I Wish, I Wonder

I wish I knew what it was like to live without pain.
I wish I was able to run.
I wonder what it feels like to wake up every morning with joy in my heart and with hope for the future.
I wish I didn’t have to plan outings around my physical and mental limitations.
I wish I didn’t feel guilty when I can’t play with my daughter.
I wish dancing didn’t hurt.
I wonder what it’s like to run.
I wish I didn’t need to become a walking medical encyclopedia.
I wonder if those people are staring because they see me limping.
I wonder if they think my physical pain is due to my weight.
I wonder if they laugh.
I wonder what it’s like to not hate yourself.
I wish I believed things will get better.
I wish that losing my child wasn’t a risk I take by being open about my disabilities.
I wish people asked me what I needed more often
I wish I wasn’t alone
I wish accessibility wasn’t seen as “special privileges”
I wish I didn’t feel like I have to minimize my symptoms.
I wish I had more good days than bad.
I wish I didn’t feel like a faker when I have those good days.
I wonder what it would be like if the world saw me as fully human.

 

I Wish, I Wonder
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Strongest People I Know

Content Notice: talk of suicide, ideation, judgmental assholes

I had a bad day yesterday. I thought maybe I should end it all. These weren’t plans to actually kill myself. These are the thoughts I live with on a daily basis. Some days they’re easier to ignore. I wondered what was the point of living. Then I heard the news of Chester Bennington’s death. He killed himself. As my friends were sharing how much Linkin Park’s music had helped them in their teens, I also saw a lot of people with no understanding of mental illness, blathering on about “taking the easy way out”.

And it all brought it back to me. That time when I was 15 and attempted suicide. I was called all sorts of names. How stupid could I be to try to kill myself? Don’t I know it would hurt my mother? I started therapy then and have been in treatment since. I’ve had several ideation events. And the guilters were always there. I need to think about my daughter. How much it would hurt my family; my friends. How could I be so selfish?

There’s this idea that people who commit suicide are weak. They couldn’t handle their life and its circumstances. Korn’s guitarist Brian Head Welch said Chester took the “cowardly way out”. I cannot speak for Chester, but I can speak as someone who has attempted suicide. As someone who will always have ideation. Living with mental illness is fighting a war every fucking day. We’re fighting ourselves and also dealing with an ableist medical system. We have to deal with well-meaning people with their empty platitudes. We have to deal with cruel insensitive people like Brian, who think mental illness is just something we can get over.

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Modified version. I will not post the original.

We deal with people making memes shaming the use of anti-depressants. Supposed friends will tell you they are there for you but then walk away from you because you’re “too depressing”. And these people wonder why we don’t feel comfortable sharing our struggles with them.

You want to prevent suicide? You do that by helping us fight the stigmatization of mental illness. You do that by calling out shaming bullshit advice or memes like the above. You do that by examining your own biases and admitting that you too need to learn a thing or two. You do that by demanding better health care and treatment for mentally ill people. You do that by viewing mental illness like you would any other chronic illness, as something that cannot be “gotten over” but instead as something that the person dealing with can learn to cope with. You do that by demanding that therapists are actually well versed in their field, and that they also learn social justice because a lot of depressed people are also marginalized in a lot of different ways and that all plays a part in it. For fuck’s sake learn how to properly tag triggering content. On Facebook, hide links to potentially triggering content in nested comments. Accept that sometimes you will mess up and will be called out and maybe it won’t be as gentle as you’d like. You fight the stigma by NOT centering your feelings but those of the depressed person.

Telling us how our death would hurt someone is just a way to manipulate us by guilting us. We KNOW it would hurt our loved ones. I know my daughter would NOT be better off without me. And you telling me how horrible I am for having ideation just makes me feel worse. You don’t prevent someone’s suicide by reminding them of how horrible they think they are. You end up reinforcing the intrusive thoughts and negative self image.

Some days I don’t like myself very much. Yesterday was a bad day, but I was reminded of my strength. I was reminded of the strength of my friends who are also dealing with mental illness. Do you know how much strength it takes to get out of bed; out of the house? How much strength it takes to deal with assholes who judge you without knowing anything about mental illness?

*******

RIP Chester Bennington. Your music touched many and I hope you’ve finally found some peace. 

