Saving Sunyata

Abusive parenting can lead to destructive adult lives filled with suffering.

Hello Global Family. My name is sunyata, an Afro-Asian Guyanese-American genderqueer femme (I use they/them/theirs pronouns); born, raised and currently looking to move back to Brooklyn. I am currently homeless. I am a full-time full-scholarship student at Bard at BPL , currently on medical leave. I have an Education Specialist I work with from Blueprint Supported Education. I’ve spent my life suffering from three psychiatric disabilities stemming from my relationship with my abusive parents: Major Depressive Disorder; Post-traumatic Stress Disorder; and Borderline Personality Disorder, which all developed around age 12. I’ve spent the last year in crisis because of longtime financial instability. I have a therapist and a psychiatrist, but unfortunately, it's not enough. Since age 18, I’ve never had financial stability. I have lived out of my suitcase for most of my adult life. My abusive parents have negatively impacted my life.

A little more about me: In addition to being accepted to the Microcollege and successfully completing its Language and Thinking program, I graduated from Brooklyn Technical High School in 2005. I was an intern at organizations like former Brecht Forum, Museum of Natural History, Uniondocs, and Brooklyn Grange where I helped administer educational programming. I was also once a volunteer for Bluestockings Bookstore and a yoga studio next door. I spent two weeks as a group chaperone for teens at a visit to Our School at Blair Grocery in New Orleans. I’m a graduate of Third World Newsreel’s Media Production Workshop and Third Root’s Foundations in Herbalism & Medicine program. I've taken education classes as a Community Producer at BRIC. I worked as an Education Program Assistant at Maysles Documentary Center for almost three years. I had an awesome conversation in Grace Lee Boggs’ living room with my study group Growing Roots NYC. I was a Sangha volunteer with the People of Color Sangha at New York Insight Meditation Center for almost two years; and the POC and allied sanghas that meet at Brooklyn Zen Center. I've attended several silent meditation retreats at Insight Meditation Society in Massachusetts.   

I’ve organized meditation sits (I was studying to become a Meditation Teacher with the Interdependence Project's Mindfulness Teacher training before leaving for financial reasons) and retreats, including ones that bring together political liberation work with internal healing work. I’m a graduate of the Somatics and Trauma program with Generative Somatics. I’m a graduate of the San Francisco Sex Information Sex Educator training; the Urban Tantra Professional Training Program; Culinary Apprenticeship program at former Natural Gourmet Institute; Sustainability program scholarship from Slow Food NYC  and also a former board member. I've spoken to Asian student unions about Anti-Blackness in Asian Communities at NYU and Wellesley College. I’ve studied political theory, critical race theory, afro-pessimism, Western Buddhism, Somatics, nutrition, Ayurveda, yoga, writing as an independent student for many years. When my health took a turn for the worse, I took a break. I currently have a therapist and a psychiatrist I see regularly. I'll be getting involved in organizing work with Decriminalize Sex Work and New York Transgender Advocacy Group in the coming months - I just attended one of their mixers. During my medical leave, I hope to grow my creative writing, drawing, guitar-playing, singing, and keyboard-playing skills. 

(This is the first time I’ve thought about my accomplishments in a long time. These accomplishments are not typically valued by mainstream society. It’s hard for me to finish projects. I always tell people I’m more of an ideas person, and I also want to learn how to execute in a way that doesn’t bring up my traumas. I’m constantly living in bad flashbacks.)

The Backstory

I was born into a repressive, sheltered environment. I remember not ever being able to play outside further develop deep friendships with classmates outside of school. I was always a bright student. I was in gifted programs all throughout my education. I loved to learn. Yet my parents made learning a chore. My education was to be my number one priority, meaning only the subjects that mattered to my parents: everything except extracurriculars. So they squeezed me into two boxes: become a lawyer or a doctor. This is typical of Afro-Asian parents. My highly sensitive self needed nurturing I never received. To make matters worse, they would always cite when I stopped playing tennis or studying gymnastics as evidence of why they would never "indulge" again. I remember wanting to write stories; make music videos; study photography; study ethnomusicology and English; study guitar and sing, and I always got a no. These creative impulses were never encouraged and they said no to my career choices and my catholic school had no arts programs.

My parents drew a wedge between my siblings and me. They were born in Guyana before my parents arrived. they were left behind in the care of my paternal grandmother who was also abusive. My siblings always thought my parents didn’t visit them because of me, but it’s not true. I finally got my mother to reveal just a few years ago her fear of flying. With so much misinformation and distrust (my sister outed me as a former virgin to my mother shortly after it happened), it’s no wonder I am estranged from my siblings, my nieces, and nephews.

