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.

When the Fantasy is Reality

I had to just sleep after the Toastmasters contest today. My chair, not working with my body since the chairfall, caused seizures. Again. I felt frustration and kept bouncing between one of the conference chairs and my scooter, pretty much between every speech. I felt paranoid about that but decided in order to judge and properly evaluate I had to try for the comfort level that was necessary. It did work, it was just obnoxious.

After the contest I had people asking me if I was me. I haven’t seen some of these men and women in seven years. Not since I was the one up on the stage giving a speech. I think it was about the importance of feet. I had to explain the chair to these people, but, instead of revulsion there was only acceptance. My brain rejected this.

Most people with disabilities, upon their disability becoming apparent face a world so full of revulsion that it is impossible to find a place with acceptance as the norm at first. It is common for persons with disabilities to face stereotyping, because of course if we want access we are just angry disabled people. If this isn’t what is thrown at us like daggers, then it is that we are stupid, or just not worth the time.

Today there was no question of my intellect, acceptance, and indeed I looked around the room and felt that sense of family again. For me feeling love and contentment with people is very rare. Today was the reminder I needed to reground me, not every place or every person is full of disablism. There will be people in Toastmasters who are, and perhaps places that are in accessible but in this case the majority is acceptance.

It does help too, that I am far from the only person with a disability in Toastmasters. There are a lot of people with hidden and not so hidden disabilities in this organization, some of the more prominent are those with disabilities. Some might argue this is because we have more time, which of course is scoffed at. A portion of disabled people still hold down traditional jobs. The rest of us do not work either because employment is difficult to find or our bodies do not work well enough for employment in a traditional field.

I myself fall into that last category. I do not work at a traditional job because I couldn’t function with in the first two days. My body requires more rest, and does not recoup energy as quickly or consistently. This could be Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, though my doctor and I agree it is merely a reflection of the energy it takes for me to balance, hold my body in place, and to work past the pain.

I am on rationed pain meds, saving them for when I cannot breathe or think until April unless I run into more disablism. Still, the realization of what I have merits trumpets and shouting from accessible rooftops. Toastmasters is my place, I can network there and I can help others. They help me too. I am going to compete in the Fall, during the next round of contests. Not just for the glory of competition, but, for the joy of being involved and active.

Changes and Medicaid

I should be asleep, I was up at Six AM unable to sleep, my mind entrenched in researching what it will take to get Medicaid to cover a new wheelchair. I just got my scooter but my needs have already changed. This might actually be enough, despite being told by my Wheelchair Provider, “Suck it up, you have to wait five years before they will even consider another chair.” I left feeling anger at the young man, first he failed to repair my chair, then the manufacturer also failed and they gave it back to me running but barely manageable. It doesn’t turn.

How can I function with a chair that won’t go around a corner without a circus routine being thrown in to the mix? I gave up on driving indoors with the one I have a while ago. It is too bulky to fit inside. I didn’t know they should have let me drive it before I was left with the chair, or that I should have known with in a month, by some strange magical process that the chair was wrong for me.

I had an accident, before I started this blog, as well. I sat in a chair, in my own home and due to age and exposure to extreme weight for twenty or more years, it collapsed. It felt like I sat on air, even as the wood cracked like a shot gun. For me, when something frightening happens the world slows down to a snail’s pace. I could see the terror in my friend’s faces, and was glad instantly that the abusive roommate wasn’t out of her room yet.

I felt too, the pain as my body tipped into a position that it no longer could sustain. I knew I was going down. I felt this same slowness when my back broke initially, it took forever. I was actually bored by the time the car finished it’s impact and by the time the chair hit the floor, wanting the pain to come, so that it could be over.

The result of my strange slowdown is two fold. The problem is the anticipation of pain might be either smaller or larger than the actual pain. Anticipating it I may tense up, making the imapct worse. On the flip side I can also work through strategies on how to land, shift position, and protect myself. I also can go through panic by the time I hit the floor. I just hate feeling like I am in a Zack Snyder Film. My least favorite director, his trademark is Super Slow Motion Story Time.