Strongest People I Know

Victim Double Standards

CN: SA, CSA, domestic violence, corporal punishment

As a child, I was beaten and put down constantly. Anything I did, wore, or liked could be subject to ridicule. Any sign, imagine or real, of disrespect was met with a the buckle of a belt, a shoe or the calloused and hardened hands of my grandma. The people who should have been my protectors were my first abusers. So I grew up with low self-esteem and at 15 attempted suicide. In my late teens, I met my first boyfriend. He’d become my daughter’s father and the reason I deal with PTSD now.

People would ask how I could end up with someone like him. After a lot of therapy and introspection I figured out why. As I child, the messages I received were that I didn’t matter. I wasn’t important and never would be. I deserved the beatings and verbal abuse I got. After years of hearing that and hearing the messages I got from society , I finally understood my worth was very little.

So, this guy comes along and doesn’t call me names. Tells me I matter, well, that was new and I wanted more of it. But the reason he chose me specifically was because I was so starved for love and affirmation. Once I was “his”, he could reveal his true colors. Ok, but why did I stay? Because I had been conditioned since childhood to accept this type of treatment. Who was I to ask why I was beaten? Didn’t I know it was done out of love? I deserved it because I made the abuser angry. I needed to be reminded of the rules and who set them. (Aside: isn’t curious how the reasons people give to justify spanking children are identical to the justifications of spousal abusers?)

I didn’t like it. In fact I fucking hated it. But instead of hating my abusers, I hated myself for being so horrible that people needed to beat me. It was the same message I got as a child. It was just a different person saying it now.

“Oh you can’t blame your childhood! You’re making yourself a victim.” That’s what I was met with when I explained why I stayed.

“He was abused as a child. The abused will abuse.” This was also said simultaneously and no one noticed the double standard.

I was aware of the abuse he endured. He told me in the beginning of the relationship, which I now know was his way of trying to bond with me, to make me easier to manipulate. See, he understood me, I thought. 

So, why is it that I can’t say my childhood made me an easier target for abuse but he can justify his abuse of me with the abuse he endured as a child? Why is one OK and the other not?

Since news broke that Milo Yiannopoulos was uninvited from CPAC and the release of his book was cancelled over his comments regarding pedophilia, I have seen several people try to defend him. I’m not linking to anything by that guy. You can google him yourself. It’s bad enough he’s even being mentioned here but for the purposes of this post, he has to. One defense, I saw over and over was that Milo was a victim of CSA. The reasoning of “the abused will abuse” shows up again.

It’s very unfortunate that he lived through that. No one, I mean no one, no matter how much I hate them and their beliefs, deserves to be abused in that way. But having a fucked up childhood is not a justification for being an abusive adult. And yes, his transmisogyny, racism, sexism is all abuse.

Hearing that “the abused will abuse” made me think I would eventually become a monster. It would be inevitable that I would become like my abuser. While I know it isn’t true it’s still scares me.

The powerful or the privileged (or their supporters) can say , ‘I had a bad childhood” and all is forgiven. The marginalized and weak say, “I also had a bad childhood” and they’re met with derision. Ask yourself why that is.

Victim Double Standards

Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

CN: uncensored used of the word r*pe, dv myths

I believe Melania is a victim of domestic violence (DV). Not just from seeing how she acts, but based on her husband’s history. If you don’t want to show her any pity or sympathy, that’s fine. That’s your right. But please remember that when you say she can easily leave, or that she deserves it you’re hurting me and other survivors of DV. That’s called splash damage.

It’s like when those statues of DJT popped up around the country. They were made to ridicule his body. There is plenty to criticize him for. Calling him fat or engaging in toxic masculinity when we ridicule the size of his hands or genitalia causes splash damage. It doesn’t hurt him. It hurts others. Speculating whether or not Barron is autistic, saying Republicans are mentally ill, that’s straight up ableism. Again, it causes splash damage.

Fat phobia, ableism and sexism against privileged people may not necessarily hurt those privileged. But it adds to the stigma that being fat, disabled or perceived as a woman has.

Blast Melania for her racists comments, her birther support, the plagiarism of Michelle’s speech. I understand the argument that if Melania weren’t white that she wouldn’t be so defended. That’s true. People are more sympathetic to her because of the damsel in distress trope. Yes it’s racist bullshit that white people will fall over themselves to defend Melania and Barron while dehumanizing Michelle, Sasha and Malia. But calling her out can be done without perpetuating harmful myths about DV and victim blaming.

