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The Fear of Poverty


If I had to sum up what it’s like to live in poverty using just one word, for me personally it is fear. Fear. I feel like I’m always afraid of something. Right now I’m afraid of many things. 

I’m afraid of losing the car. Even though I’ve finally decided to purposefully stop paying the unaffordable car payments because there’s no other way to get out of it, knowing it will be okay because I’ve already talked to friends who we’re going to buy their car from for a much more reasonable, affordable price, there is this fear of the uncertainty. When will they take it? Will my daughter know? How will she respond? What if I have something important in my car that I can’t get back? How will this affect me in 5 years? 10 years? It’s going to kill the already horribly messed up credit I already have. I will almost certainly never be able to take out a business loan or buy my own house ever, two dreams I had that I’ve stopped feeding. 

Our electric will be cut if we don’t pay. I’m scared it’ll get cut before I get paid in a week. It’ll be okay. It would only be for a couple days, but I’m scared each day, holding my breath as I enter my house to see if we still have power. Our fridge is almost completely empty anyway. It’s going to suck though. 

I’m scared gas might get cut too. That’s our heat for the house and water. I can’t pay that until next month. We’ve gone a few weeks without gas before but it’s a lot colder this time and the thought of cold showers again makes me slightly ill so I push that thought away, close up the windows, and make sure our warmest blankets are clean. 

I’m scared to purchase anything. I know how limited our money is. I know buying one thing means we won’t be able to buy something else. Forget buying Halloween costumes or family trips. I’m talking about do I buy snacks or toilet paper. What would you choose?

But I do choose and I’ve been putting off skipping meals as long as possible (denial is a close second to fear) but now I must accept 3 meals and snacks was a luxury for me. I will never let my daughter go hungry, though, so I have $50 left, my gas light on, and we don’t go to the food pantry for another week and my kiddo needs snacks for her lunch and food for dinner. I have to make sure I have enough gas to get me to and from work for another week so I’ve decided I’ll put $30 in and pray that’s enough. That will leave $20 for a week of food for my kiddo. I can do this. I won’t be buying food for me. I focus on that my daughter will eat and push the fear away neither the $30 or $20 will be enough. I trust my ability to stretch money at the grocery store. 

I’m also scared how this will affect my daughter. I am well versed in statistics working in a library. Children in poverty tend to suffer academically. I feel like I’m failing my child. I can’t meet her basic needs. Luckily we have people helping. We have people who give us hand me down clothes so we don’t have to buy any. We use the food pantry. But our house is a mess, our lights might get cut before I can pay, I’m too mentally drained each day from the financial stress to devote much energy to any of it. Everything stays a mess.  

Then there’s other fears that never go away even when bills are caught up. I’m scared to check the mail. Scared I’ll get a disconnect notice, a bill I can’t pay (currently I have a medical bill from my doctor I see often that I hope is a mistake), or another termination letter from our government assistances that’s happened so much lately. 

I’m scared to go to any doctor because insurance screwed me over so badly two years ago when I saw a chiropractor for six months and insurance covered it until they realized there was a mistake and took their money back. That enormous bill went to collections and I’ve been terrified to go anywhere ever sense. My doctor was the only one I would go see and have been for almost ten years and she monitors my PTSD but now this bill and my assistance cuts has me terrified I won’t be able to keep seeing her. 

There is so much fear I live with every day that people not in poverty don’t face. It makes everything else so much harder. It makes connecting with people not in poverty, or not familiar with it, feel impossible. I can’t think into the future because I am struggling to provide for the present. Living in poverty forces us to live in the moment, not in a yolo, carpe diem way, but a one step at a time, one problem at a time, and often there is so much fear that the next step will be the wrong one. 

It’s so unfair. I have a legally diagnosed, severe, but invisible disability and I can’t afford anything, even a specialist. I didn’t choose this. I’m not choosing this. I tried to pick up extra hours but the stress of my disorder almost led to me being hospitalized three months ago. I carry my disability well, but my coworkers, my pastors, and one other friend have seen how much my PTSD still affects me. My daughter and I only get along as well as we do because of all the help we get for free, not from government agencies but from kind-hearted people. I guess that’s where the blessing of poverty comes in. It constantly keeps me humble and has shown me the goodness of the human race. 

My daughter goes to daycare for half the cost because our assistance was cut unfairly but a private director kindly agreed to help us and she’s the only reason I didn’t have to quit my job where my biggest support system is. 

We have a friend who provides my daughter with all her clothes so I never have to buy my daughter any. I mean she gives us a TON and they’re in very good condition. 

My brother covers my cell phone. I have an iPhone only because his girlfriend gave me her old one and my brother put it on his plan. 

Each month we use my church’s food pantry. I want to, and sometime do, cry with gratitude on the way home every time. We get toilet paper from there and that alone makes me so grateful. 

My parents and sister frequently cover meals when we go out and help with gas for my car. 

Probably what I’m most grateful for and humbled by, though, is my trauma therapist, Yoda, who despite being old and retired, sees me for free and is compassionately helping me to finally work through my trauma. Seeing Yoda fills me with hope. Hope that one day I can be in control of my PTSD enough that I can work more and get out of poverty. That I can achieve things people living without a severe mental illness can. While I have to struggle and focus and live in the moment, seeing Yoda gives me hope there IS a future, even if I can’t see it right now. Yoda fills me with hope it’s there. 

And for those who take time to listen to me, to let me share my story and struggles and fear, you give me so much more than money or services ever could. You do SO much for me. You give me a reason to keep fighting. You make the fear not feel so scary. You fill me with strength. I might not always reach out to you. You might not feel like you’re doing much, but when you listen, just listen, you give me more than money ever could. Thank you for this wonderful gift you’ve just given me again. Please know my story is unique, but my struggles are very common in poverty. Please don’t judge without taking the time to hear the persons story first. We all have a story to tell and a voice that’s been silenced but needs heard. Thank you for taking time this morning to hear mine. 

Gods peace, because I surrender all my fear to the God who tells me not to worry about what I’ll wear or eat and trust he knows and is good and cares for me. Namaste. 

Churches and Psych Wards


I grew up in and out of psychiatric hospitals and in the mental health system. I suffered a childhood of trauma and abuse. The psychiatric hospitals, even with their faults, were a safe place. I would go almost annually for six years. A few weeks after my last stay when I got pregnant, I knew I had to recover. 

As a parent, especially a single parent, I make many sacrifices. However, one of these sacrifices was my trips to the psych hospitals. This might seem crazy. I notice the look people give me when I laugh and talk fondly of the place–that is until I explain why and then they understand. 

