Two weeks ago I signed up with a city/county agency that is supposed to help me with the housing situation, but I won’t be able to relax until this is fixed. Plus I’m worried that they might try to move me into the sort of place in which I don’t want to live, or try to separate me from my dog Belle.
They’ve sent social workers out to my apartment at least five times this month for what I’ve called “suicide checks,” since I am indeed suicidal. ( I probably would’ve killed myself last year had I found a painless, fool-proof method on lostallhope.com but the best methods involve materials to which I have no access.) I’ve explained that if my housing situation can just be resolved in an agreeable manner, I should be okay, but if I lose my dog, home, and belongings, I’ll have no reason to live.
I’ve given them a copy of the letter my doctor wrote, declaring Belle as my official “Emotional Support Animal,” so I hope that carries some legal weight.
I’ve explained that I cannot live on the street, a homeless shelter, a group home, or anything ghastly like that. I need a clean, quiet, PRIVATE place for me and Belle and my stuff.
I’ve explained that I’ve not had steady, regular work in almost four years, am stuck in limbo waiting on a disability benefits hearing, and have exhausted the financial resources of family and friends.
In the meantime they’ve given me lists of phone numbers of charities and other agencies to call, but I’ve not turned up much there, especially because I fall out of the usual target service population: I’m over 18, under 65, am not a pregnant or battered woman, and have no minor children. I’m afraid the Powers That Be will stick me in some dump with ex-cons, alcoholics, drug addicts, and mental patients.
Even the low-cost housing options still cost something.
A small group of friends are helping, but they don’t seem convinced that I’m not faking all this. Some seem to think “this whole mental illness thing” is just a dodge, a lazy man’s way out of having to work. Most have no experience dealing with the mentally ill, or at least with people with my kinds of mental illness (which include Bi-Polar, Level II and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder or OCPD). They don’t understand that my seeming obstinacy about maintaining a certain living arrangement in a very specific way is a major part of the OCPD.
One said, “But you’re too intelligent to be behaving in such an irrational manner!” Never mind that intelligence has nothing to do with it.
Another suggested I sell off part of my beloved library (one of the things I’m trying to save) as a gesture of good faith to my friends, to prove I was willing to “do [my] share” in this rescue effort.
Still another said, “But you’ve not drooling or frothing at the mouth, you’re clean and well-groomed, you’re mostly smiling, charming, articulate, and pleasant. You seem to basically have your life together. You don’t come off as a crazy person.”
That was when I pulled at my sleeve, pointed at the faint scars on my left forearm that are all the remains of a self-mutilation incident from last fall, and said sarcastically, “You see these? Is that crazy enough for you?”
It was a melodramatic gesture to be sure, but I didn’t know what else to say. And even that hasn’t entirely convinced everybody.
That’s one of the main problems with mental illness. Our society only knows how to respond when people have outward, physical manifestations of illness. And because of the persistence of Puritanical values into the Twenty-first Century, values which demonize the poor, the different, the “other,” society assumes that any person whose condition is not externally manifested is likely to be lying or up to something suspicious, sinister, or at very least manipulative.
I still have no date for my Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) hearing, and would like to get tested for misophonia and Asperger’s before that happens, though I don’t know how to pay for such tests.
The lease on my current apartment expires at the end of July. If I renew for another year the rent goes up about $41; if I rent month-by-month the rent goes up by around $200. I think July will be covered, but after that there’s nothing.
I’ve been torturing myself, catastrophizing, imagining the worst-case scenarios. For a time I was sure the agency would stick me in some sleazy IH-35 motel, the sort normally occupied by crack-heads and prostitutes. I looked up motel room floor plans online, sketched them on index cards, and then tried to figure out how I’d arrange the furniture and my belongings, how I’d pass my days and nights, how I’d cook for myself when my entire “kitchen” would probably consist of a dormitory refrigerator, a hot plate, a microwave, and a bathroom sink.
Several friends, apparently unaware of my terror of being institutionalized, thought it would be a great deal if I could be locked up in a psychiatric hospital or residential treatment facility for days, weeks, or months, and that provided I was a good little crazy boy and behaved myself, at the end of my stay I would be rewarded with a little cottage on the grounds where I could live rent-free for the remainder of my empty life.
Understandably, this scared me silly. I looked up the website of a local psychiatric facility, wrote down the daily activity schedule for patients, then tried to imagine how awful and pointless my life there would be. I even wrote up a sample diary page for what I imagined would be a typical day.
I looked up the site of a service that provides low-cost efficiencies and Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) units for the poor. I imagined unpleasant encounters with drunk, dirty, smelly, and rowdy residents. I researched how to properly do laundry in the bathtub, because I don’t want to use the communal laundry and risk getting the germs and bad odors of the other residents onto my clothes. (I am a huge germaphobe.)
I looked up photos of the rooms, and judging from the likely size of the objects in the room, drew up measured floor plans, and tried to calculate how many of my belongings I could fit in there and still move around easily.
I imagined a terrible scenario, where all hopes of finding a decent home failed, where I’d surrender Belle to friends, tell her “good-bye” for the last time, and instead of going to the downtown homeless shelter as my friends would expect, I’d head for an obscure part of Town Lake where I could drown myself.
All these and other tortures I have been inflicting upon myself.
I’ve been in a near-constant panic attack since this crisis started on May 31st. My Irritable Bowel Syndrome, with its stress-induced explosive diarrhea, has returned with a vengeance after years in abeyance. Crying jags come and go. I’ve been sleeping poorly, getting up exhausted, stumbling around like a zombie, then going back to bed, all the time afraid I’m neglecting doing something vital to my case. Then I’ll wake up and realize there’s nothing left to do.
I filled out some housing forms from this agency last week, but I’ve not yet had a detailed talk about what might happen. The agency might keep me in this apartment for awhile to come, it might keep me here through the end of July, then move me into another form of housing, or it might keep me here on a month-to-month basis until a vacancy appears elsewhere.
But where will they put me? I gathered that there’s even a chance I might be placed temporarily somewhere outside the city or even in an adjoining county. I’m just as scared of being put in a bad housing situation as I am of complete homelessness.
I’ve tried to explain that due to my extreme social anxiety and agoraphobia, my home is my stronghold, my refuge, the only place I feel safe in a world that increasingly threatens me. But I don’t know if I’ve done a good enough job of making my case.