I wish I were able to end this year on a positive note. I’m fully aware that bad things happen in life and we can’t ever expect to reach a point where everything is purely rosy at all times, but I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t a little disappointed with how much negativity ruled my year.
Negativity won for two reasons. One was that I allowed negative mindsets to be the most powerful ones, which is how I failed 2018. The other was that my extraordinarily bad luck regarding “real life things” prevailed and continued in several large ways; sadly in ways that were equally impactful to my life as the positive things that took place. That’s how 2018 failed me.
The last three years of my life have been split down the middle; they’ve simultaneously been periods of my life where some of the coolest, most amazing things I’ve ever done happened but, beyond things based in creative work, hobbies, and social circles, those years have also been poor luck-filled hell as far as harsh reality is involved. Unfortunately, the latter was more impactful on several aspects of my life; my bank account and mental health being the primary victims.
2017 was defined by my poor living conditions. Honestly, 2016 was too, but the problem was slightly less severe and it came to a resolution in my favour despite months of blatant harassment at the hands of my first rental company in Toronto when I reported a mouse infestation. The resolution wasn’t one that made up entirely for what I’d experienced, but it was good enough for me. My new apartment in 2017 was supposed to fix that. It was supposed to be a fresh start that allowed me to let go of the stress the first apartment had caused and enjoy my new life in Toronto with a slightly more carefree and settled feeling than the first year had afforded me.
Instead, I was met with immediate rental process complications, tech issues that prevented our Internet connection no matter what we did or what company we hired (which was an issue because I had five jobs that relied on my ability to work from home on the Internet), prolonged overlapping and extreme bed bug and cockroach infestations, and severe failures in service and communication that allowed our harassment, prevented us from working properly, endangered our physical and mental health, and prevented our reasonable enjoyment of the space we paid full price for, on time, all throughout. We wouldn’t have had any of these issues if they’d solved the first infestation properly in the beginning. I literally wouldn’t be writing this (but fixating on facts like that is part of my problem).
For the bulk of 2017, I paid full Toronto rental rates to live in a dirty, bug infested apartment that was filled with chemicals that only made me sick rather than killing the bugs. I lived out of trash bags for four months. I suffered loss of income because the stress and ineffective bug treatments worsened my migraines, caused me severe chronic nausea, and got me diagnosed with physically manifesting anxiety. I experienced ongoing harassment at the hands of company reps and was made to feel blamed and unsafe whenever I was home. I was uncomfortable and unable to work at my full capacity for the majority of the year, so I suffered drastic loss of income despite having a total of nine jobs. I went into debt trying to cover expenses, out of pocket costs, damages, and so on and in the end, over half of what I owned had to be thrown out because it was ruined by chemicals, heat treatment, and the carelessness of others. I spent months on end dreading every moment I spent at home, meaning I had no safe space, no haven or calm, no home base for even the most basic needs without extreme stress, physical repercussions, and deliberately intimidating experiences with the people who controlled our existence there.
2018 caught me on the tail end of that, when I was still suffering but ready for change. I put my foot down with the company, filed against them with the Landlord and Tenant board, handed in my notice, and left Toronto to move in with my grandparents in the suburbs.
Before that, I had to tie up loose ends in the city. I had to seek treatment for such severe chronic nausea and stomach pain that I couldn’t eat for days on end and was doubled over with stomach convulsions whenever I did. I had to quit a job I loved and was absolutely not ready to leave. I had to get rid of most of my things. I had to miss drag related trips and opportunities I was working hard to get. I had to ignore a lot of my friendships in order to prioritize my health and getting the hell out of that apartment. Infestations are an isolating thing because they’re so severe in a city like Toronto that you become stigmatized. People literally think they’ll catch it from you. You’re deliberately socially excluded; I had friends who literally wouldn’t touch me in public despite the fact that bed bugs target the cleanest houses. People don’t understand how they work, they just operate on an air of paranoia, so I was treated even by friends like I was dirty and responsible.
All the while, I was acutely aware of the fact that I wouldn’t have been able to make any of my escape happen without relying very heavily on select friends, nor would I have had anywhere to go had I not had willing and supportive family close by to take me in. I am not a person who finds relying on others and asking for help, particularly in large capacities, easy, so the fact that I would have been literally homeless if I hadn’t had an offer from my grandparents weighed on me at all times.
It still does, even though no one has hung it over me. This simply isn’t where one is “supposed” to be by the time they’re 30 if you measure your life by normative social standards. I try never to do that, but it’s hard when you’re consistently cognizant of the fact that you cannot independently support yourself even though you ticked all the boxes and did all the things right. The cause of my financial trauma is no fault of my own (if we total up my directly related loss of income from nine jobs, my out of pocket costs for what they manipulated us into covering via threats and harassment, and property loss/damage, that company is responsible for me losing over $30K in under a year), but I’ve been gaslit by a company for two years into feeling responsible.