I was lucky, I did not hit my head on the chair. I should have but when I just let myself go, my body relaxing until impact, this changed how I flowed through the air. I was impaled on a wooden stake, and immediately made a Buffy Joke, unaware that the joke was too close to reality. I barely bled. My instinct too is to slow my heart rate, to stop all unnecessary functions. this is fine enough but, also is dangerous. I am not sure where I learned it either, but it might be my Mother. She does it too.

My service cat kicked into action, running first to try and fetch any human left in the house, then, checking to see if I was still breathing, before she called for help via telephone. My Person and my PCA (Personal Care Attendant) were both called. Then I went via ambulance with the nicest and most well informed paramedics. I do not know what these emergency personnel are called in other countries but they are our first responders, along side Firemen, and the police.

They were worried, and told me so, because I was far too calm. I reminded them that panic doesn’t do anything for you and hinders care, and that my friends had panicked enough. I had spent half an hour on the floor, trying to not move. I started shaking violently, having small seizures as my body protested. Finally, my seizing was documented. It is related to my level of pain. They gave me some morphine at the hospital, just before sending me home.

First they did Xrays, nothing appeared to be wrong. It’s been a month, maybe two. I am never really sure how much time passes, a side effect of my childhood mental health care and severe traumas. I am not sure which one caused this, PTSD or too many pills. The Xray tech was a student. He was cute too, though I barely registered that. He and his supervisor had a patient who could not move into their positions for the most part, my body refused and it was unsafe until after xrays due to the existing injury.

I found something new, they accommodated my body and still got the needed film. This is rare. Usually they twist you, ignoring your screams, telling you it will just be a second. Xray time is a form of abject torture. Why? Well, there is not usually much they can do to accommodate, or they forgot how. I had a smart tech and a brilliant student. I told him too, he should stick with it and that if he wanted I would write a personal recommendation. I gave him my email address and telephone number.

I have a trained reflex to try and fix people, and this evolved into making bad jokes and never crying in the ER. I cried that night, and there was blood. I still made bad jokes but, I finally had an ER doctor that knew it was the pain talking. I had to make jokes in order to seem okay. I couldn’t stop. That was when I started trying to make myself accept that I need a therapist. Self defeat is not an option when your body is already falling apart.

You know those toys with strings in them, that when you squish them they collapse? I feel like I am one of those and someone keeps hitting that button. I often look like that when I fall too. The analogy is too close for my Person. He doesn’t mind my jokes usually but sometimes when they are cruel and anti my existence he has to remind me to be gentle with myself.

The hospital I chose was full. It rarely is, and that meant anywhere else I would’ve been worse off. I live right next door too, the Women’s Hospital. A hospital dedicated soley to the health of women! They were the first place to accommodate a need, long ago. They woke me up to being treated like a human by doctors.

As we left my doctor shared a funny story, perhaps to illustrate how unfunny any trauma was, but, it was amusing in it’s tragedy. Here it is paraphrased, beyond this point, if you are squeamish, I would skip the blue text.

You like jokes? Well, I have a sort of funny story for you. Lately we’ve been seeing a new type of meth.” So far not funny.”People are mixing laundry detergent and amonia and injecting this into their bodies. Supposedly the best high yet. We have seen a few who miss the vein.” I am busy imagining what the ammonia is doing to their brains, when my Person shudders and the doctor continues, “Each one had gangrene before coming in. I know this isn’t the funny part. Seeing their flesh cook from the inside out, but, they usually start seeing things. That’s where it gets funny. Blue bunnies, almost all of them see blue bunnies.

I took this attempt at illustrating just how funny it wasn’t to heart. When I was in the ER for my Anaphalactic Shock I did not tell a single joke. Not being able to breathe helped, but, that story echoed in my head. Most of them left before they were fully treated. It too raised the awareness of the scents behind this new Meth. I did not list all of the ingredients here either, but he did. Now, I know, if I smell really clean laundry and it smells like ammonia too, watch out!

Life is full of change. None  of it is easy, but, I follow some practices of Dharma with in Buddhism, this doesn’t make me a complete Buddhist, there are more components to my religion. It has helped me however, find some acceptance in being born into this body, in my family, and in the things I believe. Some protest Buddhims as a load of bull because there are aspects that could lead to self blame. I see it merely as another tool for coping with change. Buddhism is a life style, not, a religion.