If domestic violence and disabilities were an exclusively white issue? Then yeah, fuck it, have at Melania and her son. But these issues do not discriminate and it is possible to criticize someone without throwing other marginalized people under the bus.

For instance, let’s say Melania is a victim and let’s say she does leave. It is true that she’d have more privileges than a poor Black or Brown woman leaving an abusive situation. However, leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim. And her husband is currently the most powerful man in the world. I’ve seen people say Secret Service would protect her from him. I’m skeptical of that claim.

I have also seen the claim that there is no evidence, just what other DV victims have read from her expressions and body language. Alright, so there may not be any concrete proof he’s abusing Melania. But he’s been accused of sexual assault before. He’s admitted as much on tape. We all know what he’s said about his daughter Ivanka. It isn’t unreasonable to think Melania is a victim of his. I mean, we’re told we should trust our instincts and learn to spot red flags. We spot them in him and we’re told “there’s no proof she’s being abused”. Honestly, it feels like I’m being gaslit when told I’m imagining things.

I have seen people who do believe DJT is abusing her but that she deserves it becuase she’s racist. That type of thinking is in the same vein as jokes about rapists facing the same fate in prison. It works under the assumption that there is such a thing as a perfect victim. Or that being a shitty person means you deserve to be oppressed.
As a person of color it’s been frustrating because I get accused of defending her and upholding white supremacy. No, what I care about are all these myths. As a victim of DV everything I’ve read about Melania regarding DV is shit that’s been said to me. And I’m fucking tired.

We can call out out her racism without hurting DV victims. That’s all I’m asking. These myths harm all victims, especially POC who predominantly have a harder time accessing resources unlike Melania who would have access to good legal representation and therapy.

Hate the woman if you want. Don’t believe she’s a victim if you so choose. Criticize and condemn her for the racist shit she’s said. Just don’t throw DV victims under the bus. Don’t perpetuate one form of oppression while calling out another.

Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

Fuck no, I don’t love you or forgive you

Since Donald Trump winning last night I’ve seen several posts by people urging those of us who are upset, hurt and terrified by this election to be understanding, open-minded and to love Trump and his supporters.  To accept him as president-elect.

People have been sharing that one particular Martin Luther King Jr.,

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

And to that I just have one thing to say: fuck you. I don’t have to love Donald Trump, I don’t have to love the GOP, I don’t even have to fucking love the Democratic Party. The only people I have any obligation to are myself, my family, my friends and all of the people who are going to be hurt by the decision to elect Orange Hitler.
Don’t you dare tell me that the only way that oppression and hate will go away is if the oppressed love and are nice to our oppressors. I reject that notion.

I’ve already seen several posts from White liberals who are so surprised that America could elect Donald Trump. Marginalized people have been warning about this from the get-go. You love saying Donald Trump doesn’t represent America; doesn’t represent American values but if you knew anything of your history; of American History you fucking know that Donald Trump is a product of America. This is stolen land; it was founded on the oppression of people of color.

Conversion therapy to “cure the gay” is still a thing which Mike Pence, VP-elect supports and advocates for. Racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia transphobia, hatred of all religions save Christianity, all of these different types of oppression are completely American. Donald Trump is not an anomaly. Donald Trump exists because this country encourages, enables and fosters these types of attitudes.

I do not have to tolerate, accept, or love it. I’m beyond over liberals telling me and mine that all we have to do to make things better is to be nice. I am done being nice. Abusers and oppressors don’t deserve my kindness, let alone my love.
You know what? During the whole campaign I saw so many supposedly progressive people constantly throw mentally ill people under the bus by calling Trump supporters by ableist slurs; questioning their cognitive ability.
Accusing women of only voting Hillary becuase of some “gender bias”.
None of those things are very “nice”, but I guess when it’s white liberals doing it then it’s all OK. Let a marginalize person fight back and suddenly you white liberals get bent out of shape.

I will fight you every step of the way for myself, for my child, for my friends, for my family and all other marginalized and oppressed people. I am angry, I am sad, I am devastated but I’m not surprised. I’m in mourning and I’ll be mourning for a while but you’re not going to be able to get rid of me and mine. You’re going to get hatred, you’re going to get my anger, you’re going to remember me and you’re going to regret ever fucking with us.

