28 June 2016

Choices. So many choices.

"Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose" -- Janis Joplin

Choice is a double edged sword-- how often do people say "I wish I had the freedom to go anywhere, do anything, but I'm trapped here because..."? There are always some external factors that keep you where you are. Often it's a job, kids, family, friends, or any one of an infinite number of circumstances. Sometimes it's that given the choice, when things are pretty good, you're pretty happy just to stay where you are.

If you're in prison or otherwise restricted, then you don't have a choice-- you're staying where you are for a while. On the opposite end, if you're military, you're probably going to move at some point without having a choice on when or where (or for how long). I've never been in prison (thankfully), so I can't that I know how it feels. I've been in plenty of situations where I was, or at least felt, trapped to that extent. I have also been military, where you can be sitting at home one day having a beer and less than a week later you're in the Desert. So I do know something about having the absence of choice.

It is an unusual thing to have freedom, not the halfway kind of freedom of choice in which you could go anywhere and do anything you want, but the kind where you must. In less than two months, I'm leaving the city I've lived in since 2004. I'm flinging myself in the direction of northern California, which actually is a large area, but I don't know exactly where I'll land. It's likely that where ever I do land, I will end up somewhere else fairly soon. Or, if I suddenly decide to change course, I could face the exact opposite direction and head for somewhere on the other coast, maybe New York, or maybe south to Texas, or any number of directions to any number of places.

It's easier to move when you know where work is going to be, because then you try to find a place to live that's close to where you work. Or, you try to find a place to live that's connected via some path to where you work-- driving, train, bus, whatever. Knowing where you need to go allows you to eliminate some choices, and makes the problem of where to look for a place to live a lot smaller. Having a job waiting for me when I move is the holy grail, but I'm not certain it'll happen. There's also the tangle of rental rules and security deposits and income requirements and such that includes a bunch of things I don't know about yet.

It's also easier to move when you have some certainty that when you get to wherever you're moving to, things will be the way you hope they'll be. I'm pretty certain that there are enough people where I'm headed that I'll be able to find some that think in the same ways that I do, or at least close enough that I can find something of a community to belong to. Where I am now, I've tried exploring a lot of different interests that have all turned out to be communities (or groups, or whatever) that I didn't fit into-- much of this happened before I returned to school, and after I'd been in therapy for social anxiety (and before I was diagnosed with PTSD). It's been a while-- a long while-- since I really tried to build a social life.

One of the really hard things about PTSD is that you never feel safe-- there's always the possibility of something bad happening, and so you never trust anything or anyone. The shields are always up. So in looking ahead at a place to live, and perhaps even new social circles, it's always with an eye on safety. I can't tell, from here, where is safe and where is not. I can gather information, I can look at first hand accounts from people on social media, I can look at crime (and all kinds of other data), but ground truth is still what matters.

If I went back to social anxiety therapy, they'd have me do the same things I did back then, again-- I still have my notes from that year of therapy, I still remember what worked and what didn't (I actually refer to that stuff pretty often). It's hard, sometimes, to think about doing the same things in the future that I did in the past. I'm forever trying to figure out what it was that went wrong that led me to being homeless. Whatever it was I don't want to repeat it. Yet looking forward, I'm seeing that I'll have to rely on those things.

One of the first things I'll need to do when I get there is go visit the VA hospital and get properly enrolled. Hopefully that it will be a different mental health clinic in a different place will matter, and likewise that it'll be a different Vet Center will make a difference. I don't have much faith in that being true. It's extremely hard to believe that the VA will be of help, but then again I won't have much of any other kind of support network initially. This is one choice where I don't have much choice.


There is a part of me that wants (needs) to decompress when I leave here-- to take some time off and just be rather than trying to be somewhere and something right this instant. I've been fighting so hard, for so long, to make being here work-- to get into school, to stay in school, to get back into school, to graduate. I've never really been able to get completely out of the headspace I got into while I was on the street and in/out of transitional housing, where it's full on sensor scan mode all the time just to survive for another day. It's been exhausting dealing with accommodations at work only to have no one really care about the work I'm doing. I'm not so sure that I need to "find" myself, but perhaps I just need to spend some time alone with myself before I land somewhere else and start rebuilding everything again.

It feels like a slippery slope. How far dropped out is too dropped out?

I'm certainly feeling the depression pretty hard lately. I know that it's largely a function of a lot of uncertainty, on top of not feeling very valued at work, on top of just being overall unhappy where I am and wanting to be somewhere else. This is the other side of having the freedom to go where ever I want to go, because one of the ways I cope is having (building and enforcing) structure and routine into my life. It's not cool to be adrift for very long. I've had enough of that in my life. So I worry a little when I start feeling like being in the wind sounds pretty good.

In reality I'm probably going to compromise with myself, take some time off with a definite end-- maybe not book the flight out of here to California for the very next day after my last day at my current job-- instead book a trip to see someone I haven't seen in far too long, crash on their couch, sit on their back porch and drink real sweet tea for a while. Disappear, but not completely, certainly not off the grid. The place I'm thinking about is a pretty quick plane flight but a 24 hour bus ride from here. I'm seriously considering choosing the bus ride, and then after some chill time out in the sticks flying from there to California.

I'm not sure if it's sad, or frustrating, or what that a 24 hour Greyhound ride sounds like fun, but right now it most certainly does sound nice. It'll give me some time to breathe, to look out the window and watch the world go by, to think, and to try to make sense out of some of these choices.

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