Monday, October 27, 2008

I have cleaned: how amazing!

As I recently wrote here about my trouble with school, I wanted to also write about something that is going well, even though college is not. Yesterday, I went back on Wellbutrin. I took Wellbutrin for some 8 or 9 years before, but last year, when it did not seem to be helping me, I told my doctor it didn't do anything anymore, and I was taken off of it. Well, recently my newer doctor (the old one quit) decided she wanted me to take Wellbutrin again. I said that it did not seem like a good idea, because it had not been working for me when I stopped using it last year. But she said, if you take a "drug holiday" from a medication, sometimes it will start to work again (referring, of course, just to psychotropic medications). I did not go for the idea for a couple of weeks, and then I finally got the prescription filled. I mention this because I credit it a small portion of what I am about to discuss to the fact that Wellbutrin seems to give me more energy. However, since I only started taking it again (and a small dose, too), yesterday, I do not give it a whole lot of credit for what I am about to tell you, just a little credit.

I started cleaning last week and I thought, "I'll tackle the living room". I thought that this was a good idea, because, well, the pressure of my need to clean my disgusting apartment has been mounting for the past year or so. Jim the Plumber - my ex - moved out in January. I have not thoroughly cleaned my apartment at all since that time, until now. I know you may think, "this person doesn't seem so disgusting", from reading some of my posts that sound like I have a working brain, or that I at least function okay some of the time (or perhaps you will not be surprised by this, I don't know), but my stressing over cleaning knows no bounds. I cannot mentally face certain obstacles in life, it seems. Cleaning is one of them. Before you judge me, let me explain.

My mom is a slob. It's not that she is lazy; she's not. It's that she doesn't do organization well, or routine matters of things like cleaning. It's also that she never had the money needed to get things fixed when they broke, and if she did have the money, she usually spent it at Disneyworld and left the plumbing broken. I'm not saying this to judge my mom at all, but this is how she is. This is also, unfortunately, how I am sometimes. I've never been a neat freak. Clutter doesn't really bother me much, as long as I have a general idea of where things are. It bothers me for others to see it, however, and it bothers me when it gets extreme. Top that with Schizoaffective Disorder, and you get a person who has trouble organizing things, trouble seeing the value of organizing things, and difficulty with maintaining routine structure on her own. I credit the illness with giving me this problem.

I also become overwhelmed by tasks that seem to much for me to handle, and I might do this more than the average person. I end up avoiding the tasks that overwhelm me, because I don't know how to manage them (ie, college), in a way that works for me. After Jim moved out, and I had no one around to help me maintain a sense of structure in my daily living at the apartment, I stopped functioning well. I stopped cooking (I have issues with food so it's easier to not deal with it at home; cooking is something I only did when I lived with Jim), and started just eating things that did not require preparation. I stopped doing the laundry on Sundays like I did with Jim, and stopped grocery shopping every weekend like I did when I lived with Jim. Eventually, after I went for months being unemployed, things deteriorated more. I stopped straightening up. I didn't take out the garbage. I stopped doing dishes and started using paper plates like my mom does much of the time.

This all culminated in a horrible disaster area residing in the spot where my apartment used to be. I could not let anyone over, so I no longer invited my friend Kathy to visit me and watch movies like we did a few times before - when Jim lived there. I stopped letting the pest control guy in, if he came when I was home. I would say I was sick, every time he came. I stopped throwing stuff out, eventually. So trash just piled up, on tables, dressers, floors, chairs, everywhere. Trash. I got bugs. I sprayed pesticides. And then, my cat, Spooky, developed a major flea problem for reasons I do not understand, which was odd since she never goes outside. And then, on top of the major flea problem, I started hallucinating that people were in my house and had come to evict me about a week ago. And then, after that, and after I started cleaning the living room, I discovered a mouse in my living room, which scared the beejeezus out of me, as I am not fond of rodents particularly not in my living room.

