Without trying to explain every little thing that’s happened in the past 5 years, I should tell you that a change is coming, and though it’s not really a planned change, it may be a good one.
Five years ago I was nearing the end of my rope. Physically and emotionally fatigued, I was losing hope. I saw the end approaching and didn’t care. It took the efforts of people who knew my situation dragging me into the social services offices of Metro government, to get me to apply for a housing program. And I say “dragged” because I really was reluctant. Even then, it took another year before I was given the housing. It shouldn’t have taken that long, my case had hit a snag. It took a lawyer friend to call on a Senator to inquire as to the hold up. That seemed to get the wheels in motion. In the last days of March 2007, I moved into an efficiency apartment in a 16 unit building dedicated to housing chronically homeless people.
These past 5 years have been something of a respite – a chance to cool my heels, relax, and recuperate. It also became a time of searching and of discovery about myself. It wasn’t always fun living around other chronically homeless people in this building. Drug using and drug selling were common on the property One neighbor had a penitent for setting the place on fire. Schizophrenics would have screaming matches with invisible foes in the middle of the night. Still, it was much better than being on the streets or staying in a homeless shelter. It was 200 square feet all to my self. I could cook my own food when I had food, I could shower whenever I wanted, I could sleep as much as I wanted.
One of my favorite quotes is “The truth will set you free,” because, as I’ve always contended, once people know the true reason “why and how” they became homeless,they can take the right steps to overcoming their problems and leave homelessness. Up to this point, though, I could not figure out my own path out of homelessness. Every attempt I made, however temporarily successful, resulted in me becoming homeless again. The “just get a job” approach didn’t work, neither did the “accept Jesus as your personal savior,” concept.
There were things from my past, things that took place before I ever became homeless, (running away from home, suicide attempts) that had me thinking the root of my problems was psychological. And so that’s what I’ve been focusing on. For the past 5 years I’ve been working with case managers, social workers, therapists, and psychologists, trying to figure out the cause, and solution, to my perpetual homelessness.
It began with acknowledging my constant state of depression, (something I’ve suffered from since a child). Though I worked on handling my depression, I was still having problems. It seemed as though depression was not my only problem Then I learned about the issue of anxiety. Comparing my life events with symptoms of anxiety, I knew that anxiety was a big part of my life. Yet as I was working on my depression and anxiety it became clear that there was a deeper issue, my mental health progress was still being hindered. Eventually I discovered that the source of my depression and anxiety was Asperger’s Syndrome – a form of high functioning Autism. And it wasn’t the Asperger’s alone that was causing me problems. There were also childhood issues due to my parent’s misunderstanding my condition, labeling me a bad child, believing I was purposely behaving badly, and trying to correct my behavior with punishment. Of course the punishments didn’t turn me into a normal child so they ultimately rejected me as their child, turned their back on me, and that caused a great deal of psychological harm. There was also the matter of my several years living in homeless shelters that caused a form of institutionalization to set in.
Though my mental health condition has now been correctly identified, another issue has arisen. There is no “cure” for Asperger’s. There are coping skills I am developing and am incorporating into my daily life. But the extent of my condition prevents me from moving on to a level of independence whereby I could life successfully without outside support. My behavior will always be insufficient for independent living.
And so, after due consideration of my condition, I have been put on social security disability. I now receive a check from the government to cover the most basic of living costs. Still the amount I receive is way below the poverty line. My current case manager came to me about 6 months ago, saying that he believed I would be a good candidate for disability. I never believed that about myself, never thought I’d actually qualify. But then, I was living in a state of denial about the full extent of my condition. Denial was my parents method of dealing with things, (though really, denial is the opposite of “dealing” with things, it was just their way of sweeping difficult things under the rug). Denial is what I was taught. It was how I lived my life. It prevented me from coming to an understanding about my condition earlier.
Being declared “disabled” for a mental health issue is a mind blowing experience, and I’ve been reeling from it ever since. It has me questioning my entire existence, self perception, who am I really? what is my actual worth? what I am going to do with myself? Especially now that I’m in my 50s. Do I live out the rest of my life like some kind of “ward of the state”? Is there anything I am really capable of doing effectively?
I don’t have any answers. And I wonder if it’s even possible to have any answers. Well, sure, I can always come up with answers, but are they real answers, or am I just be BSing myself, as people in denial are prone to do?
What now? Well, perhaps it’s time to try and figure out some answers to those questions. Perhaps it’s time to take the next step in my journey though life. I really have no idea what’s going to happen, except that things will have to change. Change is good, right?