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Mental Illness and Homeless People December 11, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in mental illness.
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Walking the streets of Seattle this afternoon as my husband and I shopped for Christmas gifts, I scanned the face of every homeless person we passed, trying hard to remember the faces of the numerous number of homeless people I shared three weeks of my life with while I was hospitalized at Fairfax, a mental hospital, over two and a half years ago.

Did any of the faces look remotely familiar? Would I recognize anyone if I saw them? Are they still alive? In Jail? Dead? Whatever happened to them?  I would love to have run into any one of them today, to  ask how they’re doing, and  if there’s anything I can do to make their life more comfortable for them.  What would they say?

Edie, the little cherub looking woman who looked much younger than her 52 years- where is she now? Is she warm and safe? Is her schizophrenia finally under control with medication?  Did her boyfriend, who visited her in the hospital, marry her like he said he would after her illness was under control? What color was her bride’s dress?

How about Michael, the strapping young bipolar man who taught me that each tear tatoo around someon’e eye symbolizes the life of someone he took.  Michael had, in other words, murdered three people. And he so badly wanted to kill his older sister when he was released, which was going to be very, very soon.  Did he kill her? Does he now have 4 tear tatoos?

What of Tonya, the twenty-something depressed Samoan woman?  Each day she was there, she told all of us in group therapy how badly she wanted to kill herself. Even on the day she was released from the mental hospital, she was still saying that. But they released her anyway. Her bed was needed by someone else, this time with insurance to pay the exorbitant price of commitment. Did she succeed in killing herself? I put the odds of her “success”, if you can call it that, at around 85%. Is she buried somewhere in an unmarked grave? Or is she one of the many people who simply stepped out onto the train tracks, not having the guts to actually swallow the pill or pull the trigger themselves? Is she still alive somewhere? I very much doubt it.

Does Terry, one of the most colorful personalities, still think she was from Saturn? Does she continue to speak gobbledygook to people, claiming that it’s the language of her planet?  Is her bipolar disorder and schizoaffetive disorder under control?  How many times has she returned to the mental hospital? It had been 3 times in her 30-something life when I left. Is it now 4?

If it wasn’t for the terrific support system of my friends and family, as well as the wonderful care I continue to receive from my psychiatrist and my mental health counselor, I would be out there on the streets with them.  I was one of the lucky ones.

 

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Comments»

1. Karen Twinem - December 12, 2010

This really touched my heart. I have a son with schizophrenia, and a daughter with bipolar. Both aren’t doing so well. I pray for people who have slipped away from their families one way or another and end up on the streets. Nice job telling the story.

2. Cherrie Herrin-Michehl, MA, LMHC - December 13, 2010

This gave me tears. I realize it could be any of us. Thank you for sharing this important story.


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