The money had simply run out by the time I left Toronto, despite my previous years of saving and constantly working my ass off, and debt related to covering unavoidable costs on credit has prevented me from recovering as I’d have liked to in the year that followed. That rental company put me in such a position that I feel like I’m only barely treading water and will never get ahead or feel stable financial comfort again.
This is the point in the story where I’m usually told to “just get a better job”. Please remember that (in addition to being chronically ill in several small but harmfully layered ways that no doctor has ever been able to properly treat or cared to stick with trying to solve) I’m a part of that skipped over generation the economy doesn’t value because they told us all that a Masters degree was the new Undergrad and we must attain one to count for anything in the job market, but by the time we finished the additional years of study, the powers that be had changed their minds and decided five years of relevant work experience (which we could not have attained as full time students and which wasn’t feasibly possible either when it was being listed as a prerequisite for basic entry level jobs) was actually the ticket instead. I’m that awkward age gap industries just literally wouldn’t employ unless you had a connection higher up who could pull strings for you (I’m sure you can imagine that I wasn’t keen to ask my military father for that favour if you know literally anything about me) or unless you could afford to take a lengthy but time consuming unpaid internship to start, which I couldn’t. Please also remember that, through two years of unsafe living conditions, my creative outlets were the only thing that stopped me from sinking into a very real and very dangerous depression spiral and I was therefore more keen to patchwork a flexibly scheduled income that was more within my control, as opposed to chaining myself to a desk just to make a barely increased buck. I wasn’t ready to quit the only things that made me happy. I did curtail them, cutting my travel in half and only really attending things where my costs were nearly free in exchange for promo/media services or where we were getting paid, but if I’d quit traveling for Drag Coven all together, my health would have suffered so drastically that I literally don’t know what physical or mental condition I’d be in right now. I do Drag for my soul and that is an important aspect of life as well so long as you can balance it, which I’ve worked my ass off for over four years now to do.
So I left my whole life in Toronto because a rental company ruined it. They ruined all of it. Barely anything was salvageable. I lost half my friends because they felt neglected or misunderstood my circumstances and thought I just wasn’t coming around to see them because I liked other people in other places more. I lost things with great sentimental value or that were actually worth a lot of money I’d worked hard to afford them with. The worst was perhaps that I lost the ability to invest further (financially or regarding time) in the things I love doing most. In 2018, every single little moment that I am not traveling to avoid disappearing from my social circles, brand, and passion projects, was spent working to simultaneously repair my life, recover from my financial trauma, and do drag and Drag Coven in some capacity. That’s a choice I make, of course, but the fact that it’s difficult and constantly hanging in the balance with my involvement in what I’ve helped build at permanent risk is the result of bad things that happened beyond my control, which is an endlessly frustrating fact for me.
There were good things that happened in 2018, of course. My grandparents are the best roommates I’ve ever had. My health has improved slightly (I gained some healthy weight and I can eat again without too much trouble on most days). I got to work media with my best friend for three drag conventions (which are my favourite thing we do) and take her with me on her first trip to Europe, where my fantastic parents took us on a stellar tour of the continent. I won’t pretend for a moment that good things didn’t happen!
2018 failed me, though, because any time something that was based in Drag, creativity, hobbies, or essentially anything enjoyable went positively, something in my “real life”, my harsh reality life where I can’t put on a wig and turn the music up until I’m happy again, went badly tenfold. My shockingly horrible luck continued without break. That prolonged my stress over finances and the experience in that horrific apartment, impeded my financial and mental health recoveries, and cast a dark shadow of anxiety over most of my good experiences. It’s all well and good to recommend that I live in the moment and let go of the past, but that’s easier said than done when its roots are still spreading out to buckle what you’ve been working on since in a way that haunts the undertones of everything else you’ve got going. There was never a point where I could purely enjoy myself because every dollar I spent made me feel sick, even if it was in the course of seeing my family (who I only usually see annually) and every hour I spent on anything but work made me feel a guilt so intense that my chest got tight like I was under a weight. That’s exhausting. It was infuriating that I’d done everything I possibly could to avoid that and yet here I was. Everyone deserves some time off and social space and I felt like I didn’t because I convinced myself every moment and every dollar should have gone elsewhere, which was isolating, demotivating, and frankly harmful.
The bad luck mostly manifested itself in the form of rental hearings. I’d filed with the LTB before leaving Toronto, as I mentioned, but they screwed up our process right from the beginning. Rather than being taken care of in a few months as is normal, our case is still ongoing a year later (I first filed in early January 2018) and I don’t even know if it will finally be officially wrapped after I go back for a “last round” at the end of this week.
First, my roommate from the Hell Apartment and I found out Board staff had recommended we file the wrong forms. I had called twice in January and explained the abusive situation in full detail to two different people. They had both recommended a certain form, so that is what we filled in, signed, and submitted in January. When we went to the scheduled hearing in March, they told us our case was being dismissed without prejudice because we’d submitted the wrong forms. The rental company’s lawyer tried to counter claim against us for his fee for that day, saying we should be responsible for paying him and not the company. The Justice of the Peace decided this was unreasonable since we were unrepresented and not lawyers, so it was a simple mistake any member of the public could make. I explained that it wasn’t actually our mistake and the JOP said it wasn’t his problem; we’d have to file a separate complaint against the board itself on our own time. We figured out the right forms and submitted them immediately while the abusive rental woman who had harassed us and impeded our ability to live comfortably glowered at us from across the hall and hovered in attempts to intimidate us.
By the time they rescheduled our hearing, we’d both moved, me to Guelph and Devyn to Ottawa. This meant that we’d have to travel on our own dime into Toronto for the hearing, which we did. The lawyer tried to settle with us outside the room, but he was dismissive and discredited the severe impact the situation had on our lives. He offered us $750 between us in remuneration, which is not even half the rent we paid to live there for one month. When we refused, he yelled at me until we walked away. The lawyer and the abusive rental rep then claimed to the JOP when we were called for attendance that we had never sent them our evidence package. In reality, they have never sent us anything at all as they’re supposed to and we had provided them with a folder of over 100 pages of evidence against them every single time. We knew we had provided it and that the abusive rental rep was lying because she’d been in the office when we dropped it off (with fully signed certificates of service) and she had cornered a visibly uncomfortable disabled tenant who had been passing by in an attempt to avoid speaking with us, using him as an excuse to stand outside while we were in the office. We left the file with the office admin and we watched the abusive rep walk in and pick the file up before we’d exited the glass lobby. She openly lied under oath and the JOP let her. He actually didn’t really care; he said they’d just have to share our copy. This got our hopes up that we’d actually be seen, but instead we sat pointlessly for hours in the hearing room while the JOP heard everyone around us and not us since we were deemed “complicated” because of how long we’d suffered for and how much money was at stake (remember that my losses and damages alone were over $30K, and that’s only what I could prove as documented fact; in reality it was worse). Finally the JOP urged us to try mediation, which we did. The mediator was quiet, did not facilitate productive discussion, did not stop the lawyer and the abusive woman from the company yelling and interrupting us, and did not prevent the lawyer from demeaning me with accusations even when I presented factual documents. I finally slammed my hands down on the table, told the lawyer I’d be his worst nightmare if he spoke over me one more time, told the mediator she’d been a sorry example of what this whole process was for, and Devyn and I walked out. The mediation served only to give the lawyer and our harasser yet another chance to take shots at us. When we walked back in, the JOP made us go see a pro-bono lawyer. This woman was equally as incapable and as poor at communication as the mediator. She hummed and hawed a lot. She asked us repeated questions because she wasn’t really listening to our answers. She mixed all our papers up and dropped things. She openly admitted to not really knowing what angle we should take because the situation had been left to fester so long and was complicated, so she “didn’t really want to take the time to go through it all”. The only productive thing she did do was identify the fact that the board staff who had put our refiled package together in March had left out a large portion of what we were claiming, rendering one of our overlapping infestations irrelevant to the hearing and not something we could claim for despite the fact that it played a massive role in our suffering. We’d provided that person with everything they needed and entirely upheld our responsibilities as the tenants and they still messed it up but we’d pay the price. She gave us no advice about what to do about that or how to proceed. She literally shrugged and handed the papers back before turning her back on us. We went back to the hearing room choking back tears only to hear that the JOP had decided he’d heard enough cases for the day and didn’t want to start ours, so he was deferring us to a new date. I burst into tears the moment I left the building and spent the rest of the month in a state of self loathing that I projected onto issues between my friends and I and had private choking panic attacks about whenever I was alone.
We were offered a rescheduled date in August. We had requested, on audio recording before we left the hearing room in June, that Devyn be included by conference call from Ottawa so he wouldn’t have to waste money and time off coming to Toronto again since we seemed to keep getting deferred. I specifically stated that I would still like to attend in person in Toronto because I did not trust either the lawyer, the company, or the LTB to play fair with our case at this point if neither of us were present. The JOP agreed. When I opened the envelope for the new August date, however, it instructed both of us to call in and participate by phone. I was livid, so I called the board and explained what had happened and why this was a terrible idea. They told me to stop stressing and do what the letter said because it was a recommendation and it would be easier for both us and the JOP. I called again to confirm a few weeks later because I still didn’t trust these people and another LTB staff scanned our file and also recommended I participate by phone. Before we could even get to the hearing, however, the lawyer’s admin called us on behalf of the abusive company rep and asked to reschedule again. We refused and they just kept asking because they wanted to bring in a witness; he was a random Orkin employee who knew about bed bug infestations, but knew nothing about our specific case, had never serviced our apartment, and was not aware of how their failures in the bed bug process lead to an overlapping cockroach issue for five months. I stated this and they still demanded to reschedule because this witness wasn’t free on the date we’d been given. I said I didn’t care and made them meet.
