Personal Expression, Release, and Exploration of the theme of "Breaking"

shatteredandshining says:
July 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm
I was homeless at times during a seven year period I lived in San Francisco from age 18 to 25. I didn’t usually sleep outside, but slept in a multitude of places from crashing in places of people who I had just met that day and going to a different place every night or few nights, to staying in squat houses, to crashing in a friend’s truck and an office building. I did sleep in the outdoors a little bit, in the park a couple of times for week to two week periods, and on the actual streets just a few nights. One thing was that I was never physically alone (though mentally, I was). I always had fellow humans to stay with/crash with/ camp out with. One night, just one, I stayed on the beach dunes alone.

In the times when I wasn’t homeless I often lived at run down welfare hotels, called SRO’s (single room occupancy).

The whole time I lived there I think I may have only lived in regular apartments (rooms for rent with rotates) twice, for a month or two at a time on both occasions.

I indeed was mentally ill from when I was twenty one. I suffered recurring bad depression, severe anxiety, and some mild dissociation, oh, and my primary diagnosis, OCD.

I was helped by an organization started by a very compassionate woman, whose name was Mary Kate Connor, who was a survivor of clinical depression herself. The organization was called Caduceus Outreach Services. It was to help the homeless mentally ill and those who couldn’t get mental health services elsewhere. They had psychiatrists who volunteered their time. I was far from cured and still suffered but they were a degree of stability in a very unstable internal world.

I associated a lot of my time with people who were homeless, near homeless, mentally ill, drug addicted, etc. it was quite a world. I had numerous romantic relationships that never worked out.

When I was twenty five, in 1999, my time there was up, I felt it was time to move on, and I returned to New Jersey, from which I’d come, and where I had family. I’ve been there since, I have a stable living situation for more than a decade now. I still struggle with mental illness issues, but am a thousand times more stable than I was then.

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Comments on: "A Piece Of My History (Homeless And Mentally Ill In San Francisco)" (13)

  1. When I was younger I dabbled with heroin and came across a lot of people with unstable living situations, i found a lot of people got to a point where they almost flipped a switch and stopped caring about the “normal” concerns like a bed and tv and bills and car payments, it became about finding somewhere to sleep and finding more heroin. I’m really pleased that you’re in a more stable situation and managed to find some help when you weren’t, there are some truly kind amazing people out there trying to make a difference, there are so many brick walls put up for these people but they keep bashing them down, brick by brick and thank goodness for them. It’s what I plan on doing with my life, as soon as i finish my degree (i’m an older student)

    • Yeah in my view society is really judgemental towards addiction and treats them as if they are less than human, and views them as “bad people” or as “losers,” etc. While I am certainly not advocating addiction and I think it’s awesome when people are able to break out of such vicious and life-destroying cycles, and although at this point I personally could not be in any kind of close personal association with the majority of those in active addiction, I think these are often misunderstood and deeply hurt people, and it is an enormous struggle to stop using, one which may go on for a long time for many, before they are able to get freedom from it. It is tragic when someone is trapped in it in many cases. It is true that many people are untrustworthy while active in their addictions, but not all are, and many of these people are at heart very good people who are in a state of desperate need and illness. Less judgement and more love are often called for. I think that’s very cool that you have seen it up close and first hand and are now going to take a path where you can use your experience to help.

  2. Yeah what the general population doesn’t get is that heroin is cashing in on good feelings we haven’t necessarily earned, when you feel the weight of the world crushing down on you all of the time it gives you a blissful ignorance and makes it all go away – temporarily. They get a bad wrap because unfortunately, you generally can’t trust them around items of value because they become consumed with feeding their habit and that does often include theft but I think they are dissociative about their theft, they don’t really feel they are hurting people they are just trying not to feel the pain. I nearly flipped the switch myself but I had things to hold onto, mine started out of chronic back pain and depression, I’m a middle class housewife, most people who know me would be terribly shocked to know all I’ve done but that’s the thing with stigma, it’s all about assumptions not facts and not real people. Drinking a bottle of wine a night is apparently acceptable for us housewives but smoke a little weed and you’re endangering your children’s well being, ha! I think I will definitely be a more effective social worker due to my past interactions with users and the drug itself 🙂

    • Myself I never had tried heroin, but I did dabble with methamphetamines when I was 18 to 19 and I crossed the line even though I did not become addicted (I never bought a bag and I never needed it every day to feel ok ), I did however use over and over despite the fact that each time it messed my head up and I’d tell myself I needed to stop, and the next time it was given to me, I’d do it gain. Finally I really realized it wasn’t worth it to keep going through that, after about a year of doing it whenever it was free, but it helped make it SO much easier that I never developed a real addiction.