Plus, the bathroom sink has been stopped up for a few months, so I just stopped using it and used the bathtub to wash my hands and brush my teeth, the way we did at my mom's house when the bathrooms' plumbing broke and there was no money to get it fixed. In my case, I live in an apartment, and the only problem with getting it fixed was that the mess was so bad, I couldn't let maintenance workers come in there, or I might be evicted. My case manager has been the only person, besides my mom, who has seen the mess. My case manager has to come in every couple months, as it's part of her job at the community mental health center. She is always kind and helps me take out some garbage when she comes over. She tells me that she has seen places far worse than mine, and that I do not need to be ashamed to let her inside. This has helped me, at times, to feel hopeful that I would somehow tackle the mess, eventually.

So finally, this weekend, I tackled the mess. I entered the kitchen - something I never did for months except to feed the cat or pull a bottle of Diet Coke out of the fridge. I did the kitchen last, however. First, I started this past week with decorating the bathroom, to liven it up a bit. I used buttefly decor that I found on sale at some discount shops, and I got it looking really cute. Then I hung some pictures in the living room. And then I really cleaned. I cleaned the bathroom, my bedroom, and the kitchen, and some of the living room, yesterday. I bleached things, scrubbed floors, vaccuumed, and took out (in the past week) no less than 25 bags of garbage from my little, one-bedroom apartment. I kept working even though I was tired, mentally overwhelmed, panicky, and in some pretty serious physical pain from my Fibromyalgia and Osteoporosis. Plus, having allergy attacks. But, it could always be worse (I could have an apartment full of mice!), I told myself.

And eventually, I got done. It is not the cleanest, neatest apartment anyone has ever seen. But it is a zillion times better than it was a week ago, and that is progress for me. I think since I stopped doing my classes, I had more time and energy to focus on the apartment, and the pressure to get rid of the horrid mess finally got me to start. Once I got past the initial anxiety, I wanted to get the whole place done. My main goal was to get it looking okay enough for the maintenance guy to come in and help me with my pest problem and my broken sink. And I managed to get it done. It was hard, and probably more mentally taxing than physically, but I feel quite relieved now about having a decent place to live. I am not sure this success was worth the trade-off of giving up on my classes, or if it means that I am doing any better than I was a week ago, but I feel that it is real progress for me, and I am happy about it. So I just wanted to share this news with you all.

And, for anyone who lives in a messy home and has difficulties dealing with the tasks of cleaning and housework, please know that you are not alone. I have met a number of people - in NAMI support groups, online, etc. - who have mental illnesses and problems with hoarding junk and keeping messy homes, and there seems to be a real connection between this supposed behavioral issue and biochemical psychiatric disorders. I am interested in learning more about this connection, if anyone has information on it. For now, I think, there is hope for us. It helped me to take things one small step at a time. I also had to do things a bit backwards - creative decorating versus actual cleaning came first - and I had to have a number of circumstances add up to me not really having a choice about the matter anymore, and forcing me to face it. So I faced it, and I survived. What a relief!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

school...degrees...necessary? maybe not.....

Well, I started cleaning the other day. What happened was, I woke up to a hallucination, which seemed very real. I heard someone put a key in my front door. I heard the door open. I heard someone walk in. And I knew they were coming to evict me because the apartment is in such a disastrous state. The person was a woman (at least, one of them was, I thought there might be more than one person). She called out, "Jenny! I'm worried about you!". And I froze, waiting for this person, whoever she was, to enter my bedroom. I thought to myself, "who would be calling me Jenny?" Nobody calls me that except family members, usually, and this was a voice I did not recognize. I thought, "Who has a key to this apartment?" Nobody does, really, except the landlord and me. There is a slight possibility my ex-boyfriend Jim the Plumber could have made a copy of the key before he returned it to me, but I doubt that. So eventually, I got up the courage to go out into the living room and see who was there.

Of course, no one was there. I opened the front door. No sign of anyone. I realized it had to have been a hallucination. But still, I was scared. This event led to me getting overcome by the fear that someone was coming to evict me. So using my confused brain, I did the most logical thing one could do in such a situation. I went to McDonald's and got some breakfast (this doesn't count as diet destruction as long as you eat nothing else for most of the day, in my opinion). After that, I thought, "I don't want to go home". Still, I was thinking about the people coming to evict me. So I went to a store I like, Big Lots, where they sell all sorts of discounted, no- longer- being-manufactured, "close out" items. I got a couple cheap things for my bathroom, and decided I would go home and fix the bathroom up. So I went home, and did a little of that, and then, finally, after many months of not cleaning at all, I got to work on the disgusting living room.

