Wednesday, December 14, 2016
Tuesday, November 15, 2016
I prefer myself a little wild and on the predictable side but I've come to see with medication that others may prefer the quieter side. It's a huuuuge soul searching thing to decide to become medicated or not because acquiescing to the doctors and others is very much about deciding to let others tell you how you should be. But.
But it makes life a little more manageable. If that's what you want. Not sure I do, on some days. The meds will take some of your creativity. If someone tells you differently slap them. My psychiatrist is an angel and it was only because she believed in me that I tried it at all. She's small and gentle and Asian and brilliant.
"The disease is not your intelligent," she told me, mixing up the English words a little here and there.
In the beginning it's very tough. I can't tell you how difficult. For four months I was day and night in the clouds. But not in that sublime, high, ecstatic way that I am in my manias. You get those natural highs when you're in your manias and no drugs are necessary. I wouldn't really know because I never experimented but I've read enough to think that the stimulants would give you the best approximation of a manic episode. Those up-for-days power-through-anything high-and happy bursts. You can probably take coke or meth and get something like that but I can't imagine it would be as fun.
But here we are again at the BUT. The problem was that I'd be up for days at a time. Days. I could write and talk and move and do anything I needed to do really. And that made me a very successful person. Like many people with bipolar disorder I was good at what I did. I was successful and happy with myself.
It's the depressions. That crash you get off the manias. I'd complete all my work with masterful precision and then retire to bed for a week or more. It gets hard to hide that. You call into work a lot but you do such a good job when you're there that everyone allows the lapses. You make excuses that aren't excuses. Because when you can't get out the black moods there's little else to do but stay in your bed, in the suicidal darkness, in the silence, It becomes like a dirty little secret that only those closest to you know about.
And then there are the rages. I'm as mild and even when I'm well that you'd never know I had a temper until...until you know. But they were bizarre outbursts only a few knew about.
So that's why I decided to sacrifice my highs. It was a hard decision. I'm not as creative as I was and if you don't believe me all you have to do is look at how often I've updated in this past year. I've maybe written three poems in the past year. I hope there will be more but just now the well is empty. Even writing this the fountain isn't flowing with its customary gush, I'm working harder for less product. It makes me wonder if the decision I've made is a deal with the devil. It's why you can't allow yourself to be pressured into anything if you are bipolar. You have to know yourself and know how the compromise will cost you.
I'm glad I powered through the muddy minded side effects of the anti-psychotics but I'm grieving as well. My psychiatrist gently pushed me through the fogginess and the flatness. You find other ways of getting those highs. For me it's music, I play my Spotify loud and often. You have to avoid the impulse to get high with artificial drugs and it's a very tempting prospect. The downside is that drugs are way more uncontrollable than even the manias. And it'll fuck with your medication, if you decide to go that route. Drugs and bipolar disorder and unholy, treacherous frenemies.
The upside of medication in the 20th century is that you no longer have to worry about gaining twenty pounds in order to stay sane. The old school drugs came with nasty consequences including the fuzzy thinking. Truthfully the fuzzy thinking, that slow drudging sensation is something you learn to contend with.
But after months and months if you don't cheat, if you take the meds everyday without fail, if you train yourself to new habits, then you begin to get better. Bipolar disorder plays second fiddle to schizophrenia and in that I'm grateful but I can't say my experience has been all bad; I always say the opposite in fact.
But I'm healing and learning so much about myself. I'm getting better. I still feel conflicted about the medication and folding to patriarchal norms, but it may be that the meds saved my life. I'm coming to terms. If I can help anyone reading this then I've done one thing to help myself.
I'll share more as I learn to navigate this experience.
Friday, November 11, 2016
Monday, November 7, 2016
A mirror's reflection can never tell you who you are. It's in the dark and deep silence that the voices of identity whisper their truths. Fear of the dark is more a fear of your true self which often resists the noise and the clamor of daylight. The journey between light and and dark takes you into the Self and away from the garish and false imagery that fools us about who we are, who we want to be. Darkness has its own blessings for those with the courage to brazen out the fear. Ultimately you bring gifts of awakening into the light.
