It’s finally over. I can finally be sure that it’s over. I can finally rest, assured that the next fucking terrible thing isn’t going to leap out of left field at me.
Except that I can’t. My hypervigilance has kept me alive this long, through decades of trauma. I have been physically battered, sexually assaulted, molested, harassed, stalked, yelled at while objects are being thrown at my face, and used as a general-purpose punching bag by everyone ranging from complete strangers to my most trusted allies and lovers. It hasn’t always started out that way, but it doesn’t matter when it always ends that way. I have been homeless, I have been hospitalized (with threats of a one-way trip to the nearest asylum levelled against me), and have moved so many times in my life that I stopped counting after the second time I lived on the streets.
My current collection of ongoing mental health concerns include dissociative identity disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, dysthymia, gender identity disorder, and a history of psychosis. At this point, I expect to be seeking help for the rest of my life, to untangle the parts of my past that creep into my life from every hidden corner of my subconscious. In the last year, I’ve been unable to maintain a regular or even reasonable sleep schedule–insomnia is destroying my life, and on my worst days, the only thing I want is to be able to sleep, but I can’t.
The worst six months I’ve had to endure in the last ten years of my life started in May with a choice I made in April, that would turn out to be one of the worst decisions I have ever made. My psychotherapist had retired from practice earlier that year, and as a result, he left me without help from any other professional in his field. I was living day to day, borrowing the means to pay rent and bills from someone who I had been romantically involved with for a little more than a year and a half–the psychotherapist called this a gift, but it felt like helplessness with a thick layer of guilt on top. My best flatmate had moved out to live with her girlfriend. I had a choice between someone who was on disability and someone who was gainfully employed as a bartender (and in pursuit of a second job). I chose the person with disability benefits, because I believed it was the ethical thing to do.
She started telling me some of the isolated incidents that have happened to her in her life-time, and some extremely difficult periods of homelessness, that she is now on disability for post-traumatic stress disorder. I told her why I can empathize, and believed we were building trust. She started acting strange within a couple of weeks, telling me she loves me and literally grabbing my face and kissing me–telling me we have the same body (and dropping the bombshell that she’s anorexic) and hugging me from behind at random. I felt weird and uncomfortable, but tried to give her the environment of trust that I heard a need for, and so, I tried to brush the small things off that bothered me.
She began sporadically stumbling around like a drunk in the kitchen, cooking and eating random things that I was ready to throw out. I was relieved to see her eat something other than potatoes and apples for a change, but worried about the way she seemed to be stumbling and not entirely present (cognitively or emotionally) during these episodes. She finally told me she’s bulimic and a cutter, and I did my best to show her that I accept her just the way she is; and that I was willing to help her any way she needed, when she’s ready for it. Her response was to tell me that she was moving out, followed by back-pedalling, followed by denial the next day that she had even briefly reconsidered this decision out loud. She became hostile. She started claiming everything is a trigger–from me standing in the kitchen chopping peppers while she’s cooking a pot of potatoes, to the presence of meat in the fridge.
I suddenly started to realize she didn’t think I had triggers too. I tried to spend more time out of my home, and went on a date. It was the worst date of my entire life, and made me feel as low as when I was involved with a woman whose husband showed me a film that I was convinced for 8 years after the fact, by virtue of how graphic it was, that what I had seen that day was actual snuff. I came home feeling numb, and suddenly realized that the only times I’m fully aware of my emotions is when I’ve been away from my home for at least a couple of hours–the act of touching that doorknob became a trigger for me to shut down all emotional functions. I put a lock on my bedroom door and waited for her to leave. She wound up abandoning half of her belongings, and it took more than two weeks to get rid of all of it.
I spent the month of June alone. I claimed that room for myself, and tried to collect myself. But that was the month that one of my birds developed an inoperable abdominal mass that was undetectable until the day she could no longer fly, and had to be euthanized. When her mate seemed ready, and when I felt ready, I acquired another bird to keep her company. He and the other three are fine together now, and three of them are singing away as I type, while the fourth preens herself perched as close as she can get to me.
