Notes: This is a post that was originally intended only for patrons; I’m temporarily making it public, but will lock it back to patron-only after a few days. Content warnings include: detailed discussion of mental health, in particular depression and suicidal ideation; trauma; abuse; homophobia; hospitals; financial stress.
I wrote this three weeks ago:
Dear patrons, hello! I come to you having decided that “when it rains it is a deluge so please move all furniture to the second floor and stock up on canned food to make it through ages of flood” is the theme song aka I-told-you-so proverb of my life. I am okay! I am doing better than okay, even, which is frankly amazing considering that at this point last year my partner was on the verge of breakdown and I was freaking out about finances myself. But ohhhhhh boy.
Things that have happened lately, a partial list:
1. My part-time job has transitioned into “helping start a startup” — and wow, there truly is a reason for all those morbid jokes about startups!
Twenty-three days later, things have changed, and I’ve been struggling to talk about it. I’ll try again now.
I lost my home to homophobia over six years ago. I could be more exact if I wanted; I have it down to the hour. I have most dates /times from that period down with a painful exactness, as I needed to recount everything that happened again and again when I did my application for immigration.
It is a funny thing, having the foundations of your entire world taken away from you in the span of a few minutes. I am a very different person now, with different foundations, but even now I still can’t dwell on everything that happened for more than a little while — enough to write this, enough to try to figure out why this April has been a month of all my defenses and forms of stability crumbling to dust. What I know is this: the mere idea of instability regarding shelter is able to bring back the full force of all that trauma. The days of wanting to die, and trying my very best to hold on because I owed it to the people who were holding me up. The hunger, and the fear. The fear most of all.
We have been moving this month. It is in all respects worlds away from when I lost my home. But sometimes no amount of difference matters to trauma.
Or to nightmares: I was back on my knees on the floor of a room I couldn’t call my own anymore, shoving my most precious books into black garbage bags — I couldn’t afford boxes or luggage — as many as I could fit, as many as I could bear to take. I was back on the bed of a friend’s spare room, weeping for hours. I was back in the rental apartment my partner and I had somehow scraped together for me, looking out the window, measuring whether I would fit through it. (I would.)
These moments crept into my waking hours, enough that scrubbing at a wall to clean it — we wanted to leave our old rental spotless, of course — sent me into a ball of rigid panic, because what if it wasn’t good enough? What if the landlord was displeased, and used their position of power over us to– I don’t know, we were leaving anyway, we have good friends who will support us and help us deal with any disputes if it ever comes to that, but when does logic ever matter when your brain is drowning in fear fear fear? I tell myself this move is a good thing, and that is true. I wish truth mattered to my memories.
I have not been suicidal in almost a year. I broke my streak yesterday.
Moving, people understand, is bad enough. You pack up all the things with which you construct a life, you have to make it fit into your car, and then into your new life-shell. I know some people do not attach much meaning to places or things; I’m not one of them. Because of the circumstances under which I migrated here, I’m possessive to a perhaps irrational degree; I’m territorial, I cling. I try to curb it when I can. That someone who is not my partner is in the house (not even my house — only the one I’m living in) doesn’t mean they will take it away from me. That someone is looking at my studio doesn’t mean they intend to steal my space or my shelter.
In the course of moving, we had to take those spaces, my spaces, apart. I understood this on an intellectual level. We were taking the things that were truly ours so that we could use them to make new spaces of our own somewhere else. It made sense. It still hurt.
But you know, hurting was fine. It was the shutting down that made it impossible for me to cope.
The last time we moved it was barely a month after I had come out of hospital. I had been confined for several days due to a suicidal breakdown. Suicide and moving are strange but strong associations in my brain; I was suicidal because I lost my home; I was suicidal because migration was almost more than I could bear; this last time, I was moving because I had become so suicidal I couldn’t work and my partner had to find a job elsewhere.
It sounds so illogical and melodramatic when I write it out like that. Massive life changes do not mean one should kill oneself, of course; this is something most of me understands. But there is still a part, somehow stuck in the past, or bound to it, that says: look, it’s happening again, the world is breaking apart.
On a certain level I was prepared for how difficult this move would be. So I tried to make it easier on us; I hired removalists, cleaners, gardeners. They cost a great deal of money, but my partner and I had been working at the new company and we could make it work, barely, with our combined earnings.
Or, we could have made it work, but Milo’s vet bills were more than we expected — and this only a month after Teddy’s vet visits cost us the savings we’d only just begun building back up.
I am thinking about how it doesn’t rain it pours and how some people seem to be cursed with terrible luck and how, ever since I lost my home, life has been terrible; it’s been such a struggle to survive. Some subconscious part of me blames myself for this. Clearly I’m not working hard enough, and in the wrong profession, to boot; if I wanted stability why did I learn to make art? I should have been a business executive or something, at least that way I wouldn’t be worrying about vet bills on top of all my emotional baggage.
But then I think, it’s the system, isn’t it? It reminds me a little of this comic about privilege. I was doing fine, pretty much lived on the privileged side of things, but then I went and got myself into a relationship with a woman, and from then on all bets were off. You step into the other side of the system, where everything is just a bit more hostile, more difficult, more costly; where there are no guarantees of protection, and all the little differences, the small cruelties, add up.
Maybe it’s not that my luck is terrible (or it could be, who knows) but that the system is designed to crush people like me. If I weren’t an immigrant/brown/queer, if I could have accessed my family’s contacts, would I have gotten a job that would have been less breakdown-inducing? Possibly. Would I have had a deeper foundation, so that when major things like moving and massive bills happened, it wouldn’t feel like the end of the world? More likely than not.
Would I be able to look up and say, “Oh, it’s just a little drizzle,” instead of worrying about all my precariously built structures being swept away in flood?
I want to say something more, though, because for all that the system is a monstrous machine bent on destruction, it is not the only thing that exists. And I will tell the story of yesterday, where — after I had sent my partner off with all the coins I could find so that she could buy herself a jug of milk, and I had to tell her not to get milk for me or salt because the coins wouldn’t stretch that far; after I had to ask my boss to advance my salary because otherwise we couldn’t pay our bills — I sat down on my bed and wept in shame and rage.
It was a small thing. A very small thing. Who gets driven to suicidal despair over salt?
And, my still-rational part counselled frantically, all we had to do was make it to the end of this month, then Patreon would kick in and give us enough breathing room and maybe we’d get our full rental bond back and– And then we could pay our bills, and pay back a little of our credit card, and our other debts, and– I just had to hold on. Just a little more. A few more days. Not even a week.
And I said to my still-rational part, I have been holding on for years, I have been telling myself just a little more every day for over two thousand days, I’m fucking exhausted.
But then my self-preservation instinct rose up and said to me, you haven’t done everything yet. Ask for help.
My vision is tear-blurring again as I write this. See — and this is me talking to the part of me that despairs — this is what and how and why we live. Kindness.
Thank you for listening. For sharing in these words. For helping me.
Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat.