Things I Learned From Living in a Homeless Shelter. No. 6

In 2007, I spent several months living in a homeless shelter. It was one of my greatest experiences. One that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It was a gift actually. I had so much to learn and the universe didn’t let me down. It gave me the gift of “rock bottom.” Some of the knowledge I now possess, could not have been learned in any other way. I wasn’t unhappy in the shelter, I turned it into an adventure, and kept a great sense of humor. That is why you’ll find that some of my examples are rather humorous. Others though, are very serious.

Homeless Shelter Learns, No. 6:

I learned not to run off with guys that I barely know – even if it seems harmless to go have a little fun on the town, harm can most definitely come.

Jaen Wirefly and I have been having a very interesting conversation this morning and I thank her for it. It has reminded me of some of the dangerous situations I encountered (read that as me being impulsive) but survived living in a shelter.

There was this guy I knew who was occasionally allowed to stay at the shelter (being a single man, they rarely let him). I felt sorry for him because he had cancer. He’d survived it before. He’d been in prison for years (not saying why and please don’t ask) and it had been treated successfully there. But it came back. And this time, he decided he was done living. He wasn’t going to fight it a second time, he said, because it was just too awful the first time around.

Anyway, I felt bad for the guy. He’d been through hell, quite frankly, so I took pity on him. Pity turns out to be a bad thing. Not only does it enable people, but it puts the person giving pity in a bad situation.

One day, we decided to have some fun in town. We got on the bus together and rode around the city, hopping off here and there to get coffee, have pizza, and go to the zoo. After we’d had our fun, we were on our way to the bus stop, to catch the bus back to the shelter, when he just lost it. He attacked me in broad daylight, yes, cars going by, no one stopping to help. He ripped the very precious and expensive necklace that my grandfather had given me off of my neck. He told me that he should “probably take me in the woods and kill me.”

Why? Well keep reading.

He’d spent the day telling me that I was his only friend, his one true friend, and that I was the only person he could count on. I fell for that (by the way, when someone says that, run like hell). He’d also been telling me that if I were really his friend, I’d sell that necklace to help him out. I’d not responded to those statements, I had no idea what to say!

I can only guess that he was so angry at not having help, at being in prison for years, at the thought of dying, that he had no self-control left. He was probably furious that someone could have something so valuable and pretty while he had nothing, and probably envy, jealousy and rage took over. Obviously he was not very healthy mentally. I am sure having cancer did not help his mental state.

If you’re wondering what I did, I ran like hell! I ran to the nearest place, a motel, and got myself inside to safety and called the shelter to have their van come pick me up. No, I did not call the cops. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was fear, that he’d come after me. I don’t know. But I didn’t.

Before I understood that I had BPD, I did MANY THINGS that I cannot explain. And sometimes people start asking me questions: why, how, when, where, who – that make me very uncomfortable because I CAN’T necessarily explain these things. Borderlines are usually extremely impulsive, so there’s the only explanation that matters. Thank goodness I have that under control now!

Well, back to the story, he did not attempt to stay at the shelter that night, thankfully. A day or two later he stopped by to tell me that he didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Well heck, that did not upset me. And no, I did not freak out and yell at him or say a word. Again, don’t ask. I can’t explain. I just let him say what he wanted, it was a two-minute conversation.

Well, he is dead now, he died not long after this incident.

The truth: I have empathy for the circumstances that lead to his behavior. THIS DOES NOT MEAN IT WAS OKAY. It’s just that I understand he was very lost and hurting.

Many times I think we forget that when someone is violent there is a reason behind it. Years of neglect, abuse, maybe prison or cancer or some other illness. There is a moral in here. Try to understand why people do the things they do. Just try not to put yourself in danger in the process!

I took away very valuable lessons. Don’t go running off with men (or anyone) you don’t know very well. Don’t pity people. Try your best not to enable people, but also try your hardest to have empathy. And the other thing I learned: it’s not smart to wear expensive necklaces while living in a homeless shelter. That necklace meant a lot to me. I would never have sold it at the time, not even to get out of the shelter. I would now though. I value myself more and would have the realization that the necklace, while beautiful and sentimental, is not worth more than ME. It is now gone. I am sure someone found the necklace, maybe they had it repaired. If so, I hope they are enjoying it and that they are more mindful about wearing it than I was.

Love to all. Life goes on after rough stuff. I bear no anger toward this man. I am glad he is resting in peace now. 