In the month of July, a man I had known for a year moved in with me after being asked to leave his prior premises. Again, for the first couple of weeks, things were fine–fun, even. But immediately after that, it became apparent to me that I was dealing with a drug addict. By the third week, it also became glaringly obvious that he is also a compulsive liar and an alcoholic. I decided I needed him to be gone by the end of August, and told him this in the beginning of August after he paid the rent late. He immediately started becoming hostile and aggressive, started to threaten me with getting his father after me (who is a lawyer). I had lost all patience a long time ago, and when he started sneaking around behind my back, trolling and cyber-stalking me online while he was away from the home, and bringing people back who he knew I had a serious problem with, I had the locks changed on the front door. I posted a letter on the window that stated on no uncertain terms that he has made me feel unsafe in my own home.
The result was a fucking parade of straight white cisgendered male privilege–instead of following simple instructions to make arrangements to retrieve his things, he brought a pack of men to try and intimidate me, while demanding that I let him in to just walk in and take it all out on his terms. When I didn’t listen (because I have what reason to, exactly?), he called the police. When the police arrived, he told them he was suing me through the Residential Tenancy Branch before they spoke to me, and they wouldn’t leave until I took the papers out of his hands that he could have just as easily sent through registered mail. His claim, it turned out, was completely false and a blatant attempt to use the system to harass me. I had to wait until late September for the default decision in my favour, when he failed to join the conference call for his telephone hearing.
I started seeing a new psychotherapist every week in late August, but my appointments were at 5 a.m. and required a $20 cab fare at 4:30 a.m. to get to them. I could wait-list for a later appointment, or eat the cost despite how unsustainable this would be. I chose to take what I could get, because it was glaringly obvious to me that I needed it. Yesterday.
In September, I found a new person to live with. She, too, was on disability. She, too, had a terrible history and needed to be able to build trust. I again tried to brush things off that were relatively insignificant. And again, this wasn’t going to work over the long term, but there were bigger issues at work this time. For starters, in the end of August, my chosen family became an archetype of my biological family. In the beginning of September, a member of my biological family showed up unannounced and uninvited to try and beg me for a relationship I had already told them I didn’t want. I have never slammed a door so hard in my life. And while that was going on, someone I’ve given 2 and a half years of my creativity and time and energy to, turned my mental health status against me as a way to not hear my only feedback in all that time–this escalated to her ridiculing me, her friends sending me condescending messages and hatemail, and finally her threatening to take measures to have me involuntarily incarcerated (her husband wrote me the next day to tell me to stop escalating things).
My chosen family dissolved, attempting to hold me accountable for their inability to accept me as a whole human being who has faults and a mental health problem and a creative voice and all–for trying to compartmentalize my identity and deny the parts of me they just didn’t care to acknowledge–despite this being the very root of my most serious mental health concerns. In the mean time, my new flatmate and I determined that we can’t afford to live at that flat without a third person. We explained this to the landlord, who denied us permission to have a third person come live with us. This meant that our only way to afford the rent was a material breach of our lease; and if we didn’t violate the terms of our lease, we’d be thrown out by the middle of October by a police escort. We determined all of this before all the hatemail, condescension, and threatening started.
But once the threatening started, the person I had been romantically involved with for 2 years told me that he is conflicted because he has feelings for the very person who was threatening me. He did everything he could to minimize the seriousness of what was taking place, and silence my voice while I tried to tell him why this is such a serious problem. What he never heard is that it just so happens that the means by which I was hospitalized years prior (and subsequently threatened the same way by someone who had the power to see it through), was because someone phoned the police and lied to them about me–the police had no choice but to act as though I was a threat to myself and others. What was happening in September wasn’t a game to me, it was my fucking life. But that didn’t matter to him–after telling me my negativity is affecting his other, more important relationships, I told him it was over when he said he was conflicted because of his feelings for the person who was threatening me. His actions spoke louder than his words: His orgasm was more important to him than my most basic needs.