By the way since you love all quoting MLK Jr. so fucking much, how about you read his Letter from a Birmingham Jail,

I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

Fuck no, I don’t love you or forgive you

Response to Disillusioned Leftists

Today I read this article and felt I needed to address a few things.

I do agree with the author that some folks do become pretentious about their activism. These “allies” seem to only be in it for brownie points.
But I disagree with their assessment of marginalized people they’ve worked with. The author claims:

one of the first things you learn is that they usually do not frame their worldviews in terms of academic theories you learned in gender studies classes in University. For the most part, they tend to not analyze their experiences in terms of systemic power and privilege, concepts such as “the patriarchy”, “white privilege”, or “heteronormativity”.

I’m aware that not all people are cognizant of how these forces affect their lives. However, I’ve been homeless, I’m a victim of abuse and I’m mentally ill. I absolutely think of my oppression in those terms. My social circle, which compromises of people dealing with several forms of oppression, also know their situations are due to patriarchy, power imbalances and such other concepts. We absolutely DO bother with policing our language. Marginalized people are capable of perpetuating bigotry. We absolutely do educate ourselves “on the intricacies of capitalism.” We do “sit around pondering the effects of “problematic behaviours” in radical communities.” We are concerned with checking our privilege. For one example, I have light skin privilege. While I do experience racism, my light skin is seen as non-threatening. I can easily find make up for my skin tone.
Yes, I am extremely busy trying to survive and get my family’s needs met. But I know the reason I have such a battle ahead of me with these things is because of systemic inequality.

Speaking of Fascism, there is also a disturbing trend on the left nowadays that involves rejecting free speech/freedom of expression as a core value, because that speech could possibly be hurtful to someone, somewhere.

Because we’d like oppressors not to have a platform to speak their bigotry is NOT an example of rejecting free speech. One recent example is Richard Dawkins being disinvited to speak at the Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism. His right to have bigoted beliefs isn’t being taken away. The government isn’t taking away his Twitter account. So, his free speech isn’t being violated. He has a right to his opinions. I have a right not to listen to them.

Freedom of expression and the like does not mean we have to agree with what another person says…in fact, it means that when we do not, we certainly have the right to challenge it. But what myself and many others are seeing is the shutting off of dialogue entirely, for the purpose of “safety”. What could possibly be safe about censorship? What could possibly be safe about a group of people who claim to be freedom fighters dictating who can speak and what can be said, based on whether or not we agree with them? Study any kind of world history and you will find that censorship has never been on the right side of it.

I agree we don’t have to agree with what another person says. However, I do not want to engage with a bigot. And yes, that is entirely for the purpose of safety. My not wanting to speak to a bigot is not censorship. Again, see above for my explanation on free speech.

Now, the ending paragraphs of this article deal with trigger warnings and safe spaces. The author asks that we “stop with the trigger warnings and get serious about changing the world”. I am completely serious about changing the world, and one way to do that is to make it safe and accessible. Asking, for example, that a class syllabus have trigger warnings makes it possible for someone with PTSD to plan around their study time. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities. If a college class is then made inaccessible to someone with a mental illness, how is that not violating that person’s right to an education?

We are fully aware the world isn’t always going to be “fun and pleasant”. I mean, we have PTSD so, yeah we are more than aware. I am always scared but I continue with my activism because, pardon the cliché, I need to be the change I want to see in the world.

Author, you seem to think marginalized folks aren’t activists. Your article comes off as ableist because you’re asking for people not to ask for and use an accessibility tool I.e, trigger warnings.
Your tone comes off as condescending because you’re assuming marginalized folks don’t think about their situations as part of systemic oppression. Which is also classist because you talk about “university educated activists” as if marginalized people don’t also attend university. Or that university is the only way to become enlightened of these issues.

Response to Disillusioned Leftists

I’m not beautiful and that is OK.

I’ve started therapy at a new clinic. My therapist is a WOC who identifies as a feminist so she gets points for that. We’ve talked about growing as girl children in machista families. She understands where I’m coming from with certain things.

However, every time I mention the word ugly she stops to ask if I really think I’m ugly.

No, I don’t. By conventional standards, I am ugly and not very feminine looking. I’m fat, I have stretch marks and cellulite. I have jiggly and flabby skin. I have scars from self injury. I’m tall. I have short hair dyed an unnatural color. I have piercings and I’m hairy.