When I called into the conference call, the JOP (a different one yet again) immediately asked why I wasn’t there in the room. I told him I’d been repeatedly recommended to follow the instructions on the page and call from home despite the fact that I’d specifically stated I wasn’t comfortable with that from the beginning. He told me I was right and I should have attended, and that the staff were wrong. I finally lost my cool. I was so beyond finished and frustrated and I demanded to know how I was supposed to know which processes were right and which were wrong if the board’s actual staff were so incompetent and uninformed. He basically said “yeah, that’s a bummer” and didn’t care that this was our third crack at this. He asked the lawyer if they’d like to continue with us on the phone and the lawyer requested to defer, explaining about the witness. The JOP told Devyn and I that he thought deferral was in our best interest since we deserved to be here to fend for ourselves with at least one of us present. I demanded to know how complaints could be made because we already had two points and this was a third and he told me the laborious process, letting me know that every single thing had to be complained about separately. It was yet another bureaucratic process that would take me hours of my own time.
We were rescheduled for October. I attended and Devyn patched in by phone. The JOP didn’t know how to work it and the sound and tech quality was awful so Devyn could barely hear or participate. The lawyer brought a whole crew of people while I sat entirely alone. By this time, I’d discovered that the abusive woman we’d claimed against had been fired from the company for issues exactly like ours (which they’d lied to tenants about at first and tried to hide, as I was told by an old neighbour), and our claim was now against a team of people who weren’t there, had never seen the apartment or the infestation, and new nothing about us. They still tried to make us settle for $750 and the man was livid and confused when I refused. He questioned me until I cried and then he said “don’t be dramatic, it’s not personal”. I dropped a pile of papers of my damaged belongings in front of him, as well as a chart of financial losses, and said “your company ruined my entire life in Toronto. You bet it’s personal”. He seemed taken aback looking through it but didn’t care enough to react much beyond that. They tried to make us mediate with the same complacent woman as before and I refused. They tried to make me meet with the same careless pro-bono lawyer as before and I refused. We finally got lucky because three cases didn’t show up and we were actually seen. I was put on the spot to explain our entire experience alone (because the JOP was too frustrated with the phone’s sound quality to have Devyn and I chime in at once), during which the lawyer shouted at me out of turn, interrupted me, and talked over me constantly and without reprimand. The JOP herself consistently cut me off, drilled me about insignificant details, dismissed pivotal parts of the story as extraneous because she hadn’t fully listened which meant I had to repeat myself, and talked over me in a way that seemed like she just really liked to hear herself speak. I relived the trauma of not having a safe place to go for a year, being prevented from working until I fell into financial hardship, and narrowly avoiding being hospitalized for allergic reactions and severe anxious side effects, all alone in front of a whole rooms of people who were against me, operating from the assumption that I was lying even though I had every detail factually documented. At one point they fixated on a particular damaged piece that they didn’t understand the photo of; a metal and gem bodice custom made for Lady Gaga’s appearance on Drag Race that I’d bought from the designer who was a friend. It was ruined by careless crews in our final heat treatment even though I’d taken precautions to remove and protect it and instead of focusing on the damage to my property that resulted from strangers associated with the company going through and moving my things without my permission when I wasn’t home, the JOP and the lawyer demanded to know what the hell industry I worked in that I would need such a thing. They weren’t queerphobic about it when I very briefly explained, but their interest was voyeuristic and condescending and served to distract from the severity of my accounts. It was a diversion tactic and it didn’t work on me, so I snapped. I lost it. The weirdest part was that they finally listened to me better once I’d yelled that I was finished being discredited and invalidated by people who couldn’t even keep on task despite apparently being the professionals in the room. I slammed my folder down and said I shouldn’t have to be the one who kept everyone focused and lead the discussion when I was the distraught tenant trying to recount my emotional trauma to the people who had caused it and continued to exacerbate it. I said I hated that the only way I could get them to listen was to yell and be nasty when we could have all just communicated well and practiced respect. They got better, but it was still three hours of me doing all the work to provide pages because they were too lazy to even open and look through the collated and well organized folders I’d provided them with. I ran around like a puppy at their whim, practically pleading for their validation and it made me feel more like dirt than I ever had before. Devyn later told me it had been very difficult to listen to, but he was basically powerless on the poorly connected phone line. Before he could even give his half of the account, the JOP looked up at the clock and said “well, it’s 4. Most JOPs have gone home by now, so I’d like to. We’ll defer”. I couldn’t help hot tears rolling down my face as she explained that we’d meet again in a few months for Devyn to give his account, the lawyer to present, and each party to present witnesses (we have none) and cross examine. I cried silently all the way home on the train to Guelph and slept from 8pm when I got there to noon the next day. I’d never felt so emotionally and mentally drained or discredited in my entire life, even in the thick of the unsafe apartment hell actually happening.