My mother had a falling out with her family after her mother died. I was in middle school at the time. after, I was encouraged not to communicate with them. Years later, when I saw one of my maternal aunts for the first time since my grandmother’s funeral at my grandfather’s wake, she pretended as if she didn’t know me and introduced other family members to her nieces and nephews except me and my brother. My paternal extended family doesn't like me because they don't understand my disabilities, and think I am a fuck-up.

They were unsympathetic when my psychiatric disabilities first showed up in school. If I had gotten treatment then, I would be in a much better place. But they blamed me and made me suffer. And then stopped refusing to help me altogether. While I begged my mom to sign for a loan for culinary school, she used her knowledge of my illness for her essays in her bachelor’s program. They stopped living vicariously through me and instead, reframed my disabilities as a fault and not a condition in need of treatment.

I was living with my parents on and off in my twenties. They were the focus of my issues. They were the ones who encouraged me to go into the army (no disrespect to those who serve and my very petite body wasn’t  built for that kind of labor) but if not, “don’t become a drug dealer nor a prostitute.” I had to escape them many times. I was kicked out many times.

My mother convinced me my friends are to blame for my housing and financial insecurity, and I believed her. When I turned 30, I let them go. Some were not good for me to be around, but some were gems and I miss them at times but don’t know how to reach out without undergoing lots of emotional labor, a task I don’t have the spoons to take up at the moment.

My mother has helped countless people but me. With jobs and internships. I later realized she always fell through because she didn’t want me to soil her reputation as an esteemed manager even though I have disabilities. It’s a narrative they both believe to my detriment. They just think of me as a fuck-up.

My Turning Point

I was so brainwashed by their abuser apologist ethos of “love and respect my parents and elders no matter what” that the narrative wasn’t available to my full understanding. My life changed dramatically when I lost all of my possessions in an eviction a year ago - my recipes from when I apprentice at a health-supportive culinary school; all of my books; furniture; crystals; meditation cushion from the day I met Thich Nhat Hanh; all gone. 

[Looking at these old pictures, I feel that I haven’t really grieved in the last year. The last time I saw this apartment was August 2018. I can’t remember the day, but I left it in a rush but made sure to clean the bathroom and kitchen. I never saw the apartment nor my things again. Everything you see in these pictures is gone. I went through a lot of trauma and harm within myself just to show you all these pictures. Please consider donating so I can regain these things back. I took out a $10k loan just to make this apartment - my very own first-ever - a home for myself, my thoughts, and my conditions. Now it's gone. It’s so heartbreaking to lose this space and now have to suffer at the hands of my roommates. ::Sigh:

the last room I rented after a dispute with my landlady where she locked me out and took everything from inside my room, demanding I move out

As you can see, I have been living in a state of mess for a while. I was unable to work while living in this space, so I lost the ability to gain resources to get things like organizers. These pictures were taken in the hopes that a professional organizer would help me, but I was unable to contact her because I had no money to pay her.

I have to keep telling myself, as I resize these pictures for viewing on gofundme, I am making a “towards move”, reflective of the work my therapist and I have been doing. The towards move is even though this is hard, this is not reflective of inherent badness on my part, or laziness ness, or shiftlessness. I have so many ideas about what I want to study (English, Gastronomy, and Anthropology); becoming an entrepreneur (I love herbalism and natural, organic products); the knowledge I want to bring forth in the world (about my homeland’s culinary history, about social change and everyone meeting one’s spiritual and material needs as a right for all beings). You can help me get there. Please consider donating.]

It was at that point when I was evicted and had to reassess my relationship with my parents because they refused to help (hold themselves accountable to how their abuse continues to negatively impact my adulthood), that I realized I need help from my global community.

No child should be created for the sole benefit of meeting their parents’ needs. Every child should be encouraged in their extracurricular activities of choice. every child should be able to make mistakes. No parent should watch their children grow up and have difficulty and not help when you can. They both work in social services. They have savings. They could help but refused and then saw my need to stay with them as a cash cow opportunity.

Negative Impacts on Adulthood

I have always had low self-esteem, low sense of self, and self-hatred. I’ve always longed to be someone else because to me, life must be easier for people who benefit from desirability politics and/or people who have family and friends who love them very much. I’ve never had that. Thanks to my parents, I am estranged from my entire family (my siblings, my extended family) and friends I made up until the end of my 20s. My parents are my lifelong abusers. Their abuse has negatively impacted my ability to live and thrive in the world as a Black perceived-woman person.

It’s hard for me to start projects and complete them. This has ruined my life. I am unable to work and go to school because of my disabilities. I made excuses for years and used my Buddhist meditation practice to forgive them without honoring my justice values and the need for help. I used many things to cover my need for justice.