But I really don’t give a fuck if I’m ugly or not. Not anymore.
When I was little all I heard from my family was how fat and ugly I was. So, as I got older and the other girls were trying on make up and exploring their femininity I decided that those things were vain and frivolous. They were weak and I wouldn’t be.

I had internalized the misogyny hurled at me all my life. I would be one of the guys, not like those other silly girls. I shunned anything that could be called feminine while simultaneously adhered to other rigid gender norms like shaving. And why did I shave? Because hairy women are “ugly”. Men don’t like hairy women. So while I shunned certain aspects of femininity to protect myself I also chose to follow some to also protect myself. I was a mess. A chill girl mess.

As I’ve matured into my feminism, I’ve learned that femininity isn’t weakness. Once I learned to let go of that internalized misogyny, I realized femininity is powerful. I wear make up and dresses now because it makes me feel good about myself. It makes me feel pretty. Not pretty for other people. Pretty for me. I don’t shave because it’s too much hassle and I was only doing it for other people.

I’m going to have to explain that being ugly isn’t the worst thing. I’ll have to explain what I mean when I use the word ugly. I’ll have to spend part of my therapy session explaining 101 feminism/social justice stuff. And that’s exhausting. My thinking I’m “ugly” isn’t more important than treating my PTSD.

On a typical summer day, you’ll find me wearing a pretty dress, make up on my face all while my pits and legs are hairy. I’m not beautiful by conventional standards and that’s OK. I never will fit into the white ideal and I don’t want to. I’m beautiful for me.

I’m not beautiful and that is OK.

Birthday

Growing up I had my whole life planned out. I saw how miserable the women in my family were as wives so I decided I would be a Career Woman and never marry. Then I decided I would marry and have children after getting a Ph.D. I’d live fabulously ever after in a mansion with two daughters and one son and some movie star husband. I had the children’s names picked out. I had my wedding planned down to the color of the table cloths. All this would happen by the time I was 30. All of this planning and I was only about seven.

Obviously most of that was a child’s fantasy. As I got older I realized I didn’t want children or marriage after all. But I still wanted to go to college. Growing up that’s how I heard adults measure their child’s success; with whether they had a degree or not. I felt neglected and lonely as a kid so I thought this would be the perfect way to finally get some validation.

I’ve dealt with, and in some cases I’m still dealing with, mental illness, extreme poverty, homelessness, single motherhood and domestic violence. All things which prevented me from going to school. I did complete two semesters but the system being what it is, I had to decide between school or work at the time since the shelter I was in preferred I was working. Currently, I’m not in the right place mentally for school.

As I get older, I’m realizing I don’t need a degree to matter. While I would like to go back to school, I’m not as upset with myself as I used to be. I do have days where I think I am huge failure but most days I think considering the circumstances I am alright.

So I don’t have a huge mansion, but I did finally leave the shelter and have my own apartment.

I don’t have a husband. Thank misandry for that!

I have one child and she is just about the greatest kid alive.

I’m not living a fabulous life but most days it isn’t half bad. I have a loving support network of friends. I have this blog, that while it may not be widely known, some people seem to like. I have my mom who’s extremely patient and understanding. We’ve had many ups and owns but I can count on her.

Through all the shit I’ve gone through, I’ve come out more compassionate, caring and stronger. Which isn’t to say that those things were blessings. If I had to choose character over having an easier life, I’d choose easier life every time. But I have to deal with what I got. Life and lemons and what not, right?

No, my life isn’t perfect and these last few sentences aren’t meant to erase the bullshit I deal with daily; a racist, sexist, classist, ableist system, mental illness, poverty. I wish I was financially stable, I wish I wasn’t disabled. I wish my bodily autonomy had been respected. I wish for a complete system overhaul.

In the meantime, all things considered, I am glad I’m the person I am.

Birthday

I am not your Teaching Moment

I’ve recently come across two well-meaning but horribly misguided posts concerning homeless people and I’d like to discuss them here. The first deals with a care package and the things it can contain. I’ll explain why some of the things inside aren’t a very good idea.

blessing-bag-contents21

“Blessing Bags” to keep in the car when you pass homeless people. Something special you can do with your children or grandchildren to teach them about caring/giving for those in need!
Gallon Size Ziplock bags
Chap stick
Packages of tissues
Travel size toothbrush and toothpaste
Travel size mouthwash
Comb
Soap
Hotel size shampoos
Trail mix
Granola bars
Fruit cups
Crackers
Pack of gum
Band aids
Coins or predetermined dollar amount, say 5.00 (could be used to make a phone call, or purchase a food item)
Hand wipes
You could also put in a warm pair of socks
A packet rain poncho
Tampons (for women)

The ideas could be endless!