I have met so many wonderful people in psych hospitals so different from me that I would NEVER have contact with on the outside. In my second stay at 16 our group of friends there was incredibly diverse. You had M, an acquaintance of mine from school there for making threats to kill students at school (a cause I greatly empathized with); K, a white girl two years younger who was there temporarily before going to juvi for burning down her house hoping she could run away and no one come after, T, a big black girl who was schizophrenic and from a group home, and the B and JD, scrawny white boy brothers from poor Appalachia in and out of foster homes claiming they were there for blowing up a lake or stealing cars, but I’m not sure anyone knew the truth with them and none of us really cared; reality is less black and white in psych hospitals; in fact it’s a hell of a lot of color. And then there was me; I had been admitted (to my ignorant surprise and anger) for needing 30 SETS of stitches, 12 on each leg, and six on my arm, from cutting my skin so badly. I was admiringly told I looked like a rag doll. I liked it. 

At other hospitals my friends included a drug dealer whose real name was Bill which we were instructed never to call him if we ever saw him on the streets (a very common thing to happen) which I had decided he needed a psych hospital name and would call him Dolla Bill. Boy was lit but if it hadn’t been for the psych ward, I would have never had a conversation, let alone a friendship, with someone like that. Where else do two paths of such diversity cross? 

I miss psych hospitals because I love diversity and I’m broken and that pretty much sums up the patients in psych hospitals. You’re never judged for being broken because that’s why you’re there. Even my last two stays where I got codes called on me and had to be restrained and would sometimes scream at the staff, my friends would give me space when I needed, but never judge me after. Sometimes they’d tell me how to fight the staff better. For the most part, though, even the staff was great, especially at the state psych hospital where it’s not nurses transferring units, but workers at a place specifically for mental illness. 

The staff would play games with us. They would paint nails with us and for us. They would listen to us. They’d bring us in movies to watch. They’d laugh and joke with us and something I was told at almost every hospital was the only difference between us and them was that they get to go home each night. 

For those cultured in the psych hospital versus people who go once and are ashamed or embarrassed, there is a way of living that is understood and lived. I quickly became alpha during my last stays because I was very adapt in the psych hospital culture. Things like age, wealth, gender, race, education, etc are meaningless in psych hospitals. You don’t have phones or possessions, half the people wear hospital gowns (they’re comfy!), education is meaningless and no one is working, and no one gives a shit about your age or color. Brokenness brings people together in psych hospitals and brokenness is all you got. 

I told my pastor this over a year ago and their response was lovingly “church should be more like psych hospitals,” but it’s not. Not at my church at least. But their comment has stayed with me and been turned in my head so many times especially, like now, when I’m really feeling a disconnect from my church and society and find my heart longing for the psych hospitals, I ask myself, “what would it look like if church was more like psych hospitals?” 

I mean in theory, they should be almost identical. Both places, in theory are temporary homes for broken people in need of healing. So how can two institutions with a very similar purpose look so different and why do I feel more comfortable in the one where God is not the center instead of the one where God is when God is the center of my life? What would it look like if church was more like a psych hospital?

Something that has been incredibly difficult for me, and still is, is forming meaningful friendships. It’s SO easy in the psych hospitals. Psych ward 101 in case you ever find yourself in one: all you do is find someone you want to befriend/talk to, ask why that person is there, don’t judge or be afraid of the response (psych hospitals are safe and someone else’s brokenness can’t hurt you because of trained staff), proper protocol would be they then will ask you why you are there if they equally want conversation with you (if not move on to someone else), you respond not offended or embarrassed (you’re all there for something and someone is always crazier so no worries), and then boom, done. You are free to talk about anything. 

Outside the psych hospitals, it is MUCH more complicated I learned when I tried to make friends at work. I didn’t know how so I went up to a coworker I wanted to befriend and asked if she would be my friend (I had only been working a couple months). I was told awkwardly that’s not how friendships work. To my dismay, and disappointment, but never ceasing, I asked another coworker and her response was “I thought we already were.” I was elated and told another coworker/friend I just friended M and he asked on Facebook and I said no, to her face. Both the latter two just laughed and years later are the two I’m closest to at work though I love all of my coworkers and even the first I trust greatly and have a great relationship with. 

We complicate things so much that really don’t need to be so complicated. I will call pretty much any and everything my friend from my pastors (though they’re my “pastor friends”), my coworkers (they’re my “friends I work with”), people from church (my “friends from church”), my neighbors (my “neighbor friends”), but then there are other things I don’t use titles with and that’s like John. He’s just my friend. He is a homeless man I recently befriended and have talked to twice. Verne is a homeless patron at the library who drives the other staff insane who is my friend. Then I have Peter, my anointed rock, that is my friend and anyone who truly knows me knows I consider the trees my friends and animals. I feel love and empathy for these people and objects and so I consider them friends. Honestly the trees and my rock Peter I consider my closest friends because when I’m hurting, they are the ones I seek. They are safe. They don’t judge me or have expectations of or for me. I can be as I am and what I have to give is enough. Lie in society is so complicated though, but what if it wasn’t? What if church was more like a psych hospital?

What if we implimented psych ward friendship making to church? It would go like this:

Person A sees someone they think looks nice and want to befriend. Person A approaches them and says, “I’m A, what you in here for?”

Person looks at A and decides they look like someone they want to talk to and responds something like, “I struggle with anxiety and know I can’t do it alone. I’m B, what are you in here for?”

A: “I’m going through a divorce because my wife couldn’t handle my gambling addiction anymore.”

Person B might make an empathetic comment like, “I’m divorced too,” or “that sucks man; I’m sorry,” and then you move on to different subjects. Psych hospitals aren’t 24/7 talking about feelings; it’s just a recognition and acceptance that it’s extreme brokenness that has brought us together. 

And if church really was like a psych hospital, no one would care what you wore or how you smelled or about anything on the outside. Churches LOVE this. There’s like unspoken dress codes and the punishment for violating it is being spoken about behind your back and given judgmental states. 

And the staff would be trained and knowledgeable of different brokenness so they could keep everyone safe. Sometimes at psych hospitals, you get people who sexually assault women. Once when it was obvious to staff a sick patient was attracted to me, they made sure to keep him away and stay close by to me and protected me. Sometimes these people come into churches and sadly churches ignore these brokenenesses instead of embracing them and talking about them and having a plan in place to keep members safe while still “treating” the other. 

And the staff, the pastors and people in charge of groups or classes, if they were like psych hospital staff, would laugh and joke with us and make comments like, “we’re just as sinful as you; the only difference is they give us a microphone each Sunday.”

These thoughts of church being like a psych hospital make me so happy until I look around me and feel sad. The president has made comments about fighting for Christian rights and non Christians are responding with contempt for the institution and so many Christians support this leader but that’s not how Jesus intended us to live. We are not to judge and we are to humble ourselves. Humility means not thinking better of our possessions, education, sexual orientation, or guess what? Even religion. 

Now it’s time for me to get dressed for church where I sing in the band. I continue to have blue hair, exposed piercings and tattoos, and dress differently to push my members as to how church should look. I will proudly accept my gay orientation and will hold my friend Peter as comfort while I sing. I am so sure of Gods love for me and the love I feel for his people. I want to see church look more like a psych hospital, but I think there’s a lot of humility missing. Don’t be ashamed of your brokenness and don’t be offended by someone else’s. 