I'm learning to write all over again. Bipolar disorder is no joke, the brain is a complicated, delicate beautiful organism and I miss the old me. But without the medication I might not be here at all. So I'm relearning myself and my art. I'm writing one sentence at a time rather than books or pages and it feels like mental constipation but all writing comes to life one word at a time and I've come come back to life one breath at a time. Breathing my art and living my words one heartbeat to the next.
The most wicked foe that I regularly battle is the fiend who tells me that my creativity is trivial, silly, and more worthy of silent distegard than sharing. I see every sentence that I write as a declaration of war against self censorship, against disease, against self destruction and I choose my facebook, my blog and my beloved private journals as the playgrounds of self expression, artisic reward and affirmation. Some of my spaces are public some are private but I'm practicing the risk of sharing publicly more and more because if a writer doesn't write then you're only a wish without the hope. These are my spaces of freedom, of retaliation against the mind's dark places; this is my field of words and joys.
Trump is about to revisit a form of racism on black folks with 19th century realness and our white brothers and sisters have decided that's perfectly okay. I'm over the delusion that Hillary can save us. Black and brown people are the sacrifical lambs of this election. We've been sold down the river again.
I don't know if I can adequately explain how fearful it is in any era to be black or brown. The fear of America is something we live with daily but in my lifetime I've never seen such a collective nervous breakdown of the white mind to compare to this. We have always had to fear white people and even with the election of President Obama we've seen him accomodate the baser natures of haters over the love and hope of black folks whom he took for granted with shocking ease. The price of this democratic experiment has always been at the expense of every black or brown soul in this country.
For a brief eight years the myth of the post racial era has been the delusion of white liberals to the rage of white conservatives. When George W. Bush won the second time I was in shock but that doesn't compare to the cold insidious nature of this election. This election was always Hillay's to lose and with four days to go it appears she's done it. I was never under illusion that she would be some gift to black folks because even Obama denied us the justice and compassion that was so needed to address the sins of the white fathers and brothers and sisters, but the horror I feel at the likely reign of President Trump is all encompassing.
The dirty secret of race in America is that black folk and brown folk and white folk have never trusted one another and the proof exists in the superficial fabric deep through to the very soul of this country.
I dont think anyone in my generation has ever seen this kind of rank and overt distuption to the point that a majority of Americans have decided not to even pretend to respect the polite eyes-averted semblance of mutual peace, that pretense of equality that we rely on to interact with one another.
If you don't speak out against atrocity then you implicitly support it; if you voted for Trump you explicitly support it. The only power that we have is the power of our voices and the screaming is set to begin. Holla if you hear me and don't stop. What do you have to lose he asked and the answer was always self evident; the least of the of those losses is that transparent film of (dis)trust because we know where we stand now if we never did: black folks were a subjugated people before and that's where some feel we belong.
The soul rides upon the wind like a whisper travels upon an echo's cloak. Unseen, its shadow reflects in a mirror like smoke, like fog, like invisible breath as immeaurable as the sky. The shadow that greets the dawn is raised upon the wings of the soul expressed by the language of love. The dawn is here, its luminescence and joy as infinte as the holy ghost thst is the heart.
Having experienced homelessness against all the odds of a wealthy upbringing there were many, many things that I needed to know in order to navigate the experience. Hopefully I can help others with what I've learned. Here's a list of vital things to know. Please share.
- Make sure that you are in possession of all identification documents. You'll need your birth certificate, state ID/driver's license, social security, and health insurance info. Make a packet of all documents and keep with you at all times.
- Before leaving home call your state's non emergency services line (usually something like 211, 311 or similar) find out all the service providers including shelters and food banks
- There's a lot of drama involved in finding shelters. Call your local shelter and find out what organization runs them, the length of stay allowed, accomodations and rules. Be very careful, despite being a literal beggar you may have to be exceedingly choosy. There are many shelters run by strict religious groups that essentially amount to cults and agreeing to their rules can lead to some frightening compromises and often there is no recourse if you are mistreated. If you have the option Salvation Army is an excellent resource, humane, clean, compassionate with very good services and accomodations.
