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Going though the system

 Spare Change News (USA) 06 January 2019

My name is Becka Traite, and I’m a 20-year-old, homeless, mentally disabled person. I rarely drink, and I haven’t in quite some time. I don’t smoke tobacco, and I’ve never done any drugs. I’m homeless because of my mental illnesses. (959 Words) - By Becka Traite

Going though the system

Photo courtesy of Spare Change News

I guess this all started a little after I got diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few years ago. That, on top of severe anxiety disorder, which gives me horrible panic attacks with the smallest or no trigger, led to me being hospitalized in a psychiatric ward.

I'm a high school drop-out, but don't let that fool you.  I left school in the spring when I was 17. Two weeks later, I took my GED test and passed with above average scores.  That fall, I started attending Mass Bay Community College. But then everything went wrong.

The pressure of full time classes, on top of a bad medication change, drove me to the mental hospital. I was 17 when I was diagnosed as bipolar, and in the three years since then, I've been hospitalized over five times.

Hospitals are all the same. After a while, you stop noticing the differences. The food is disgusting, most of the staff are aloof, and the patients are odd, to say the least.  Being on a psychiatric ward is both like and unlike the movie version of a mental hospital. You get your stereotypical crazy people, schizophrenics, and sometimes a rare case with Dissociative Identity Disorder, also known as Multiple Personality Disorder.  There's usually those who make a career of being on a ward. There's free food and a warm bed, so it's better than prison, from what I hear. There are people who have attempted suicide, but didn't have a solid plan, or got found in time. Sometimes you encounter people with dual diagnoses, those with an addiction on top of another mental illness. Sometimes they are kept on a separate ward, but often they're not. And then there's people who seem normal, act normal, and are normal, and just couldn't deal with life for a while. I guess I am one of those. I have trouble coping with things sometimes.

So I was out of the mental hospital for about a year when someone I knew hung himself. I didn't find him, thank the gods, but it still hit me hard. Well, one thing led to another, and I checked myself back into the hospital. It helped a lot.  But my family got sick of me being sick, they got tired of my mental illness, and they didn't understand why I kept having to be hospitalized. So they kicked me out of the house the day before I was due to be discharged. That, on top of my acquaintance's suicide, was way too much. I got angry, expressed myself inappropriately by kicking a wall, which I later found out was brick, and fractured two bones in my foot as a reward. I had no place to go and I was furious about it. But then I got lucky.

My best friend, whom my family had fostered when her parents lost custody of her, decided that she was going to take me in. She said that I could stay as long as I needed. I didn't want to outstay my welcome, so I started calling the Department of Mental Health to see if any youth housing was available, and calling different women's shelters. After a month and a half of making calls every morning, I finally found a dry shelter that had a bed open.

From what I can tell, shelter life is different from place to place. There are differences in the curfews, general rules, and all-around feel of the place. It's still a big change for me. For one thing, to avoid theft, I have to label everything, and I mean everything. Underthings included, and even Mr. Moo, my stuffed cow.  I was also used to living in relative comfort. I could shower when I wanted to, watch my favorite television shows, Glee & House, when they were on, and get home whenever I felt like it. Now, I have to schedule my showers and laundry, maneuver my way into a spot in the television room, and be back in the house by 7 p.m., no exceptions.

There's still a lot of work to do. I applied for SNAP, also known as food stamps, and Section 8 housing. I'm working on my federal and state housing forms almost as I type this. And I'm working on my mental issues. I meet with a psychiatrist every week. I go to support groups for people with bipolar disorder. I go to different programs for young adults, programs like Youth on Fire, which, if I may plug shamelessly, is one of the kindest, most understanding, youth oriented program/centers I've ever been to, and I've been to quite a few in my time.

My parents and I are still in contact, which means I can hang out with my 16-year-old brother without him having to sneak around. I'm back in school majoring in Liberal Arts/Psychology, with plans to transfer out. In my dreams, it's always a transfer to Lesley University. I plan to become an adolescent therapist.  I want young adults to get treated better than I was treated. I plan on becoming a Certified Peer Specialist (someone who works with others with similar mental issues as themselves, telling their story, and being a mentor) if I can find a training program that is accepting new people.

I guess all I can say is: once you hit the bottom the only place to go is up, and I'm working on heading up.

Originally published by Spare Change News ©


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