Nowhere To Go: Managing Your Mental Illness When You are Homeless

 

Image result for hiding

My biggest fear prior to being homeless was having to cope with triggers when I was homeless. It’s one thing to have a depressive episode from the comforts of your home but it’s an entirely different thing when you have nowhere to go when you are homeless. There aren’t any safe places. Everywhere you go is a danger zone. This fact kept me in misery for far too long. I have off and on been potentially homeless the last few years. Looking back I wish I had the courage to just take that jump and go into homelessness earlier. Sadly I wasn’t prepared or ready to face the dangers like I am now.

The biggest hurdle to being homeless was the fear and it’s one of the big issues I face with, I always have. Fear has kept me from living since my Mom passed away in 2012. I stayed near my family and didn’t move because I lived in constant fear that they would die to. It was extremely crippling and it made me absolutely miserable. Of course there is a lot more to my mental illness than fear but that’s a biggie. Once I pulled the bandaid off from going to the hospital and then the shelter the situation was no longer as scary. Actually overall it’s not scary at all. Now when things happen like the fight in the day shelter things quickly escalate into frightening but overall it’s not fear or fright that really gets to me. It’s the uncomfortableness and lack of privacy that gets me. You lose all normalcy to life. The first week is scary. The second week is uncomfortable and the third week it starts to get to you.

Image result for living room comfortable

What I miss most is the comforts of a home. Today was the first time I have stepped foot into a home in over six weeks and it was only briefly. Today’s temperatures are going to be over 94 with the heat index over 100 degrees. So I had a guy want to hookup with me. Usually I’m like no thank you but today it was hot and he had air conditioning. Plus he picked me up in his nice car that had really cold ac. We get to his house and it was nice. The best part was his huge comfy bed that I lay in for a good thirty minutes. It was like heaven. I felt like I was floating on cotton candy. While things didn’t go as planned with the hookup I at least got to have some comfort for just a little bit. Plus he dropped me off at the library and gave me a cold coke. So I haven’t done a lot of walking.

You start to crave the normal things to life and when you don’t get them it starts to eat away at your psyche. Overall my mental health has been very good since I was out of the hospital last month but this week it’s started to deteriorate as I was starting to get more overwhelmed by being homeless. It didn’t help that Wednesday I had confrontations with two not so nice people. As hard as I tried those two negative interactions left a crack for the depression to seep into. I just haven’t been able to shake this depressed feeling. It’s not one thought either. I just feel depressed and it’s not just because I’m sick. Though I do think that is adding to it. What people don’t understand about depression is that it’s not always an effect of a trigger. Sometimes you just wake up feeling bad. There is something about your brain chemistry that’s off and it sends you into a fog for the rest of the day.

It’s tough to not let things bring you down when you suffer from depression and that’s even more complicated when you have a mental illness. The past three weeks my depression has been okay, it’s not really been at the surface as I had many other things to worry about but now it’s in the mix. It’s overwhelming because I’m having to fight so many other things and now I have to add fighting my negative thoughts and feelings. Add the extreme heat and I just feel like I’m about to go mad. I was dreading today because of the heat. The weekends are the worst because the day shelter isn’t open so you have to walk to get somewhere cooler. On Sundays the buses don’t run until 9am so I had to wait outside for an hour and that is just a miserable feeling. To not have anywhere to go, so you just have to sit in a place you don’t want to. It doesn’t help with how you feel.

Being homeless you are forced to go outside of your comfort zone and that’s even more so the case when you have something like PTSD. Thankfully so far my PTSD has been in check but it’s always a concern. You have times when you are in a PTSD bubble that being around others becomes problematic. Friends and family become strangers and strangers become enemies. You aren’t able to trust anyone. Your world turns into a war zone and there is NOWHERE to hide. So for now that’s in check and I’m thankful for that.

Image result for war zone

I think what’s most unsettling is that even though life has been really tough for the past three weeks I have felt the best about myself in a very long time. I have felt so empowered by this experience and it’s lifted me up in some tough times but the last couple of days it’s been a constant struggle. I wake up feeling horrible. Every muscle in my body hurts. It’s tough just walking a few steps. My mind is as thick as pea soup. I feel so defeated and discouraged. I’m worn out with no relief in sight. I hope it’s just the bronchitis because I’m not liking this at all. This will be my third day on antibiotics so I hope I get better soon because this feels unbearable. At times on the verge of losing it, at least it feels that way. It’s these thoughts of not being able to handle life like this.