We go back for a “final hearing” on Dec 21st. The only reason I’m attending is because I feel I’ve come too far to give them the satisfaction of getting away with what they’ve done to us. Unless something really unusual happen, this is the last shot I’m willing to give this because I can’t keep letting it consume my life. Every time I go it costs me more money and time from work. It also puts me right back into that severely dark mental place where I feel like things will never get better and like I’ve somehow failed even though I know I’m not responsible for any of this happening the way it did. That’s hard to remember, however, when you’ve been gaslit by a corporation that has more money and power than you, and when the only powers who can help you don’t care about you because you’re poor. Once the hearing is done, we will still have to wait six weeks for a decision to arrive in the mail. Even though I’m still going back (I’d kick myself and regret it if I gave up now), I’m worn out and have basically lost all faith that we’ll be awarded any remuneration at all by these incompetent people. My expectations have been worn down to zero, which feels demotivating right now.
Between the hearings, 2018 was a time of additional bad real life luck for me. Even in times where I fought my hardest to stay positive and be upbeat, for my own sake and the sake of those around me, it felt like I was being kicked from all sides by things beyond my control that really just didn’t need to happen. Most of it centred on work and health. The laptop I needed to do my job was stolen when our car got broken into on a Drag Coven trip (I’ll be forever grateful to the people who helped me get another one through Go Fund Me and literally saved me from losing my jobs at a time when I needed money to escape my unsafe apartment hell and would have been absolutely screwed otherwise). My primary boss for writing contracts forgot to pay me on time and came through with my pay nearly a month late for four months in a row, costing me money in interest and late fees that I wouldn’t have had to pay otherwise. The end of our Europe trip was consumed by pain for me when I had such a severe allergic reaction to cigarette smoke that I got a lung, chest, throat, and skin infection that persisted for nearly two months, causing me to have to pay for all kinds of prescriptions that cost me money and made me even more nauseous than usual as a side effect. I came home with such a severe cough that I’d gasp for air and struggle to breathe, and I’d end every day physically exhausted and too worn out to eat properly. Even my “you’ll survive, you’re not bleeding from the head” mentality driven ex-emerge nurse Grandma was on constant alert about whether I needed to go to the hospital. It took forever to clear up and I was still out of breath by Halloween even though we’d been in Europe in August. My writing boss also restructured two of my three jobs without telling me, causing a month of stress and conflict that resulted in me only getting what I was entitled to after three years of work by threatening to leave all of my jobs with him abruptly. The pay delays that caused made me lose out on drag related opportunities because of money problems. Now, I’ve been informed by Apple that the new laptop I got six months ago, which is still in pristine condition, was made with a faulty hard drive that will inevitably crash any day but fixing it will take two weeks, meaning I can’t do three of my four jobs during that time and will suffer two weeks loss of income. Apple refuses to remedy or accommodate this in any way; they told me I should have a backup computer. They were discrediting and horrible and might as well have told me I should just stop being poor.
These examples aren’t intended to just dwell on the negative and whine about my life, since hard stuff is par for the course and I’m very aware of that. I’m just trying to paint a picture of the fact that my real life luck is so incredibly bad that I’m literally notorious for it; my grandparents joke about it kind heartedly in attempts to pick my spirits up a little because they can’t believe how many random things that should be simple non-issues go suddenly wrong for me and involve major readjusting or fixing on my part, usually putting me out of money or work time, or stressing me out until I’m so migraine ridden I can barely see straight. This has kind of been the case all my life but it was previously a little more of an amusing quirk. The last three years, my proclivity for poor luck outside of the fun things I’m passionate about has been astounding and all consuming. I am exhausted. I am utterly worn out.
So, that’s how 2018 failed me. It was supposed to be the year that I tied up the loose ends of 2017, which had felt like the worst year of my life, and moved on with recovery and positivity in mind. I did all the things. I was pro-active and fulfilled the responsibilities to myself that should have put me on the right track. Instead of feeling relief, the demons from 2017 extended their fingers and poked at me again whenever anything nice happened, marring a lot of my 2018 in a way I hadn’t been prepared for.
