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The Interdisciplinary Work of Lyss England

CW: homelessness, PTSD, depression, anxiety, Christmas, chronic pain, eviction, mentions of rape, rejection, MMJ, gaslighting

For the first time in ten years, I wasn’t literally going crazy around Christmas. Usually around this time of year, everything makes me feel beyond sad and so anxious I feel like I’m dying constantly. Last year, this mental health crisis began in November and lasted until about September. Almost an entire year of crazy.

But this year, so far, I was managing a lot better. I was doing things to take care of my mental health. I was a few moths into therapy, and I quit a job that was infringing on my mental health. Christmas one week away, ten years without mom two weeks away, my twenty-sixth birthday two and a half weeks away. Nine year rapeiversarry less than a month away. Nine year suicide attempt anniversary less than two months away. But I was holding up. Even though I had been fired from a job I’d really wanted, rejected from multiple others, rejected from a writing fellowship, rejected from grad school, and was feeling a little undervalued in my many volunteering attempts (all in the last couple months), I was actively working on myself and making an effort to do things that felt good. Healing.

And then my landlord delivered an N5 to my door. Three complaints, all within the last month, from the neighbour upstairs about my dog barking when we weren’t home. This neighbour had a history of complaining about anything and everything in the building, and had lived there even longer than the three years we had lived there. For the last couple of months, everything in the building had been quiet, and, as far as I was aware, there had been no drama whatsoever.

Our names were spelled wrong on the forms, which automatically voids them. But it was still an unnecessary stress that, honestly, infringed on MY enjoyment of MY space. We had seven days to correct the problem, or we would be taken to the Landlord Tenant Board. My landlord told me to get a shock collar to leave on my dog when she was unsupervised, which I told him I was uncomfortable with, he suggested I locked my dog in the one bedroom with a small window she couldn’t see out of, and he told me not to be upset. He was delivering me with a Notice to End my Tenancy a week before Christmas in a town with a 1% vacancy rate.

One of the time periods where the neighbour claimed Luna was barking, my partner had been home. During another documented complaint, the neighbour had contacted my landlord five minutes after I had messaged her back telling her I was leaving where I was to come home, as she had texted me informing me that Luna was barking. She didn’t even give me a chance.

We’d been in communication about this brand new issue my five-year-old dog was apparently suddenly having in a building she had lived in for three years. I had communicated to the neighbour the efforts I was taking to address the issue: working with my dog when I was home on making no sound at all, ever (she only ever barked when someone knocked on the door or when the dog across the hall went out), blocking off the one room where she could see out the window, and working from home 90% of the time.

That was something that was starting to be a little triggering. For about a month, half the time I would leave my apartment (which was barely ever, thanks to a lovely combo of chronic pain and chronic anxiety and depression), the neighbour would text me to say “Luna is on a barking spree”. I would thank her for letting me know, and let her know that I would get home as soon as possible. Whenever I was out for a reason aside from work, I left what I was doing and immediately came home to my silent dog.

I started to do some tests, in the hope of better understanding the issue. I would walk up the stairs, loudly, to see if that was enough to trigger Luna to bark. It wasn’t. I knew that ringing the buzzer or knocking on the door would trigger barking (because she’s a dog), but the barking never went on for more than a couple minutes, at most. I stood out back and had a smoke and called a friend on the phone. No barking. On this form, it claims that she was barking continuously for spans of 90 minutes or more. I asked another neighbour, directly across the hall, if it was an issue, and she said that it wasn’t. As far as I was aware, this had never been an issue before, and I was actively working on it (under the assumption that it was true). My landlord himself had spoken to me once, about three weeks ago, about receiving a call out of concern (not a complaint) because Luna was barking, which was so unusual for her.

But apparently it was a big enough issue this past weekend that it was ground to threaten eviction.

Before we lived in this apartment, we had spent three months homeless living out of backpacks in a generous and awesome couple of friends’ spare bedroom after having a falling out with a friend who had told us we could rent a spare room in the house he owned while we got on our feet after moving to Northumberland County. For three months, I learned that there is nothing more scary than feeling fucked up and having nowhere that was safe or yours to go to feel those fucked up feelings and cope with them.

We weren’t bad tenants. I openly utilize (legally prescribed) medical cannabis to treat my health issues, and I have a (sweet, loving, obedient) dog who is selectively aggressive with other dogs and apparently sometimes barks (!?). So I keep my dog on a leash and work actively with her and invite people to contact me regularly if there is anything we are doing that inconvenienced them in any way. I’ve lost track of how many times I have given my phone number to all of my neighbours. I really tried to go out of my way to have a good relationship with my neighbours in the building.

I was almost always home. I was trying to work on some freelance art and writing and other creative projects while doing a lot of work with a local charity that is important to me. And I was trying to manage my (both physical and mental) health. And now I’m sitting in my living room at 4:55 a.m. having an anxiety attack because this home I am building is threatened (even abstractly) and I’ve been rejected yet again in a huge way from this place where my partner and I so desperately want to build a life.

And mom’s still dead, and someone violated my body without my consent a really long time ago, and I still want to die sometimes, and no one believed in me enough to hire me, and no school believes in me enough to accept me, and I’m still in pain every day, and everyone is still singing the same bullshit Christmas songs and watching bullshit Christmas movies.

I’m still here.

Writing instead of losing my fucking mind. One foot in front of the other. Hoping I have a community behind me.

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