Jesus says, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)

Frustrations of Poverty

I hate being poor. 

I hate buying food based on how much money I have versus what I need or want. 

I hate my empty freezer and mostly empty fridge. 

I hate ignorant comments and being surrounded by people who think they get it who aren’t living it. 

I hate talking about poverty with people and then going home and living it. 

I hate disconnect notices. 

I hate the fear of not being able to pay bills. 

I hate taking an inventory of food because I know it’s not going to last. 

I hate knowing I will have to skip meals so my daughter can eat. 

I hate being creative with cooking because I’m trying to make a meal out of the random food and ingredients I have. 

I hate bank account balances. 

I hate telling my daughter we can’t afford something as simple as an ice cream cone let alone anything bigger like a trip or vacation. 

I hate being upset when my daughter shares food with friends because I can’t even afford to feed us. 

I hate the welfare agency and the workers who treat me like crap. 

I hate having an invisible illness.  

I hate people trying to speak for me. 

I hate people speaking about poverty or severe mental illness who have never personally struggled with it. 

I hate comments and assumptions made about people on government assistance or who struggle with mental illness. 

I hate feeling vulnerable. 

I hate being oppressed. 

I hate being compared to others. 

I hate being an example. 

I hate my messy house. 

I hate being a single parent and doing this all on my own. 

I hate people minimizing my struggles with poverty, mental illness, and single parenthood. 

I hate not being validated. 

I hate being told not to say things. 

I hate being told not to do things. 

I hate being told to act differently or talk differently. 

I hate social norms. 

I hate stereotypes. 

I hate ignornce. 

I hate the Bible saying over and over that the poor are blessed. 

I hate that I hate being poor. 

I hate being poor. 

A Country In Need (Poem/Video)

We’re living’ in America

Land of freedom

But what are we free from

When there’s violence

Destruction

Fighting our oppression

People fight against us

Mothers and sons

Houses divided

A country united?

A country whited

Can’t keep our mouths shut

Long enough to listen

We take a position

Then refuse to move. 

Hate is not the answer

Judgement not a solution

Love is the resolution

But our pride is pollution. 

Fathers and daughters

We’re better than this

Quit following false light

Put up a fight

No it won’t be easy

I’m not saying it will be

But we’re too proud to be

Silent with humility. 

When someone else takes a turn

To speak before we do

We open our mouths

Wait to reply

Never really hear what’s said

Only what we think we hear

In our closed heads

We are in need of empathy

But we’re posioned with apathy

And the first who speaks

Is the last who listens

You fool in’ yourself

When you say you’re just trying to help

Words never got shit done

Let’s see some action

Take a stand against oppression

Instead of justifying your position

It’s not enough to be quiet

We are a country in need of a love riot

People who are brave enough to speak

To go against the masses

Naked and loud

Vulnerability

That is real bravery

Humility 

But that’s what we’re afraid of

We don’t live in freedom

We are not free from

Our ignorance and fear

We’re captive to ourselves 

Moths in need of light

But we’re killing ourselves

Following the false kind

Too scared to find

That we might be wrong

We’d rather die

Than lower our pride

Rid ourselves of false light. 

So we stay in one place

Make excuses

Quit the race

Before it’s begun

Say we already got freedom

But who is free

And what are we free from

This ain’t freedom

It’s masked oppression

An illusion of false light. 

If you could only turn away

You’d see

But that takes vulnerability

Humility

Seeing your reflection

In those you stand against. 

I might be oppressed

Livin’ in poverty 

With a disability

A single mother struggling

But I’m not the one in need of saving

I know how to fight

I refuse to follow false light

I’ve seen darkness

Know the shame of humility

But as I was humiliated

Cast aside

Ignored

I got stronger than before

No I’m back up to knock down some doors

You can’t silence me

You took everything else away from me

Now I’ve got nothing to lose

So I can speak honestly

Without fear of humility 

Ain’t nothing you can do to me

You’re either with or against me

Where is your empathy

The first will be last 

And the last will be first

Remember that if you reply

Want to object

Or even take a side

The first who speaks

Is the last to listen

But the last who speaks

Is the one who hears the most

And of the one who hears the most

Is the one who learns the most

So the last who speaks

Carries the most wisdom

America be silent!

Turn off the light 

We are a country of freedom

But we are a country and need to be freed from

Our pride and our ignorance

From following false light

That has made us blind

To what the problem really is

And the problem is we ain’t free

We are a country in need

Of vulnerability 

humility

We are a country in need

Not a country that’s freed. 

The Oppression of a Child

My baby cries tears and asks me why and I ask myself: how can I possibly explain injustice to her when I, myself, cannot understand? How can I comfort her when I cry and am in need of comfort? I feel so helpless. How do I explain injustice to my child and how can I comfort her?

My daycare assistance was terminated and will not be recovered ONLY because when I faxed in the papers for redetermination, I didn’t save the confirmation letter. I usually do. I didn’t. Don’t ask me why. It was Friday. I wanted to go home. The paper said it sent. I was not thinking. I did my part. The government failed me. A system set up supposedly to help people like me shifted my entire world. 

For redetermination, clients can make more money and their weekly copay will raise. However, initially, upon first applying, the person has to make incredibly little for their gross monthly income. Because they claimed they never got my paperwork, I had to reapply. Because I had to reapply and the library had given us huge raises to try to be fair, the unfair government decided between my part time job and my disability check (even the new, lower amount as it too had been cut because of the raises) I barely overqualified and was denied childcare benefits. 

The letter came in on my birthday. I went straight to my church and into my pastor’s office and began to sob helplessly. It was the start of a 5 day vacation that I had been looking forward to. Now it felt like hell and I thought for sure I would have to quit my job and that thought was too much for me to bear. I sobbed painful, angry, completely helpless tears. We prayed, I left, but the tears never stopped. 

I love my job. My coworkers are the only reason I am doing as well with my recovery as I am. I doubt I would have ever made it a year without cutting if it weren’t for them, let alone be closing in on my fourth year. I get judged so much for my invisible illness and social awkwardness everywhere. I don’t really know how to not speak my mind, but I never mean to be rude or hurtful (though I’m told my compliments are unique…I guess complimenting someone’s shiny arms or Waldo-like glasses aren’t normal compliments, but it’s what I observe; I am always observing). When I tell my coworkers I had my pastor anoint my rock that spoke to me that I carry around, they simply smile and joke my rock is more holy than they are. They don’t judge me. They don’t try to change me. They don’t try to make me blend in. Instead, they allow me to stand out. They support me. They celebrate my differences. When I’m scared and need to be reassured of my safety, they always do kindly. When I feel disconnected from reality and need help figuring out what’s real and what’s not, they help me. When I am at my limit and break down and sob, even my branch manager has been there for me reassuring me of my strength and ability. They might frustrate me sometimes and I know I can drive them nuts too, but I love them. They are my support.  They are my family. When I thought even for a few days I was going to lose that, I couldn’t cope. My invisible illness suddenly engulfed me and all I could do was sob. 

