Why I was homeless 3 years ago.  

I certainly never thought I would be homeless in my lifetime.

I grew up in an upper middle class family.

I have a college education.

When I lost my job in 2009 I was making 62K a year.  In Cincinnati that is comfortable for a single person.

I had an excellent management job that I expected to keep and continue to be promoted in.

I had lots of friends and family.  In fact a few month ago, I found something I wrote about being grateful which included something to the effect that I was grateful that I would never face homelessness because I had family and friends, so if everything else went south I was at least safe from the depths of hell.

I think no one would think that I was the person who would be homeless.  So what happened?

Depression.

Non Functional Depression.

It didn’t start as nonfunctional, of course.  It started as an irritant in an otherwise rather lovely life.  I found myself unable to focus.  I didn’t want to go to a job I loved.  I began to call in due to the depression more often.

But I didn’t do anything about it.  Because Depression.   That’s what it does.  It makes you both irrational and unmotivated.  And I was convinced that I wasn’t depressed because my life was pretty damn good AND because I was big on projecting how strong I was and I didn’t want people to know I was actually a fucked up mess.

So I ignored it.  And it got bigger and stronger until one day – I couldn’t get out of bed at all.  That’s when I thought it might be a good idea to call the doctor.  She referred me to the psychiatrist who told me to take 6 weeks off and get my brain back online.

This is a career melting thing to do, but I didn’t have a lot of choice.  I wasn’t getting out of bed.  When I got back to work I was feeling pretty vulnerable and exposed and I was NOT feeling a whole lot better.  But I was DETERMINED.

Until I fell apart again 6 months later.  And took another 6 weeks off.  At this point my career was shot, but I still had a job.  They sidelined me and this gave me a chance to work on a project dear to my heart.  It didn’t require much interaction and allowed me to just wander down a labyrinth of writing up documentation.    I also spent a good deal of time training people.

My project was a success and the VP decided to forgive me, so she gave me a department that was drowning in a backlog of work and bad process.  So, despite not really loving that job, I did it.  While I did the job, the work got caught up, I got the employees engaged in making a better process, promoted several who needed the recognition,  and improved the overall quality of the work.

And I was late to work everyday.  To be fair, I was actually late because I was working from home, but this wasn’t a particularly enlightened company and my new supervisor was both very old school and not particularly fond of the fact that I fixed a department she had run for 10 years without any change of the issues I fixed in 6 months.  But you know.  Different styles.  I cared and I asked the folks doing the work what would make it better.  She showed up on time but couldn’t be bothered to talk to them.  But I’m sure being on time is helpful.

Anyway, she didn’t like seeing emails from me timestamped 630am and then having me walk in at 9am.  I liked working at home because I wasn’t interrupted.   At the office, if I wasn’t in a meeting, I was on the phone, or there was a line of people at my door waiting for me to solve a problem.  Its impossible to do any productive things in that environment.  And there were things I needed to get done.

So.  She put me on warning for being late.  Eventually she fired me.

I should have been on time.  She had a boundary and I couldn’t seem to make myself adapt to her boundary.  That was the depression.  You see in depression – its hard to change direction.  Imagine you are driving somewhere and you realize you missed your turn.  The fastest solution would be to turn around but instead you feel compelled to drive 6 miles out of your way to get there by NOT turning around.   Depression is like that.  Its on a track and once its on the track it doesn’t want to turn around or change tracks.

That’s why people with depression don’t take out the garbage or clean the house or get lots and lots of things done.  Because they are in a track that doesn’t include that task.  Its sort of like OCD but usually without action.  Usually the track is just non-movement.

For me getting ready for work was a change of track.  I was sitting in my pjs at my home computer getting a lot of stuff done.  But getting ready for work was an a different track.  And it was so hard to do.  So I decided to stop doing the work at home.  But then it was hard to get out of bed and get ready.

In anycase.  I lost the job.  And the depression then enveloped me like a black fog.  I got in bed and lay there.  If my mother hadn’t become bed ridden I don’t think I’d have moved.

But she did and so my life took on a new purpose.  I cared for her.  But she died 2 years later and that was the last tether holding me up.  I sank into the abyss and I haven’t been out since.  I lay in bed for 2 solid years until I had no money left and I was evicted from my apartment.

When I told my sisters I was deeply ashamed.   I was expecting to be evicted in 10 days when I finally made the call.  They came over to my apartment and this is what they said.

You need to put your animals to sleep.

