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Living In A Pressure Cooker

I live under constant extreme pressure, I always have done. My entire life, both as a child and an adult was under pressure from all sides. As an abused child and teen I was always made to feel like my abuse was my fault. I was made to feel like running away was something terrible I did, instead of a logical act of self preservation. It took years to get over that. Now I am an old woman, I don’t much care about what others think of me. I know what I am – outside of society in a very real way, not as some pose up on a stage screaming punk lyrics out to bored middle class kids. Undocumented due to domestic violence. A survivor of extreme violence and brutality. I have no voice, no vote, no chance, no hope. I have struggled and scrapped for every single ounce of mercy and remain forever grateful for my best friend who gave me a hand up before I drowned outside during a pandemic with no facilities or campgrounds open.

I live in a pressure cooker. I sometimes feel as if the meat is going to fall off my bones and I will disappear entirely, disintegrate into sinews and tendons and a puddle of greasy mess. Domestic violence services are horrendous, in my opinion. I have always been asked what I did to trigger him. Even recently I was asked why my husband beat me up. Ask him, not me. I don’t know. People have excused him, given him counselling and the benefit of the doubt. I didn’t even get adequate health care after years of abuse have left me physically fragile and in constant pain with permanent injuries. I got nothing but smashed down, and told to go home’ by women who claim to be trained to work with survivors of domestic violence. I got told ‘If I came to your country, I wouldn’t get any help.’ I tried once again to explain about the Hague convention on parental child abduction, I tried once again to explain that this was where my only support was at the time. I explained once again that I was running in fear of my life and still am. Her reaction? She laughed. She laughed at the words ‘I am still scared that if he finds me he will kill me.’

That is the week I have had. I have had no time or mental space to write. I am emotionally wrecked. She wanted to know how I felt about potentially losing my house. What my plans were for the next two years. I don’t know what I’ll be doing for the year after this one, I suspect she doesn’t know what she will be doing either, yet only one of us is judged for it. I explained that I felt belittled, disbelieved and hurt by the words of her and her colleagues. I have not received adequate or compassionate treatment from them, let alone practical help. I was made to feel like my needs were too demanding and I was not worth helping. They have Americans to help. I was put outside that grouping, and othered, and so was my son. They have people who belong here to help. Go home, Detroit. Ask family.

Asking a survivor of abuse to ask family is asking her to put her life on the line. Abusers lean on family for information. My own family told my abuser where I was and got me hurt on more than one occasion. I am in this situation because i have no support system outside of those who have adopted me and my son. There is a clear and total lack of understanding of the danger I am in. I am old and wise enough to ignore them and stay safe but I pity those younger women who will simply give up and return to their partners because how on earth are they going to stay housed otherwise?

I have not been assisted to renew my ID, because when I asked I was fobbed off for months, then told that the person who should be helping has left, and then told to ‘be patient’ with the new person. After months of waiting, I was told to wait more, and made to feel utterly like I was imposing and not worth assisting. No assistance was given to get my son into school in the area, and I was forced to pay for his schooling, after his paperwork proved to be an issue. I was not asking for much, but what little I asked for I did not get. I was made to feel as if I had failed because I failed to earn enough money to pay my rent this year. Unfortunately I was led along and then let down by a publisher who promised me a magazine job that I was well capable of doing. Building up from that point, trying to make up lost time and ground took a lot out of me. I am exhausted. I was not applauded for my survival, but merely shamed for not doing well enough to pay over $2000 a month rent all by myself.

Thankfully I have a safety net for a year, before I have to consider what giving up looks like. I have lost all my confidence in my writing, my ability to make a life and I truly now believe that there is no future for me. This is a gift of time, one last year with my son, and for that I will be forever grateful beyond anything I can express here.

I was set up to fail, but that is ok. It is what I expected. The pressure cooker is turning up the gas and to be frank, I feel as if I am going to quietly fail and disappear, turn into soup. To stare the final loss of everything in the face, my final failures, my ultimate uselessness is a bit too much for me to bear. I have to accept that basically I am useless. Ultimately I lost. In the final reckoning I am one gigantic failure who the world is not enriched for having in it. But at least I still have my piss and vinegar, I still have my anger, I still have my outrage. The moment I become quiet and accepting is the moment when I probably am headed for a heart attack or a stroke and the pressure cooker will have finally done it’s job and destroyed me.

No one’s body can cope with this stress for this long. It isn’t possible. My mind is willing but the flesh is weak. I hurt so badly, and with no medical access there is no end in sight. My back is excruciating. I have a permanently numb patch on my right leg now, and my sight is bad. I don’t even dare order glasses in case they don’t arrive before I get thrown out of here. I don’t quite believe I’ll be able to stay.

I make plans for my houseplants, and write letters to my son to open on important life events. There is a letter for the day he marries, one for graduation, the birth of his first child, the day he starts his first job, and the day he retires. All those things I probably won’t be around to see. I play music I want to hear one more time. I consider where I will go once I lose everything and the Boy has to go into foster care for what is left of his teenage years. I think I might go to Mexico, make like Neal Cassady and ride off into the sunset down some aloe-planted path with my best pair of cheap sunglasses and the weight of the world of sadness on my shoulders. It will be ok. Ill carry a bottle and a mirror and a spoon and waltz off pretending that I ever could have been somebody that was able to do anything with her life. I will pretend I was a good mother, and a good friend and a good person. I will pretend that I wrote burning words onto a page and that it all amounted to a hill of beans in this goddess-forsaken world. I will pretend I got to be me, and found a way to open the lid of that damn pressure cooker!

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