PS: Love

Fuck man. Sometimes I just want to scream at the world “Stop! Just SHUT UP!” This comes amidst helpless, tired, desperate tears.

I was woken to my daughter coming into my bedroom at five this morning because she had a potty accident and wanted to come in my bed. I was so exhausted and barely awake as I told her to climb in. However for whatever reason in that overly exhausted awake but not fully state, each time I started to fall asleep, when my mind was beyond my control but I was very aware of it, it decided to send me back to the time of my rape. I wouldn’t quite label it a flashback but it was more than a memory. This is about when it happened. About the time 12 years ago I didn’t choose to lose my virginity to the senior boy two years older than me who could smell my desperation to be loved and weakness to be able to overpower me. He knew I was so naive and desperate I would trust him and I did.

Fuck. And this morning I could feel that cool winter air as the small, elite group of us show choir students went out to dinner together and then to someone’s house before all dressed in our matching black ties and floor length dresses. It wasn’t the night of my rape. That was a few weeks later. This was the night of the bait. The memories I am flashing back to aren’t of the rape and the fear and complete disconnect from my body (though like painful daggers they occasionally stab at my conscious). No I’m flashing to the joy (I could barely type that word and tears are flowing down my cheeks in disgust with myself for how naive I was) when Eric looked at me. When he sat next to me at dinner. When he seemed to notice me, then ignored me, then seemed to insecurely and innocently text me after our concert saying he liked me and my heart skipping beats. For the two weeks before our first date, my silly fantasies and me writing our first names with just his last name and imagining a wonderful date, my dream date, of watching a movie and snuggling on the couch.

Goddammit! And it’s fucking intense too. At this moment I am writing simply because if I don’t I might lose it. I might not stay safe. I would give anything to cut myself to pieces because this flashing back is killing me right now and cutting is the quickest way I’ve found to end this hell. Fun fact: apparently you can’t experience intense physical pain and intense emotional pain at the same time. This is why cutting is so effective. As I used to cut into actual fat, deep within my body, it should be some indication how horrid this moment mentally is for me. I. Cannot. Take. This.

And you know what the first thing I did this morning was to try to escape this hell? It’s the first thing I always do. I grabbed my phone. I didn’t want to be alone so I grabbed it and jumped on social media and what showed up on my news feed really fucking sucks. There’s posts accusing Trumps wife of being a prostitute and a formal apology from a news source but the post asking people who like this woman and still think she’s a prostitute. There’s posts about men being ridiculous about the new awareness and more strict rules towards sexual harassment and defensive women writing responses. There’s pictures of which public figure men have recently been fired while pointing out Trump is still in office. There’s anger and debate and name calling and judging and would everyone just STOP! Just stop!!

Can’t you see this is killing me? Where is the sensitivity from either side? Great you think our president is scum and society was wrong for electing him. Me too; it has felt the whole time like one of my many abusers was elected into office and is incredibly triggering, but before you continue to stand on your high horse be aware your reposts of pictures filled with hate and judgement are not helping. You want to help? Really help and not just stir the pot or add kindle to the hate fire? Stop liking and reposting those pictures and how about show some vulnerability. There’s been so many women saying me too but no one sharing their story. It’s a start. It is. But it’s not enough to say me too and then use it for justification for your hate and bitterness.

I’m not saying you aren’t entitled to your feelings. You are. They are so valid and part of what I’m working on in therapy is trying to access that anger towards my abusers because I can’t currently. I’m still trapped in my cage of fear and sorrow. But who are you trying to help by spreading your anger and hate? Hate and anger will only take us so far. Anger will break down walls but only love will rebuild. If all we do is break down walls then we might be free from our cage but we still live amongst brokenness.