Dear Bio-Dad…You are Forgiven

Dear Biological Father of Mine,

Well, first of all, forgive me for making you sound as though you are some sort of hazardous material or a recycled fuel! But I always call you Bio-Dad. With three to talk about I had to give all of you nicknames and that one’s yours. But I’m pretty sure you would find humor in that – yes, I think it would make you laugh.

I will choke on tears and a tightened throat as I type this, for these words are so hard to write. I guess it’s the not knowing, whether you are dead or alive, suffering somewhere alone and feeling hopeless and helpless, or in a place of peace, at last. I will always wonder what has happened to you. I’ve scoured certain websites, looking, sometimes shaking, to see if “that’s you.”

No matter where you are, living or not living, I want you to know that I forgive you. I feel no resentment or hatred.

I understand why you gave up your rights to me, so that I could have the surgery I so desperately needed – it was a very selfless act. I know, you couldn’t even come close to helping then, so you did the right thing, but oh, how hard it must have been for you to do it. For that, my heart bleeds. I’m so sorry it worked out that way, for both of us.

About the stories – the abuse, the drugs, the drinking, the random acts of violence – I’ve heard about them from Mom, and a few others.  But the things that you did, I understand. I know they came from a deep pit of hurt that you didn’t know how to deal with very well.

Biology speaks. I’m sensitive, too and that has created a lot of ruckus for me over the years. I’ve done things of which I’m not proud, yes, it’s true, and I know that if I could talk to you, I would be given your understanding and compassion. I know this from a place that has no name. I will just call it awareness.

I’m sorry that so many in your life saw you as bad – shunned you without taking the time to understand why you did certain things.  But I do, yes I DO understand. Your childhood was disastrous, hey, just like mine!

It would have been nice if Grandma and Grandpa could have acknowledged their role in your problems!  But I’m not so sure they had peaceful childhoods either, and so I have to forgive them also. Maybe that had no idea that they were letting you down. Even if they did, I try to remember that for many it is so much easier to run from a problem, rather than take it on, tackle it, own it, and fix it.

Please know, no matter what anyone else thinks, I don’t think you’re bad; I really want you to believe that this is the truth. I know what it feels like when people watch you create an “event” or a “scene” – label it horrendous, and then go on to judge you as a freak, a sinner, a crazed-nasty person, unworthy of life or love. Blind eye. They don’t see the pain that caused the actions. They see what they want to see. It is convenient.

If I could give you one gift, it would be that knowledge. It’s not your fault! You just have to do your best to accept this blindness, forgive people for what they don’t understand, forgive YOURSELF, work on fixing your own problems and go on to help others. If you are alive somewhere, I hope you’ve found a way to do this.

Sometimes when I think of you, I cry, feel sad, and can’t stop wondering. But the one thing that always puts a smile on my face is the snowball. Do you remember? You, living in Arizona at the time, called me late one evening, to say that it had snowed and that it didn’t do that very often where you lived, so you ran outside and quickly made a snowball and stuck it in your freezer. I remember you said you would save it for me, just to prove that it snowed! I’m sure the snowball is long gone, but the memory will always feed me my heart.

I hope these words make it to you, somehow.  I love you and always will. You made me, how could I not? And I know, just know, that you love me, too.

Love and warm thoughts always,

Your daughter

Who ARE The Most Inspiring People in the World?

1. Someone who has struggled.

2. Someone who has struggled with abuse.

3. Someone who has struggled with abuse and addiction.

4. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction and depression.

5. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression and anxiety.

6. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety and thoughts of “ending it all.”

7. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, thoughts of “ending it all” but made the choice to keep going.

8. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, thoughts of “ending it all,” made the choice to keep going and sought help.

9. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, thoughts of “ending it all,” made the choice to keep going, sought help and succeeded in helping themselves.

10. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, thoughts of “ending it all,” made the choice to keep going, sought help, succeeded in helping themselves and then saw how many other people are struggling, too.

11. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, thoughts of “ending it all,” made the choice to keep going, sought help, succeeded in helping themselves, saw how many other people are struggling, too, and decided to do something about it.

12. Someone who has struggled with abuse, addiction, depression, anxiety, thoughts of “ending it all,” made the choice to keep going, sought help, succeeded in helping themselves, saw how many other people are struggling, too, decided to do something about it, and did it by having the GUTS to share their stories.

Look for someone who has the courage to share their extremely difficult journeys, their utterly heart-wrenching stories. Listen and do not judge. Instead, learn from them. You have just found one of the world’s most inspiring people.