I'm just going to be honest with you here, because this blog has always been about telling the truth, and I never lie about things here. My apartment was beyond disgusting. It still is, actually, since I haven't gotten past the living room and the bathroom yet, but a few days ago, it was really, horribly, in extremely bad shape. The thing is, when Jim the Plumber moved out back in January, my whole world fell apart. I no longer could be "Jim the Plumber's Girlfriend", and I no long knew how to define myself. Or how to function. So I just stopped doing things that were no longer necessary for survival. I stopped cooking, cleaning, and taking out the garbage. I've mentioned this here before, but I think it helps me to face reality when I repeat it a few times.

So the place was an absolute hell-hole. I took out no less than 15 bags full of garbage the other day. I am not exaggerating at all. I made so many trips to the dumpters downstairs that I exhausted myself. I worked for hours. And then, just like that, you could see the living room floor! Progress. Finally, progress. Spooky got freaked out by all the changes occuring in the little apartment that is usually in the same disastrous state at all times now. She stayed in the kitchen, perched on a chair, watching me. The next day (yesterday), I borrowed a vaccuum cleaner from my mom, since mine is broke. I started vaccuuming, which is something I really hate doing because it leads to physical pain from my chronic illnesses. (Sorry if that sounds like a lame excuse, it's just the truth). So I got started....

I'm glad I did this, but at the same time, I know it's not much indication that I am doing better. Because I am not really doing well at all. I just decided that the state of disaster had to be dealt with, so I forced myself to deal with it. I get these panicky states of angst and anxiety from facing the mess, so I would stop for a few minutes, sit down until I stopped freaking out, and then get back to work. I think if I can keep this up at least a couple days a week, for a few weeks, or maybe just one week, the whole apartment could be presentable to others. I'd be able to let my caseworker in without severe humiliation when she wants to do her next home visit. I could let the maintenance person for the apartment building in to fix the sink that has been broken for months. I could let the pest control person in, which might help get rid of Spooky's flea problem. And I could feel better about the place in which I live.

At the same time, however, I am failing my classes, and I have basically given up on them both. For all intents and purposes, I have just stopped even trying to work on my college courses. Every time I sit down with a book, and try to read something, my mind wanders, and I cannot concentrate on the material. I read it, then reread it, and I freak out with anxiety about my inability to understand what I am reading. Then I give up. Then I just do internet activism, or write emails, which distracts me from the lack of progress happening in the rest of my life.

I was thinking about this last night, and came to the conclusion that perhaps I do not really stand a chance of ever completing college. Horrible as that thought is to me (and it is, truly, horrible to the point it just makes me want to die right away), I think it is a prospect that I have to face. It is possible, also, that I could finish college, and that the degree I got would not lead me to being able to find a better job with a better salary anyway. So then all the loans I've had to take out for college would be impossible to repay. Also, it is possible that I will not be mentally and physically capable of working full-time anywhere, with or without a degree, in the future, just like I am not up to it now. It is possible that even if I finally got my degree, I would be so old by the time I got it that it would not render me into having a new career in anything. It is possible that school, for me, is pointless at the age I am at now. It is possible that there is no point to it.

I do not enjoy this line of thinking, by any stretch of the imagination. I am just realizing that it is reality, and that I have been hiding from reality for a while, which has not been a useful tactic to take in life.

Well, maybe I'll add more to this later. I am losing my train of thought now.

Edit: Kate ~ I just stopped over at your blog and noticed you posted on a very similar issue to this one just yesterday. How ironic. I left a comment there, and it is good to know that I am not alone with this problem. Thanks, as always, for the comments you leave here and I will be in touch with you.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

drowning

I do not feel well. I mean, physically and mentally, I do not feel like my self. I think I have become overcome by depression. I am so tired, I feel like I have been drugged with some kind of tranquilizer. I wonder about my thyroid, for I have a problem with mild hypothyroidism, and I have not bothered to get any blood work done to have it checked out in like a year. I just never bother with things like that anymore.