I failed 2018 because I let the fact that these negative things and their financial impacts are all consuming change my personality for the worse. I didn’t rise above it all like I wanted to. I don’t blame myself- I’ve been through some really shitty stuff the last three years- but that’s still a real and disappointing fact for me. I didn’t achieve any goals I set for myself because I let panic and powerlessness get the best of me. I wasn’t as supportive of friends who saw well-deserved success and opportunity as I would have liked to be because, independently of that, I was stuck in a cycle of constantly watching my own contributions to and impacts on my communities wane thanks to physical, mental, and financial limitations and opportunities I probably would have been presented otherwise pass me by because I couldn’t afford to take them or I hadn’t developed certain skills, talents, or projects the way everyone (including myself) expected, so I was no longer the right person for the job. Despite my best efforts to see past immediate struggle and negativity and focus on silver linings and moving forward, I felt constantly dragged back by feelings of inadequacy, disappointment in myself and my circumstances, lack of relevance to people, places, and things that mattered the most to me, and lack of potential because I couldn’t get past the bullshit that has been weighing me down for so long. I felt consistently like I was letting my friends down by constantly being the harbinger of gloom in the room. We’d go around during catch-ups and everyone would name a wonderful thing they’d achieved and I’d be so genuinely happy for them, but then my turn would come and I’d have nothing happy to contribute. I’d have to choose between bringing the mood down or glossing over my reality so people couldn’t see how bad it still really was, which I did a lot anyways because not everyone was caught up on the excruciatingly convoluted and boring details and therefore couldn’t understand why these things were still an issue or had any impact on me. I was told a lot that I just need to let stuff go, that I’m just hanging onto negativity and it’s time to move on. That might be true for some minor things, but I wish the rest was that easy. I could see people who once cared about me growing tired of hearing about it and wondering why I was still going on about all that; it was over and, in their eyes, I was just choosing to let it go on affecting me. That couldn’t have been father from the truth, but most people didn’t want to hear it. Even my closest friends were at a loss; they couldn’t help and they could only make certain parts better, so they’d listen but not really know how to reply. They’d repeat that things will get better eventually, but we all knew very well that most things had either stayed the same or gotten worse. I stopped relating most of my darkest feelings because I felt it just served to bring them down and there wasn’t much they could say or do; they’d give me a cursory uplifting response but beyond that the general sense usually felt like “wow. Uh… yeah. That sucks I guess”. I don’t blame them. The issues were repetitive and it wasn’t stuff they could help me solve, but that felt isolating as well because I convinced myself I couldn’t or shouldn’t talk to them about my problems anymore (even though that wasn’t true and neither party had done anything wrong).
The ongoing poor luck and the dragged out links to my absolute worst year changed how I function and relate to people in a way that I don’t like, as well as changing what I’m capable of doing and where I can go. I am even more hyper aware of touch than usual (which I’ve never really liked in most circumstances anyways; that’s just how I am and I understand that it can make me a cold friend or a difficult person to relate to sometimes but it’s what I’ve got to work with and I cannot change it. I’ve tried very hard). Being pulled on, having things grabbed from me, being touched aggressively, and having people lean their weight on me unnecessarily utterly unnerves me. I’ve always been kind of small and sickly and I spent my whole childhood and early adult life unwillingly being picked up, moved around, and physically manipulated by everyone in my life; now, in the throes of chronic pain and anxiety, being touched roughly or for prolonged periods of time where it isn’t required makes a sound go off in my brain similar to that of a large swarm of bees buzzing. I can’t hack it and I spend a lot of my time in social circles retreating to chairs or corners or edges and giving up space I’m entitled to because people mean well but can’t seem to just leave me be and give me the space I need, even if I communicate my need to be left alone verbally or physically, and even if they’re people who know that overwhelming touch makes me uncomfortable. I’ll never understand what it is about me that makes so many people disregard my boundaries where I can see them respecting those of others or demanding the same for themselves. Sometimes I think I’m just being paranoid and unfriendly and that people don’t actually bother me as much as I claim they do, discrediting my own experiences, but every time I go down that lane, someone comes up to me and goes “wow, people really do fuck with you as much as you say they do, eh? I can see it, why does that happen?” Even people I barely know will observe and comment on it. I have no idea why it happens. It has alway stressed me out but now, with everything else going on in my body and brain, it literally pushes me to a point where I can hear my own stress while my skin crawls. I don’t like any of that but I have to respect what my body and brain need and I wish the people around me would do a better job of respecting that too, since I’m open about it, rather than taking the affection and touch they want from me solely because they wish that’s the kind of person I was. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a hug. I don’t mind the occasional hand hold. Cheek kisses in greeting are cute. But people like to grab my wrists, pull at my clothes, push me into different positions, take hold of my waist and hips to move me where they want me when I haven’t agreed to it, lean their weight on my shoulders because I’m a convenient height, squeeze into my seat or onto me because they don’t think I need as much space as I’m occupying, take things from my hands without asking not because they want to help, but because they think I’m incapable. It is infuriating but if I react too strongly, I’m constructed as cold and unfriendly. It’s a constant battle. Other people will observe it happening and comment on how wild it is, and then immediately forget and turn around and do it themselves. If I talk about it too much, I’m told I’m pretty messed up and should probably get therapy, as though I’m the problem rather than their lack of respect for bodies and boundaries. People rarely just let me be to comfortably occupy space without being handled in some way. It’s very tiring, especially lately.