Blessed by Adversity

As a four year-old I was quite obviously in charge of keeping my head safe by escaping. I had the Itty Bitties; I had the bats. I also had glorious cows to watch (ah, a daytime activity), from the tippy-top of an enormous pile of dirt. Our neighbors were farmers and I’d spend hours up there, waiting, scrutinizing. For some reason, I made a part-time career out of cow observation. Now, there was no MOO-la in it, of course, but I was praised by the farmer and his wife every time I’d spot a cow who was also, coincidentally, escaping – from the fenced-in pasture. The praise was worth more than any amount of money. Oh, how sweet, tantalizing and delectable it was! Better than the most delicious kind of cheesecake. Of course, if you don’t like cheesecake, then you’ll have to think of your own analogy. :-)

Looking back, I realize how adept I was at finding ways to liberate myself from emotional pain. I found so many methods! Cow observation, bat contemplation, and mouse conversation! Mouse conversation? There was an adorable mouse that showed up many nights to chew through the outside-facing wall of my bedroom. I’d talk to the little critter on the nights he or she showed up to make more holes, his or her cute pink nose poking through them.

Well, all this writing about overcoming, escaping, the ability to deal with what life dishes out, led me to think about adversity. Adversity is the best blessing, a wonderful teacher, if you choose to see it that way.

Kids are pretty tough beings, that is true enough, and if I think about what I had to learn how to handle as a child I’m amazed. But what’s more amazing are the things I’ve had to battle as an adult. Oh, the adversity-versity!

Once I’d been broken-in by the abuse I received from my family, it was easy enough for other abusers to get hold of me. I am still stunned by the number of abusive people I’ve pulled into my life. I never knew, I never saw, but thank God now I do. My original abusers were disguised as parents and other family members. Later abusers would be disguised as schoolmates and friends – as teachers, guidance counselors and other school staff. And of course, much later, abusers would disguise themselves as boyfriends. The worst abuser of my life showed up around age twenty. Me – my very self. And of course the most awful part of that was that I had no idea I was abusing myself. Well, if abuse isn’t adversity I don’t know what is.

But it doesn’t stop there, I’ve had to face the adversity of being very physically ill, from the moment I was born, pretty much. There are days I can barely walk and doing dishes is an accomplishment. Oh, I shall not forget discrimination. There is more of that adversity stuff. I’ve been discriminated against for having mental health issues and physical health problems alike – one just as trying and painful as the other. What’s surprising is how common this is – it happens all the time. The weak ones really do get it!

But then, like a phoenix does rise from the ashes, you can choose to view adversity as your best friend, as a patient and loving teacher, as a wise guru. From an abundance of adversity determination can come. From determination, a few small successes. From the few small successes, CONFIDENCE. From confidence, more success. And from that, a life really worth living. Time, time, time. It just takes time. And then, you don’t feel weak anymore, you feel STRONG.

I’m not sorry my body is sick. I’m not sorry I’ve been abused – physically, sexually or emotionally. I’m not sorry I’ve suffered terrible psychological suffering! I’m not even sorry I’ve felt the sting, many times, of discrimination. In short, I’m not sorry for the adversity that’s shown up quite a bit in my life. On the contrary, I am blessed by it.

Adversity is a lamp that lights the way out of darkness. I am blessed by adversity.

Forgive So You Can Move Forward

Recognize that no matter who hurt you as a child (or as an adult), you have what it takes to overcome that pain. You really do, please believe it – have that faith.

More good news: not only can you overcome, you can also go on to forgive those who caused the suffering. It just takes some time.

If you’re like me, you may have carried around horrific rage and angst – for years – and then dished it out to others, here and there, thinking it was justified, or quite possibly not even realizing that you were doing it.

If you’re like me, later you may have realized you made many an “oops” and after some time passed felt terrible regret.

Well, hey, there is some more good news: you CAN also forgive yourself. Again, it just takes time.

It’s not the mistakes that you or others have made that are inherently bad, it’s the part about not forgiving that is the most harmful (or bad, if you want to label it that).

You have to forgive or you can’t enjoy now, never mind move forward. You have to forgive or you truly have nothing at all to give! And wasn’t giving what you wanted for yourself in the first place? Didn’t you want someone to give to you – to care?

You can give to yourself now, instead of continuing to take away from yourself – and how? By working on overcoming and forgiving!

Peace and love to all on this fine Sunday evening.


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