I went down to the local Obama campaign office today. I thought, I'll contribute an hour or two calling people, and then I'll feel like I've done something worthy of being alive. I went there, and the place was jam-packed with people, both paid organizers and volunteers, all standing in this tiny office, with nowhere to sit, and a Congresswoman was there speaking. I didn't really care about the Congresswoman, I just knew I needed to sit down. I don't mention this a lot here, but I have Fibromyalgia and an autoimmune disease. I do not do well with standing, espcially when I'm not feeling well. So I needed to sit down, and I wanted to just call people and not stand up feeling faint and listening to some politician talk. But that wasn't possible. So I just left.

Then I came to the library. Ostensibly, I came here to do work for my classes. But because I cannot think, I cannot do work on my classes. I cannot read. I bet I could win an award for the most hours spent in bookstores and libraries while simultaneously not being able to actually read anything. I wonder if they give out medals for that somewhere. Please let me know if they do.

So what I've been doing is playing on Facebook, adding activist graphics to Facebook pages. This isn't entirely pointless, but considering the insurmountable mountain of things that I need to be taking care of in my life right now, spending hours on Facebook is quite stupid and definitely pointless. But that's all I feel like I can do right now.

I'm not sure I could talk, even if I had someone to talk to. There are a couple people I could call, but I do not feel up to talking. The last two times - maybe the last three times - I saw my therapist, I barely talked. This is not like me. I am usually up for talking in therapy, but not these days. These days I stare at things, and I listen, and I think, and I don't talk much. It's hard to even write this right now. I feel like I am drowning.

Perhaps taking the other damn antidepressant I'm supposed to be taking would help, but I really do not think it would. I've been on it before - for like 9 years - and it stopped working. I have really no faith left in the capabilities of my nurse practitioner who prescribes my medication. To be honest with you, I don't think she's very knowledgable about research or about how to help someone like me. I don't think she has spent enough time with me to understand what I need in the first place, and I don't think she gets enough free time to read research on the latest medications. I guess it doesn't really matter, because chances are that I would be like this no matter who my doctor was, but I sometimes wonder...I sometimes think, "I'll see that other doctor who is registered with the associations for medical people and has a good reputation". I even know this guy's name and have a vague idea of where his office is. Actually I think I saw him about 12 years ago, but I'm not sure, because I don't really remember. I think, "I'll go to him and get my medications changed; hell, I might even get a different diagnosis, and maybe he can actually help me." And then I think, "What is really the point, anyway?" And then I never go. This has been an ongoing process of thinking about it and not doing it, for like two years.

I'm tired. I know I said that already, but it's hard to put words to the kind of fatigue I am experiencing right now and it scares me. I know how it is to get physically ill to the point you cannot physically get out of bed, even when there is nothing much mentally wrong. I don't want to live through another period like that again. I know I should go to the rheumatologist and get the bloodwork done. When I broke my ankle last year, I was told I have Osteoporosis, and I was supposed to get a bone density test. I never got it done. That was nearly a year ago now. I can't believe it's been a year. I kept putting it off, like I do with medical things because I cannot stand to expend energy on thinking about being sick anymore, and I cannot stand to spend hours on end in doctors' offices, because I did that for so many years, I cannot even begin to tell you how depressing it is to even contemplate going back to being a frequent visitor of doctors. I won't do it. So I don't. So, I feel sick.

There was a time when I only had the medical issues, and not the psychiatric diagnosis, to worry about. That was an easier time. It's not like that now. Now, I go in and I have to say, "yes, I take these meds for Schizophrenia, but I REALLY AM PHYSICALLY ALSO ILL, and you must listen to me, because I'm not just a crazy hypochondriac." And the thing is, I don't want to spend my energy on having that conversation. So I intentionally avoid it. I read a statistic recently that was rather frightening. It was from a government study on Schizophrenia. It said that people with Schizophrenia are less likely than other people to get medical care for physical illnesses, and that the average person with Schizophrenia dies 25 years (that's not a typo, 25 YEARS), earlier than someone without Schizophrenia.

So I guess I need to be retiring soon, since I'm 33 and the future isn't looking to bright for me...

I don't think I can even write anymore right now. Sorry, this is an odd post.