I go back to the grindstone, trying to find resources to take to my doctor to explain my new needs. Likely I will see another wheelchair doctor, walk my few shaky steps, explain why they are fewer. I get tired of the explanations. Do they ever stop?

A Response to “What are Service Animals?”

This conversation was held on MSN. My friend is using the Alias Tiffy, in respect to her cat. She asked the question about service animals and our discussion illuminates a bit more about what a cat is capable of. Eventually I will (hopefully) post video of my cat performing her tasks. I am sad to say my cat has an Upper Respiratory Infection courtesy of the shelter system and our new housemate. This doesn’t mean that you should not adopt, just make sure to get your cats medical care when they need it. All typos are left as is in the conversation, though emoticons were removed.

Tiffy says:
Ah, makes sense but scince I can’t see you, how can a cat help you walk?
Kateryna says:
My cat naturally shifts her weight to not fall. So, I trained her to shift her weight to help me not fall. What this means is that when I am walking and start to tip too far in one direction she goes to the other side of me and I can compensate.
Kateryna says:
She has cut my falling down by over 90%
Kateryna says:
Not enough   To stop me needing a wheelchair but I can go pee without falling five times in the six step journey
Tiffy says:
I think I understand
Kateryna says:
Awesome
Kateryna says:
Any other questions?
Tiffy says:
What else is she trained to help with?
Kateryna says:
She alerts me when I forget to take my meds. There is thankfully a lag time between the morphine leaving my system and the pain slamming back into me, and she can sense it. The trained response is for her to either get my med bag for me, or to yowl three times in a row.
Kateryna says:
If I need my meds and cannot reach them she is also trained to retrieve them.
Kateryna says:
She can also dial for an ambulence and can even call Locke on his cell if I fall or somesuch
Tiffy says:
Wow
Kateryna says:
She is trained to warn me when someone approaches from behind me, which cuts down on flashbacks and/or protects me from a random hand right on the injury
Kateryna says:
She used to do more but she is aging and has been sick enough times that the training had to be forgotten for her own sake.
Kateryna says:
Her mouth got torn up, she used to pick up objects etc.
Kateryna says:
She is even trained to “read” some packaging for me at the store, because i am blind as a bat and cannot see much anymore. So, she identifies the shapes or however she does it and paws the package
Tiffy says:
Ow
Kateryna says:
Yeah, she is allergic to poultry and the reaction cut up he rmouth,
Kateryna says:
The other things she does are more instinctual responses with trained reactions
Tiffy says:
Poor thing =/
Kateryna says:
She has a particularly shrill warble she gives when I am going to pass out, and if I stay still she calms down
Kateryna says:
If i am going to have a seizure she will yowl until I either stop doing what I am doing, it hits, or until I sit down, depending on what I am up to.
Kateryna says:
during the pass out time she calls for help, by going to every room in the house and making a ruckus
Kateryna says:
When it is a seizure she moves up to my chest and sits there unless I signal her to get help
Tiffy says:
So I guess most people who have service animals are pretty attacted to them, they’re really amazing
Kateryna says:
she is too sick to work right now, and I cannot get out of bed.
Kateryna says:
Direct correlation.
Kateryna says:
Without my service animal I cannot go outside, I cannot function.
Kateryna says:
It is worse actually than what it was like before she came into my life, because although my back is broken and my legs barely work, with her I feel as free as I did before my injury, and in some ways freer.
Kateryna says:
I lack saftey, I lack security, I fell four times this morning trying to do my daily things like peeing, because she is sleeping off her sickness.
Kateryna says:
I am also terribly worried about her, so I am not as efficient in my work.
Kateryna says:
A service animal is another limb. I love her more than Locke, but he understands why.
Tiffy says:
I hope she gets better soon
Kateryna says:
When she was electrocuted a year ago, he sent me money we needed for him to move out here, it took another six months to get him here but she would[ve died without it, and i am not sure I could survive without them BOTH. One I can handle being without but it sucks.

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