When I found a new place for the three of us to live, the landlord decided to rip me off and accuse me of using him. The woman we were living with began becoming increasingly passive aggressive, isolating herself in her room and creating ridiculous barriers to transparent communication in contradiction to what we all agreed were the terms of living together peacefully. I stopped being able to afford credit card payments, and our male flatmate was still between jobs. I made a plea for help on my Facebook page, and was answered with an offer from someone living in this building, to be their personal chef for enough money every week to feed them the best I could cook and still have enough left over to keep on top of bills. But a week after that, the woman living with us started yelling at me over a statement I made about the cholesterol content of eggs, escalating within 30 seconds to stepping right up to my face with her fingers pinched in front of my eyeball, stating “I promise I won’t kill you right now, but you’re this close to me hitting you.”
When we asked her to leave by December 1st, she bombed Facebook with half of what happened, claiming we were illegally evicting her,. We phoned the police and reported it, and it was obvious from what they said that there was nothing further we could do. The person who had offered me a work contract took her side immediately, terminating our arrangement the next day after I had tried to work through all the negative emotions to find something to talk about for a half an hour. They wouldn’t accept an apology. They decided they never wanted to speak to me again. My household gathered for a meeting after I received this news, and the woman declared that my statement about the cholesterol content of eggs made her feel as though she had been raped. I got up to leave the room, determined to never speak to her again, and she claimed I was doing it to her again. The last thing I said to her was a very immediate “fuck you.” I didn’t speak or eat again for a full 24 hours. My thoughts went to the darkest places they have ever been, fearing how long it would be until I could afford to eat again, knowing starvation from having been homeless before.
In the month of November, I sold everything I own that is of monetary value to another human being, just to pay bills and be able to eat, while living under the constant tension of not having any real privacy from the person who had just threatened me with violence–choosing with extreme caution when I can speak and what I can say in my own home. I couldn’t afford a bus pass, and only attended medical appointments for that entire month. It wasn’t enough to be threatened and silenced–I was isolated too.
Then we received a ten-day eviction notice, but she had taken it down and not told anyone else about it for three days. We went into full panic when we found out, and wound up borrowing the money for 24 hours to pay the rent on the last possible day. That same night, my iguana, who had been lethargic all day, would no longer hold himself up. I tried to listen to his chest with a stethoscope, and palpate his abdomen for impactions, swelling, or lumps, and finally put him in a warm bath to massage his belly after determining that it was the only possible thing I could do. Having been perfectly healthy until earlier that day, the only thing I could think was happening to him was something in his bowels.
But that wasn’t it. He looked really pale, and his eyes were half-closed. He wouldn’t support his body weight on his legs at all, and held them close to his body. I took him out of the tub and he went into convulsions within minutes. I started crying, overwhelmed with helplessness and confusion. I picked him up again when he started gasping for air, and a half an hour later, he took his last breath in my arms. I cried all night, didn’t eat at all the next day while I cried, reading all the messages of love and support on Facebook. It was 3 days after my birthday. He was just 5 years old with an anticipated life span of 20 years.
He was cremated that day, and when they took him away, I grabbed the nearest cat and sobbed into its fur until I could make it back to the car. When we came home, the woman we were still living with was in the kitchen, and my other flatmate told her that Godzilla died in the night and we had just cremated him. She yelled back at him “Ohhhhhh! That’s really fuckin’ shittyyyyyyyy!” I was not even five feet away, and the first thought in my head was “How long were you rehearsing that?” I didn’t say anything out loud, and went with our flatmate for a walk, leaving her behind. She started text-messaging him, pleading with him to give her some privacy from us for a couple hours while she has a date, and later trying to convince him to take me to a bar for drinks. Not a single other person uttered even one curse word when they found out about Godzilla’s sudden–and quite frankly suspicious–death.
We figured out a few days later that she had moved all of her belongings (and some of mine) while we were having my iguana cremated, and in the middle of the night when we came back home. She didn’t tell our flatmate that she was moving out that night, even when he asked her point-blank about when she was leaving. We went for another walk, where he told me that the night she threatened me, she declared she was going to try and get a doctor to sign a Form 4 to have me involuntarily incarcerated because, she said, it really got under my skin in September when someone else threatened the same. He promptly told her to fuck off.
It’s all over now. I can finally be sure that it’s over. I can finally rest, assured that the next fucking terrible thing isn’t going to leap out of left field at me.
Except that I can’t.