People who know me know that I went thru an extremely difficult time in 2018. I know it's going to be the worst year of my life, because if any other year gets any worse than that it'll probably kill me.
I say a lot of bleak shit these days, like, "I had a PTSD meltdown at work today," or, "Capitalism is an automatic atrocity engine that personally tried to murder me and my entire family." Next time someone's curious why I'm ~like this~ I figure I can invite them skim thru this.
I mostly wrote this for myself. For a really long time I've been feeling like I needed to get this all out in one place. I'm low-key missing a lot of detailed memories from last year, and going back to put things in order has helped me out with that. Also it's cathartic as hell.
To all the close friends who I was (somehow) interacting with regularly while this was going on: I'm so sorry I didn't say anything. I know I could have reached out to any of you for help and didn't. All I can say is I was too beaten down and suicidal at the time to imagine anyone caring about my problems, or any possibility of things getting better.
Lastly, thank you to Randy, Rob, and Robert Blasi for helping to keep me alive. Thank you to Luna for being the girl who reached out to me on one of the darkest nights of my life. And thank you Erin for being stronger than I could have imagined when I felt so weak. I owe you all burritos or something <3!
This all really starts with my grandma. She lost her job after the 2008 financial collapse, and started losing her mind in the years that followed. Early onset dementia. There wasn't anybody to take care of her except my mom and my sister, Erin. Caring for her was extremely taxing because, apart from the memory loss, she also suffered from horrible psychotic episodes that made her paranoid, aggressive, and hateful.
The stress of taking care of her affected my mother in a bad way. So did her father's death. She started drinking. A lot. She was fired from her job in 2017 after an embarrassing incident where she tried to show up to work in a wheelchair.... Because she was too weak to stand up.... Because she'd stopped eating.... You know, because of all the liquor.
That career had been the only line holding the family above water. Erin was only 20, and she knew she wasn't in any position to take care of two generations of broken mothers. She ended up getting thrown out over something stupid and never came back. She spent the next few months living in her car. My mom invited her weird-ass boyfriend to move into the empty bedroom. Erin's dog Buster died while she was homeless.
I was away at college during this entire downslide. I didn't really understand the turmoil my family was going thru because I was hiding in a fantasy universe, learning about computers. It caught up with me in October 2017, when Erin had to rush our mom to the ER. I dropped what I was doing at school and went into town to visit for the week. The doctor clearly told us that unless she immediately checked into rehab and stopped drinking she would maybe have about six months to live.
I had no job lined up when I graduated college in December. By the time I moved into my mom's house I'd already spent a few months spending my "savings" (student loans) trying to keep the rent paid. I went flat broke pretty quick, so we started trying to sell shit. I literally can't even remember if we sold her car to a junk yard or just left it in the driveway when she got evicted. The whole thing is kind of a blur.
Food was really scarce in that house. SNAP never lasts until the end of the month, especially when you have a crazy old woman in the house stealing and hiding groceries. There was a big bag of jasmine rice in the pantry that outlasted everything else. The day after it finally ran out I unlocked a new skill: going out and begging strangers for money!
The whole situation was a hopeless poverty nightmare. My grandma shuffled around like a ghost, screaming hateful nonsense at people all day and night. My mom was committing suicide in slow motion, withering away into nothing, and barely more lucid than her mother. The strange old biker living in Erin's room kept his shotgun cleaned and loaded. Wonder what was going thru his mind? There was no money. No food. Puke and shit on the floor from the cats who were just waiting around to eat whoever died first.
By February I was spending 90% of my time anywhere else. Everything, no matter how shitty, ultimately felt better than going anywhere near that cursed fucking house. I mostly lived in the library, emailing my résumé to every job opening I could find on the internet. Or wandering around street corners and public parks, begging for money to buy something from Subway. One night I came home and found an eviction notice sitting on the coffee table. I was so upset. I fucking left that night and decided not to come back. I slept on concrete that night, behind the benches next to a little-league baseball diamond.
It was soul crushing. I felt like society had thrown my family away. People looked at me like they wanted me to die rather than exist where they could see me. Like the only social role assigned to me was dead body, and everyone was mad at me for stepping out of line. I should just starve to death already, or freeze, or literally get fed to dogs by the police. A lot of people straight up treated me like I was invisible; like looking at me made them feel so much anger and disgust that it was easier for them to block me from their minds completely. Capitalism: it's an ARG that prevents you from seeing homeless people!
Bubbling under the surface of all of this was the fact that I'm transgender.
I'd spent a long time actively lying to myself about it, coming up with increasingly stupid excuses for staying in the closet. But when I was really at the end of my rope, and I felt 100% sure I was going to die, there was no energy left over for me to keep up the bullshit. Instead I was filled this overwhelming regret that I'd wasted my entire life pretending to be a boy. And suddenly it was too late! "You're gonna die out here anyway," I thought, "then no one's gonna give a shit whether you were a man or a woman!"
When I was a teenager, my uncle Dave gave me one of those Leatherman multitools for my birthday. It was his way of telling me he thought I was a̷̧ ŗ͠͞e̕͠a͏l ̴ḿ̴̕a͢͏ņ, I guess? Joke's on him, I only ever used that thing for cutting myself! That was the knife I had in my coat pocket the last time I tried to commit suicide, on March 24th, 2018.
