was about to reach a point of no return, trapped in the system. They saved me from my violence, and I saved them in turn. I love each of those girls still. Someday I may cross their paths again, though I do not plan to admit it to them if I do. We each deserve the right to deny our childhoods to an extent.

I spent my childhood dying daily. I am certain that not every therapist was bad, I do not remember them if they were not. I only remember the incidents of threat, of lies, and of burden. Child psychologists often can get away with crimes and breaking the rules of conduct that their profession has. Not all of them do, but, an adult has power over a child. A psychologist is alone for at least an hour with a child, and some of them abuse this power. I had one who found out I would turn on her like a dog hit one too many times. She spent the sessions telling me about her husband’s erectile dysfunction, and telling me I was fat. The male doctor who gave me the pills threatened me each time with different torments. One of the other psychologists took part in encouraging the children at my school to burn me at the stake.

It is no wonder that I hated the world. Until the ranch only a few teachers had ever shown me adults could manage to not hurt me. Each of them saved a part of my soul, saved a fragment of hope from the violence. My mother did try, but, it seemed hopeless that any of her children would turn out to be a healthy adult. How could we? She wasn’t. We only knew violence.

Perhaps the violence I know tempered me? I doubt it. I believe it was the small bits of love I could find. I do not believe the Ranch did all the work in saving me, I think instead they unburied the ground work set by another.

After Toastmasters I will write of my first Sensei, I will tell you of my time as Little Lotus and how the Batman was my father until I was six. It sounds silly, and the fantasy was. It still held violence but my Sensei taught me ways to thrive, not just survive. I will also write about my experience with hate and nearly being burned as a witch.

We, the subjects of oppression are forbidden anger, we are forbidden violence. Even when it is used against us, violence is often attributed to us. Those with mental health issues, mental disabilities, and physical disabilities are vulnerable to violence in unique ways. When defending ourselves we are demonized. Women who show anger are told to simmer down, they are told that their anger is inappropriate. Some are raped to control their power, to try and punish them for anger. Persons of Color of any gender are also forbidden anger. The stereotypes tell how violent they are, and yet when a man is shot down for his skin color and people get angry, the murdering cops get away with it because the people get angry.

Violence is all around us, it is on the TV, it is in books, it is in my beloved comic books. Violence is in our history. It is sadly in our future. I mourn for all the children and those who once were children who know violence. The kiss of violence is the scar of fear, the spectre of disillusionment, and the taste of bitterness that shatters dreams.

Violence is the most horrifying entity that has ever been introduced into society. Violence is not a part of human nature, it was taught. We learned it from somewhere. Violence is not never ending. The cycle can be broken. I have broken the cycle in my family. Even when attacked I try to protect myself without violence. How do you survive violence? How do you endure?

Anger is violent. Violence is a poison. My antidote for violence is to sing, to write, or to create something. To be violent is to become what you fear. Fear can turn to anger, anger turns into violence. The cycle swirls around. I created this post not just to educate, but to share. I want to share my peace. In order to do that, you must see my pain too. I fear these words most of all, therefore I offer them up to transform and fly into the universe like butterflies, unlocking the caged minds of others. I write these words not with anger, but with sorrow for who I was, mourning for the death of innocence as I knew it, and with love. The love is not just for myself, though I truly love myself. It is Wishing Love, I wish love upon each and every person in this world.

I wish love upon you, for whoever you are you do deserve love. I may know you, I may not. I embrace you with my soul. I offer you a haven of knowledge, a haven of peace, and a haven of change. I am a butterfly. Here you too may learn to fly.

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