Today is a day of celebration – my birthday and the 2 year anniversary of Pittsburgh LGBTQ Charities, the 501c3 I established in 2021. Today, I learned a lot from both.
Also, today marks eight weeks since I was locked out of my home against my will and kept from returning to my cats, returning to my life.
However, my friends are cooking me a nice meal and my nephew baked me a cake. So I can take a moment to reflect on what I’ve learned during these weeks. I learned:
I Learned These Four Things
- In Family Court, lawyers are essential. They are not inexpensive. But beg, borrowing, and begging some more to find the retainer is a big way to keep the playing field level. The Pro Bono lawyers are available for some supports, but their lanes are narrow. Find a good lawyer whatever you have to do. I had great pro bono lawyers. But I needed more support and advocacy. I am grateful for people who helped make that possible. You can find good lawyers with a retainer of $3500. Also, don’t lecture people about pro bono services unless you are very familiar with them. Telling someone “there’s free services for you” with no actual data sucks.
- To reduce my feeling of loneliness, I prearranged with friends to call/text them regularly. We discussed their availability so we can have a good visit on the phone. I text each of them at night before I go to sleep. We talk a little about my situation, but I intentionally ask about their lives and bring up topics unrelated to me. It keeps me from moping and gets my mind into other lines of thought.
- Go to bed early. Not too early, but I’m always in my room by 9 PM. I have a ritual of making the bed and straightening the bed covers. If it is chilly, I turn on the electric blanket or the space heater for a bit. I text/talk for a bit, then I read. When that drowsy feeling hits, it is usually pretty close to my typical bedtime. One of my previous therapists told me that consistent good sleep is the most important mental health tool. I leearned that she is right.
- Do things to feel cozy. Someone gave me a bunch of throw pillows. I found a cute mug in the cupboard and claimed it for my coffee. Someone else gave me a scented candle and bar of soap. I have them out on the surfaces so I get a little whiff as I walk past. The room I’m using has glow in the dark stars on the ceiling. <3 I learned what feels cozy.
I Learned These Four Other Things
- Write every official/business thing down. I learned this the hard way. Bring a trusted friend to meetings, both online and in real time. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, even several times over. Trauma can freeze some of your recall so taking precautions is smart. I put everything related to my situation in a shared folder with my lawyer, my therapist, and two friends who aren’t connected. If God forbid, I’m ever wrongly 302’d or detained again, they’ll be able to access everything.
- If you or someone you love are served a warrant for an involuntary civil commitment (a 302), you should absolutely go to the County and obtain an official copy of the petition and the warrant. Make sure it has been properly completed and executed. Even if you do need to be held for the duration of the 302 warrant, get a copy when you are able. Do not assume anything with regard to accuracy. Go through Allegheny County Information Referral and Emergency Services (IRES) to find out how to access your records. I had no idea how this worked. I learned.
- Ask for help. I’ve been fortunate to have people offering rides, taking me out for a meal, bringing food to the house, and more. I had people offer help, then disappear – I asked them again and most of the time, they forgot. It wasn’t insincere. They didn’t mind me asking again. It is hard to ask for help, especially across eight weeks. Your urgent situation will face a little bit as life goes on, but you aren’t forgotten. You have to balance advocating for your needs in a world full of urgent issues.
- Keeping busy helps. I blog regularly – about 50 posts since I landed here. Some are about my situation, others are posts I typically write. I do laundry and some chores. If someone invites me out, I go even when I don’t want to. I have a list of shows to stream. We order Chinese food and watch movies with my nephew. I run errands with the older one and we stop at Starbucks. If I’m struggling with sadness or other tough feelings, I break down my day into four hour increments. Just takings things one day at a time, sometimes one hour at a time.
I don’t know what will happen next, but I have confidence that I can cope with it. Today has been tough. I expect tomorrow will be better. This birthday I learned that I can get through it.
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