I prayed too. I prayed non stop. I prayed alone. I prayed with my pastor. I prayed at church. I prayed at the park. 

The day after I had gotten the letter, I was at my private place at the park and anger and frustration over the injustice overtook me and I began hurling rocks into the water. I chose big rocks that I had to thrust with all my might. Again and again. Until I was exhausted. I began to pace the water’s edge until I noticed a beautiful small pink flower that had somehow managed to push its way through the rocks and bloom despite all odds. I found this so beautiful so I decided to build an altar around it to celebrate its beauty. It was then one rock in particular spoke me to, the aforementioned and later anointed rock, and I knew it was meant for me to keep. I set it carefully aside and finished my altar with extreme care. 

When I finished, I stood beside it and prayed again with all my might. It was in that moment a large buck jumped from the river bank only a few yards in front of me, stopped, looked directly past my eyes straight into my soul knowingly, and then two more jumps disappeared on the other side. I cried over the beauty of the moment and over the instant wash of relief I felt. I knew somehow this would all be okay even though I didn’t know how. 

I told my friend and neighbor what happened. I choked on tears trying not to think about what I might lose. She was angry over the injustice. I simply felt defeated. She is a single mother to three beautiful children and has been through hell but like me is a fighter. I’m so blessed to have her as a friend and it was through this equally struggling person God used to answer my prayers. 

My friend is the assistant director at the daycare next to our complex. It’s a small, private daycare run by an angel familiar with the system and its injustice. My friend wanted so badly to help me and pleaded my case to the director and this incredible woman agreed take my daughter and only charge us a little over $15 more per week than what we were paying even though she’s taking a huge financial loss on us. Because of my friend and this angel, even though it seemed impossible, I don’t have to leave my job. My helpless tears turned to tears of humility and gratitude. I do not take lightly what they have done for me because I know so many people aren’t so fortunate. If I had quit, I would not have looked for another job. My spirit was crushed and I spent a month being degraded and humiliated by government workers and chastised and ignorantly advised by people who don’t understand the system or how hard and painful it is to work with and how contaminated it is with injustice. 

Injustice. 

So I don’t have to leave the people I love but my daughter still does. She has to leave her daycare that has been such a huge and important part of her life since I started working again three years ago. They coparented with me. They potty trained her. They taught her to talk and write. They fixed her hair when I sent her in with it a mess. They have been family and while I am so sad to lose them, my daughter is hurting worse. 

As an adult and parent, I am aware she will be okay. I know she’ll make new friends and the teachers will love her too. I get this. What I also get is my daughter is sad and hurting. What I don’t get and can’t explain is when she asks me why she has to leave. Thus my question: how do you explain injustice to a child? She may be crying because she has to leave daycare, but her tears are the same as my tears. They are the tears of oppression. 

Do not reason and rationalize this. I refuse to tell my child this is okay. I don’t comfort her by telling her it’s okay and that sometimes things happen but we move on. No. This is wrong. It is not fair. It is not just. It is not okay. What I do tell her is I will find a way to change this one day. My child is being taught the world is unjust but also that she can change it. I will continue to speak out and share my story and educate not for myself but because I am fortunate but so many more aren’t and no child should be forced to cry the tears of oppression and injustice. If you can’t justify something to a child, it’s not just, and if it’s not just, it needs changed. I’m not going to wait for someone else. You can help by listening and educating yourself. The system is wrong and unfair. Us poor people need help to change this. We don’t need drug tested or forced to work; we need compassion and understanding. We need our stories shared and our voices heard. We need our pain and anger validated. We need more people to fight with us and for us because so many more are fighting against us. Help us free our children from our oppression. 

The Least of Us

The Bible has good news for people like me; people who are sick, oppressed, poor, and/or persecuted; it says we have many blessings in Heaven and we will be first and our enemies last. And churches like mine, middle class and white, love to preach on this to humble the members and whatever else. Like this past Sunday, preachers tell inspiring stories of a “least of us” who were persecuted but rose above and was God to someone not the least in the face of adversity or persecution. People leave feeling humbled and try to act more like this person, one of the Least of us’s.

This week, however, when I left, I felt an instant disconnect from my church and my faith. Rarely in church is my struggle ever preached about because pastors preach to their audiences and in my church, an emotionally disabled, impoverished, single mother is just one member in an ocean of double parent, double income, college level functioning families. Once my pastor preached on the story of a woman giving her last two pennies and Jesus said she gave more than the rich people because she gave all she had but they had much money left. My pastor focused on the other people. In my poverty, I had asked later what about the woman? What about her suffering? My pastor humbly admitted they were focused on prepping the congregation for giving Sunday and hadn’t thought much but said it’s a much discussed topic why Jesus didn’t address her poverty. My focus, though, was on that woman. She was the one I could identify with in that story. I’ve been that woman. I am that woman. I’ve put change, the only change I had left to my name, in the offering plate in hopes of a miracle. But I’m not one of those people who the pastors lift up in their sermons like this past Sunday. That’s not the type of Least of Us I am. 

Whenever I’m struggling financially (pretty much always but now is particularly hard as I face my car getting repoed, utilities getting cut, and bills backing up all because my assistance got unexpectedly cut) I hear that voice in my heart remind me “blessed are the poor” and you know what? My response is not peaceful or loving or inspiring like the pastors always preach about. My response, like now, is so what? So what? Who fucking cares? Oh yes, I swear. And as I sat in my pastors office asking for help (which I later changed my mind about) I literally sobbed “I hate being poor.” I HATE it. Blessed are the poor? So what?

And my pastors talk about how kind these people are and giving but that’s not me either. I get angry and frustrated and I snap. When I spoke to someone from the government agency and he treated me like a waste of his time and humiliated me, I didn’t rise above. I didn’t stay calm. I didn’t act like someone who is blessed. Instead, as I hung up, I cussed him out and thought I hope that ass hole heard me. 

What blessing is it to be poor and oppressed? Okay, so I have the gift and blessing of being grateful for every single thing I have. I look at others who have so much and take it for granted or worse, complain about not having enough, and I’m dumbfounded. I want to shake them and wake them. How many people thank God for their beds and truly mean it? I am SO grateful for my bed. After sleeping on couches, in cars, and hard hospital beds for so long, I will never take my bed for granted. How many people cry with joy and gratitude when they somehow struggle and manage (usually at the expense of not paying something else) to have a fridge full of food? Yet the few times a year this happens, I do cry and a fridge full of food is one of my greatest joys. I will kneel and sob over the abundance and give thanks to God. Literally. 

Okay, but so what? So what? I HATE being poor. I want a fridge full ALL the time and usually I’m at my fridge crying over the lack of food. I acknowledge my time in poverty has blessed me but I’m so over it and I get angry and annoyed and snap sometimes at people who have so much and complain about having little. I don’t rise above. I’m not always empathetic. And I’m told my face often betrays my thoughts which I swear I am able to cuss with. 