Stop. Please. I am hurting. I am hurting from so much sexual abuse from male and female far deeper than anyone realizes. I don’t want to hear you didn’t know. Save your guilty conscience for yourself. That’s not my responsibility. And I don’t want people getting angry at my abusers. One of them killed them self the day after my birthday and some are still an unavoidable part of my life I love and want to be able to fully forgive. The abusers are sick and broken too. This doesn’t make their behavior right but when our anger has broken down all the walls, we need to figure out what to do next and how to rebuild and we can only do that with love and I think empathy is the path towards learning how to love.

I get you’ve been hurt. I get you are hurting. I’m hurting too. Today I can’t breathe. Today my mind is beyond my control. Today tears are flowing down my face and I’m praying desperately when I go to church later to create a weekly chalkboard that the sanctuary is dark and empty because I REALLY want to be alone with God in that place where I find myself on my most desperate days when I don’t think I can keep fighting and that is where I am today. I don’t know if when I go to sleep tonight if I will have fresh cuts on my body and am angry because it’s been almost four years (January 2nd). It shouldn’t be this hard still.

Please. Help me. Stop spreading hate. I need help rebuilding my life but only love builds. I’ll help you too because I have love to spare because I believe in a God of perfect love whose supply never runs dry. We are ALL beloved people of God. I do not wish that boy who raped me and then killed himself a few years after my birthday to be dead. It brought me no justice. I wish he, too, knew he was beloved and had been taught that. Maybe he could have helped other boys and men who were assaulting women and could have made a difference. What justice are you seeking with your anger and hate? Will it truly satisfy you? Live your life how you want, but please consider we are ALL broken. We ALL make mistakes. And we are ALL beloved as we are right now, mistakes, brokenness, including all we’ve hurt or assaulted, and all we’ve been hurt or assaulted by. We are ALL deserving of being loved. You are beloved.

Confusing Answers

It’s no secret my life has been pretty tough lately. In all honesty my whole life has been pretty tough. Mine is a broken life of much abuse, neglect, and abandonment. It’s a life of injustice and oppression that taught me people are bad and I learned very early to cope with by leaving the outside which I actually refer to as The Inside and creating a whole new world, parts of which are filled with demons that I wasn’t able to leave, that followed me from The Inside.

Through all of this, though, I’ve always kept my faith in God. Every single suicide attempt was filled with prayers. I truly believe that’s why I was never successful even though I should have been. I seek God and it seems because of that God seeks me. I love my world that others can’t see because I can see God in a way people in The Inside just can’t seem to. Being so alone and in constant danger left me needing a superhero. God has always been my superhero. In the darkness and hopelessness, He has been my savior. In the darkness He has always been my light. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m crazy. So many people have lost their faith and turned to other replacements which feel better or seem to offer more; relationships, friendships, money, alcohol, careers, etc. I’m not saying those things are bad. In moderation I’m sure they’re great. For someone as broken as I am though, who can’t easily trust people, who lives in poverty, who is unable because of their brokenness to advance in careers, who money brings fear more than gratification, and who feels full by believing in God and empty without, if I lost my faith, I would lose myself. I have to believe God is there and has a purpose for my pain because to believe I went through everything I did for no reason is way worse to me than believing my God let me go through those things and didn’t stop it. Either way I was abused. Either way I was sexually abused and raped so many times by people I trusted–male–and female. Secrets. Either way, in darkness or in light, I suffered before I could speak. Either way I faced police brutality at the hands of an officer sent to save my life. Either way I dropped out of high school because the system blamed me and gave up on me. Either way I have nightmares and flashbacks and panic attacks and fear of my own species and visions and a blurred since of reality. With or without God in this moment my past stays the same. My present and future does not though. Without God I am alone when people are terrifying to me. Without God my nightmares and the demons quite possibly could overpower me. Without God there is no hope because every single day I rise, I overcome every statistic saying my life and my success in life is impossible. I only do the impossible every day by believing with God nothing is impossible. I have people in my life, sure. And these people love me and want to help me, but because of my abuse I don’t usually want people close. Without God I am alone and even though I have been to hurt, even I do not want to be alone. I need God. I need to believe in God. I need a superhero and God is mine. He has always been and while I can’t say what the future holds, imagining one where God is not still my superhero completely causes it to be void and dark. I. Need. God. I need to believe.

