STILL KICKIN HERO: december 2016
EVERY MONTH, OUR PROCEEDS SUPPORT A NEW PERSON OR ORGANIZATION WHO DEFINES WHAT IT MEANS TO BE STILL KICKIN.
“Everybody has their story. Mine’s no worse or no better.”
Roshee Cryer-Greene has a laugh and a smile that brighten the room. (Yeah, we know that’s a super-overused metaphor, but it’s an accurate one in this case, so let it go.) And the fact she’s able to do either of those things given the challenges she’s faced in her almost 27 years of life says a helluva lot about her character.
Roshee’s childhood wasn’t exactly the kind you look back on fondly. No, that’s an understatement. Rewind. She had a really shitty childhood.
Her mother was an addict and physically abusive.
She was sexually assaulted at a young age.
Gun violence was the norm in her neighborhood.
She moved around a lot and switched schools often.
And at just 16 (still a kid herself), Roshee had her first child. Her second child came when she was only 19.
For a while, Roshee lived on the streets before renting a place from a slumlord. She was still a minor at the time.
“Of course, I didn’t know how to take care of it,” she says (which makes sense, since most of us weren’t even washing our own socks when we were teenagers, if we’re being honest).
She struggled to adapt to motherhood and keep up with rent, and her mental health unfortunately didn’t do her any favors; Roshee has bipolar disorder, which can totally be managed with proper medical care but ebbs and flows like other mental illnesses. She says most days went by in a blur. She also experienced blackouts -- a common symptom of bipolar disorder. She loved her sons but worried she wasn’t a good enough parent.
“I kept having these flashes of, ‘Maybe I’m just not good for [my boys]. Maybe I should give them to someone who can actually do things for them’ … I went into a huge depression. I thought, ‘My mind won’t even let me succeed. I can’t do anything or accomplish anything.’”
Roshee says the major breaking point in her life came when her boyfriend grew increasingly controlling and abusive. She’d had enough. One day, while her boyfriend was out, she packed up the boys and left.
“I said, ‘I can’t do this -- I can’t be like my parents.’ I just kept telling myself over and over, ‘I can’t do this to my kids.’”
After spending some time with her sons in a homeless shelter, Roshee found Project for Pride in Living (PPL) when she heard about one of their self-sufficiency program offerings. She’s never been one to ask for help but was proud to finally have a place to call her own.
“Growing up, usually people would say, ‘Oh, I want to be this or this when I grow up,’ but honestly I just wanted a place. I just wanted a home.”
From there, Roshee’s circumstances began to improve -- and continue to improve today. She’s steadily increased her income the past several years (in other words, she worked her ass off). Her tireless work ethic has led to pay raises and promotions. She recently left her job as a manager at Walgreens -- a position she’d held for two years -- to begin a new role at a major health care company. She “graduated” from PPL’s self-sufficiency program and is financially independent. She fell in love and married her wife, Destiny, this past year. The boys are now 10 and 7 years old.
She also volunteers whenever she can BECAUSE YES SHE IS THAT AWESOME.
“There are people who are going through life and death stuff, and I’m not //knocks on wood//, so I may as well help out,” Roshee says. “I can walk! So if I can walk and help raise some money for people, why not?”
If we had to describe Roshee in just one word, it’d be resilient. Rola Alkatout, family services coordinator at PPL, agrees.
“Despite all these terrible things that have happened, she doesn’t dwell on them, because what will that do?” Rola says. She’s known Roshee for more than six years and has watched her transformation up close. “I think it’s important to honor what happened and recognize how far you’ve come, but she doesn’t dwell. She just keeps going higher and higher. She’s unstoppable.”
Of course, just because things are looking up doesn’t mean the hardships have totally disappeared (because the universe is super rude sometimes). Roshee’s awesome new job is quite some distance away, and her car recently crapped out. Her wife lost her job and is on the hunt for something new. And, as all of us who have battled mental illness know (and there are a lot of us), it’s a lifelong challenge to manage. But instead of crumbling under the pressure, Roshee pushes forward.
“I remember my mother. Even through all the hard times, she would always smile,” Roshee says. “And I think I took that from her. Because I’m always smiling. No matter what, always smile. Because smiles are contagious.”
Roshee Cryer-Greene has broken the cycle. A cycle that is so damn hard to break. And she has no plans to go backward.
“One thing I can’t do is dwell on what happened. It happened. I have absolutely no control over that. No, it wasn’t right, all those things that happened to me. But to try and hold on to that? I can’t live like that.”
Though she insists she doesn’t need help (no, really -- her exact words were “I don’t really need anything; I have my home!”) -- sales and donations this month will go to Roshee and her family… even if she doesn’t think she deserves it.
“I’m going through things, but you guys are going through things every day, too. You guys have your own stories. You need help sometimes, too.”
Fair enough, Roshee. But this month isn’t about us. It’s about you. You’ve earned it.