GUEST POST: A Long, Hard Road

It’s really hard to know where to begin. Do I begin with how I wanted to save the world by going into IT and working hard to the point where I was an IT leader. A network admin for some company with clout. A thought leader and engineer.

Maybe I should start where the problems started – trying to be the foundation for my friends to build on, to anchor them in a good house so that they could get their lives together while working in low-paying positions with my help. When my friends ended up leaving me high and dry and starting the stress that would one day culminate in the first flare up of my condition.
Maybe I should start in with my last year employed, where I was overworked and underpaid – a condition that many people still go through. However, it created the perfect storm of stress with trying to take care of my family at the same time that it started what I go through every day now.
So I guess I’ll start with that. About three years ago, I started developing chronic pain, fatigue, and memory issues. When I was really stressed, I would shake violently in bursts. The worst part, though, was the growing frequency of spacing out without control. This was especially problematic, as I was working in a high-pressure call center and these episodes caused me to forget details, answer the phone incorrectly, or any number of other serious problems with getting my job done.
In December of 2010, I lost that job. I also started having serious seizures that caused me to throw myself at the ground or into walls without control. I would throw things I was holding without warning. I would wake up shivering and shaking violently for twenty minutes, nearly every day. My joints had always been bad for one reason or another but as my body started to shake every day, they just got worse. Every day was a pain war between my upper back, my lower back, and my legs. My muscles would tighten and loosen constantly and without any kind of rhyme or reason, and I started to be able to crack my knuckles on command. Constantly, if I wanted. At first, I thought I could live with it, though. I’ve never had medical insurance (as I come from a family that struggled to stay in the lower middle class) so I’ve always dealt with my health problems the old fashioned way – live with it, work through the pain, look for simple cures on the internet and make sure they work.
That all changed on the tenth of December, though, when I lost consciousness while driving and went through a freeway sign and the side of someone’s car before I could pull the wheel back and gain control of myself again. I had started making a left turn onto the freeway and my body locked up, my mind wend blank, and I just kept making the left turn. That’s when the reality of what had started happening to me hit me full force – I wasn’t able to be normal anymore. I wasn’t able to drive, I wasn’t able to work, I wasn’t able to live like everyone else anymore.
After losing my job, it took me three months to get unemployment benefits. In that time, I lost the last house I lived in – a small apartment in Orange where I helped take care of my mom and my youngest brother. For the next year, we would live between motel rooms and my mom’s van while she did what work she could and I helped keep everyone fed and the car running on my unemployment. After several months of sleeping in a van, though, some of my old friends started lending me a place to stay when I could and I started couch surfing. That’s where I’ve been ever since – floating between couches, occasionally renting a room here and there when I could for privacy and much needed rest. This worked fine until I lost my unemployment benefits and started the application for disability. An application still in process, I might add, since I don’t have medical records of my problems (even though they’re plain to see).
However, the real important thing here is I’ve been spending the last year without any income, couch surfing, and dealing with all of those problems I listed before. I’ve learned how to manage them and, since stress management is my only real job now, I’ve gotten a lot better at controlling the sudden outbursts of shaking, pain,and dementia. It is all much harder without a home, though. Without a place to call my own, a bed to sleep in, and the space to store the few belongings I have left. I thought it’d be a long time before I’d see a home again, at least until I finally got my Social Security decision ironed out and worked through the HUD application.
That changed recently. My partner, the amazing woman that she is, offered to pay my rent when some very close friends of mine offered me a room in their house. It’s a modest room, but a good room. It’s a place where I feel safe and where people are looking out for me. The rent isn’t really that high and everything was going to work out. So we pulled together the first month when it was needed, I dropped my stuff off, and I lived in my own room for the first time in two and a half years. For three days, I was the happiest man alive.
Until the landlord talked to me, grew nervous at my situation and wanted financial records. Wanted me to have provable income, despite my girlfriend being the one paying the bills as it were. He didn’t want her, though. He said he couldn’t take her as a guarantor no matter how good her job is. My tenant score is too low because of my eviction from my job loss and disability, He wanted a deposit.
An outrageous deposit.
He wants the rent on the whole house. From just me. We didn’t have that kind of money laying around – if we did, I wouldn’t have been homeless this whole time. I am, however, too stubborn to take a challenge lying down. Too stubborn to be given a chance at stability and a home again without fighting for it every way I could. At the suggestion of a friend, I started a campaign to raise the deposit, to keep me from being homeless, and to get what I need together for the deposit. It’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but it’s meant a lot to me so far. Since I started the campaign last Friday, we’ve already raised nearly $800.
Now I’m wondering if you, dear readers, can help me get a little closer to the end. Get a little closer to having a home again, being able to put my life back together, and being able to finally deal with how much I’ve changed thanks to my disability. To figure out who and what I am now that I can’t be who I was when this started. And all it takes is a little bit of help – a few dollars in the pot, a shared link on twitter, a post on your blog. If there’s one thing this weekend has taught me, it’s that sharing and reaching out to people is what makes a difference. It’s reminding people that it doesn’t need to be a lot of help to be a big help, and that there is a real life here, a life that appreciates everything that’s done for them. A life that, without your help now, could be a hell of a lot harder.
So please, consider donating if you can, whether it be your time or your digital space if you have no money to spare. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart.
GUEST POST: A Long, Hard Road