Friday, October 17, 2008

The jig is up

Edited to Add:
In case this is not clear, the song at the bottom of this post (and its title is the title of the post) is in reference to my life situation, and not in reference to suicide or ending my life or anything like that. If I was going to kill myself, I would do it and not write about it on the internet. I have tried it before. I have also lived a zillion days full of suicidal thoughts. I'm still alive. So, that should explain some things. I realized that after I wrote thise post it was not entirely clear what I meant by the title.

"The Jig is Up" is a song I like, and it feels relevant to me due to my school situation which can no longer be denied as a real problem, the end of my realtionship with my closest friend who now despises me and completely ignores my existence on this planet, the end of my relationship with my boyfriend last January, from which I have not entirely recovered, and other things. So it wasn't intended to be a reference to the end of my life. I hope I have cleared this up now. Thanks.


So I am in a conundrum. Basically, I cannot possibly catch up on all the work I have not gotten done in both of the classes I'm talking. I also cannot drop these classes, because if I do that, I'll have to repay the college loans I have taken out, and I cannot afford to repay them. One reason I have the running joke that I'm moving to Cuba if McCain is elected is that Cuba offers free dental care to all citizens. I had ten cavities, several half-done root canals (they needed crowns a couple years ago), and other bad dental issues going on the last time I was at the dentist, which was last year. I need my student loan money, partly to cover dental work.

I am sorry to bore you with this information, but I have an autoimmune disease called Sjogren's Syndrome, and what that does is lessen the amount of saliva you have, so that you end up with a lot of dental problems healthy people don't tend to get. And that costs a lot of money, especially since I do get Medicare, and Medicare does not provide any dental care at all. I do not get Medicaid, and when I did, Medicaid only covered having teeth pulled out. See, in the United States, poor people don't deserve teeth. That is the rule. So nobody I know who is on disability gets to see a dentist.

This is part of the conundrum. The other part is, I need to finish my degree. I was going to finish it next spring (the AA degree, which I've worked on off and on for 15 years). But now, it looks like that is not going to happen. And because of this, along with other issues such as lack of friends, I want to die most of the time these days. Which is, of course, a problem. My therapist is always trying to convince me that life would be just find and dandy without a college degree. I'm sure it would be for many people. I have had this goal, however, my entire life, and if I give up on that, well, then I will not have much left in its place. I didn't get to go to any of the great schools I could have attended if I was not sick. I did not get to go at a young age, like straight out of high school. I did not get to go after a Master's Degree. But I'll be damned if I'm going to give up on my little AA degree I've been trying to get for fifteen years, because I have given up on enough things already, and I'm done with that.

So I want to stay in these two classes. I want to, and I think I have a right to. I think, selfishly, I deserve the damned degree because I've put so much effort into it despite so many damned obstacles, and for so many years, that it is quite ridiculous I do not have it already. So to not get it at all, well, that is just not acceptable. Not a plan I'm willing to accept. Of course, if I end up killing myself, it won't much matter if I had a degree or not or almost got one or didn't or anything. But I'm not planning on killing myself. I'm not sure what exactly I am going to do, but I've lived through many periods of suicidal thoughts and urges in my life. This is just one more. It might last a long time, but it will, eventually, go away. I think. So life will go on. I think....

I really miss people that I used to have in my life. My closest friend was someone online who I was friends with for eleven years, and this person no longer talks to me, because I was very mean and said some terrible things a couple months ago, and he is probably never going to talk to me again. I miss my ex-boyfriend, Jim the Plumber (who, unlike the Republican Joe, really was a plumber), and he was not even nice to me much of the time. But I functioned better with him around. I stopped cleaning and cooking when Jim moved out. I stopped grocery shopping. I stopped entering the kitchen long enough to do anything other than feed the cat. It's been ten months now. I have not resumed any of those activities. I have not gotten over it. I do not miss Jim anymore, but I still don't go into the kitchen, because the kitchen makes me think of Jim and making Jim's coffee every morning at 5 AM, and making Jim's lunch before he left for work, and cooking Jim's dinner every night. I don't bother to cook for myself. I eat fast food, or I don't eat. And that is how I have been living for ten months. Very pathetic, and very embarrassing, but true, nonetheless.