Assemble all the items in the bags, and maybe throw in a note of encouragement. Seal the bags and stow in your car for a moment of providence…or….drop some off at a food shelter place.

The toiletries and socks are a great idea. Those are always needed. Feeling clean and warm is so important in feeling human. The menstrual products are a good idea too, although I would suggest asking the person you intend to give them to if they’d prefer pads. Foods like the ones in this list and shown in the above picture are good to donate to food shelters, but they should be avoided as hand outs because you never know what allergies a person may have. Sure, they could just say no thanks, but unfortunately a lot of people don’t take very kindly to a homeless person refusing help. Even if it could be something that could potentially kill them. Giving money, or if you feel weird about that, offering to buy the person some food is usually a better way to go.

I would rather not be used as a lesson in kindness for your children. I’m a person, not a teaching moment. It feels incredibly condescending to me. “Here’s this person that needs help, let me parade them in front of Jimmy so he can see just how kind I am? Aren’t I kind? Where is my kindness cookie?” It feels like you aren’t helping us because you want to, but rather because of how much you can pat yourself on the back afterwards. Which brings me to this post I found on Facebook. It’s a pretty long post and I’ll be addressing the points that I feel miss the mark, to put it kindly.

I spent Friday on the streets of Portland and learned so much. Here it is:

1. It’s not a big deal to hold a sign asking for money, because everyone ignores you. I found an unoccupied corner right off 405 and stood there for an hour holding a sign saying ‘Local business owner trying to understand our homeless problem. All funds to be donated’. Nobody made eye contact with me. They fiddled with the radio, texted, looked everywhere else. I did make $25.52 in that hour, thanks mostly to one woman that gave me $20. All the people that gave me money were women. I plan on donating $250 to Sisters Of The Road in honor of this experience.

To the people who stand out in whatever weather with their signs, it’s a big deal. Whether they’re ignored or not. Feeling ignored isn’t a very nice feeling especially when you’re in such a vulnerable position like asking for money from complete strangers. 

3. I saw a man washing his clothes in the Saturday Market fountains. He then laid them out to dry in the sun. They looked great! I was impressed.

You’d be surprised how crafty and resourceful homeless people become. 

4. I had some wonderful conversations with complete strangers. I wore my ‘Kindness Matters’ t-shirt and a woman commented that kindness is often mistaken for weakness and we had a deep 5 minute conversation on the philosophy of kindness on a street corner. I now also know everything about poodles, the breakdown of society in Somalia and the different types of immigrants (economic and political). These were deep, smart conversations.People are very lonely and just wanted someone to listen.

So then they’d become bit players in your pat-on-the-back story of kindness. She had a FIVE minute conversation but it was so deep, y’all.

5. It’s exhausting being homeless. My body hurts from walking and carrying a backpack. There’s nowhere comfy to just relax. By 4pm, I was exhausted and took a nap on a park bench. All of these years, I thought that the people sleeping on the sidewalk in the day time were just totally strung out druggies. I’m sure some are, but the people I met told me that they sleep during the day because it’s safer. They can’t rest as deeply at night and they are tired! After one day out there, I was grumpy, tired and dehydrated. It sucks! I can’t imagine the toll that a week out there would take on a body and spirit.

Oppression is not a costume. At the end of your day, you were able to go home and eat well, sleep in your bed and not worry if you’d eat the next day. Homeless people do not get that luxury. How incredibly generous of you to concede that not all homeless are “druggies”. So what, should those particular homeless people with drug addictions not be given the same consideration? This is why I’m wary of this post. When you so flippantly refer to people with an illness as “druggies”, you’re only adding to the stigma. 

7. Nobody tried to sell me drugs but 3 people asked me if I had some for sale.

Explain how and why this is relevant.

8. I fell in love with Portland in a whole new way. This city is alive and I felt alive in it. I saw a TV show taping, dancing in Directors Park, a dude beautifully playing a flute in front of Powells, three different music acts at the Bite, a miniature stonehenge made out of bananas, numerous history plaques, another band and the movie Grease on Pioneer Square. I walked by hundreds of people on their phones missing the whole thing.

