posted on Dec, 23 2014 @ 09:06 PM
One year ago tonight, minus three hours, I was sitting in a cafeteria eating Christmas dinner. Honey baked ham, some instant mashed potatoes and baked
beans. There was cake for dessert. All in all there were about forty of us in that room, staff included.
You see, I was residing in a group home.
How I got there is a story unto itself but the short version is that I had spent several years fighting Social Security for disability benefits.
Anyone who has ever dealt with this can attest that, short of a life and death illness, the process is very slow and meant to confuse the applicant
into making mistakes - forcing one to return to step-one over and over again. During that fight a relative developed a drug issue and I offered to
take him in, as family is family and I thought I could scare him straight.
Instead his presence simply helped pull me down into bankruptcy far faster than it would have taken me alone.
My family, whom I love to death, are very much in the Ayn Rand crowd. Social Darwinists. So, when I fell and hit bottom, what I got was a lot of pep
talks about boot straps and the promise that they would never embarrass me by enabling me. For those who don't know this type of logic - the rough
translation is "You need help? Oh Hell no! That's MY money and I earned it!"
No money, no home, no anything, I broke down and ended up in a "mental health crisis center" for eight days. That is where my miracle began.
For years I had been seeking help with depression and anxiety and simply not finding it. I have reactions to most antidepressants and doctors seem
trained ( or paid ) to want to prescribe the same ones over and over again. Thus my life had become a cycle. I would go to a doctor, be prescribed
medication that made me dealthly ill ( I was hospitalized twice from just one popular antidepressant and my allergic reaction to it - a reaction most
doctors swear is impossible ), argue with said doctor, quit said doctor and begin looking for a new one.
In my world this was me trying to find help. On paper it became known as "Doctor shopping / drug seeking". This little addendum to my medical
records ( now removed ) crippled my ability to find help much, much more deeply. Doctors no longer patronized me, they simply refused to talk to
The doctor in the mental health crisis center, however, ignored the bulk of the garbage, and actually treated me like a person, quickly finding meds
That week flew by - weeks spent in donated sweat clothing and non-stop group therapy probably usually do.
As the week ended I became acutely aware of a very difficult fact. I had nowhere to go. I brought this up to my case worker and she pulled a few
strings and got me a bed in a group facility. I don't know how to describe the place, as it was not a homeless shelter, nor a halfway house, nor a
rehab, nor a nursing home... but a bit of each of the above and then more. It was not a charity either ( though they say they are - they actually
charge a pretty steep rent of $1,200 a month - paid, after the fact, by my Social Security lump sum.)
But it was a home. And there I sat a year ago. Eating some pretty bad food ( that I was very thankful for ) and having received a few gifts from
Churches that had come through over the previous week. It's funny how many people think that soap is the perfect gift for people in facilities. We
got soap whenever we needed it - yet I walked away from Christmas with about twenty bars and about ten different deodorants.
Fast forward a year...
I am typing this from my own home. A home I share with a sibling and pay half of the bills for ( In truth I pay more than half - but don't bring it
up because greed isn't worth it and the rate is fair enough to me ). Where I used to share a middle sized bedroom with three other men, I now have a
finished basement that is far larger than I will ever manage to utilize. I could build a full gym in here, toss in a pool table, and still have enough
room for it to feel empty.
it's a nice feeling. Privacy and space.
My family, as self-absorbed as they used to be, finally evolved a bit during my year away and began to understand that illness is illness and not
something to shame or punish. A HUGE leap for them. Where they once saw me as weak, they now comment upon how strong I am to have carried my burdens
as far as I did - and continue to do.
My children, formerly estranged from me - with me too self-conscious and ashamed to approach them, are both now a part of my life. It is still a work
in progress and things are slow - but there is progress and it's the most beautiful and wonderful thing life has ever given me. I can't blame them
for being slow to accept an absentee dad at face value. It's up to me to rebuild bridges and explain the reasons why.
The point is that a year ago tonight I had a place to be, but not a home - and I could not, for the life of me, see any light at the end of the
tunnel. I was alive - and that was about it.
Today? Today I am in that light I could not see. It's not all rainbows and unicorns by any means. Life is hard work. Being happy takes effort. Being
positive takes even more. But I am doing all of it. I am living and not just surviving. I am filled with the joy of life again. I am grateful for so
This is relevant because most of you fall into that category. This place, you people. You are all part of the blessing. You are all part of my
Happy Holidays ATS - from a not-so secret admirer.