I'm not asking for advice here. In fact, I don't think there is any advice anybody could give that would help me resolve this current conundrum, and my lack of functioning. I don't think my medication is enough to get me out of it, either. I think that, like many other times, I will have to pull myself out of it somehow, through willpower, and stubborn determination, or I won't and I'll just end up in a hospital again, which would probably be the easier answer. I'm pretty sure nothing much could help right now. I just needed to talk about some of these things in order to vent, because even though I know 200 people on Facebook, I really have about 2 friends who I ever talk to much, and the rest of the time I'm mostly alone, and often very lonely. I do not know how to make friends, as I think I've mentioned here before. I have plenty of acquaintances, but not a lot of friends. And losing my best friend has been very difficult.

Lyrics to "The Jig is Up", by Jill Sobule

If I had a lot of money
I'd move to another country
I'd disappear, not tell a soul, I'd change my name
Or maybe I'd go back to school
Major in something foolish
And I could do it cause I'd have a lot of money
Here I am holding on to childhood's dream
Sitting in my apple tree
Swaying as the branches tremble under me

The jig is up, it's all been played
The well is dry, the bed's been made
The jig is up, the jig is up

Maybe I could jump,
Jump off the Brooklyn Bridge
But I don't live in Brooklyn
And I don't know how to swim
Or I could find religion
go on some kind of mission
Feed the poor, and then I would go to heaven
if I believed in heaven

Here I am, holding on to childhood's dream
Standing on the balcony
Waiting for someone to come and rescue me

The jig is up, the dance is done
The record skips, the song's been sung
The troops have dwindled down to one
The jig is up
The jig is up, the sun has set
The train is wrecked, the sheets are wet
And like I said, the jig is up

Well I can't really disappear
Cause I don't have a lot of money
And I don't really think I wanna
go back to school
But maybe I'm just in a bad mood
And I need to change my attitude
And when I wake up tomorrow
I'll believe in heaven

Here I am, holding on to childhood's dream
Climbing down the apple tree
Waking as you pull the covers off of me
The jig is up

The jig is up, yes it's been tough
The punch is drunk, the shrink is shrunk
It's time to get the baby up
It's off to work let's start the car
We'll turn it over in its grave
And start again its soul to save
The jig is up but so what
We'll fill again this empty cup
The jig is up, the point's been made
Elvis has just left the stage
The story needs another twist
And I have had enough of this

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The connections between poverty, homelessness, and mental illness

I just found out, via the Red Cross of Tampa Bay, that today is Blog Action Day, and people around the world with blogs are asked to write about poverty today. This is ironic, because I was having a conversation, a few hours ago, with a former professor of mine at my school, regarding mental illness and homelessness. Today was Disability Awareness Day on my campus, and I participated as a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), handing out information to students and others regarding mental health resources in Pinellas County, where I live, and NAMI meetings. When speaking with my former professor, we were talking about how many mentally ill people end up homeless. This is a very large number of individuals. Many people who are homeless and dealing with a mental illness that is untreated, also end up in jails frequently, because of petty crimes that are related to living on the streets. Often, these people end up in emergency rooms, because they have no health insurance or anywhere else to go for medical care. The costs of keeping mentally ill people in jails and treating them in emergency rooms, and driving them in police cars and ambulances is estimated by some social service organizations to be mucy higher than the cost of actually helping them in a meaningful way that addresses the root cause of their problems.

Also, as a member of NAMI pointed out to the St. Petersburg Times during our Mental Illness Awareness Week walk this past weekend, the most mentally ill people in one place in Pinellas County are in the county jail.
This recent article, from the Salt Lake Tribune address this topic. The largest number of mentally ill people housed in one facility within the United States is the number held in the Los Angeles County Jail. Jail is, obviously, not an ideal setting for someone to receive mental health care. If you have any questions about this, you should read Pete Early's book on mental health in the U.S. and the bizarre situation of people going through the revolving doors of jails, homeless shelters, the streets, and courts, while not being adequately treated anywhere. A woman who stopped by my table at the college awareness day event today, spoke about her son who is mentally ill and in prison, and her ex-husband, who had been in a similar situation, and suffered from Schizophrenia, before he committed suicide this past spring.

