A few weeks ago, I talked about how no one chooses to be homeless.
I got the following email in reply that was simply beautiful in its raw honesty.
I’m sharing Rebecca’s full email unedited with her permission.
This one resonated with me.
I will still tell people that after college, I chose to be homeless.
The truth is, I’ve been dealing with PTSD since my preteens, possibly since early childhood. I was officially diagnosed at 17, but flight has been a symptom for as long as I can remember.
I packed a Barbie-pink, plastic suitcase with things I thought would be useful, should a rainbow touch down in my room and take me to Oz.
As I got older, I would sit and plan how to disappear, how to survive on my own in the world. It made me feel like I’d have some control, and no one to blame or be angry with. Complete self-reliance seemed more manageable, being a kid on the street seemed somehow safer than continuing to live at home.
It wasn’t a bad home. You would find no reason to call CPS. My parents are good people.
There were just too many shocking changes. My memory is too good. I wasn’t so flexible when it came to change, and not so great at expressing how I felt. I think autism might have flown under the radar. Eventually, at 10, there was CSA (my stepbrother is a creep), but I don’t and can’t remember much of that. I was already hurting.
So, at 23, my choices were:
- Live with my parents, in the house and the town full of psychological land mines, trying to defuse those while also under internal and/or external pressure to Grow Up and Move Out and Be At Least Marginally Normal Already (You’re Making Us Look/Feel Bad);
- Live with my then-boyfriend, in a tiny room in his parents’ basement, even though it was a toxic situation;
- F*** off 2000 miles to Tucson and bum it.
I called it going on an adventure.
I called it camping (and sometimes it was).
I called it choosing to be homeless, but only for a little bit.
These white lies go down easier than, “Look, I’m so supremely messed up in the head I literally cannot function. I smoked you all in school because it played to my strengths, but now I’m completely lost. I need more help than society has to offer and more support than any support system in existence is equipped to give me. I’m mad enough to think I can do it all on my own, because the world has offered me no sustainable alternative; and by the way, I am incapable of living a so-called normal life because I possess Greta Thunberg’s autistic obsession with injustice/belief that more of us should be so obsessed. I just don’t have rich parents with an endless wealth of tolerance for weird free spirits.”
After a few months, I realized I didn’t need additional trauma – the close calls with SA, the stress of having no privacy during the day, the worry someone would catch me sleeping in my car on the UoA campus, the panic every time someone almost hit my car. The way people look at you; the way they avoid looking. Getting a job and housing would not be easy, but the challenges had to be more manageable than this.
I’m still mystified by people who appear to be at least marginally normal: the house, the marriage, the multiple kids, the social lives, the vacations instead of burning all the PTO on sick time, the not being so gosh darn smart (being “too smart for your own good” is absolutely real), their bodies not screaming at them to slow down. Going out to eat. Eating at all, after a long day or on a too-early morning.
It’s still challenging in ways marginally normal people will never, ever understand. But here I am, at work, full time with benefits, renting the least expensive unaffordable apartment by the grace of my folks being the lucky boomer yin to my hapless millennial yang.
I turn 35 next month and intend to grow old.
I will figure out how one day at a time.
Rebecca Ogle is a youth library assistant. You can find her author page on Facebook.
Link to page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100081975864055