Community Mental Health, homelessness, and our criminal justice system.

My family just had a wild and scary experience with one of our houseless neighbors. It was clear there were mental health issues going on, but, in this case the man was a clear and present danger in the way he verbally attacked and physically threatened my pregnant, adult daughter.

Fast forward to when the police showed up:
Do you want to prosecute?

As I’ve been actively involved with community mental health services, both personally and as a student training to provide peer services, I have learned that there is a community mental health response team that can work with the police…Project Respond.

As I have been neighbors with those who are houseless in my neighborhood, I have been able to establish at least a minimal relationship and connection with a couple of them over the years.

Their numbers have increased in my area in the past year. To the point there are three tents, housing I don’t know how many. I have watched them clean their area. Unfortunately, often that resulted in them filling out dumpster to the point I couldn’t dispose of my garbage.

As each new report of homeless sweeps and displacement increase, so does the number of people living on the sidewalk in my area.

Mental and Behavioral Health issues plague these particular men and women, to the point that it’s apparent they are functioning to the best of their ability. They need supports: materially, physically, socially, and mentally.

Back to the question: Do you want to prosecute?

Not really. It is a time consuming and unwarranted expense on us and criminalizing homelessness and untreated mental health issues doesn’t ultimately help anyone.

However, the answer becomes, “Yes,” in this instance because the physical and mental safety of my pregnant daughter and grandchildren is at stake.

It is also the only way to potentially give this man an opportunity to connect with mental health services to get the help he needs…except, without stable housing and food security, one can’t readily follow up on those services.

We have to do better. We have to care more and put that care into action instead of passing blame and responsibility around.

So many people are against providing social services. But, without social services and community supports, these problems only grow.

Classism

I did it again.

I read the comments.

Again I was struck by the intensity of reaction vs the lack of vitriol. I mean, the tone was definitely combative and the “troll” was less of a troll as much and more of a “true believer.”

In grammar.

I get it. I seriously GET. IT. I really do. I mean, I couldn’t finish reading a published author’s post when there were two errors within a paragraph of each other and the second one was using “fourth” where “forth” should’ve been used.

I cringed, then moved on. I didn’t feel the need to publicly point out the misuse of the word.

As a writer, I believe that good grammar, proper spelling, and word usage matters. Of course it does.

That being said, a person’s worth and value doesn’t rest on whether they use “is” vs “are” correctly. Which is where we begin our tale.

It starred a meme on FB. What else could it have been?

Yeah. That was it. Cringe worthy, but, ultimately, not a big deal. Right?

“Disney is*”

Aaaand we’re off.

The initial discussion was whether Disney was a group (There is a legal, singular entity, The Disney Group International, Inc.) and if there was a group, should it be referred to in the plural.

Then it got interesting.

The initial person who made the comment was called classist. The debate shifted as she got defensive.

That interaction made me remember some recent conversations I’ve had with people regarding language, how it’s used and how that usage is perceived.

I have been accused of “talking down” to someone because I often use large or complicated words and phrases where clear, easily understood ones exist. For example, a much more natural way for me to have written that would have been: I have a tendency to use large, multisyllabic, and obscure words and phrases where clear, easily understood words exist.

Why? And why did the woman who had been a former foster child feel the need to publicly use her hard earned education to correct the grammar in a meme?

Because Classism.

For those of us who come from a background of poverty, education is very, very important.

It’s a way to prove to ourselves and to the world that “we’re better than that” and can “make something of ourselves” by “rising above” our origins among the underprivileged, ignorant masses.

Apparently, it’s also important to those of wealth and privilege, as well. Otherwise, several, high-profile celebrities wouldn’t have been caught buying expensive, elite educations for their offspring.

In other words, having a college or University education is, not only a key to higher income, it’s a piece of evidence that we can function on the level of a higher class of people.

Why else would some POC get accused of “acting White” for speaking in certain ways? Why else are people with proven experience and ability passed over for jobs and promotions in favor of less experienced, often younger, college graduates? Why else do all the other prejudices and “isms” exist?

Because Classism.

So, I finally felt compelled to enter the fray.

“A) The Disney Group is a collective of other corporations. It is a singular entity which encompasses other entities.