- The sad fact that no one can tell you is that to be homeless you often may have to relocate to another city with better resources.
- Ask for help from friends and strangers. There is no doubt that when you fall into indigence many people will not answer calls for help and it is a profoundly humbling experience to ask for help. However you will also find that kindness comes from surprising quarters. There are times, quite frequently when you will feel abandoned but continue to work the system and take goodness with you in your heart. There are blessed breakthroughs to the light more often than you can imagine.
- Find out where you can stay to avoid being on the street if you can't find shelter. Libraries and hospitals are often the best options.
- Designate particular friends and family to keep in touch with for your safety. It's easy to disappear but never succumb to the temptation. You may not want certain people in your life to know where you are or what's happening to you but make sure someone close always knows where you are and what's going on.
- Work the resources. You may not be able to afford simple necessities like a phone but there is a federal free phone program affectionately called the Obama phone. They're easy to qualify for when you're indigent and literally a lifesaver. Assuming that there will not be a Trump presidency ( something I'm fearing) medicaid is readily available. You will need health insurance because many services that you'll need to access come through medical and behavioral centers.
- Particularly in the case of homeless women more than fifty percent suffer from physical and/or mental illness. The treatment services exist. Become your own best advocate by seeking help from community behavioral resources. Be diligent in following up on your health and wellness. It's the first major step to bringing yourself from poverty
Sunday, April 24, 2016
You all. Meaning, black people.
Nevermind that Prince didn't do drugs.At first I had to parse the statements out to know how to feel. Do I get pissed for her slight of Prince or for the ignorance or for the flat out bigotry? For a minute or so I debated getting angry but decided against it. Diane is just racist. Everybody knows Diane is racist. Diane knows she's racist. It's nothing to get upset about anymore. She's just a damn racist. I have to see her everyday and I always speak, I'm always polite. She is what she is. I even forgive what she said to my mom the first day we were here because honestly life is short, but it's still a curious disease that she has, and I watch her trying to understand what life is like for her. How can you walk around so ignorant and be a happy person?
Then again she's here in a homeless shelter with me and not many of us have anything to be happy about so maybe she isn't.
We were sitting outside beneath the smoking shanty talking and Diane began to relate a story about a friend in trouble. "Well they can mess with her if they want but I'll be at the door with the Klan if it don't stop."
They. Black people. The Klan.
And she was so matter of fact about it that there wasn't much to say so we just left the smoking shanty. There wasn't much else to do about it.
Thinking of Diane always puts me in a bad mood though, and watching Donald Trump clown around for the presidency always puts me in mind of Diane. The two are interchangeable in my thoughts forever now. I hate to say it but the entire Trump circus has me side-eyeing all the white people I meet. Because besides Ben Carson (who has been expelled from blackness, in case you didn't know) ain't nobody but white people voting for his crazy ass. How could white folks let him run around embarrassing the shit out of them? But that's just the thing, everybody ain't embarrassed. In fact some white folks are flat out elated.
But you have to wonder how it was even possible for Donald Trump to come this far if race weren't still so incendiary even in the so called post-racial era. And being poor and white has everything to do with his success. Nevermind that Donald Trump doesn't care about poor people whatever their color, he's able to tap into a rage and ugliness that translates into votes because he is "telling it like it is". And don't doubt that he isn't because he does indeed. He taps into not just fear and prejudice but arrogance. That old time supremacy that built the Black Codes and Jim Crow, that told poor whites that they would maybe always be poor but they would always be better than a nigger. Years may pass, presidents come and go but whiteness will always be defined by the power to rise above niggers. It's what white power is all about.
What intrigues me about Diane and people like her is that they overlook the the fact that poverty is blind. I've been rich in my life, very rich in fact, but this is my first time ever being poor and I had no true concept beyond the academic how poverty as a system locks people out of the rest of the known world. Watch television commercials; the pretty sleek car commercials always fuck me up. How the hell can I ever get a car if I can't even show enough collateral or credit score to get a car loan? How can I buy the newest drug put out by the pharmaceutical industry without insurance? How can you participate in a capitalist country without capital?