You just want to scream but no words can escape. They are all stuck in the puzzle of your mind, with jagged little shards of glass poking out. I can handle a lot but it’s the physical pain that’s lately that’s been getting to me. I have to walk. I don’t have a choice. It’s not a fun feeling to have to push through. Feet turn into miles and hills into mountains.

Image result for climbing mount everest

It’s not helping that it’s taking longer than I expected to get my own place. I was approved for a one bedroom apartment of my own a week ago but the manager of the complex has no urgency. Originally the move in date was going to be the 21st and that’s fast approaching. The main hurdle is getting my Doctor to sign some paperwork to prove that I’m disabled, otherwise I will not being able to move in because it’s only for the elderly and those with a disability. For whatever reason my Doctor hasn’t been getting the faxes and it’s not because he’s not trying. He’s just as frustrated as I am and the lady at the office doesn’t seem to care.

On the 23rd of June will be my thirty days at the shelter, which is the length of stay at this shelter. You can get a two week extension after that but that’s it. So that has me worried because the other two shelters are pretty dangerous especially for someone who is transgender. The homeless shelter is going to pay for the next six months of rent and they need information from the complex manager that she’s not giving. So all of this will just add days to my homelessness and it’s extremely frustrated. In the back of mind I’m thinking, maybe it’s not going to work out. That’s my depression talking. Until I get my doctor to sign that paperwork I won’t be at ease. Without it I won’t get this apartment. It feels like everything is hanging on this paperwork and it’s driving me loco.

I wish they could cut the depression out of me or cure it. If it was always induced by a situation or event then it would make it so much easier. Thinking positive would work like everyone else think it does. The medicine helps but it really just mutes the severity of the symptoms. Being that I have nowhere to run and hide I’m learning to be resourceful. The other night when I started to sob I got the staff person to get me a private place to go. Leaving situations is another thing I have started to do. If I feel uncomfortable I just leave, no matter where I am at. I have days where I don’t feel like walking so I stay in the day shelter but then something happens and I’ve bolted at the door. When I realize that I can control things it improves my mood dramatically to know that I have choices. I’m not stuck anywhere, even in my mind.

I just want to get the heck out of the shelter and into my own place. It’s so close but so far away. After eight years I will have my own place again and it’s a freedom I miss deeply. This time will be different because I won’t lose my place when I spiral into a deep depression and can’t work. In the last fifteen years I have moved over twenty times because of that. That is no way to have stability and I’m desperate for it. It’s the instability that’s played havoc on my body both physically and mentally. I will finally have a safe place that I can call home. One where I won’t fear losing due to the inability to pay my rent. I can have friends over and I can lay in my comfortable bed all day if I choose to do so. I’m ready for some relief. I’m ready for a break.

 

Image result for going crazy

 

Advertisements

The Stigma of Having a Disability

Today I read an article about this woman with down’s syndrome and how she had got a job at her sister’s salon. When Jenna was asked what her favorite thing about working at the salon she stated that she didn’t have a favorite thing because she loved everything. Here was a beautiful woman just full of sunshine and she didn’t let her disability stand in the way of her being happy. Her sister is advocating for more businesses to hire those with disabilities especially those who have down’s syndrome.

The article made me think about my own disability and those with a mental illness. There is still a lot of stigma attached to having a disablity especially if it’s a mental illness. Whenever I tell someone new about my disability there is always this fear that I will be judged or they won’t like me. I’m learning to stop being a people pleaser but that takes practice.

Lately I’ve been spending my evenings sitting with my neighbors at the apartment complex I live in. When I first moved in I would notice a group of the residents sitting together and talking. At first I was a little put off by it, as I was very reserved and didn’t talk to many people, let alone people I didn’t know. They were always so friendly whenever I came to go swimming. It took me about a month and I started to join in on their conversations. Before long I became apart of the group and most evenings I’m outside with them talking about life. I love living here. These meetings give me something to look forward to, it’s really the highlight of my day. I’ve been very lonely lately and it’s really helped to fill that void. In the past I’ve always been very social so this has helped me blossom back into the social butterfly I use to be.

After you spend a good amount of time with people they start to ask questions and that always puts me in a very awkward situation wondering if I should tell them about my situation. I’m forty years old on disability. I have had this cover that I tell everyone that I’m a graphic designer which is true but it’s more of a hobby than anything else. What if I tell them and they don’t want to hang out with me anymore. Those are the things that go through my mind. Most of the residents are older and are on a fixed income as well but I know that some will wonder why I’m on disability so early in age. If I tell them I’m on disablity will they ask more questions as to what kind of disability.