And it’s no secret in times of need I sneak into my church’s sanctuary and pray alone. Sometimes the pastors, or more often I’m seen by the janitor, know I’m there, but I can never believe that it’s really so underutilized throughout the week. Whenever I find it occupied it’s always because of maintenance or preparation or practice. A sanctuary is a place for prayer and worship but I’ve never once in the hundred times or more I’ve snuck into that room at different times during different days of the week run into even just one other person there who didn’t have anywhere else to go and was so desperate that they decided to come and pray to God. Sometimes I wish there was another person there. I imagine sometimes there is and we’d look, exchange solemn knowing looks, maybe nod, and then I’d take a pew somewhere else and in that wonderful, safe, quiet, dark sanctuary we’d pray separate prayers. It’s okay though. Sometimes I do weird things (like walk up near the altar) or cry so I guess it’s better I’m alone. I might be too self conscious if I wasn’t.

I’ve done this a lot recently. As I work in therapy once again, we are bringing light to areas I’ve kept hidden and been too scared to even admit to another human. Nightmares. Flashbacks. Anxiety. This all on top of financial stress, but like I said in helpless tears to one of my pastors recently, I didn’t care I was poor. I would be poor forever if I could just be freed from my past. When I have been going into the sanctuary begging God for help, it hasn’t been for money. Yes we’re about to lose the car. Yes our lights and heat almost got shut off. Yes my pastor recently helped me with gas for my car. Yes we use the food pantry. But honestly I don’t care. I used to but right now I can’t breathe and it has nothing to do with finances. I gave to God in these moments believing he would answer my prayers. I don’t know what I was expecting or how.

I just got done working seven days in a row yesterday. After that I made ten dozen cookies for a church fundraiser. I helped someone yesterday at the grocery store and even though she was incredibly grateful I just felt “so what, I’m worthless.” I’m exhausted. I’m conflicted. I’m ambivalent.

After band practice we came home for a bit before leaving to go see the Christmas story movie out right now. I haven’t checked my mail for probably two weeks. I have had so many collection notices and horrible news that I get sick with fear and avoiding reality is my speciality. Needless to say my mailbox was crammed.

I got in my car and flipped through the letters, setting aside the ones I would open. I could tell we had a Christmas card from old friends of my parents, also very poor, and hoped weakly there would be even $5 in it knowing they had less money than me and it would be empty. I also set aside a letter from church I assumed was about the congregation meeting tomorrow and a bill I doubted I would open. I tore the Christmas card open and managed to feel a passing breeze of disappointment at the emptiness and then thanked God for these kind people who remember us yearly and said a prayer for them. Then I tore the letter from church and didn’t take it out at first, just peaked open to confirm my suspicion as to what it was about and then noticed the blue of a check. That didn’t make sense; my paychecks from church from working nursery go right into my bank account. I pulled letter completely out and noticed a very large check. It was a letter from my pastors saying someone had donated money asking it be split to families in need and I was one of them.

Now most people at this point would probably have felt happy or at the very least grateful. I, on the other hand, sat there horrified in shock. I sent my pastors a quick message saying I got the gift and would have a card for them to pass along to them anonymous donor tomorrow but I never said thank you. I wrote the card and did thank them and wrote a simple haiku but it was very short and without joy (but hopefully they won’t know; I’m sure they’d want their gift celebrated as their generosity deserves). I’ve been berating myself since for being so stupid and weird. “Anyone else would be head over heels about this,” which made me think of something my friend said at band practice today: “yeah but most people aren’t like you.” I’m fucking tired of being so different.

