Homelessness and The Mentally Ill

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Well, here I am in Toronto, Canada’s largest city and I have been having a great time.  I have spent a lot of my month here just decompressing from the stress I was experiencing in Edmonton.  I have a heart for homeless people, and I am under the strong belief that a lot of them are actually just untreated mentally ill people.  I recall one day while I wasn’t in the best head space myself being in downtown Vancouver and seeing a man with a tinfoil hat and instead of mocking him or giving him change or anything I just stopped and saluted him and he gave me a smile.  I also think though that there are some horrible people out there who understand how delusional thinking works and they say things to make you think your delusions are real.  Sadly I have done it myself, one time in a Psychiatric ward there was a woman who was always causing me grief.  One time she even came up to me and kissed me and said we had already been married.  Another time my Dad came to visit and she walked up to him and told him I was a bad person and that he should spank me.  I got back at her one day by telling her she had just been on TV and that she was going on a rocket ship to space because she had discovered a new planet.  For days she went around introducing herself as an astronaut, which seems a bit funny, but really is terribly cruel.  In Edmonton there was a young man I see a lot, he has red hair and he is homeless and a couple of times I have given him food or money and once I stopped to talk to him and found out that we had gone to the same junior high and had some of the same teachers.  He also told me that he suffered from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  What is kind of scary I think is that I live in a group home that is very beneficial to my mental health and a lot better than any other group homes I have seen, but it is only set up to house 20 men while there are literally thousands out there who need places like this, many of them completely homeless.

I don’t know if I have discussed this much, but I kind of feel that addiction is a form of mental illness.  I was told during an interview I did for a volunteer radio station by one of Edmonton’s top Psychiatrists that a huge mistake people make is to see alcohol and marijuana as benign drugs.  I know my  brother went through hell because of his heavy pot use and that my Dad literally caused himself frontal lobe damage with years of drinking.  I have dodged these two bullets, but I came across something worse, a gambling addiction which nearly destroyed me.  All these things I should say go hand in hand with Bipolar/Manic Depression.  In the care and treatment of your illness, I strongly urge people on psychiatric medications of any kind to be completely abstinent and to be extremely careful about anything that can be addictive.  In a way, I have also had something many people would consider Obsessive Compulsive, namely that just about all through my life I have collected collections.  It began with stuffed animals, then moved to stamps then books, then GI Joe toys, then comic books and on and on up to right now when I still buy more books than I ever have time to read.  And the funny thing is that with a lot of strength and effort I have been able to overcome these addictions but I have to be very much on my guard because often another addiction will come around the corner at me.  I think one of the most important ways to stay psychologically (as opposed to medically, or in a psychiatric sense dealing with body chemistry and all that) is to have a support group, perhaps many of them.  Sometimes I count the people I meet some mornings at the swimming pool as a group but there are many more kinds, addiction support, writing groups and on and on.  These are great ways to make close friends outside the field of mental health treatment, though, as I had done through the schizophrenia society and a program called the Wellness Recovery Action Plan it never hurts to learn more about how to manage and cope with your mental health issue.

 

Homeless

I sit in loneliness hunger and pain
Facing a night out on the streets again
Walking for miles to where I hid my things
Waiting for the cold each night always brings

My thin bony legs ache and my feet are worn and raw
I think back to days when I would sit and dream and draw
I could have been an artist if I tried
But life all fell apart when my mom died

She was a sweet and loving woman and she cared
One night her boyfriend beat her and I got scared
I tried to stop him and he turned his wrath on me
That night my body was broken, my mom’s soul set free

I wish I could be with her on awful days like this
How she would always bring home a candy bar and a kiss
Now I get a bottle one way or another every night
And my inner will is slowly giving up the fight

In foster homes all they gave was more discipline
I learned to drink and hide my pain deep within
Soon the bottle was the only God I knew
I pray you won’t let this happen to you

If I could only have peace and space to draw like I once could
But that rotten jerk my mother loved took that away for good
I’m only in my forties but my joints all ache
I’ve lost every little thing anyone could take

I feel so worthless now I barely get through each day
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have something to say
You can have a future if you make the proper choice
We all have inside of us a very special voice

Please don’t play the judge even when you see
A dirty smelly homeless guy like me
A lot of us have lost so much it’s just day to day
When you’re this far gone there is no other way

For those of you who practice and believe
There is a way to lighten my load and make you free
It was our Lord Jesus who spelled out how it should be
What you do for the least of my brothers you do for me

Leif Gregersen
August 24, 2015

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