Yeah because I cuss. A LOT. I’m poor, emotionally disabled, and oppressed but NOT perfect. I’m not a role model. If you want to be Christlike I’m a very broken example. I have moments of giving and rising above but so what? That can be said about anyone. We all have moments of Christlike perfection and moments opposite of bad days and sins. Why are the poor more blessed and why should I care?

I find myself asking myself a lot, too, does God know I’m sick? Does God know I’ve been abused and have permanent scars? Does God hold me to the same standards as someone whose mind hasn’t been injured? When I get into a flashback and lash out from an alternate reality, does God know I couldn’t control it and didn’t mean to? The Bible says blessed are the poor in spirit which my pastor said means people like me. People whose minds have been injured, their spirits hurt. Once again I’m blessed but once again, so what

I hate my PTSD and scars from self injury just a much as I hate being poor. Some people are inspired by me and see me as a blessing but I still struggle every day and will always fight wars in flashbacks no one else can travel to or see. Yes it’s a blessing to be able to bring hope and inspiration to someone so maybe that’s why the Bible says it’s a blessing but so what? All I did was sob yesterday after nightmares and flu like aches from a quick bug made me too weak to fight and find hope and light. Too physically compromised, all I could do was sob over my poverty, the exhaustion from my nightmares that woke me, and the memories of my past. 

What’s worse is sometimes I am humiliated, oppressed, judged, or condemned for my “poor spirit.” Many Christian believe people who commit suicide go to hell. Would God really condemn a sick and suffering person who lost their war? No. He couldn’t. Would he? Some Christians (probably many) would tell you my years spent cutting my skin was a time of great sin in my life. Doesn’t God know I was being abused and didn’t know how else to cope? Doesn’t He know I did the best I could to try to survive? And I did didn’t I? Yes. I did and He does and he’s turned my scars into blessings to bring hope to others suffering but so what?

The sermon I heard Sunday left me feeling so horrible and defective. Not because there was anything mean or offensive about it; there wasn’t; my pastor preached a beautiful and inspiring sermon. It just wasn’t preached to the least of us and the Least of Us that was mentioned rose above their hardships and succeeded in the face of their adversity which isn’t me. I felt like I was failing at being last in line which is a ridiculous sentiment. Like I am so poor in spirit I am failing at being poor in spirit. And I already feel like such an outsider in my own home, my church, and that gap seemed to expand into a chasm. I don’t fit in with my church members because of my poverty and I don’t fit in with the person in poverty in the sermon because I’m not strong enough to rise above my adversity. I’m not sure where I fit in at my church or if it’s even possible. 

My other pastor told me once their  pastor friend from a wealthy suburban church, even more well off than mine, admitted people in poverty wouldn’t feel comfortable in their congregation because of the social income gap and that was just how it was. My pastor expressed something could be done, but I keep questioning whether that pastor was right? I feel welcomed and loved at my church but I don’t feel understood or acknowledged. I’m expected to adhere to middle class social norms, not the other way around. Poverty and life growing up in the psych system has its own culture that I honestly love and am comfortable and familiar with. I don’t feel it’s sinful but is just so misunderstood but no one really takes the time to listen and learn. And sometimes my well meaning church makes me feel more oppressed ignoring this and not recognizing this. 

It’s times like these that I miss the psych hospitals the most. It’s the one place overflowing with the blessed least of us’s where I have felt truly united with all people. Where all cultures could unite because we had nothing but our brokenness. My pastor told me once when I told them this that church should be more like a psych hospital but it’s not. It’s nothing like that. I wish it was but I’m not sure it’s even possible. And I feel so oppressed. 

My pastor preached the last will be first and the first will be last, so it shouldn’t matter I’m in the back right now feeling oppressed because one day I’ll be first, though. Right? Come on. So what?

PTSD is a Bitch Pt.2 

I’m driving in my car on my way to work this morning. It’s a little after 8 and I’ve just dropped my daughter off at daycare. I’ve been up since 5:30 and already done 50 minutes of yoga and 20 minutes of prayer and meditation as well as gotten a shower. This is my morning routine and yoga was sweaty and felt good. My mind was incredibly distracted during meditation though. It was as if it could sense what lied ahead. 

I’m driving. Traffic is slow, but I don’t mind because I have plenty of time and an audio book playing that I’m really into. It’s called Man Seeks God by New York journalist Eric Weiner. After a health scare and a nurse posing a very nerve wracking question of “have you found your God yet,” the answer being no, as a non religious Jewish born journalist, he sets off on a quest to find “his” god. He does this by “shopping” religions. 

Of the over 9000 registered religions, he narrows it down to 9 he will try out. First he tried Sufism, which was a new religion to me. Buddhism was next and I learned so much I didn’t know about the religion. I found it so fascinating and, combined with the author’s humor, I was hooked. Next was Christianity, my claimed religion, but shadowing a monastary that runs a homeless shelter in the Bronx of New York, one dedicated to live in poverty BY CHOICE because it’s a blessing had me insightfully looking at living in poverty and hating it NOT by choice. NEVER by choice. I was getting so much out of the book (and still am) and then it switched to Raelic, a very absured sounding religion with the belief aliens created us to live happy lives and satisfy our sensual desires and all of a sudden it triggered a flashback. Bam! And like that, I was teleported through time and space, reliving an awful moment in life all over again before being spit back in the current day and time, shaking, weak, and doused with mental dissociative fugue and fogginess of my mind. 

I pulled up to work quite shaken up and disassociated. Instantly I felt a rise in my base anxiety. I felt physically and mentally exhausted. Flashbacks are so incredibly physically draining for me. I was very disconnected from my body and felt so numb as I turned off my car and went inside. I felt confused. Everything felt familiar and so different. I felt like I hadn’t left work the day before and simply walked out the door at the end of my shift and walked back in. I couldn’t even begin to communicate this with anyone so I kept to myself and tried to focus on my breathing instead before my shift started. 

My anxiety grew over my confusion of the day and not being able to ground myself back into the present moment. I helped two coworkers with book delivery at the library. I discussed this religion with my coworker who is well versed in subjects like this and tend to have insightful deep conversations with. Another coworker who had heard something about this very strange religion chimed in and they laughed about it. 

I wasn’t laughing. Refraining from mentioning the memory of the flashback I had been teleported to, I instead compared it to another psych hospital experience with two patients who got into a very heated fight over which one was the true prophet of God. I have been to 6 psychiatric hospitals mostly for miraculously failed suicide attempts which should have killed me. I have strong conviction God has chosen me for a purpose and that I have unique abilities to sense energies in this world most can’t. I started to deeply worry my entire reality was really just delusional insanity and the people around me all just humor crazy Liz. I was completely broken from reality and the only bit of sanity I could hold onto was the realization I was no longer in reality, or at least not the same reality that those outside of me were witness to.