You need to go into the hospital for depression.

You need to go to a homeless shelter.

I only heard the first part.  For the first time in 5 years all of my soul roared and I exploded in anger.  I refused to kill my pets because I was broken. It was unfair.  It was wrong.  It was awful.   One of my sisters agreed to take the dog because she thought her son would adopt it.  But the cat, Lily, was not part of the deal.

I called my friends and one of them agreed to take Lily until I could find a way to get her back.

That relief was palpable but it was followed by the realization that the last part of their plan was for me to go to a homeless shelter.  They didn’t want me in their homes.  They were rejecting me.

They used terms like “you have to hit rock bottom” and “tough love”.  But I firmly believe that those are just ways to make their choice feel righteous.  They certainly had the right not take me into their homes.  I recognize that.  I even understand why they would be reluctant to do it.   But I HATE that they want to feel righteous about it.  Because the act of putting a mentally ill person on the street is NEVER the helpful choice.  EVER.

I was spending 23 1/2 hours a day in my bed and they put me in a situation that would overwhelm a mentally healthy person.  I couldn’t cope with even minor things.

I drove myself to the hospital and they never visited me in the week I spent there.  I’m not sure what their logic there was.

They put a bit of a cherry on the rejection by renting a uhaul and a storage locker, packing up most of my stuff and putting it in storage.  They paid to keep my things safe and sheltered after I had already told them it didn’t matter to me if I lost all of it.  I just watched them numb and useless.

They drove away from me after handing me some money and a map to the homeless shelter.  I slept in my car.  It was early March and it was cold.

On the 2nd or 3rd night I was arrested because I hadn’t filed my taxes in the town where I lived.  I went to jail for a night.  The judge, upon recognizing that I didn’t actually OWE any money, I just didn’t file the form for 3 years (yeah depression), let me go.  When my sister picked me up from the court afterwards, she asked me if the friend who was taking care of my cat could take me in.    She also said it God’s blessing that the judge was kind and that I was arrested on the night that it snowed 6 inches so I was inside on that night.  I was arrested at 3am.

She gave me a gift certificate for a couple hundred dollars and I used it to get a night in a motel, so I could wash off the jail and sleep.  It turns out sleeping in a car was mostly NOT sleeping for me.  And there is NO sleeping in a jail.

My friends on tumblr set up a fundraiser and got me 3 weeks in a motel.  And then I was in the car again.  I did that for about a few weeks when my friend who took the cat in, got me a job with her sister.  The job I currently have.

Another friend got me a week in a hotel after I got the job.  His position being that as long as I was trying he was willing to help me with some money.

After I had the job a couple of weeks I got a paycheck and was finally able to move into a rooming house.

I have just barely sketched out what happened.  I was homeless for about 2 months.   Its was a terrible experience from a lot of points of view, but it doesn’t even come CLOSE to how terrible it can be for people who live on the street.  I own my car outright and I lived in it.  I never went to the homeless shelter because I was terrified of them.

In the end, I was still depressed, I had a dramatic increase in Anxiety and whole new boatload of emotional pain associated with my sisters.  I am now functioning.  Sometimes barely, sometimes reasonably.  But I am not well.

 

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9 thoughts on “Why I was homeless 3 years ago.  

  1. This is the story of my best friend minus the siblings and pets. (She had none.) Eventually she was put in a clinical trial and found a medication that helped but most people would not call her normal even now 35 years later. She wasn’t ever able to hold down a full time job again but was fortunate that her family had money and supported her. She was never homeless. I don’t think she would have survived that. She’s almost 70 now and with deteriorating health. The miracle drug etched her bones. She has had most major joints replaced. I rarely hear from her because she moved a couple of hours away. She can’t focus long enough to learn to use a computer and her attention span does not allow her to complete a letter. A call to her results in a voice message so there’s little contact now but I often think of her. I wish you well on your journey. It’s not an easy one.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thank you for sharing your story … and what a story it is! You’re an eloquent writer that can very much express your thoughts in a concise way, being able to touch someone’s (mine) heart while reading.

    I’m really sorry you’ve had to go through all of this … and it is / was a lot! It’s simply amazing how debilitating and soul-sucking depression can be. I’ve got to imagine that had to be on some medications at some point. Were they just not working?

    Was a cause for your depression ever discovered? Low vitamin D and/or other nutritional deficiencies? Personal emotional trauma, PTSD? Situational? A combination of things … family hereditary disposition … or simply a “neurobiochemical imbalance”? The reason I mention the cause is that maybe when that is discovered then the depression can be dealt with and tackled.