Some of you may ask, well, why does this matter today? It matters today because relationships are an important aspect of life. I don’t have a frame of reference for a healthy relationship. This has made things like work, school, and maintaining friendships and intimate partners very hard. I haven’t lived far outside of the home. I grew up sheltered, so I’ve always had transient relationships, not the kind where friends go places with friends. Even though my family from Guyana, I’ve never left the country. I rarely leave NYC. I know people who leave at least once a month, even if it’s just to a cabin in western mass. I’ve never had that luxury.

I don’t think people realize how important a secure attachment to one’s caretakers is, nor how lucky they are to have family and friends who love them unconditionally. I don’t have that.

Things I've Learned

Prior to crowdfunding, I’ve been asking for donations through financial apps. Peers have posted my picture with information about my story on Instagram. Thank you so much to everyone who has kept me alive these past four years. Unfortunately, these small donations have kept me going, but haven’t helped me create a foundation for which to alleviate some of my larger issues. One cannot tackle the macro without the micro, and vice versa. I’ve also been fearful about sharing the breadth of my story because of my anxiety and low self-esteem. I’ve noticed that people who benefit from desirability politics most often have their needs met. It’s not a coincidence most folks tend to be non-black, due to an overvalue of European/non-black beauty standards. But I can’t let my fears continue to dictate my daily life.

Overall, I’ve learned that my condition also stems from lifelong abuse I endured and my silence around it, my desire to protect enablers like my extended family. I’ve come a long way to realize that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with me, which strikes at the heart of the false narrative my parents have brainwashed me to believe all these years. Under different circumstances, with different parents, I would be flourishing. This helps me to have a new lease on my life, knowing that many things are possible, including my healing and my creative output. The only thing standing in my way is the money I don’t have. I’m a very generous person yet having abusive parents has made me susceptible to the abusive of others - in housing, employment, friendships, and an almost-three year abusive intimate relationship with a well-known activist.

I need help from the global community.

How You Can Help / Immediate Needs Costs

Please consider donating. I need this money to create a basic living space for myself (a bed, a desk, food, etc) in a room starting December 1st. I also need some high-priced items once paid for on credit card that are nearing the end of its cycle (my laptop, my last root canal). I also need money to live on until I gain supportive employment.

I would be so relieved having a nest egg. It would help me rebuild my finances and self-esteem. You would be helping a Black non-binary femme comrade get better, and away from their abusive parents once and for all. You would be helping me stay alive long enough to return to school and be successful. You would be making an immense difference in a black person’s life, someone who has been abused all their life and for which BPD, GAD, PTSD and Major Depression have taken a stronghold. By helping me,  I can move into a new room on December 1 and continue my healing journey through DBT courses, individual psychotherapy, acupuncture and more. I’ll also be able to stay afloat until my Social Security Disability claim is approved and I save enough money from supportive employment. If I remain in this situation, I will no longer be here to experience the pain of not having the unconditional love and care/secure attachment every person needs in order to be in the world. I’m hoping I can stick it out a bit longer to heal from BPD, Major Depressive Disorder and PTSD and find people in my life who care about me unconditionally. You would be of such great help!

This would be helpful as soon as possible, donations can be made here, and through other apps which can be found at . You will receive an automatic response with my handles for the other apps in which to make donations. 

For each donation, after fees, one-quarter of it will go towards my daily needs, and three-quarters will go towards my immediate needs in order of priority:

$600 for medication

$500 for loft bed frame
$100 for shelves
$100 for labor for installing shelves
$200 driving lessons
$1000 for a therapy dog (I need this so badly. My roommates are racist; my BPD is impacted terribly.)

I will keep updating the list with items or things I need to pay for every week. I will post updates with pictures of purchases that your kindness will fund.

This money would help change my life. I could begin to get out of debt, I can pay for things I need. I can pay for my wellness care and healing from the effects of longstanding abuse. You can be a part of that success story.

I’m a really intelligent person. I’m kind and compassionate. I care about people and our earth. I’ve studied political theory, food sustainability, Buddhism, and poetry. I believe I was born to be creative, and also to help people lift out of suffering. You can help me become the productive citizen I was meant to be if I had different parents.

There’s a part of me that wants to die every day, every second of the day. Life without money and housing is so stressful. It’s amazing I’m still here. Help me suffer less so I can thrive, please? If you cannot donate, please share my link across social media using #savingsunyata and via email. Your kindness will reach the volumes of my soul. Thank you for your consideration.


PS: My life has been ravaged by the abuse I’ve experienced at the hands of my caretakers. Due to its complex nature and my fear of retraumatizing myself in a time when I am vulnerable to crisis, I’ve compiled some screenshots from texts to help explain what abuse is and how it can impact adult survivors. I’ve also compiled some receipts about my journey: recordings of difficulties, letters and summaries, which you can find on my blackqueerbpd google drive here.
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Sunyata Xa 
New York, NY

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