I left a lot of stab wounds on my chest and arms. Most of them weren't terribly deep, but it wasn't for lack of trying. I took one good hard shot at stabbing myself in the heart, then just fucking crumbled. I dropped the knife, and decided to call the suicide prevention lifeline. I'd already spoken to them a few times that year. Which meant they had my address on file. So they called the police to go pick me up. At my mom's house. I stupidly went back there to intercept them. When I got inside I had to pull two cops away from my mom; they were telling an 85 pound brain-damaged squatter that her child might've killed herself that night.
From the back of the police car I tweeted, "Fucking suicide hotline called the cops on me!" Then deleted it immediately. I didn't want people thinking I was some sort of attention whore. I had one friend who saw it anyway and decided to reach out:
Luna: Are you okay?
Jennie: Eh? I'm in the back of a police car after hurting myself *slightly*
Luna: Are you in Socorro?
Jennie: ABQ. Folks are taking my phone, but rest assured I'm fine
Luna: Okay. I believe you. Give me an update when you can
— March 24, 2018, 1:50 AM
That night in the hospital gave me a lot of clarity and space to think thru my gender issues. The check in form had a SEX marker, which I angrily left blank on the way in. The nurse noticed, and decided to ask me about my gender identity. I told her, "male." I must have sounded really disdainful, because she made a point of bringing it up again later that night. I reflected on the fact that I was deliberately lying to her. Being seen as a man always made me feel viscerally uncomfortable. I thought all the time about how I should have been born a girl instead. I knew there were a lot of other women in similar situations.
I promised myself that if I ever got my life back together I would stop repressing my gender issues and start being honest with myself about who I want to be. That promise was also the first time in 2018 that I even imagined finding a light at the end of the tunnel.
Jennie: They just let me leave. Thank you for messaging me earlier, I just had some scratches on my arm. So I guess the only reasonable response was to make sure I slept 3 hours on an itchy mat, in between having a few psych nurses ask my my gender? Oh, and the police needed to come to my house and make my mom cry, that part was especially important.
Luna: Jesus fuck. Do you need anything?
Jennie: I really don't think I do, thanks. Just had a rough night that escalated suddenly
Luna: Yeah, I understand.
Luna: For the record, Samaritans UK will not call the police. Ever. And I'm worried about you and want to make sure you're doing okay.
Jennie: I mean, I'm not doing okay, but okay don't grow on trees, ya know?
Luna: I'll cook dinner if you want tonight.
Jennie: ❤️ maybe I'll take a rain check on that
Luna: Okay, I understand
— March 24, 2018, 4:13 PM
I know its small, but her words meant the world to me at the time.
This was just a few days before Erin got her application approved to move into a new apartment! She'd been waiting tables at the Cracker Barrel, and had moved out of her car and into a friend's spare bedroom. Now she'd saved up enough money to get her own place!
Disturbingly enough, I have no memory at all of the other bit of good fortune that happened around this time. At some point between February 8th and March 20th I applied and interviewed for a new job down in Socorro. I think the suicide attempt might've been less than a week after interview? Idk (ಠ_ಠ). Point is, I got the job!
I moved to Socorro on April 12th, into a friend's guest room. April 16th was my first day at work. I cashed my first paycheck on May 4th, and immediately walked to Wal Mart to buy a new pair of shoes that didn't have any god damn holes in them! Don't talk to me about poverty unless you've fallen to your knees in a parking lot, crying because you just bought cheap food or clothing!
I'm getting ahead of myself tho. After my ~first week~ at work I woke up from a night terror to find this message from Erin waiting for me on my phone:
So i went to bobs [mom's] house tonight and she let me know that she has court tomorrow and that shes getting evicted unless 2grand shits in her lap ao essentially we have 3 to 7 days to get her and everything we're keeping out of that house
I already told her that her and ponder [cat] can stay with me. I made an inventory of things we want to put in a storage unit and things we can bring to my house. I also emailed a storage company for an estimate and got clyff and his boys on board to move things
If you know of any people who can look after the girls [other cats] just because i dont wanna have to turn them in to the pound
But thats the current update
— April 24, 2:38 AM
She didn't show up to court that day. She collapsed from internal bleeding on the courthouse steps instead. An ambulance took her to the hospital, and it seemed pretty clear to everyone that she wasn't going to make it.
I took a week off work to go visit her, and to help Erin box up what little was left of the cursed house. Erin and I also took our grandma to go live with her son, Dave. Erin cried so hard in her car after we dropped her off. Of the two of us, she's the stronger sister by far. She held us together thru everything even when all I wanted to do was implode.
Granny died three months later from a brain hemorrhage, on July 7th. We still haven't arranged a funeral ceremony, for some ungodly reason.
My mom only spent one week in the hospital. The doctors wanted to free up the bed, so they discharged her to a "rehab center" that definitely wasn't just a nursing home. Twelve days later she was still too weak to walk on her own, but they sent her to Erin's new apartment anyway. She wasn't better, but Medicaid wouldn't cover any more time for her at the clinic. At least she was sober!
That's the limbo we've been in ever since.
I'm renting a place of my own in Socorro and sending extra money to my mom and sister every month or so. Erin got out of food service and moved on to a position in specialized childcare, which is great for her! She's hoping to find a new place pretty soon where she can live on her own again. And, even tho it took me until November to pluck up the courage, I did come out as trans to my friends and family before the year ended.
Our mom has ~not~ quit drinking. Erin and I agreed not to anchor ourselves to her again the next time ~that shit~ hits the fan.
After everything our lives have gone back to being livable, and I'm just praying we can keep em that way.
Anyways, Mariska Hargitay,
— Jennie 🌸