My history with having a mental illness is not everyone understands it. Some don’t validate it as a disability because they can’t see the symptoms. If only mental health was treated just like general health then matters would be so much better. So if you have a disability that’s a mental illness you really have this stigma attached to you. People with depression and other mental illnesses are good at hiding it. On the outside it might seem that the person is happy but underneath is a lot of pain and suffering. I can see why some would see the disconnect but many of us have learned how to survive in a world full of stigma. Sometimes it’s easy to just pretend you’re okay.

If having a mental health disability wasn’t enough I also have the added stigma attached to being gay. I’ve always been really hesitant sharing that information with new straight people in my life. It took me about a month and it finally came up tonight. I’m in this new mode of not caring what people think, well I’m learning, so when one of the residents was talking about another resident who was in his 50s and not married implying he might be gay. She did the hand gesture to imply that he was gay. I started to cringe. I know she didn’t mean any harm by it but I couldn’t not leave the conversation without taking a stand. I didn’t confront her on it. I just made a couple of comments about that it’s not always the case about single men. Then another resident started talking about if you’re boyfriend is wearing nicer jewelry then you might having something to worry about. I replied well that wasn’t always the case, that not all gay people were fabulous like that. I then said that I was one of them but I said though I’m still fabulous. The one lady goes are you gay and I said yes. They laughed at that and we went on talking about something else.

In the back of my head I wondered were they thinking negatively of me now. Those are just fears and I can’t entertain them. Even if they did it has nothing to do with me. All I can do is be me and live the life the best of my ability. Some people will judge me and I really don’t need or want them in my life. It’s hard to let go of caring what people think of you. I’ve done it most of my life so it’s going to be a hard habit to break but I’m working on it. The same goes with having a disablity. Those who judge people with disabilities are the ones with the true disablity.

I think that’s the misconception that we’re half a person, were not able. I use to think my disability was just that. It made me feel like less of a person. I now see the value in myself and realize that my disability is what makes me special. Having to endure years of depression and PTSD has gave me the tools to help others who are walking down the same path as I have. I’m stronger and more empathetic for having to walk that path. I also judge life on one’s impact. You don’t have to have a college degree or even a job to impact other people. I know that I bring joy into people’s life. Just today I was talking with the complex manager and she talked about how she loved having me live here. She also talked about my joyful personality. It made me feel wonderful that she saw me for who I am. I don’t always feel that.

I think it’s important to not get caught up in those who don’t see you. Some people just don’t have the ability to see past something. That’s their flaw not yours. Sometimes you just have to let it go, which is tough as nails at times. Awareness is also important and something I’m working on creating with my blog. People can change and if other’s don’t take a stand and advocate for what they believe in, nothing will ever change. Some people don’t understand why I’m so public with my struggles. I know people judge me for that, even people in my own family. That’s just apart of the stigma, that you’re suppose to keep mental illnesses covered up. Being open about a mental illness will put shame and guilt upon the family name. This does more harm than good. They’re not living my life so they have no right to speak for me. They don’t have to fight the same battles nor have they had to experience what I did.

So I’m going to keep being me and live the life the way I want to. Being authentic will only help me to grow it will also give others the courage to do so as well. I will finish with one of my favorite quotes by Marianne Williamson. We are all meant to shine…

Image result for our deepest fear quote

Depression Stigmata

I wish… that depression didn’t have such a stigma attached to it. I wish people wouldn’t question my symptoms because they can’t be seen like other illnesses. I wish I didn’t have depression but I do.

It’s easy to get trapped in thinking that you don’t deserve anything good especially kindness. Depression grabs ahold of you like cheetah to an antelope and it won’t let go until it’s gotten the kill.

Many times in my life I’ve felt weak, more times than not. Recently I was faced with something very difficult and the depression flood gates were opened wide up. The waves could have taken me under and washed me into sea but I stood still.

It’s not been easy. In a few days time I was transported to three years ago when I stuck in Nashville faced with the death of my sweet Mama. No matter how far I run I can’t see to get away from those two days. With the snap of my fingers I’m instantly transported back to that scary place. Where I’m alone and scared.

Even today I feel alone and scared but I refuse to give into the pain. I might end up homeless and alone but at least I’m still standing. No matter what is thrown my way I will survive it.

