Anna S. (eliade) wrote,
Anna S.
eliade

From a cold start

I came and then went away again for a while--I was mid-breakdown, mid-fall. I'm not sure if I landed at rock bottom, but close enough.

My patient, generous (gracious, long-suffering...) landlord finally had to kick me out. Unemployed, ineligible for benefits, broke and broken, I stayed with equally kind friends for a night then checked into Harborview, a hospital in downtown Seattle. They're the front lines for the homeless and crazy.

I might not have made it all the way in without help. When I got to the counter, I couldn't answer the receptionist's question about whether I was checking in. I shook my head no and went back to the entry corridor, stared out the windows aimlessly. After a few minutes she was at my side, helping me back inside, getting my ID from me, no words necessary.

It was easier after that. I went through intake, then to the emergency room. I hadn't taken my blood pressure meds in a while--my BP was 207/135. When they'd treated me for that, I was transferred over to University of Washington Medical Center. If you want a psych ward, that's the place to go. I was there 10 days; on Friday they checked me out with a referral to a program that is supposed to help me get medication and counseling and help getting back on my feet. I've got a bed in a specially designated room of the downtown homeless shelter.

Not today, but soon, I want to write about things in more detail, especially the shelter, which is simultaneously a safe harbor and a truly appalling place that you never want to be stuck in. In a similarly contradictory way, I'm doing better on a new regime of antidepressants, but I'm also struggling to keep my head up above dark water.

Tomorrow I have my first appointment--not clear yet on whether it's a counselor or a primary care physician, but it's kick-off.

Meanwhile I'm trying to (a) avoid catching the lung-rattling shelter plague my bunkmates have, (b) eat well enough to stay energized (which means anything but shelter food, trust me), (c) spend as much time I can away from the shelter being productive or at least comfortable (while being not too spendy). I mean, it's only been 48 hours so far. I've read 3 books. There's not a lot to do in a shelter between the hours of 5:30 p.m. (curfew to keep your bed) and 6:30 a.m. (when they turn the lights on).

No wi-fi for the Seattle homeless; I'm drifting from Starbucks to Starbucks. I don't *quite* have the homeless air about me (yet?): I have the luxury of a locker at the shelter, a laptop, clean clothes, some spending money, and possibly a lingering attitude of entitlement. But a Starbucks in Seattle's city center is a good place to watch how businesses treat the obvious homeless--no bathroom door code unless you buy something, free-floating hostility, voices raised to issue warnings against loitering.

Even in a cozy Starbucks with the crackling fireplace, I sat across from a Real Change vendor who chuckled and talked to himself; surreptitiously gave the door code to a woman who couldn't afford to purchase anything; and looked up housing voucher listings on my laptop for a woman at the next table. Undercover homelessness.

Even though it's only 1:30 p.m. I compulsively check the time--the shelter staff are hardcore about the curfew and the front doors are locked on schedule (sometimes sooner, I'm told). I can tell already that this will become an ingrained habit.

I think I'm almost out of words for the day, but I realize I feel compelled to get out at least a few details of shelter existence:

  • One of my shelter roommates, B., looks and talks like a NYC academic--she's frizzy haired, manic, and lexically rigorous--but her upper-bunk nest of clothes and belongings smells so foul that I flinch every time I enter the room.

  • Another recently departed roommate was very nice and polite--also a meth addict with two children (ages 1 and 5) in the care of one's father. The other father died 4 months ago of a heroin overdose. J. has been in and out of hospitals and shelters for years.

  • The bathroom stalls have no doors; the showers, no curtains. There are stories of male staff walking in to tear down any sheets or blankets that women attempt to hang across those areas.

  • The breakfast trays this morning held: approx. 2/3 cup of watery oatmeal, 1 small bag of parmesan and garlic potato chips, and a glass of some pale cloudy liquid, impossible to identify at a glance.

  • I'm actually lucky to be in a 6-bunk, windowless, poorly ventilated, 12x12 room in a sectioned-off area of the shelter. The general sleeping areas hold dozens of bunks and are reportedly plagued by bed-bugs. They accommodate people on a night by night basis and operate under far more restrictive conditions (out of bed on schedule; exchange your shelter card for loan of a towel).


They do allow animals in the shelter, which was a surprise. I haven't seen any pettable cats yet. I miss my landlord's cats in a deep and terrible way. We had adopted each other; they slept on my bed for almost three years. She said I could come back and visit them, but right now that's just theoretical. (She also just e-mailed to say they were "lost" without me. Must not think about them too much or the missing becomes much worse.)

That's all for now, I guess. I've been encouraged--clinically and professionally encouraged, even--to write in my LJ as a coping outlet. I suspect anything beyond that now would be wildly ambitious.

waving at the world,
Anna
Subscribe
  • Post a new comment

    Error

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded 

    When you submit the form an invisible reCAPTCHA check will be performed.
    You must follow the Privacy Policy and Google Terms of use.
  • 96 comments
Previous
← Ctrl ← Alt
Next
Ctrl → Alt →
Previous
← Ctrl ← Alt
Next
Ctrl → Alt →