Millions of people have stories like these. Mental illness affects one out of every four Americans at some point in their lives. Schizophrenia, from a recent statistic I read, is actually twice as common as HIV/AIDS. I sometimes wonder about all the pink-ribboned items sold in the drugstores to raise awareness for breast cancer along with all the walks for awareness for breast cancer, the commercials about breast cancer, the celebrities who have suffered from breast cancer and come out to talk about it in public. I wonder, where is our pink ribbon? Or blue ribbon? Or black ribbon? Where are our celebrities?? Surely Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and other serious mental illnesses affect a number of celebrities (and I mean, besides Patty Duke), so where are these people at when the public service announcements are being filmed?? Where do these people hide?? Where are all our dedicated activists who are joining the cause just because someone they knew had a mental illness, or because their mother has one, or because they themselves have one? I know they exist, but when do we ever hear about them outside of the organizations that exist to advocate for mental health awareness?

Back in 1999, I became homeless for the first time. I used to think of this as an economic issue, or an issue that was caused by my physical health problems, or an issue related to family squabbles. It was, however, fundamentally, a mental health issue, because while I was in the process of moving into a homeless shelter, and then into my car, I was also hallucinating for the first time in my life. I was manic on some days, suicidally depressed others, and constantly in a panicky state of extreme anxiety and confusion. I had no idea, then, that I would be diagnosed with Schizophrenia many years later. I had no idea, then, that I was part of a group of people called "the homeless mentally ill". I had no idea, then, that it was not the last time I would experience homelessness, and that later, when I was homeless again, I would be far more sick, more psychotic, and unmedicated, and confused. I have always had a keen understanding of the feminist principle that "the personal is political". I understood this from a young age, and I saw the connections between situations in my own, little life, and the bigger picture of the patriarchal society in which we live. But I did not understand, back then, the intimate connections between poverty, homelessness, mental illness, and also, being female.

Now, as a feminist, as an advocate for myself and for others with mental illnesses, as a person concerned about poverty (who has lived most of her adult life in poverty), and homelessness, I know more. I understand more. And I want to tell others, so that they understand also. Any of these problems: poverty, homelessness, mental illness or a terrible combination of the three, can happen to anybody at any time. Just this past week, there have been articles in the U.S. media about formerly wealthy people committing suicide when their stocks plummeted and they lost their fortunes. The suicide rate, the domestic violence hotline call rates, and other indications of social problems have gone sky-high since this financial crisis started. But, these problems always exist, all the time, at rates which are far too-high for any responsible society to uphold. These problems are not addressed enough by enough people, and particularly not be enough people who have enough power to do anything to create enough change in our society. Change is needed, and whether Obama is elected or not, I hope that the people in the United States will continue to demand change from their elected officials, will speak up about social problems, will educate themselves, and will talk about how these problems have personally affected them as individuals. As the great Audre Lorde famously said, "Your silence will not protect you." I firmly believe this is true.

Most homeless people, which you will realize if you know much about homelessness, are not standing on street corners with signs that say, "Will Work for Food". Most homeless people in the United States are women. Most poor people in the world, are women. Most poor people in the United States living on welfare are white women. Most poor people in the United States are not the people you see standing on the corners with signs trying to get money for a drink or a meal. They are living in cars, in shelters (both domestic violence shelters and homeless shelters), in tent cities, in motel rooms, in rented rooms, on couches of family members or friends, under bridges on the streets, etc....but they are not holding a sign. You don't see a lot of homeless women who are on street corners holding signs. Women who are homeless have to worry about things that men who are homeless do not have to be concerned about - such as being raped, or being violently attacked and being unable to defend themselves. Women who are homeless are, in fact, quite frequently raped, and I have known women who have been through violent attacks. Women often have children in tow, as well, and you probably don't see a lot of fathers with their kids on the street corners, because they have usually left their kids in someone else's care before they got to the street corner with the sign. The women who are homeless and happen to be mothers usually also have kids who are homeless. So they are not alone. This, in itself, leads to another aspect of poverty: the inability to afford child care so one can work, a problem which keeps many women down and out for years.

