30 May 2015

What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Every day, when I'm walking home from work (be it work work, or working on projects in the lab where I'm one of the lab coordinators) I have the same discussion with myself. I go over where I've been, which with exception of hackathons has been right where I am, and I review my decision that at the end of next summer I'm moving to California. Where, exactly, I don't know-- right now, saying San Francisco works, but it might end up being Oakland or Berkeley or one of the many other specific places that make up what from my view point in Wisconsin just blends together into one big blurry mass.

I wonder if that's the way my family members a hundred (give or take a few) years ago thought about America when they boarded ships to come here from places like Ireland and Poland-- all of the things you've heard, and seen, and read all mixed up in your mind to make a vision of how you think things are there, even though you know it's just a dream. Things won't be just like that when you get there, there are a million things your mind takes for granted and a million more where your mind doesn't have the information it needs so it fills in the blanks from your memories and your hopes and your dreams and your fears. Your mind takes everything you've read, and seen on TV, and every movie, and every song, and smooths out the rough edges and decides that now matter what that faraway place turns out to be, even if the streets aren't lined with gold, it's a better place for you now and in the future than where you are.

No, my ancestors did not have TV or movies, but work with me here, k?

It's not an easy decision to process. A year ago, around this same time, I was sleeping on the streets outside the building I'm sitting in right now. Which of course doesn't prove anything other than that the future remains a mystery.


I cannot claim success, yet, of my plan to be housing stable for a year-- the year isn't up. I haven't talked to my landlord about my lease renewal, because whenever I think about doing so the PTSD kicks in and I can't do it. I just can't talk to the guy. He's at my apartment building a couple of times a week doing landlord things-- he parks outside my window, and he's usually talking loud enough that I can hear him. I have to close my window.

A couple of times over the past few weeks, I've seen prospective tenants waiting outside in the parking lot waiting to meet with him, and he doesn't show up. Then there was the guy across the hall who moved out a couple of weeks ago-- he and landlord had a shouting match outside for more than 20 minutes. In my old 'hood in Milwaukee, there would have been gun shots by minute 15 so perhaps I shouldn't be complaining-- but damn, who runs a business like that?

I'm trying to work up the courage to send  landlord a letter via certified mail (so he can't later say that I never talked to him about it) asking for two things. First, that he either interact with me via email or on paper, and not over the phone. Dude triggers my PTSD in person and on the phone, and I hate that he does, and I really hate the idea of playing the ADA accommodations card here-- but I'm losing sleep over this as August (and the end of my current lease) approach. Second, I'm going to ask him if he's going to renew my apartment lease, or not. Yes or no. If it's no, then I can go find a new place to live. I actually want to stay where I am. It's a really good place to live, minus the landlord.


I was at the VA yesterday to get my medication levels checked. I'm on a low twice daily dose of venlafaxine, and a low dose of prazosin once a night before bed-- a lot less meds, and a lot lower doses, than a year ago. I have a new psychiatrist, who is actually not a psychiatrist but a pharmacist trained to handle psych meds, and I'm trying to get started with a new therapist, who I'm told is a psychology intern.

I can deal with the pharmacist. Operationally speaking she's no different than the psychiatrists-- she hands out prescriptions. It bothers me, and I'm not sure just why, that instead of a LCSW (or someone with similar credentials) the referral I got to the mental health clinic got me to an intern. I can trust the VA, right? Except.I don't, really. Not after what they did (really, didn't do) before, during, and after the times I was homeless. As much as I try not to let emotions rule, I'm still angry about all of that. It's hard for me to trust anyone to start with, and at the end of the day I think I have good reason to distrust-- but it can make life pretty not fun.

I had to jump through hoops to get an appointment with Ms. Intern. She has, to her credit, been calling me and leaving voicemails (in the morning, when I'm asleep) but I haven't wanted to call back. At the VA yesterday I tried to get an appointment made, but she wasn't there and she "does her own appointments". It took some convincing before the front desk staff would get an appointment request done for me (not a referral-- an appointment).  Money talks, bullshit walks. I still don't have an actual appointment. 

And, I need an actual appointment. I can't help feeling like since I'm not living on the street and I'm working and I'm in school that the VA thinks I'm just fine. The memories and images and smells and feelings from the Desert are all still there, as are the memories and images and smells and feelings of my life since I came back from the Desert-- I'm better at managing them than I used to be, much better in some ways, but it's a battle I fight every day.

I'm pushing my limits, lately-- I'm working another job, actually writing software and getting paid for doing so. I absolutely love it even if it's student (and not rockstar) money per hour. It is more time that I'm at work, and while I can more or less set my own hours I still have to follow them. It's been a couple of weeks doing this now, and I can feel it. Work is work and it uses energy even when it is fun.

Which brings me back to the idea of moving to California, where I am going to make a living for myself writing software. I'm looking at the next year of being a developer as being an internship. I'm trying to learn everything I can about modern software development, which I'm also doing a lot of on my own using many of the products and ideas I've picked up from hackathons. The Desert will follow me to the desert, just as it has followed me everywhere else-- so I'm using this year to learn not only bolster my hacking skills and education but my living-as-a-person skills.

There are a million and one things that I wish I could have figured out and lined up before I head out for California next year. I won't have anywhere close to all of the questions I have resolved before leaving, and my daily conversation with myself revolves around the idea of not having all of the answers being ok.


BTW: the phrase "What would you do if you weren't afraid?" was posted all over at a Facebook hackathon, which was the first-ever hackathon I participated in. At the time I was living in my car, which was parked in the parking structure outside the building.

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