B) Classism isn’t about whether or not those of us who have worked for or earned a specific degree of education come from a position of wealth or privilege (I most certainly do not). It is an attitude and assumption of stigma toward those who aren’t educated and socialized in a specific manner which is acceptable to navigate in a classist, elitist society. It’s systemic as much as it is attached to personal privilege.

Therefore, it is possible to come from an underprivileged background and still be classist.”

I doubt there’s much to be done about Classism, other than to be aware and recognize its existence, in its various forms, then check our own assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, and language.

At least, that’s where we start.

I can see clearly now…or not

I’ve been using reading glasses for a couple of years now. My eyes have been getting more and more blurry over the past several years. Yet, every eye exam results in a very mild prescription, for a complex combo of issues which include astigmatism and far-sightedness.

I haven’t been able to afford glasses. The last pair I got were covered by my church…up to the cost of a single lens prescription. The progressives were going to cost an additional $200, which I had no way of covering. So, I chose the middle…not thinking it just meant that I was getting what I basically already had without glasses. Silly me.

So, yesterday, I had the opportunity to get an eye exam that will result in a good pair of prescription glasses, sponsored through a partnership between Dress for Success and Myoptic Optometry. For the first time I can remember, I found out the true reason for my blurry vision, which fluctuates in degrees.

Dry eye Syndrome, aka Chronic Dry Eye.

Yay.

Another health thing that won’t be going away.

Fibromyalgia…✔️
Diabetes (2)…✔️
Hypothyroidism…✔️
Bipolar (2)…✔️
Depression…✔️
PTSD…✔️
Chronic Insomnia…✔️

and now…Dry Eye Syndrome…✔️

I can’t really complain. I mean, any one of these things could be so much worse. Plus, there are so many people going through things and dealing with much more major issues.

It’s just that the combination of these things is collectively overwhelming… especially if you factor in the depression’s ability to make everything else seem and feel worse than it is.

Add a night of the worst insomnia I’ve experienced in awhile, and I’m hurting and exhausted. I’ve got a ton of stuff to get done today and all I can do is lie here and be a lump.

Nap time before 9 am.

Thanks for “listening” to me whine. I’ll write something more interesting next time…maybe.

“… just a season.”

via “… just a season.”

Freya the Fierce

I’m not a dog person.

Really. I’m not.

However, it seems she’s a Lillian dog.

She reminds me a little bit of Falkor, the Luckdragon, from Neverending Story. Which, I suppose she kind of is.

Just like Falkor helped Atreyu battle The Nothing, she’s been helping me battle Depression over the last month.

I mean, who could ignore the demands of a face like that? She’s relentless. Catch. Chase. Tug. She just wants to playyyyy.

Just like I have to stay functional enough to keep my daughter fed and off to school, I have to stay functional enough to keep Freya fed and walked so that I’m not cleaning up accidents.

When the depression got really bad a couple of weeks ago, she was a tangible connection when I would otherwise have been alone.

I’m not a dog person.

Really. I’m not.

Trauma Response

Like the sea cucumber
I protected myself
Spewing my guts
At anyone who drew near

Go away before I get too attached.

Like the abandoned stray
Quivering with hope and fear
Once given scraps
I clung, unrelentingly

No, stay, I need you to survive.

Like the porcupine
Trapped and under attack
Spraying sharp quills
Piercing the inquisitive

I’m dangerous, keep your distance.

Like the sinuous feline
Not to be ignored
Winding around legs and feet
My insistent presence tripping you

Pay attention to me, on my terms only.

Insecure
Needy
Defensive
Demanding

Shaped by trauma.
Forged in neglect.
Informed by abandonment.
Afflicted with mental illness.

Is this at all familiar?

Trauma Is Not Your Fault, But Healing Is Your Responsibility

Two minutes

Two minutes.

That seems like such a short time.

Unless those two minutes are for standing up and talking to a group of people. Especially if the subject is me, myself, and I.

Then, those two minutes feel like two hours.

I have four weeks to prepare this little speech to present to my class as part of my final requirements, in order to graduate and obtain my Certificate of Completion for Peer Support Specialist Training.

Two minutes.

How is that possibly enough time to explain my lived experience with mental health challenges, what I bring to the job, why I want to do it, and why I’ll be good at it?

Two minutes.

How in the world am I supposed to remember a two minute speech when I don’t remember what I was going to say two seconds ago?

Two minutes.

The time stretches and constricts, like a rubber band.

I’ve survived this long. I’ll survive two minutes.