With that, the flashback came back, gripping me with a death vice grip, teleporting me once again through time and space, and then spewing me back to where I was in a flash so quickly, it was undetectable to those right beside me. I wanted to leave work. I couldn’t though. I’m taking some days off this week and next for different reasons and I have exhausted my PTO so I tried to suppress the emotions worsened by the second trip without having begun to recover from the first. 

I shelved books the rest of my shift and fought tears and avoided talking to anyone. I wrote a poem:

how can i say i’m not okay

whence you ask me why

my reply would be

i had more than a memory

Flashbacks are so much more than a memory. Memories are past events in your life you remember. Most of my flashbacks’ memories are events I can only remember when flashing back. Also memories might make you feel sad or angry, etc when remembering them, when interrupted from thought, knowing exactly where you are and the day and time whereas flashbacks teleport you through time and space and your mind and body are transformed to the past you and like the cruelest form of torture, you are forced to relive that same experience, helpless to change it or do anything about it; your world enters a paradox unbeknownst to anyone else. When you’re spat back to the current day and time, your mind is so befuddled. There’s this mental sticky residue left from the travel. Exhaustion and confusion plague you. Time is lost and the aftershock is almost worse than the flashback. Oh no, flashbacks are not memories. They are more. 

I left work. I had an hour when I got to my side of town before I needed to be at church to update the chalkboard for our Wednesday fellowship dinners which I was excited when asked two weeks prior to undertake. I could feel myself in a disassociated dream and was desperate to wake up, and was scared. I decided eating might help so I ran to the store and grabbed an herbal tea and vegan peanut butter cup, a comfort food. I couldn’t bring myself to eat but I nursed my tea and made up my mind to go to church early and spend time alone in the sanctuary. God. I need God. I don’t know what else to do I thought. 

I sat alone and wrote. I thought getting the memory out would help. It was on paper but I didn’t feel much release. I needed to cry but the tears no longer wanted to come. I can’t cry in my disassociated dream state and it’s painful like needing to throw up but being unable. It was 10 minutes past but I knew my pastor was in a meeting anyway, so I prayed and then found her. She asked how I was. I forced a superficial “fine” and further forced some more small talk to be polite. 

Alone in a large storage space with the chalkboard easles, I updated the fellowship dinner menu and on the other one the inspirational verse while listening to music. Once again I wanted to cry. I wanted to talk to someone. I thought it might help if I could share my memory of the flashback with someone and give me the release I needed. I decided after I was done, I would see if I could talk to my pastor for a minute. 

When I went up she was working but said it was okay for me to come in. For whatever reason, probably because I was vulnerable from already being disassociated, my anxiety climbed into response mode. I began to jump at every noise. My thoughts completely jumbled inside my head as I kept laughing uncomfortably and apologizing. Used to this by now from me, she was patient and kind. After rambling (a sign of my high anxiety) I got to the memory, but it was too much to recall and my mind completely went offline. I tried to pull out my notebook I had just journaled in with the intent of just reading the memory but I realized, terrified, I couldn’t make sense of the marks on the page. I apologized and said nevermind and thanked her and got up to leave but before I could get out she asked if I was okay. 

I stopped and turned and feeling completely helpless, said in complete honesty, “I don’t know.” Comeplete hopelessness filled and penetrated my every pore and cell and fiber of my body. 

“Do you want me to pray?” 

I sighed relieved. “Yes,” I said. This was what I wanted. I wanted to pray with someone. I always feel like pastor prayers are more powerful than regular prayers, though I think both of my pastors would deny this. She came and sat beside me, per my request, and she prayed. I don’t remember anything she said; I just remember feeling relieved. I am someone who believes in the power of prayer and felt like this was good and would help like taking medicine you know will help your pain even if you have to wait 15-30 minutes for it to kick in. It was like I was getting medicine. 

I thanked her and left for real this time, got my daughter, swung by my moms house and got some alcohol (only a few bottles of pumpkin ale now sitting in my fridge) and came home. I’ve been on edge with my daughter and we were both yelling at each other after she decided to squeeze an entire juice bottle on the floor for whatever reason (she’s 5). I tried to call a friend but he didn’t pick up so I wrote instead. Because this is what I do when the world feels overwhelming; I write. I write in hopes someone will care and understand and that someone else will be struggling too and find comfort in not being alone and being able to relate. 

I think what’s hardest for me about such bad PTSD is never knowing what, when, or where a flashback will get triggered. It was an audio book about faith. There are some things I know are horrible triggers and I avoid (ie certain songs, sexual talk and movies, books or anything about rape or mental health issues, classroom settings, etc) but most triggers, certain words, smells, new songs, etc are completely unforeseeable. There was no reason this book should make me cautious and I have a feeling nothing else in the book will be a problem. I hate it. I hate my disorder. I hate flashbacks. I hate disassociation dream state. I hate appearing normal and present when I’m fighting hell in another reality. But I guess if I can say anything I don’t hate, it’s that I’m grateful I have people in my life who will try to listen and care, who stay present even when I can’t. I’m grateful I’ve come far enough to talk about my experiences so that I can help others. I’m grateful I survived all of my near fatal suicide attempts and that I’m alive. I will keep fighting and reading and learning and talking. I will use my darkness to allow Gods light to shine brighter in me and the darkness will not overcome. Thank you for reading this. Namaste. 

Elizabeth 

PTSD is a Bitch

I recently started blogging again after a break that came shortly after my sense of security was severely threatened and sent me into horrible flashbacks. I wrote about my life in poverty and a specific instance of me using government assistance and how difficult it can be. I wanted people to understand because I kept thinking “if people only knew.” 

Right now my mind is at war. I want to die with each horrible flashback wave that crashes me. I have PTSD from a very complex and expansive abusive past and recently another trigger has come and every time I close my eyes, I am brutally attacked and transported to a very traumatic time in my life. My tears that sometimes reach the surface do little to cleanse. I forget where I am each time the flashback comes. As I try my best to hold on and stay in the present moment, sitting up at times because the pain is physical as well and I feel nauseated as if I am literally being teleported through time and space and once again I find myself thinking “if people only knew”–no–“I wish people knew.”

Sometimes like now the pain is so unbearable, physically and mentally, that I can barely move or think and I have a moment of wishing for just five seconds, an infinitesimly small fraction of what I endure, everyone in the world could feel this horrible pain that I am feeling. This doesn’t come from malice or anger, but from desperation; I want people to know and understand. Describing my life in poverty was so much easier. Can I even begin to explain the horror of my mental illness? Of my lasting scars from my trauma?

I’ve been doing great lately with the exception of money stress. I wake up at 5:30 and do yoga for an hour every morning. People comment on how much muscle I’ve gained and it’s only been a little over a month. I also haven’t had any caffeine and after several years of a vegetarian lifestyle, made the plunge into full vegan and it works. I’m taking time for myself and loving myself and reconnecting with my inner selves. We are at peace. I’m reading so many books that have called to me from all sorts of religions and spiritual ideals. My awareness is ever expanding and the light within me growing. I’m in therapy again and being the best model for self care and spirituality. Unfortunately, to my dismay, flashbacks still come. 