I’m also hyper aware of communication after so many years of having people in positions of power over me communicate so poorly that my life is adversely affected by it and I pay the price later even if I’ve fulfilled all responsibilities and been pro-active. I cannot tolerate having my time wasted anymore; it makes me feel disrespected. While that’s true and emphasis on good communication can be a positive thing, I know I’m unduly harsh about it and I can think of several people I’ve snapped hard on in the last year because bailing or disorganization makes me feel like I’m back to trying to schedule apartment treatments and instead being left to my burning skin until I’m almost hospitalized. I can’t hack it and I haven’t done any work on controlling my reactions to it.
I’m jumpier than usual as well. The other day, almost a year after escaping the Hell Apartment, I saw a black piece of fuzz on my sheet. I jumped so hard and panicked so intensely, scooting away from it before I even knew what I was doing, that I fell clear off the bed and knocked a bunch of stuff of my bedside table. I’d been convinced it was a bedbug and my brain immediately told me that I really am a dirty carrier who would be responsible for ruining my grandparents’ home too, just like I’d apparently ruined my own.
I have also allowed myself to dwell on things in a way that internalizes harmful elements. No one has told me I should have achieved certain landmarks in my life by now because I’m lucky to be surrounded by awesomely supportive humans who value creative work and do nothing but encourage me in what I do, and yet I regularly cry over the fact that I’m nearly 30 and can’t support myself. I’m constantly cognizant at every moment of the fact that I’d be homeless if I didn’t have good family. I feel guilty when my grandparents make me meals even though they’ve never once so much as batted an eyelash at the idea and they openly tell me they get bored when I’m not around. No one has ever told me that my work in Drag is not valuable (we’re clearly leaving out misogynists and Internet randoms in this example and only talking about actual people in my life) and yet I feel every day as though I’ve “let myself go” as far as effort and production are concerned. I feel like I’ve lost influence and value because I can’t afford the time, money, or resources to make the things I want or produce the art I once planned to. My brain is constantly so exhausted and distracted that I feel like my creative juices have dried up and I can’t produce original ideas anymore. I constantly compare myself to those around me, not because I have any inkling of competitive thought towards them, but because I wonder whether I might be even half as badass as the people I admire and the awesome friends I have had I not been so adversely affected by things beyond my control. It’s draining to know I worked my ass off all year and did everything I could and so many bad things still happened. It feels like it was for naught even though I firmly logically know better. I feel like I cannot catch a break.
I want to be able to look forward to things without thinking “but I probably won’t get to go to that because I won’t have the money”, even though I’m working four job again, have worked very hard all year, and continue to keep myself from things and people I love in attempts not to spend. I want to be able to enjoy good experiences authentically without feeling immediate intense guilt about the time and money it takes. I want to be successful in my industries without having to stay up for three days any time I want to make something new happen because I have to work four jobs just to barely scrape by. I don’t want to be in a position anymore where I feel pressured (by no one in particular, by the world at large) to choose between working a specific kind of job that will hardly pay better but will suck out my soul and the things I love most, which are directly responsible for the fact that I survived the last couple shitty years and didn’t actually end up in the hospital on nights when I thought I might because my stomach and head were so sick with worry over whether and how I could handle all the bad things that just kept layering and layering. It fills me with red hot rage that all of this is the result of the failures of other people. I beat myself up over what I could have done differently or more effectively but there’s honestly nothing. It hurts that I did my best and that wasn’t good enough to keep me from losing so much.
I know it sounds like I am just clinging to the past and being very entitled because outwardly I live this exciting and impressive life filled with fancy friends and fun adventures. It sounds like I’m being ungrateful and ignoring the positive things so I can self victimize for attention (all things I’ve been accused of in the past few years, even by people I thought were my friends). People don’t think what we went through in the apartment was “that bad, so many people have it worse than you, just be grateful for what you have”. But in reality I fight like hell every day to try and appreciate what I have and what’s good. The sad reality is that my very unlucky circumstances make that difficult many days. I try not to focus on how often life kicks me when I’m down, but it factually does and that’s at odds with the fact that all I’ve ever wanted is to get the most awesome experiences out of life with people I love. It’s a combination that is so thoroughly, intensely exhausting in so many different ways.
I have no idea how I can make most of this better so that 2019 contains more positivity without either stifling my true feelings, which is harmful, or making the impossible decision to give up all the creative things that make me happy in favour of going full speed ahead on the most lucrative feasible options I have, which is a slightly pie in the sky plan and which would also be harmful because I’ll just end up feeling like an unfulfilled shell. Right now, I’m setting a few smaller goals that might improve little aspects of my life and then just crossing my fingers and hoping like all hell that, even if things don’t tangibly improve, I can at least catch a small space to breathe without anything getting worse. The part of my brain that is worn down and sees the glaring cycle of my last few years immediately tells me that’s an unrealistic expectation, but I don’t know what else I can do.
So here are my goals for not failing 2019 while I wait to see whether it might fail me:
– I must stop biting my nails by whatever feat of mental strength it takes. This is on my list every year, but this year it’s more grave because I’ve reached a point of harm that I’ve only reached once before (a doctor in university saw the state of my fingers and told me if it got any worse, she’d classify it as a form of self harm and take further steps to help stop me from doing it. I am biting worse than that now and have been for months).