    The “being on time” thing … well, I have some thoughts on that: I used to be a person who always late. In fact, many people knew that as my thing. I was not proud of it. It was not caused by depression as far as I know. I would simply do one thing, lose track of time and do another thing and then simply be late. I’m not really quite sure how I have come to master the late thing. Once you get labeled as a “late person” it’s a hard reputation to shake when you’ve changed your ways.

    I do believe there are some things that one needs to be on time to in terms of a job. If you are a nurse who works on the floor you are replacing another nurse so they can go home … there are physical bodies waiting for you to get medication and many others things — people to actually be cared for. Being on time, in THIS work situation is crucial. It’s also important if you’re a surgeon, a pilot, an EMT and probably dozens of jobs I haven’t even considered.

    I remember one time when I told my brother that I was late to work sometimes and he began to lecture me (I didn’t have any of the jobs mentioned above), and it was so hypocritical because he is a person who couldn’t keep a job for more than a year, many times not even for a couple of weeks, was always in and out of jail, rehab and doing drugs, had stolen from my parents several times, never paid his bills on time if he pay them at all … and yet, here he was the guy he would through cigarette butts over my balcony littering, drinking ALL the beer (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) lecturing ME about being on time! What a fuck!

    Anyway, this is not what made me become an on-time person. Somehow, someway I took it on as a personal challenge. There was a perfect attendance award at my work for a while and I got perfect attendance for TWO YEARS! Me! They have done away with that program because I think, #1 too costly to pay the attendees, and #2 some sick people were showing up to work being contagious or unproductive at work.

    As far as your old boss, and I’m not siding with her, did you have an agreement that you COULD work from home or was that simply something you liked to do that helped motivate you? As I’m sure you’re well aware, working from home has to be spelled out very clearly and not simply some creative way to get work done — it has to be approved.

    It is awesome that you changed a work group around and got things organized after many years with different “leadership” … maybe it was more like “leadershit”. 😉 There are many supervisors and managers who are insecure to the detriment of the betterment of the individuals in that work group. Insecurity in so many relationships, including those outside of work cause so many unnecessary problems.

    I am blown away by the fact that you were in a stable job that you liked and depression hit you and sucked you in to its depths. Do you have any answers or insight as to why and how this happened? Was it purely biochemical? You don’t have to answer any of these questions because I realize they are very personal and can unearth unpleasant memories and feelings possibly. BUT I do think it might make for another great post.

    This post was amazingly well-written that I’m going to have to read it again because the details of the way the depression affected you and what it did are interesting, raw and sincere with a great explanation of how it effected your life. Your depression (and 99.9% of depressions) out there aren’t about a person being lazy! I know some people think this and have that stupid, “just snap out of it” response. Perhaps your sisters lack a lot of insight and knowledge into the workings and understanding of depression.

    AND furthermore, that was the stupidest suggestion for you to have your animals, your fur babies put to sleep! What the hell? Shelter them at the very most … but putting animals to sleep is only if they are very sick, have an unlikelihood of recovery and/or are suffering.

    I’m sorry they didn’t visit you while you were in the hospital. I don’t know what to say about them not offering you a spot in their home and maybe it was that “tough love” fearing that you’d stay in bed all day at their house and they would be enabling you. I don’t know.

    It’s really scary that this all “just happened”. Are you afraid that this can and will happen again? Like you’ll get depressed, get stuck in your bed and the process will repeat itself? I don’t mean to bring up touchy subjects or increase any anxiety … and perhaps you have working medication, a good therapist, a good personal support system and have at least one manageable cause for the depression that you can tackle. I’m just wondering.

    I wish you the best and I thank you for sharing your experience. I hope you NEVER, EVER, EVER have to go through this again. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  3. You are incredibly brave to share your story here. It’s painful to read and wonder what I would do if I had a friend in that situation…because everyone wants to help, but can anyone else really help? I don’t have any answers, just very glad you managed to pull yourself back up out of the abyss.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Wow…thank you for helping me to understand depression in a new way. I am grateful for your sharing this…so grateful.
    Now for you…what a brave person you are on so many levels. Keep fighting the fight, and let us know how you are. It is amazing that you got through so many losses, such pain, and are moving forward. Celebrate even the small steps…they add up… HUGS to you.

    Liked by 1 person

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