You can't. You don't. You sit in your personal shantytown and remain disconnected from the rest of society. And that disconnection is so total and overwhelming that you'll never know how the other half lives because the two halves simply don't speak to one another. What is there to say but I'm sorry. I'm sorry you're so poor and so ignorant and so dislocated but I have a home and a mortgage and a car payment and expensive insurance premiums and a job, and you don't and I'm sorry but I have to live my life. That's basically a one way conversation because it's very hard to communicate what poverty is like and how it functions. And anyway who's actually listening? I know this because it's the way I addressed poverty when I had everything and others had nothing.
The truth is that Donald Trump doesn't have to become president to win. He's already won. He wins with every rally, every time his constituents beat down a protester, with every bit of rhetoric because he's brought to light somethings that it had briefly become impolite to say and think. He's given poor whiteness a new language and a new rage and a new way to communicate. A new life for the twenty first century. All he has to do is command a television camera and he's won. For a certain sector of the United States he will be the King of Hearts for evermore. He's become the champion of poor whiteness all the while concealing the most salient fact; he's taken advantage of people who have no voice and who have no money and while they will always lose as poor people must, he sacrifices nothing and adds nothing to an already impoverished mindset. He wins over and over and over again.
The thing that Diane will never understand no matter what is that here in the shelter we're all poor; there's nothing to be gained beyond self satisfied spite by dividing our power. If all the poor people of the country could band together think then what power could be wielded for change. Think of how the fabric of capitalism would rend itself to destruction. There's so little to be gained from division of strength. But the power of white supremacy never speaks to this idea by its very nature.
It's interesting to note that during President Obama's term the word racism itself has become such a reactionary word. White people hate hearing about it and that's nothing new but the fact that to label a white person as racist brings such howls of pain and anger that it's almost a dirty word. The yelps of protest you hear! But why is it so incendiary when the thing is so obvious? There's no need for the truth shy attitudes that surround such rhetoric.
At least if you're going to be racist then be like Diane and just own it. Trump plays coy all the while he plays ugly, feinting and tipping about like the emperor in his new clothes, bare but proud. When confronted with the truth he argues, lies, shrieks, clumsy and disjointed.
In a way, he's brought back a kind of racism that never went undercover exactly but that definitely became uncouth for many years. Now we're talking about it and plenty of people are touting the king. It's not new of course, it's familiar but re-cast with a special glow, reforged if not reformed. The bottom line is that white people have a problem and it's this: only they can stop Donald Trump and the Dianes of the world. The question is whether there's the will to do so.
God make it stop.
Wednesday, March 30, 2016
There are three floors here at the shelter: the basement is made of three little apartments for the Emergency 30 day shelter; everyone who comes here is required to stay in the Emergency Shelter before a decision is made whether you can move up to the second or third floors for "transitional living" where you pay $290 rent per month for an individual room. Not everyone makes it to transitional living; sometimes people don't stay long enough, move on to other accommodations, home, other shelters. If you're tough and desperate and if there's enough room on the upper floors then as long as you don't cause trouble you can be reasonably sure you'll be asked to stay.
But God above the drama!! It's been twenty years since I lived in a dorm and all the drama that accompanies college dormatory applies to a bunch of poor women living in a homeless shelter but perhaps double. So that's what Gina was saying, plead the blood of the lamb and hope you don't strangle somebody.
I don't smoke as much as I used to simply because I can't afford it but a little nicotine goes a long way to easing some of the disorientation you suffer in this limbo.
"Danni needs to stop rolling cigarettes at the kitchen table, it's nasty --"
"--That bitch at the desk got one more time to say something rude to me --
"Why don't Susanna like to wash her ass? Seriously she stinks!"
"No honey I don't have anymore cigarettes to lend out, Shelley owes me four --"
There's all types of women but to my surprise most everyone is middle class. Or would be middle class if such a thing existed anymore. At least half the women have jobs, two jobs even but still don't make enough to afford to live on their own. The temping agencies always have plenty of labor from the ladies here but as long as there's no reasonable living wage to paid there will also be plenty of ladies in places like this. I'm in a special type of limbo here. After my third nervous breakdown in ten years I'm finally applying for disability, a process that takes years during which any attorney worth his fees will tell you not to work. Even without the disability proceedings it's still highly dubious that I'd be able to sustain a job at this point. But I'm not the only one here in this maddening predicament.