– I must keep my phone away from me while I sleep and write. It’s not so much that I boredom scroll or can’t stop myself from using it, but rather that I’d like to give those things solid time and space where I don’t feel obligated to answers messages from friends immediately no matter what I’m doing, which I do because I am sad that I don’t see so many people for long periods, which is because I haven’t caught up enough yet financially to always afford it.
– I need to do less unpaid labour and favours. I often take on favours that cost me money and time because I feel badly that I can’t go out and support some friends in ways I used to/want to, which makes me compulsively jump at chances to do other things for them so they know I still love them. In reality, I rarely have time for these things.
– I need to be open about when I need help and when I need friends to be more gentle with me. I don’t accept help well and I have a history of being the friend who is always confident, thick skinned, sassy, and so on. Lately, though, I do need help sometimes and I’m not often in a place where I can handle the same teasing banter I used to. It’s not because it necessarily hurts my feelings or that I’m taking jokes too personally, but more that I’m already doing so much mental labour just to keep myself in social circles when life is a mess that I’d prefer to relax and have conversation be nice and easy, rather than constantly doing the mental and verbal gymnastics of the reading game (particularly since most people are shit at reading and are just being nasty and I find that very boring and unproductive rather than personally offensive. It’s just not a dynamic I enjoy participating in anymore). I want to be better at communicating these things when the need arises.
– I want to stop letting myself dwell. I’d rather look for what I can do to move forward, which is very difficult when you’re fresh out of years of doing that and having it prove pretty fruitless after all your hard work, but I’d like to do it anyways.
– I’d like to continue valuing and demanding good communication because that avoids having my time disrespected, which is something I can’t afford. That’s one thing I do well, so I’d like to keep that up. I’d like to do a little better at responding more reasonably when it happens, but I still want to be up front about it. People who openly choose to communicate poorly enough that they put others out are not worth my time now and will not be in 2019 either.
– I’d like to reach a place of better balance where the positive doesn’t feel constantly overshadowed by negatives, no matter how legitimate those are. I don’t know if this is something I can really achieve (I’m sure I can make a better effort to reframe certain things) or if I’ll mostly just be crossing my fingers and hoping for less shitty luck, but this would just be a wonderful thing to experience in the next year regardless.
– I’d like to eat less things I know make me sick because it’s only comforting for like three minutes and then I’m just in pain. That’s kind of hard when basically everything makes you sick, but still.
– I have a few non-medical, non-therapy things I’d like to try for migraines, chronic pain, and anxiety before I go back to doctors for them. I’ve slacked on these because I was basically just in denial that they needed my attention even though I’ve had them essentially forever. I want to try these before going back to doctors because the last thing they gave me was sort of helpful but also gave me vertigo.
– I want to take the advice of a smart friend who said I better and stop giving my knowledge away for free because it is my product and I’m decreasing its value when I hand that and my time to unchangeable morons at no charge. I’ve fought enough for my validity in my industry and anyone who questions it is inconsequential to my life, even if they started as a friend. They do not deserve my epistemic or emotional labour.
– I want to stop internalizing guilt if I am choosing to do a thing. I’m already doing it and that means I’ve clearly evaluated the costs and risks, so I might as well just enjoy the thing because, as my mom always said when I was a kid (I could write a whole other post on how this is a positive sentiment even though it sounds harsh and not like something you’d say to child to instil hope), life sucks and then you die.
– While I don’t want to dwell on the last few years or let them consume me with negativity or define me any longer, I also need to stop letting people dismiss the severity of what happened and letting it slide when they treat me like I should have moved on by now. I didn’t just have a minor housing inconvenience and struggle for a month. I went through two years of openly unsafe and unsanitary living conditions no matter my efforts at remedying the situation and I was harassed and verbally abused by corporations both times, followed by a year of discrediting and expensive bureaucratic hardship that preyed on the fact that I’m low income. That’s not nothing and I’d like to see others manage what I do amidst all of it (except that I wouldn’t because I wouldn’t wish this utter hell on even the worst people I know).
– I want to stop participating in negatively skewed gossip that isn’t productive or even that good because it just starts a cycle of repetitive nit picky analysis that fosters competition and comparison, which are both things I hate.
– I plan to stop letting people who don’t know me as well as they think they do discredit my right to stand up for myself or speak about things I’ve struggled with because I “have a really exciting life”. You’re right, I have been very lucky in certain experiences, but I’ve also worked very, very hard for a long time for most of them. Just because it looks like a fun adventure doesn’t mean you’re getting a full picture, which seems like common sense and yet I’m frequently told I don’t have the right to “whine” about anything because I met Lady Gaga for three minutes five years ago or something. I’m over tolerating this idea that I must be happy to serve the expectations of others based on what they’ve seen on the Internet.
I just want to be happier than this. That’s it. I fucking deserve it.