If you read about homeless women, or women in poverty, or even working women in poverty, you will learn more about the connection between femaleness and being poor. This connection has been established for a very long time, and is well-documented, but not discussed frequently enough, just as the connections between poverty and homelessness and mental illness are not discussed frequently enough, and just as the connections between poverty, homelessness, and being arrested and put in jail with mental illness are not discussed frequently enough. It is time to step out of our comfort zones, people. It is time to start discussing these things. Discuss how they have affected you directly. Discuss how they have affected your friends, family members, and neighbors. Discuss what you are going to do about and what you expect your elected officials to do about it. Talk about the silenced topics. That is the only way that we will ever create effective social change. And the time for change is past-due.

Monday, October 06, 2008

another day

So, I am not doing so well with the depression thing. This is one of the stories of my life.

All the ugly, old thought return: hang yourself, slit your wrists in the bathtub, cut yourself to feel better (where's a razor? where's a knife?), buy a gun again, shoot yourself in the head, smash your car into the side of the Skyway Bridge again, jump from the bridge, overdose.

These thoughts run in the background of my mind, all the time.

Whatever, whatever.

I have mentioned before here how I am often lonely. Such is the case again, which is not much news, but is apparently part of the problem. I have one good friend who lives near me, and one former professor friend, and then I have one good internet friend. The rest of the people I used to talk to fell away, or are drug addicts or something of that nature. I have lots of acquaintences, but not a whole lot of friends. I have never been talented at making friends (or influencing people, as that dumb book says).

School, school.

I am behind again, as usual now. I don't seem capable of reading at all, so I just decided to wing and take this quiz without reading the three chapters on which it was based. I failed it. Genius idea.

I skipped work today and decided I didn't care if they fire me because, frankly, I don't like the job much, and getting through school is more important than where I work to make ridiculously low wages. I do need the job, so I will go back tomorrow. But not today. I was trying to read today. That was the plan. Plan failed.

My family stresses me out, as usual. I don't talk about them much on here, because they might read what I write here. I will say that my mother has caused me a lot of stress for a lot of years and I can't always deal with more of it. So I told her off, and I don't really care that it wasn't very nice, because you can't always be nicey nice with people who are completely ignoring your right to be free of their misery. For example, you do not have to read this boring blog post about my problems. But my mom thinks I need to hear her problems, and my sister's problems, on the phone, every day of my life, and doesn't care that it makes my own illness worse to have to be burdened with this additional stress. She just doesn't care. Some people are like that.

That's about all I have to say for now. Sorry it is not too interesting. Things will get better eventually.

I am halfway considering, possibly venturing into a hospital, but I know that it won't help anything to do that, and it will put me farther behind in school (again), and possibly cause me to lose my job (again), which would, in turn, cause me to lose my apartment (again), so I really need to avoid that situation.

Friday, October 03, 2008

the mercy of the fallen

I have loved this song for years...It's absolutely beautiful. I'm listening to it right now, rocking out in a computer lab at my school like a little kid in a candy shop! It's by Dar Williams, who's a feminist folk-rocker, singer/songwriter. It's from the album The Beauty of the Rain, circa a few years back. I am very grateful for the humble friends I've found in my life - the ones who are still around, and the ones who dropped out of sight.

Oh my fair North Star
I have held to you dearly
I have asked you to steer me
Til one cloud scattered night
I got lost in my travels
I met Leo the Lion
Met a king and met a giant, with their errant knight

There's the wind
And the rain
And the mercy of the fallen
Who say they have no claim
To know what's right
There's the weak
And the strong
And the beds that have no answers
And that's where I may rest my head tonight

I saw all the bright people
In imposing flocks they landed
And they got what they demanded
And they scratched at the ground
Then they flew, and the field
Grew as sweetly for the flightless
Who had longing yet despite this
They could hear every sound

There's the wind
And the rain
And the mercy of the fallen
Who say they have no claim
To know what's right

If your sister or your brother were stumbling on their last mile
In a self-inflicted exile
Wish for them a humble friend
And I hope someday that the best of Falstaff's planners
Give me seven half-filled manors
Where half-dreams may dream
Without end

There's the wind
And the rain
And the mercy of the fallen
Who say, "Hey, it's not my place
To know what's right"
There's the weak
And the strong
And the many stars that guide us
We have some of them inside us

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