When you’ve faced depression head on for so many years you begin to rack up the scars. Look at them one by one and all you can see is the pain but if you’re able to look at them from afar you realize they’ve turned into armor.

The future is unknown. Even tomorrow is unknown. What I do know is that I deserve kindness. I deserve to be happy. We all do. I am not my depression. I’m so much more than that. So if you know someone struggling and you’re unsure how to handle the situation just show them kindness. We don’t expect anyone to solve our problems but a little kindness goes a long ways.

Wading Through The Depression Muck

Its not always easy to do. Motivation while depressed is like trying to push an elephant. Today I’m feeling alright.

It’s common for me to not leave the house for days. Isolation is on symptom of my depression. I also have PTSD.

Today my niece has a volleyball game. I love watching her play. There’s a part of me that wants to go back to bed. Getting ready seems too big of a hurdle but I don’t want to disappoint her.

The problem with depression is that you miss out on the living a lot. That’s one of my regrets dealing with depression.

I know that recovery means pushing through the muck of depression. I really wish I had a paddle boat. Often I feel like I’m not advancing like others think I should. I move in slow motion. A friend once told me that even when you move like snail you’re still moving.

So I’m thankful that I feel like going out into the world. Facing my fears one step at a time.

Living a Depressed Life

depression

Let’s be honest, depression bites. I mean if it was fun everyone would want to have it, right? There are few things in my life that’s remained constant and sadly depression is one of them. It’s an unwanted house guest who never leaves.

I’ve blogged most of my adult life and a lot of my posts have been related to depression. There is so much stigma out there related to anything mental health related I felt it was important to share my daily battles with depression.

My depression is crippling. I get the idea that many don’t understand (or don’t care) how much it affects my life. I know there are those who think I’m just lazy. If they could only living inside my mind for just one day they’d see that it’s not something I’m choosing. When I’m deeply depressed I feel down right awful both inside and out. Why would anyone inflict such torture onto themselves?

Depression is like a snowball, the longer you let it roll down the hill the bigger it’s going to get. The battle with depression is that it not only affects you emotionally but physically as well. If you’ve sunk to the bottom of the depression well it’s going to take a lot of effort to get out and most likely you won’t have the energy to call out for help. Simple tasks like brushing your teeth becomes like climbing Mount Everest. Imagine having to make it through the day weighted down by heavy chains and being unable to remove them. That’s what it’s like.

I’ve come to learn it’s about learning to maintain and cope with having depression, lately I’ve been struggling majorly. Logically one would think I would be on cloud nine being that I’ve just had my first art showing but that isn’t the case. Ever since I installed my artwork a few weeks ago I could feel that depression snowball build momentum. It was chipping away at everything good. It started out as little whispers eventually turning into lion roars that I wasn’t worthy of anything good.

Depression is deceptive and sneaky. It’s that little devil on your shoulders instead he’s inside your mind poking his stick at your consciousnesses. Depression tells me I’m alone and that no one loves me. Depression doesn’t give up until it’s unplugged your cord from the outlet.

Once you’re without power everything goes haywire. You’re disconnected from everything, especially the ones who love you.

The question is how do you get off that broken record. If you’ve suffered from depression a long while you will understand what I mean. I find myself repeating the same things over and over, and being unable to stop. I find myself repeating things over and over, and being unable to stop. I find myself repeating things over and over, and being unable to stop. I find myself repeating things over and over, and being unable to stop… I think you get the point.

Getting help is important and sometimes the hardest part of depression. Most of the time when you need help you are so battered and bruised that you can’t even voice the word help. Can you imagine being in a life and death situation where you are surrounded by people who can’t see that you’re in trouble and not being able to get help. The problem with depression is that many times the symptoms are masked. A prime example of this is Robin Williams. One of the funniest of all and inside he was dying and couldn’t tell a soul.

For a moment imagine what it’s like to feel like you are dying and there is no cure. It’s not a fun place to be. I’ve been running that broken record for over twenty years and I’m tired. So very tired. I want to be happy but I start to wonder if it’s even possible or if I deserve it.

Something has to give. I know I’m not alone. The National Institute of Mental Health stated that in 2012, an estimated 16 million adults aged 18 or older in the U.S. had at least one major depressive episode in the past year. I hope that by creating this blog I’m able to release some of this tension while helping others.

If you know someone who suffers from depression reach out to them. Show them kindness. You don’t need to have the answers. Be there for them. Let them know that you’re on their side. All we need is a little love.