I stared at the check and thought, “what the fuck am I supposed to do with this?” To which I hear my pastors’ voices saying in unison “whatever you want. It was given unconditionally.” To which I reply to my imaginary pastors, well that’s fucking unhelpful. Then I think for a quick moment I could finally afford that expensive weighted blanket that is clinically proven to help with nighttime anxiety to which I chastise myself worse than before because that would be like the whole check which is fucking selfish and I should spend more of it on my daughter. That is why they gave it. I would have never received money if it was just me. I never received anything from the church when it was just me even when I was homeless. In their defense I wasn’t on speaking terms with any of them. Next I consider taking the check back to them and demanding they take it back. I don’t want it. Yes but you need it. They probably would; if it’s what you really want, I imagine them saying. Is it? We do need the money. Don’t we? No we don’t. I haven’t given my monthly offering for months since finances we from really bad to really, really bad and I just got a letter from church not long ago asking people to please give what they said otherwise we might be in the negative and the thought terrifies me of losing my church or them having to make cuts for financial reasons so I consider (and if I do keep it at least some will be used for this) giving it to church to keep my commitment. I should buy my daughter something, I think. I could buy other people gifts. Food and gas. Bills. I could and should be responsible. Then back to fuck it, I should give it back (because you know, master of avoidance and if I don’t keep it, I don’t have to deal with it). Then I think in all frustration: What the fuck, God?! This WASN’T what I prayed for. I did not ask for money!

I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated that I’m frustrated. I’m tired. I didn’t want something like this to deal with. I wanted to relax this weekend. I’m angry. I feel like I’m failing at life. I’m having flashbacks. And I’m thinking over and over, what the fuck, God; this wasn’t what I asked for.

Then I was in the shower. And as I said this going over my options again and again and saying this isn’t what I prayed for, that quiet voice that speaks so often to me and makes me question my sanity spoke saying “this is the answer to your prayer.” To which I helplessly responded, “but this isn’t what I prayed for. I didn’t pray for money.” The answer? “Then maybe it’s not about the money.” Then silence. No more help.

Fucking Holy Spirit can be so helpful and so unhelpful sometimes. The receiving of the money was the answer of the prayer but it’s not about the money. So what’s it about? Seriously get angry when I have to figure it out. I’m Im lazy and want the answers given.

I need that money. It’s true. I don’t want it. I don’t trust it. Any of it. I don’t want to take anything from people. I’m not weak. I don’t want pitied. And that made me think how often I do this. I need help managing my flashbacks and nightmares and anxiety and yet I fight my therapist and resist her. “You just have to trust me,” she says pleading with me. Trust. Trust another person? That’s crazier than believing in God yet so many people trust leaders and liars and abusers and don’t believe or don’t trust or rely on God. We listen to what makes sense and abandon what doesn’t and nothing about God or Gods will makes any fucking sense. If you think I have all the answers or even just one as to why God does what He does, you are wrong. I haven’t got a clue. All I am certain of is I need to believe in God and that I do trust him.

Still, seriously? The money? I am so fucking confused. Holy Spirit come. I need another clue. God, help. I’m glad you think I’m smart and can figure this out, but don’t you know me? Ugh. SMH.

A Witness to the Light

I work at a library as a humble shelver. Everyday I put away several carts of books. I love my job and I love these books. Books have a soul and I can feel their soul simply by holding them in my hands. They each have a story to tell which seems simply obvious, but I am so in love with this attribute. Most people don’t even stop to think about it. It is what it is; it’s what they were created for, but what they were created for is so simply beautiful. I, too, am a book, written to tell a story. That is why it is written in the Christian Bible, “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.” This life is mine, my choices are mine, but I am a book, dedicated and written by the light. 

I have made a few observations, though, while shelving books and I’ve been considering it for some time. One thing I find curious and have given much thought to is how there is a bible for literally EVERYTHING.  Below is a small composite I made, but believe me, the list is infinite of bibles. 

