Four years ago today, I ran away from a bad relationship in the middle of the night. My plan was to kill myself.
My partner had been telling me that’s what I should do, even though he knew I had a history of depression and suicidal thoughts. Things were so bad between us, I believed my death was the only solution.
I was surprised to discover that the farther away I walked from the relationship, the less I wanted to die. I guess I wanted to live, just not with him.
Sleeping helped. He’d kept me from getting a good night of sleep for weeks, and the naps I took as I walked (especially several hours of rest in an abandoned car) really helped clear my head. Being away from his second-hand pot smoke helped a lot too. (I never thought the second-hand pot smoke was affecting me until I got away from it and making reasonable decisions became easier.) And the DMT I’d smoked the night before? I think it saved my life by giving me just enough sense of well being to keep me going.
I started a new life when I snuck off into the night, a life where no one told me I was a bad person. I started a life in which I had friends again. I started a life where no on threatened to kill me, the dog, my entire family, everyone I’d ever cared for, and finally, himself. I started a life where no one yelled about my driving and found fault with everything I did. I started a life where I ate what I wanted and wore what I wanted and did what I wanted.
However, I didn’t quite dance into the sunrise surrounded by animated woodland creatures. I was homelss (as in no house, no van, no tent) for a while. I slept in a rest area, wondering if I’d wake to a rattlesnake curled up on me for warmth or to a man with a gun. I ate out of trash cans and from the special room at the food bank for people who didn’t have stoves. (Cold soup was delicious when I was hungry enough.)
I don’t write these things looking for pity. Pity aggravates me. I’m not looking for anyone to say Oh poor you. I never had it worse (and usually had it better) than so many people in the world who face bombs and famine and rape and torture.
I write about these things because they are true. This is what happened to me. And these kinds of things happen to other people too. Why are we supposed to be ashamed and silent?
Why are we supposed to be ashamed for having been in an abusive relationship? (Maybe our abusers are the ones who should be ashamed.) Yes, I should have left sooner (and I’d actually left three big times before.) According to http://www.domesticabuseshelter.org/infodomesticviolence.htm,
On average, a woman will leave an abusive relationship seven times before she leaves for good[,]
so I figure I’m ahead of the game. At any given moment, I was doing the best I could to do what I thought I needed to do to protect myself and others.
Why are we supposed to be ashamed of being homeless or living in a van? Why are we supposed to be ashamed of being poor, of living hand to mouth? (Maybe the rich who live with excess while others do without necessities should be ashamed.) Why are we supposed to be ashamed of eating out of garbage cans? (Maybe the people throwing out perfectly edible food are the ones who should be ashamed.)
I write these things in the hope of helping others. I made it through the darkness; I think you can too. If a person tells you you’re stupid and worthless and no one else will ever love you, it’s a lie. Being homeless is not the end of the world and being unencumbered by material possessions can be liberating. Don’t let anyone shame you for living in a van; you have a freedom many envy. Being poor is not a moral failing; the system’s set up so the rich benefit while the poor suffer.
Running away in the night led to hardships, but it led to beauty too. I made new friends. I started selling sage sticks, then jewelry, then shiny rocks to support myself. Old friends found me when I thought no one was looking for me and no one cared. They gave me a bit of money and a bunch of love. I bought a van. I went on an epic road trip practically from coast to coast. I worked at being a good person and helping others when I could.
My first rebirth day was a quiet big deal to me. I’d made it a year. My ex hadn’t found me. I was alive, and I had a van to live in. My friend reminded me of my second rebirth day, and I was happy I’d made it another year without any contact from my ex. Last year I was so busy being a camp host that my rebirth day passed quietly by.
This year I’m commemorating by telling my story. I ran away, and I’m alive. I have friends and a job, and I’m relatively happy. (Some days are better than others, but that’s how it was when I lived in a house too.) I travel and see amazing natural beauty. People enjoy reading what I write. I have a good life.
On this special day of mine, please allow me to whisper in your ear: Stay strong. Don’t give up.