 This sounds a lot like a platitude. There is no beauty in homelessness.

10. There are different groups of homeless. There are those interested in drugs down on the waterfront, there are those with mental illness wondering around everywhere, but most of those I met were having a crisis of spirit and trying to find themselves. There was an executive from Seattle whose life fell apart when his wife left him and he is trying to pick up the pieces. There were many people here from other cities because Portland is a great place to be homeless. I understand this after spending a day falling in love with the city too.

Drug addiction is a mental illness, dearie. “Portland is a great place to be homeless”, this is where I would flip my laptop over but I won’t because I can’t afford a new one. Listen, there is NOWHERE ON THIS EARTH where it is great to be homeless. There may be places where there is better access to resources and help, but that does not mean that it’s a great place to be homeless. You spent one day out in the city. You do not know anything about being homeless. You spoke to a few people, but you haven’t spent days starving, wearing the same clothes, hoping someone, just anyone will give you a few bucks for a cup of coffee. You know nothing, Renee Spears. 

11. What can we as a city do? Clearly we need to address the bigger issues of poverty, mental illness and addiction but we can do better right now. We need more public restrooms. There aren’t enough and they are too far apart. We need more water fountains. We need a public laundromat and bathing facility. We need a public place for people to come in from the elements and relax in safety. We need a place for people to store their belongings so they don’t have to carry them around all day, and it litters up our city.

Finally, something we can agree on. I’d also add that we need to talk about sexism, racism, bigotry against LGBT folks, especially LGBT youth who are disproportionately affected by homelessness.

13. I ended up going home in the early morning hours. My intention was to learn from the people there and I did that. I didn’t feel unsafe for one minute. I found the people kind and friendly. I wondered what would change if we all just opened our eyes to what is happening instead of ignoring it.

We are not your teaching moment. We are not your inspiration porn. We are not your feel good moment. We are people. It is incredibly condescending to think that you know anything about what it’s like to be homeless. Your social experiment has a lot in common with the social experiments of the woman who put on a fat suit to see what it was like experiencing fatphobia, John Howard Griffin putting on black face, non-Muslim women wearing hijab to “experience” anti-Muslim bigotry, men wearing skirts and heels to see what is like to be a woman and rich folks going on so-called Food Stamps diets. They’re offensive because however well-intention they may be intent isn’t magic. You all get to take off the fat suit, the hijab, the skirts; you get to go home to a warm bed and a stocked fridge. You don’t know what it’s like to live in the oppression you wear as costume because for you, it’s just that, something you can take off at the end of your experiment. For me and others, it’s our whole life.

I am not your Teaching Moment

Depression vs Art

I’d like to consider myself a bit of a visual artist but these past ten years with depression have almost completely sapped whatever ability I had. I think I’ve made about five drawings in ten years. When I do create something I’m told I’m talented. But I just cannot seem to keep the inspiration or even the motivation going.

You hear a lot about how mental illness contributed in some way to an artist’s work; that they channeled their pain into their art. Whether that art be music, painting, writing etc, the point is they channeled it to mean something. My depression just spirals and loops back into itself and all I ever get out of it is more pain.

Which then makes me feel even shittier for not “depression-ing” right. Which I know is ridiculous, I know it’s just depression shenanigans and troll brain talking. I know it all rationally, but I still cannot shake the feeling that I’m a failure at depression. Isn’t that sad?

Lately, I’ve had a few ideas for a drawing and I can see it in my mind’s eye, but when I try to actually make it happen I draw a blank. (At least I’m punny?)

That’s what hurts the most sometimes. I know I have some talent at least. I know that I can make something beautiful but depression is always there just waiting to tell me, that no actually I can’t.

I remember having a pastel charcoals set when I was little. I used up the sketch pad rather quickly. I loved just sitting on the porch and drawing whatever came to mind, blending colors and getting my fingers covered in multi-colored dust. Sometimes I think maybe I can do that again, sit somewhere quiet, armed with a sketch pad and pencil and just draw what comes to me. But the fear is there; taunting me. Waiting for the first pencil stroke to land on the page, so the depression can start its bullying: why bother?, nobody will like it. You aren’t any good.

Why can’t I just ignore that, especially when I know that what my depression is saying isn’t true? It’s a never ending battle.

Depression vs Art