Yesterday I had a moment of grace in my process of trying to find a new home.
I’ve never had to look for a place to live when I’m not working. And middle aged. And bankrupt. And broke. And besieged by flashbacks and dissociation. And very isolated, socially. And pretty sure the source of income I’ve had for the last while is going to dry up rapidly.
Talk about vulnerable.
My moment of grace was that being in this position made me realize — really see — how hard it is for some people to find housing or even to become homeless. Through no fault of their own.
In the past, when I’ve been in a position of looking either for a roommate or for tenants for a home I owned, I wouldn’t even consider someone who wasn’t working. It was a simple decision for me: not working, not suitable.
Now, I have to deal with the shame and dread I feel about telling a potential landlord that I’m not working. Now, I’m on the receiving end of an awkward silence when a potential landlord asks if I’m working and I say I’m not. And after they learn that I’m not working, I’m on the receiving end of questions that I never thought to ask any potential roommates or tenants I’ve ever had, questions like, “I know this is personal but, um, do you have any addictions?”
And fortunately, I don’t have substance addictions. But I could. At various times in my life I’ve overused wine as a way to cope with uncomfortable body sensations, emotions and flashbacks relating to past abuse that I didn’t understand. I think I’ve got that licked now. Others are not as lucky.
And I can talk in a way that potential landlords are more likely to listen about my reasons for not working currently. I’m relatively articulate and experienced in engaging with different kinds of people and I’ve had the benefit of an education and a profession. As one landlord put it, “Yeah, you sound ok, you sound more professional than other people I’ve talked to who aren’t working”. Others are not as fortunate.
And, despite being quite isolated socially and not having reliable family to support me, I have at least one friend with a large home who insists that I can stay there temporarily as a back-up plan. Others don’t have that.
Because I’m very limited financially, I have to focus on finding shared housing rather than a place of my own. Living with other people in a roommate situation isn’t easy. But it’s more than challenging when interpersonal situations trigger a myriad of painful flashbacks and dissociation. I have an excellent therapist and I’m hoping I will be able to cope somehow. Others aren’t able to do that.
Despite all of the challenges I’m facing, most of the time I believe that I can hold it together enough, mentally, to continue to engage in the process of finding a place to live.
Most of the time.
Others are not as lucky.
When is our society going to wake up to the reality of the damage caused to people who have been traumatized?