Jeanne's Bridge It was hard to be here, this is the bridge where I use…
Have you ever felt like a victim, helpless and alone? Have you ever felt like everything would just be better if you went to sleep and didn’t wake up the next morning? I often felt like this, especially during the several years I was homeless on the streets. This is a story about how I went from begging for change, to accepting change, to being the change.
Like many of us, the choices I made as a result of the events I experienced as a child were what created my every day existence.
My childhood was far from perfect. The fact is, I was repeatedly raped, molested and suffered from PTSD. However, the story I made up about what happened is what would eventually lead me to living under a bridge for 10 years, begging for Change.
I did not know how to process the events of my childhood but I still fought to stay alive. How does a 4 year old survive? How does a 9 year old survive? She pretends.
When I witnessed my father shoot himself, my mother took me to the psychiatrist. The psychiatrist told my Mom that I had an amazing way of pretending it didn’t happen. I had learned how to shut my brain down to avoid reality.
My brain was too overwhelmed to process all the trauma, so it masked everything and lied for me and lied to me. My brain was in survival mode for years. I had become a master of pretending. I chose to pretend to be perfect at everything, mainly because I did not want people to know how broken I really was.
The façade eventually caught up to me when I injured my back. I was prescribed pain pills. The pills made not only the physical pain subside, but also the emotional pain, which I worked hard to keep at bay every day.
The more I used pills, the more I lost. I lost my life, my family, my cars, my house, my husband and even my four sons.
It is hard to believe I turned the maternal devotion I had for my sons into a selfish devotion for my addiction. However, the pain I had been covering up for years had become too strong to bear. Soon I was on the street, begging for CHANGE.
One day, after about ten years of living in addiction and on the street, I received a scathing letter from one of my sons. This son is tough as nails but is also sensitive and has a huge heart. In the letter he let me know he was tired of looking for my name in the obituaries and wished it was over already.
That letter got through; this was the moment of clarity. It was the first time in a long time I felt deep pain.
I was so used to being numb and detaching from my feelings. It was as if my head and heart were completely separate and that my heart could no longer feel.
After been emotionally numb for years, the pain I experienced after reading his letter shook me alive. I got in touch with the fact that I actually had a reason to live, four reasons to live actually, my four sons.
I had been offered help before to get off the street and get my life together, but I saw no point. The day I got the letter, I made a choice to finally accept the help that had been offered to me. I accepted CHANGE.
If it weren’t for the amazing organizations and individuals always ready to help those in need, I really do not know where I would be today. Yes, it was up to me to ask for and receive the support, but it was their support that led me to the life I have today.
I entered treatment centers to start creating a sober life style and start fighting for my sons and our relationship. Day by day and month by month, I took steps to dive into my pain, to no longer hide from it or run away from it. Through the pain, I found myself.
I had to dig deep and face each situation that traumatized me and do the work around it until there was no more pain. Now, there is just a story. There are scars but there is no pain. It’s just a story.
Throughout all this, I could not stop thinking about my experience as a homeless person and the people who reached out a helping hand. I too wanted to help others.
I envisioned a bus with mobile showers and laundry facilities for the homeless. I knew from first hand experience that more than a meal or money, the one thing I missed the most was the ability to shower daily.
When we have unlimited access to a shower, it is easy to forget the way it feels to be clean, fresh and alive. The truth is if you look good, you feel good.
Dignity is in short supply when experiencing homelessness.
I wasn’t going to be the person who found a way back from homelessness and forget about the ones still in pain. The bus was my vehicle to giving back what I had received. I used the same tenacity that I used to get off of alcohol and drugs to make my dream a reality.
Showering Love was born in June of 2017. With the support of family, friends and the community, we were able to purchase and refurbish a 40-foot city transit bus to include showers. The sole purpose of Showering Love is to restore dignity, love and hope to those who feel forgotten.
Much more than showers on a bus, Showering Love is a place to obtain resources and assistance, to have a conversation and to gain a sense of hope.
I chose to fight my way back into the lives of my sons and then fight to bring hope and dignity to others that share a similar story as I do.
Not everyone wants help, not everyone accepts it when offered. I remember that I did not accept it for many years. However, if I can help even one person to see there is a way to change their story, then I know I am being the CHANGE I want to see in the world.
With years of pursuing perfection to avoid remembering my childhood, what was born was addiction, homelessness, depression and loss. Today I know that the journey through our pasts can be a painful walk to take, but it is necessary. Remembering promotes appreciation, awareness, boundaries and most of all, acceptance.
Before my son’s letter, I was so hardened and stubborn that I couldn’t feel or think anymore, I wanted to commit suicide; today all I want to do is feel, feel everything deeply.
Yes I was victimized, but I am not a victim. Yes I felt helpless but I am not helpless. Yes I felt alone but I am not alone. I am a warrior, I am a champion.
Sometimes you have to beg for change, sometimes you get to accept change and other times, it is your turn to be the change.
From homeless to CEO of Showering Love, this is my brave.