      • I developed an addiction, I saw a really reckless GP who had me on massive doses of oxy, i tried to stop cold turkey and ended up having a breakdown. my friend’s ex saw me one day and he’s a user, he was like come to my car, so i did…i had a small taste and BAM, all the angst, all the dread, it all just went away, so even though my habit was small, it was relatively consistent for a number of months. i always felt like an alien in that world though, i never let go of wanting to have ‘stuff’ and paying my rent and all the other things that seem to stop mattering to people who just need to get high. I got out unscathed and i’m the exception to the rule, i thank my lucky stars because i know how easy it is to get stuck in the cycle and just keep using because it makes you feel so good so quickly and easily, you don’t have to fight for your happiness, you don’t have to earn it, you just inject it. I hung around some people that were on meth and they were always pretty intense, i never saw the appeal in it myself, i needed to calm my inner beast not rev it up. But i understand the appeal either way, i understand wanting to feel something else, something different to shitty.

      • Yeah, you are very lucky you were able to pull back without reaching that point! I think a lot of addiction, other than just the avoiding of the pain of kicking it, is self medication for deep unhappiness, pain, depression, anxiety, feelings of emptiness or wounded ness, and other negative mental states…as well as also psychological dependency that develops..

        Yeah with the meth, it was a great feeling of course being high on it, there was an intense euphoria and energy, I guess different people with different make ups are attracted to different types of substances. But with the meth 1) I would experience chemical depression and disconnection for a few days to a week after doing it, every single time, which I absolutely hated, and 2) I could feel that if I let it, it could replace things that were meaningful to me in my mind, things that were real, like connection with others, giving me happiness, so that the meth would be what was important, and I didn’t want that.

        I think too that using it was kind of a defense mechanism, to make me feel beyond my emotions, because I was a sensitive and emotional girl who got hurt easily. But I know now that although defense mechanisms can play good roles in our lives at times, that something which detaches me emotionally for more than a temporary mood, is not a good idea.

      • Yeah, speed was my drug of choice when I was about 18, that and ecstasy, I’ve been self medicating with anything and everything since I was about 14, I was abused growing up then abandoned and you’re right, usually it’s because there’s pain going on underneath and people are just desperate to distract themselves from it.

        May I ask what mental illness you’re diagnosed with? Are you on meds now? How does life go for you now? I’m quite curious aren’t i lol

  3. I’ve been thinking about life experiences and how they affect us alot lately (after the death of my brother-friend). And some of us have such struggles, had periods where I was homeless too (but never too myself to the shelters).

    It is very hard on the psyche/belief system and I think sends you reeling into the anxiety/depression. However I think these hard experiences can be a gift or curse in the long run. If you go in and pull out lessons, it can enrich you in alot of ways. Develop your mind, heart, spirit. If the depression doesn’t take you down that is.

    If you step over the experience some of the reasons we end up in those situations never get dealt with, and then repeated in some fashion at sometime. Most times.

    But all in all, these tough experiences can produce incredible character (insight, understanding, grasp, appreciation etc). At least it did in my friend, for a while……

    So I am sure you walk with a big stick (metaphor). Glad you found some stability with time.
    I know how important that is….

    • In my case the homelessness wasn’t so bad, though of course it did suck and did feel yes, a destabilizing force. But the experiences with the mental illness, that was a huge impact on my life and everything about it. And was extremely difficult and lonely…and still of course going through a lot of struggles in life but it is so much more stable…now…although believe me, I have some very dark and painful moods, and anxieties, that get triggered most often now related to abandonment issues…and the OCD in 2007 at the end of the year I had a breakdown where I was a prisoner mentally and for a few years following that I was struggling a LOT and chronically…it was a terrible way to have to live, but I had no choice.

      I do look for the good in struggles, it does develop character, strengths, empathy for others…it can give insight into what’s really important…it can get us closer to deeper ways of being… Not that it is enjoyable or good to go through it, but it has its redeeming qualities…that give some kind of meaning to it…it can make us realize more the importance of what really matters…

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