There's Deena who is in fact a social worker herself fallen on hard times; she worked with the very population that she now comprises, the "underclasses", the mentally ill, the homeless and the people who are so poor that they fly under the radar of everything from Obamacare to proper housing.
Then there's my friend Cyndi who has a car and a job and who's always available to take me to the store or to IHOP when Mom gets paid.
There's Shelley, a canny, crafty old former meth-head and shoplifter who walks down to the jail most days to see her son Norman; when she's not seeing him she's putting money on his books for commissary or the phone.
I'm in a small town, the smallest place I've ever lived in fact; it's like a really poor Mayberry but I came here with Mom because of the transitional housing program at this particular shelter. That's one thing no one ever tells you about homelessness, that sometimes you actually have to leave your own city where you're homeless in order to be homeless somewhere else where it's cheaper or where there may be other resources. However, generally those resources, where ever you go, don't include true secure housing. In my state especially the resources are thin and it's only through word of mouth that you find the scant handholds that keep you off the street. In the first shelter I stayed in a woman told me about this place so after a few months bouncing through two shelters Mom and I packed up with a few garbage bags and came here. We've never spent a night on the street though, so there's one small thing to be grateful for.
This is the one place in America where race truly does not matter; we're all homeless women what's the point in igniting race war here? But it's interesting to note that when politics does come up there are a few women who passionately dig Donald Trump. One of the dearest friends I've made here, Donna is her name, told me she likes Trump but she also told me that she never votes so that gave me small comfort at least. It makes no difference that Trump would be the last man on earth to help any of us.
This election season I'm voting for whoever doesn't cut off my food stamps, that's the single most important political point from my viewpoint. But that doesn't help the preachy types get it that we're not the demographic that the political candidates care about; we aren't pumping money into the PACs, we aren't a voting bloc that can be prettily posed with, we're poor women. And yeah, you can preach about Bernie Sanders to me all day long but to me? in this election cycle? they're all the same really.
"She charged me ten dollars in food stamps for a ride!" That's Belinda bitching about Vanessa.
"Yeah Ronella is shady like that--"
"Who does she think she is?"
"Is Roxy a lesbian?"
The days are slow but somewhere on the spectrum of visible light you can see us beneath the half-shanty talking and bitching and arguing and praying. Not many can hear us even though we're sometimes hard to miss. The phrase girl-power takes on entirely different connotations when you truly live in a community of women who are basically forgotten; the bottom line is that we only have each other. The number of people, me included, who have no family, have no support network -- it's staggering. You begin to see that even alone-ness has its many shades and shadows. Because we are alone. It's just the truth. But we have each other too and when the chips are down, as they are for us here constantly, it's we who help each other.
Even in the darkness there's a bit of enlightenment, room for self awareness. When the waters are rushing you hold out your arms to those who are pitching over the falls with you, you create a human chain.
"Have you seen Veronica's baby eating dirt?"
"Yeah he does it everday and she's such a stupid--"
"Jeffrey stop eating that dirt!!" That's Veronica yelling while entirely missing the conversation about the dirt eating.
"Can you loan me ten bucks?" That's anybody on any given day.
"Don't get paid til the first."
We've all got our hands out. There's just never ever enough money to go around. And just when you think that no one can help you at all, someone here just as poor as you holds out her hand. That's how it is. We've got us. That's all.
Saturday, March 19, 2016
a sharp white kiss with the drag of teeth
dusty fingers in a solemn half light
an undercover lover's shady movements and flight
call me your lover and never stop to think
and I'll come to you windblown in darkness with rich wine to drink
with twine and a cross I will pierce me to you
I constructed this love from creative dreamtime and jewels
leached this power from the hearts of seventeen fools
and now we belong to a tribe of just two
a wealth possessed beyond gems
memory cannot escape this delusion
so stay here in my darkness where together we can hide
Northanger and soft
cocoon and treasure mine
Sunday, February 28, 2016
|by Natalie Shau|