I like simplicity and things that are easy to do and understand. By nature I am lazy. No shame. I’m like a sloth. I like the simple life. I like quick and easy fixes and questions with straightforward answers. It’s why I like math. 1+1 always equals two and anyone you ask will typically give you the same answer. Therefore you must understand there is something so powerful and strong that moves me against my nature to wake up early and practice yoga instead of sleeping in, to meditate and surrender instead of running my hamster wheel mind, to read book after book instead of browse mindlessly on social media, to read ingredient labels instead of eat whatever, to live like I do instead of the sloth I am. 

Self care for all is so important. Self care for those who suffer from trauma scars of PTSD is vital for survival. We are in combat and cannot fight if we are already weakened by poor diet, little rest (as I hypocritically write late instead of sleep knowing my alarm will go off at 5:30 so I can yoga), or other vulnerabilities. What or where is this war we are fighting? With all mental illness, in our minds. PTSD is unique though in that it is actually an injury. The trauma we suffered was so mentally horrific that it injured our minds. For me, it is very much physical as well as mental.

What does any of this tell you though? Most of this you probably already knew, but you do not know PTSD.

This time my trigger was a person; someone new started to attend my church. My subconscious has made a strong connection between this lady and one of my worst abusers. This lady at church is a complete stranger and has begun to use the nursery I work and help with. I smile and am friendly as I am with all people, but I can barely do it with her. For others its genuine and natural to act this way. I’m told I can befriend anyone. It’s true. However, I see this lady and my whole body tenses. I want to throw up. I start to enter fight mode and I want to attack her. I reassure my inner self we are safe and this lady is not my abuser. It’s enough to stay composed but I become agitated. I start to pick at the skin by my nail beds, or figit, break eye contact, lose my ability to consentrate; I start to disassociate. 

People can’t tell. My trained trauma counselor, Yoda (my nickname for her which she is unaware), could and when I disassociated during our last session and she caught it and brought me out, it was a very unsettling and vulnerable feeling. However most people can’t pick up on the subtlies of my dissociation. I begin to leave or completely teleport and no one can tell. 

At home it hits me harder. The flashbacks come. Nighttime they are worse as I lay down. Each time I close my eyes I am teleported. I am there. It’s not a memory; it’s time travel–that is if time travel was invented to torture. 

I jump from time to time, back and forth. I try to keep my eyes open. I blink fast. Not quick enough. I try to play music to make me cry and purge these painful memories and thoughts quicker. It doesn’t work. It’s background music for the ride. I am so sure I will throw up one of these times. I feel disoriented. I feel confused. I want someone. I want to talk to someone. I want someone to hold me. At the same time I want noone; I trust noone. I feel so vulnerable. I reassure my inner child and self we are safe. I mentally hug and hold onto her. Then I pray. I call to God despretly. This is why I’ve never been able to let go of God. In this moment, I need a god. I believe if anyone was going through this, in that moment even the most convicted non believer would cry out to God. Intense suffering has a way of making you a believer. 

Sunday night when this happened, I slipped from my flashbacks into a nightmare filled slumber. It was so bad at one point I heard a voice rather outside of me but much my own say, “Liz, Liz, wake up. You are dreaming. Wake up,” and I awoke heart pounding and out of breath. Wake up Liz. 

Flashbacks put me to sleep even when my eyes are open. I walk in a dream and can scarce tell the difference. The next day I smile and start to feel fine. Sometimes I forget I am a trauma survivor, but it never lasts long before a smell, a person, a word, a gesture, a song, a sound, a feeling will trigger a flashback and I’m there all over again. I start to feel normal and like I don’t need help until I am harshly reminded I can’t do this alone.

PTSD sucks. Being a survivor sucks. People admire my story and how much I survived but for me, I’m still fighting. I feel isolated and alone. How can I tell someone that lady reminds me of my abuser and have that mean anything? And if I did, no one would know what to say. “I’m sorry,” would more than likely be their unhelpful, but well intended response. 

Maybe I’m not saying it right. I just don’t know how else to say it. 

I was a victim of trauma. Now I survive and fight for recovery every single day. I fight to stay a survivor instead of relapsing and fall victim again. I am constantly teleported to horrific times in my life and no one ever knows even though I’m surrounded by people. I feel so isolated because of my trauma. I never know what could trigger me and I fight fear every single day. When I am triggered by multiple things close to each other, all I want to do is hide. 

I’m learning not to hide, though. I’m learning how to welcome these memories and release them instead of resist. Though I am a sloth, I climb mountains every day to seek understanding and enlightenment and peace. I work hard so that one day I can help others with my wisdom and knowledge. This is greater than my desire for an easy life and quick fix. 

If only people understood. PTSD is a bitch. 

My Impoverished Life

I’m here at the office for social security–standing–waiting to be seen. I’m number 459. They are on number 439. Finally, I think, only 20 more people ahead of me. Then I sigh. 20 more people. I’ve already been here 20 minutes. I’ve been standing for 20 minutes because this place is packed. I’m here, though, because they took $400 from my monthly disability check. $400! Friday, when my check went in, I couldn’t reach anyone because the lines were so busy and I had to work. Today when I called on my way to Job and Family Services (JFS) because of issues with my childcare (this gets better), I was told medical was no longer covered and they had to take out two months worth. “That doesn’t make sense,” I said frantic. “My medicade was just re approved.” The foreign operator gave me another number and told me to speak to them. I thanked him without emotion and dialed the other number. “I’m sorry,” an automated voice spoke, “but the person you are trying to reach is unavailable and the voicemailbox is full. Please try again later.” I began to cry–no sob–the rest of the way to JFS.

I didn’t wait too long in the blue painted room designated for childcare. Maybe only 10 minutes, record time. When I went up, I knew what to expect but I tried to hope for better. I explained I had faxed in my recertification papers and it was confirmed but my daughter’s daycare said my benefits expired Friday. Yesterday was labor day so everywhere was closed so herein was Tuesday. I took my daughter to daycare knowing I would have to pay out of pocket if I didn’t get re approved that day.

“There’s nothing in the system. Do you have proof you faxed it in?” I didn’t and admitted this dejected. It was stupid. I knew it was. I should have saved everything. This is how JFS works. This isn’t the first time. I have no excuse other than I thought it would be okay. It wasn’t okay. I had to reapply for benefits, am responsible for paying out of pocket for sending my daughter to daycare today, and have to wait up to two weeks to be re approved. Therefore for the next two weeks I need to find someone to watch my daughter so I can work. I fought my tears burning behind my eyes. Don’t cry here. There’s too many people. I thanked them without emotion and asked where I could find out about medical.

In another room down the hall, I was able to talk to someone immediately. She pulled up my account and confused said everything was approved and good until June 2018. Why then did my doctors office say they couldn’t find my insurance? And why did social security take out $400?? They said it ended June 2017. She printed me off a letter of proof and instead of calling back, I drove here–sobbing the whole way–and now here I am.