Now let me first say there is no shame or sin in these books or reading them. I currently have checked out the Yoga Bible and would have checked out the Backpackers Bible had I not recently maxed out my library card. No. I’m not here to condemn or judge. What this does make me think about is so many places in the Christian Bible talking about serving two masters and where our treasure and therefore heart is. I question and think about how we let so much rule us and serve. In such a rich country, many of us let money become our masters and authors. We could much more easily write The Financial Success Bible before ever feeling adequate to write one continuing page in any religious doctrine. Me, being poor, could write a damn good Poor Man’s Bible: How to Shower Without Hot Water and Other Everyday Useful Tips and Tricks When Life Won’t Even Give You Lemons. Ah, I sense a best seller. 

There is a second indirect observation I’ve made which resulted more as a biproduct to working at the library. I fell in love with reading after beginning to work here and as such have this insatiable thirst to read (almost) any and everything. I love non fiction especially reading memoirs from very diverse people and also on different religions (I especially love Buddhism and have studied much on it). In addition I love sci fi and fantasy and inspirational fiction (top three examples: Life of Pi, The Alchemist, and Illusions). My observation is how these, including my daily read of the Christian Bible, all seem to be talking about the same exact thing, only using different language and theories to make sense of it. We are moths drawn to light and we sense it. So often we allow ourselves to be drawn to false light, but at our core, this is this innate pulling towards something we can hardly describe and therefore seek ways to try. 

This made me think of two things: the 2017 solar eclipse and a recent conversation I had with my good friend and pastor. The solar eclipse because I had decided to go to a small secluded pond to privately watch. I didn’t have glasses which ended up making no difference for most because it was so cloudy and yet still too bright for most to see anything–except me. I, too, was unable to look up, so instead I looked down at the muddy water beside me and I marveled at how even though it was muddy water, the way the sky was so perfectly reflected in it and in much clearer detail was as if an entire universe resided within it. It was so incredibly beautiful, filled not only with water and the plants and golden fish and other animals it served and was a sanctuary to, but it was a beautiful reflection of the sky above and for whatever reason, I’m sure a scientist could explain with their own answers to the question, I could see perfectly the entire eclipse behind the clouds and without blur. My friend and pastor recently said, in response to my question “who are we called to be as The Church,” we are to be broken, poor reflections of God, who being God (being light; in Him there is no darkness) is too magnificent, like the sun and the solar eclipse, to behold on our own directly. 

John the desciple wrote of John the Baptist, “He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only to witness the light.” I, too, am a witness to the light. Because of my darkness of my life, and many of my past choices and mistakes, I am muddy water, a clear, unpolluted night sky that because of my imperfections, because of my darkness, I can serve as a better witness. 

Do not be ashamed of your mistakes or sins or weaknesses. Do not be offended by someone else’s. Celebrate them. Be thankful you are witness to them. The light we all innately seek is only possible to be understood through the mud and darkness. Stop seeking false light which offers instant gratification but does little to satisfy, stop trying to hide, ignore, or shame the darkness in others. Let’s celebrate our weaknesses and the darkness being confident in it, the true light can be reflected and shine, knowing we are all beloved children of the light whether our stories are catalogued in non fiction, fiction, science fiction, horror, fantasy, or some other obscure genre. You are beloved and you don’t need to change anything about yourself to be satisfied and loved in light. You are enough. Namaste. 

Porch Light On (Poem)

porch light’s on

but ain’t no one home

if the light shines on

then I’ll know.

Schrödinger’s cat 

while I’m away

holding my breath

as I pray

money so tight

bills couldn’t be paid

a few more days

“please, God,

just a few more days”

a few more days

’till I get paid.

dark or light 

i won’t know which

so before I left

I flipped the switch

to turn the porch light on

it’s just something that you do

when poverty’s what you’re going through

so I won’t have to wait ’til I get inside

and the sooner I will know

if that cat’s dead or alive.

the porch light’s on

but ain’t no one home

and a prayer’s being whispered

from somewhere far away 

in desperation

can He hear what I pray?

just a few more days

please, God,

just a few more days. 

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


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


That is real bravery


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


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


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 


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. 


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.