Goodbye 2023

This past year has been…a lot to survive. It feels like I’ve done very little of what I once loved to do: writing and reading. In the midst of chaotic events, I’m proud of myself for making it through with mental clarity. I put a lot of work into my mental health, and it has paid off in ways I couldn’t have predicted. I’ve had excellent care and support this year, without which it would have been impossible to remain housed. I’m not thriving in the same way an able-bodied person would. I have fewer working hours and spend a lot of time just enduring chronic pain. However, I have been practicing giving myself compassion for my limited capacities.

So much has changed since January. I started the year prepared to finish up high school, and applied for a fellowship through my school. My partner was dealing with grief over losing their ex-fiancé at the end of 2022. Then he got very sick in February. We had to seek emergency services four times before they took him seriously in late March, when he went into respiratory failure and was hospitalized for five days. That’s when everything changed for us – we found out that he had a terminal illness, confirmed by a pulmonologist in April, one that has an estimated maximum survival rate of 10-15 years post-diagnosis.

Ryann’s lab results indicated that he was reacting to mold in our living environment, and we needed to get out of the building we’d lived in since 2020. In early May, we launched a fundraising campaign to move as soon as possible. Meanwhile, our home life was becoming more volatile all the time. We’d gotten roommates the prior summer, and they had no interest in following the most basic of house rules. Namely, they often yelled and slammed doors, and rarely cleaned up after themselves. I am so grateful that one of my Patreon sponsors was helping out by paying for cleaners to come in once a week to help me catch up on dishes and keeping the bathroom and kitchen tidied. I would have been drowning in trying to keep up around the apartment without that support.

When we first met our old roommates, they seemed genuine enough. They casually mentioned that one of them had “Something minor on the criminal record.” We were naïve enough not to look them up then and there, but as things progressed, we worried about that person’s stability. We did our best to offer resources and support, but the screaming and late-night arguments continued to escalate. When they’d announce loudly enough for everyone to hear that they were considering suicide, we weren’t sure what to do and felt very unsafe in our own home. We finally looked this person up and found out that they had tried to stab a prior roommate with a knife – succeeding in scratching the victim’s chest before the knife was taken away. They had been held without bail when arrested for this.

Over text, this roommate accused us of abandoning them, when we had medical proof that it was necessary to get Ryann our of the building. We felt very unsafe at this point, and since I’d been gradually packing, we started moving all our boxes into our closet and barricading the lockless door to our room. We had put in our 30-days notice in May, so we couldn’t sign ourselves off the lease until mid-June. I’d been taking trips to Seattle with a friend to look at places, and we had a place picked out, with an intended move date of June 17th. We moved into a hotel with the cats on the 6th, expecting for the whole ordeal to be over in less than a couple of weeks.

Obviously, that wasn’t what happened. The building we wanted dragged their feet on submitting the paperwork, and they weren’t returning our calls. We spent our days in the hotel anxiously researching, making endless phone calls, trying to find any building with an accessible entrance for Ryann’s wheelchair. I moved our furniture and other belongings into storage with the help of friends. It wasn’t until late June that we found another location, and then we had to wait for the paperwork to go through.

As if all that wasn’t enough, one day when I was going to renew our stay, the hotel gave us little notice – two hours – to leave. I only had two friends down in Olympia, and one of them moved away in June, leaving only one person who could help us out that day. We quickly booked a motel in the next town over. In the mid-summer heat, we had to load up our friend’s vehicle twice to bring everything to the storage facility and later check into the motel, the poor cats in tow in their carriers. In the end we had to abandon our food and some belongings because it simply wouldn’t fit along with the folded wheelchair.

I spent my 31st birthday in a cheap motel, but the good news was that we were approved to move into the accessible studio we wanted. The next day we moved in, with the help of the same friend from Olympia and a couple of friends from Seattle. The rest of July and August are a blur of exhaustion as we set up the new place and tried to recover from the last six weeks of being homeless. We are so grateful that we remained sheltered during that time thanks to a good deal of support. It was a traumatizing experience nevertheless.

Seattle is one of the most expensive places in the country to live. It’s not ideal in that way, because we are very poor. Ryann gets disability benefits, and I’ve been trying to get them, too, but all of the aforementioned events have delayed that process. I make a little off writing through Patreon, but I haven’t been able to write much content, so that source of income has dwindled. I had little energy to write this year, and launched a Substack for additional thoughts, but struggled to remain consistent.

Seattle was, however, our best option for medical access. Moving out of state was on the table if we couldn’t find a place there, but that would have been even more expensive. In Olympia, specialists were distant and a serious difficulty to reach. Ryann has had long Covid since he got Covid in early 2020, and the chronic fatigue makes long rides difficult, even if they’re covered. Our state services only cover ten rides a year per patient, so those quickly ran out, too. We can’t afford a vehicle of our own. Here in Seattle, our main medical campus is close by, and other specialties are in the vicinity as well.

Oh yeah, about school – everything was too messy for me to focus at the beginning of the year, and I just managed to withdraw after the fellowship ended. I had really been looking forward to participating in a school fellowship that emphasized social justice…but it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped. I finished my group project, but the lectures left me feeling deeply uncomfortable. I especially did not feel welcome as a trans person in the discussion about whether trans people should be allowed to participate in sports.

I did my best to finish out the year with more writing. I turned my attention to talking about my experiences with being homeschooled, but soon lost steam as writing about trauma after a year of traumatic events was difficult to say the least. Most of my time since we moved in has been spent online in group mental health settings, talking to my therapist and psychiatrist, and participating in support groups. I’m taking good care of myself, and that takes most of my energy. My everyday life is more peaceful now.

In the second half of the year, I painted my biggest painting ever – a 30”x30” canvas that was gifted to me last Christmas. I filmed the whole process and made a video of it, but it wasn’t something I could work on regularly – sometimes it would be weeks before I felt capable of adding another layer.

As for goals for the upcoming year, I’m honestly scared to make any major plans. This past year has been so full of disrupted plans and unexpected events. I am grieving the fact that my partner and I will likely not be able to grow old together. I am recovering from a very restless, insecure summer. It’s so hard to think forward right now. I am entering the new year with caution – my goals are mundane: sort out my taxes and disability application process with legal support. Write more. That’s about it for now.

Thank you all so much for your generous support throughout this year. I cannot express enough what a difference it has made. Thank you for reading this update, too. It means more than I can say.