At least I have a seat now. Someone got up. I decided to blog again for the first time in months to distract myself from the $660 I owe on my car. The $78 I’m now responsible for daycare. The need for a sitter for free for the next two weeks. My gas and electric bills which are two months behind. My oil change light that’s on and past due. My gas tank that will not last to next paycheck. The two months of monthly offering I missed because money has been tight. My tags that need renewed for my car. “If people only knew,” I texted my friend also on government assistance, “then maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to judge us,” so I write.

I’m back in therapy. My pastor talked to this lady I’ve named Yoda (except everyone but her knows, but she’s so old and short and wise; you know, Yoda) who is retired but still sees clients sometimes. She agreed to see me for free since my insurance made it impossible to find a qualified trauma therapist to deal with a past like mine. This came a week after two back to back flashbacks less than a week apart one with my doctor and one with my other pastor, two very trusted allies, where I was so deep in the flashback, I didn’t know who they were and yelled at both. It’s what sparked me to start being very disaplined with my yoga again and take care of myself. I’ve been working on forgiving myself and meditating and I’ve been doing really well. I’m in such a better place mentally. Thank goodness because these financial burdens are crushing me. I try to stay calm and trust God is in control. What else can I do?

They’re serving number 441 now. 18 people left ahead of me. It’s 11:11. I read somewhere this was supposed to be a magical time. Nothing feels magical about this moment.

Last night the world felt right as I sat next to our fire bowl on my patio with my new good friend and neighbor and other good friend and neighbor and the first’s three children, the youngest of whom we joke is my 5 year olds boyfriend. They’re so cute together. They all roasted marshmallows and the adults talk. We are all on government housing. We all live in poverty. I’m one of the very few white people in the neighborhood but this is where I belong. We talk about places we can get free clothing. I tell them how much I love my church’s food pantry I use each month and vent about needing to reapply for food stamps. I was going to today but $400 is missing from my check and I need that money. We talk about my friend’s bother in jail who she loves and I hurt for her. He won’t get out for another 10 years. Her children will all be grown. My brother is deployed but at least he’ll be home soon and I can hug him. We talk about having to teach our babies to fight because fights happen in this community. While other parents are thinking about what clubs to put their children in, what vacations to plan, what college their children might go to, we sit and discuss finding clothes for them to wear, food for them to eat, and self defense knowledge so they can stay safe. We don’t want them to fight, but living in poverty, we’re always fighting for something.

442. I’ve been here an hour and still have 17 people ahead of me. I’m tired, physically and mentally. I’m hungry and wish I had applied for food stamps. I bought some groceries instead of paying for other things and I partly regret it. However I can’t wait to make beans and rice. It’s nothing fancy but I’m so hungry. I did eat today though. It’s just getting closer to lunch time.

Friday I took a photo shoot with my childhood best friend who was in town. She’s an amazing photographer. I asked her a while ago if she’d help me do a photo shoot showing my scars in a beautiful way. She was in town and asked if I wanted to. I was excited and we went to the park and shot strong yoga poses in revealing clothes. The collection I’ve titled, “Don’t be Afraid to Let Your Scars Show.”

My physical scars are healed, but the scars from my poverty are sometimes gaping wounds pouring blood that no one can see and so many, in ignorance and insensitivity, judge and belittle and condemn. I didn’t choose this, you know. I didn’t choose any of this. Sunday is Suicide Awareness Day. Suicide was the path I had chosen multiple times but survived miraculously every time. I must believe it was for a reason. Right now, I’m still not sure why. Right now I’m still not sure waiting here will result in anything. Right now I don’t know if I’m getting that $400 back or how I will pay any of my bills or who will watch my daughter. Right now I just know I am not going to be afraid to let my scars show because I believe if people only knew they would have more compassion and love. I believe if I have courage to, someone else might too. I believe I have suffered enough and I will not be afraid to speak out. I believe I create the universe around me so I will look at it with love instead of the fear that had been casting a shadow for so long. I believe the darkness helps us understand the light and if I share my darkness with love, light will shine.

443. 16 more to go…

**Update**

After 3 (yes 3) hours (and 21 minutes because I had the time I got my number on the slip) I was told there was nothing they could do about it on their end and I would need TO GO BACK TK WHERE I WAS and work it out with them. They had no control. So guess who sobbed once again and while making lunch once home and again after momentarily calming myself when calling work to say I needed off AGAIN so I could try to get this worked out. You know, though, it’s okay. Not on the outside, but inside. I fell to my knees sobbing after getting angry and throwing some stuff around my kitchen and prayed. In the past I’ve asked God to fix this, take away my poverty, give me more money. This afternoon I just had a sense maybe it’s not broken. Maybe God is fixing it. I’ve been on a spiritual journey this last month and I’m so sure of the path I am walking, so instead I prayed, “God I don’t understand and it hurts so badly but I won’t ask for money or for you to take this way. I trust You. All I am asking for is peace. Just please give me peace.” You know what? I’m not gonna lie y’all; I kind of feel at peace. I’m finishing lunch and going to go spend some time with the trees and then get my kiddo and keep going with love and light. The darkness helps us to understand the light when we walk in love. Namaste. 

**Another Update**

I spent 45 minutes holding for JFS and apparently I earn too much money between disability and a part time, entry level job to cover medical deductions. I disagree and so they are having a case manager call me which could take 48 hours. Huge shout out to my daughter’s daycare, who is letting me bring her and working with me throughout this mess. Also at least I don’t have to call off a second day. It doesn’t solve bills but it helps a LOT and I will keep focusing on the light and love in this darkness. The darkness helps us understand the light when we walk in love. I’m going to keep walking in this love. Namaste.

**The Final Update**

I got a call back 24 hours later by an incredibly rude and insensitive case worker who kept sighing and answering me very shortly and condensendingly. The short answer is I apparently make too much with my gross income from my part time entry level library job and full disability check for two people. When I tried to ask questions to understand (it’s what I do; I like understanding) he made me feel so stupid. He also made me embarrassed for how much I make. He kept saying how much I make grossly with the full disability check as if it was so much and I shouldn’t be upset. When I said I hadn’t gotten any notice and two months was taken out at once he brushed me off and said he didn’t do it and he was calling me back because I wanted to talk to a case worker. I am sobbing now again as I write just remembering how humiliated and embarrassed he made me feel. As horrible and counter to my nature it is, I hope he heard the cuss words I called him as I hung up. 

I have a real, diagnosed, government proved disability. Yes it is invisible. Yes my scars my hand made, but NONE of this was my choice. And right now I don’t ever want to get out of poverty because I NEVER want to become that and middle class seems to love to judge and cast stones at those in poverty because our scars are easier to see. Are our burdens not bad enough? To cast stones when we’re already at the bottom is the most socially acceptable inhumane act of cruelty that not enough people are angry about and fighting to change. I will fight it. I will use my voice and continue speak out until my last breath. You can humiliate me and judge me and rob me but you will never silence me. You cannot silence me. Namaste. 

~Elizabeth