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13 March 2011 @ 01:50 pm
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,
Resident Know-It-Allbailunrui on March 13th, 2011 09:15 pm (UTC)
You're quite brave for writing about this. I don't know how to respond right now, but I wanted you to know that I'm listening.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:39 pm (UTC)
*hug* Thank you. :)
caiathisficklemob on March 13th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
Oh my goodness. Anna, I had no idea you were going through all this. "I'm sorry" sounds terribly pale and inadequate, after all your evocative words. But I am sorry.

I am glad you have shelter, and have a doctor's appointment. I am glad you've found the help you have, and sorry for the indignities that come with needing it.

Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
(((hugs back))) :)
JaneDavittjanedavitt on March 13th, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
I am so very sorry about all that you've gone through. I know you through your fic and it's so intelligent, so insightful and poetic that it makes me want to scream at a world that's left you in this place.

My library here in Ontario has wi-fi and no restrictions at all on who can use the washrooms. Is that the case in Seattle? Libraries are nice places to spend time, very peaceful.

Sending love and good thoughts your way.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:41 pm (UTC)
The library here is similarly set up--if it weren't for a constant need to mainline Diet Coke or coffee I'd probably be there right now. :) Thank you for your thoughts!
flaming museflaming_muse on March 13th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
I am sorry for your situation, but I'm glad you are in contact with people wh can help you with shelter and medical care.

What can WE do to help you?
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
It's just nice to post and see responses, even if I don't get back to them right away--it makes me feel not so alone, and plugged into a community of some kind. *hug*
(Deleted comment)
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
*squeeze* Thank you. (Also, I love your icon. I think I find myself saying that to you 10 times more than anyone else. ;)
secret clever name3jane on March 13th, 2011 09:24 pm (UTC)
Oh honey.

*sends you hugs*
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
*hugs back*
(Deleted comment)
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
Hugs are awesome and Brian & Justin is an especially warm and fuzzy one. ::hug::
Pet: ATS Punk Spikeapetslife on March 13th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
So glad you are okay, and here, and talking.

We're listening.

Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
*hugs* It's nice to post and see responses--thank you. It makes me feel a bit safer in the world.
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Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
*hugs* No words necessary. Lovely hugs will do.
batdina on March 13th, 2011 09:27 pm (UTC)
:::waving back:::

glad you're still with us.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:44 pm (UTC)
::waves:: Me too. :D
Herself_nycherself_nyc on March 13th, 2011 09:38 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry such hard times have found you. You're immensely brave. Please keep up on the writing.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'm trying to be the brave and valiant sort. ;) And it's nice to have my brain percolating again enough to get some writing out. I've felt dull and wordless for so long.
(no subject) - herself_nyc on March 17th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - herself_nyc on March 17th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Marthasaffronhouse on March 13th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
If it helps to know that you are loved and admired by strangers who know you only by your words--I do. Thank you for writing and god, for your ferocious courage.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:45 pm (UTC)
*hugs* You are lovely, thank you.
julia_here: 54 40 or Fight!julia_here on March 13th, 2011 09:39 pm (UTC)
I wish I was un-crazy enough to offer you shelter, but then I'd have to move out. I can't even be around both of my offspring at once.

Keep asking and knocking on doors and taking what you can get.

Julia, and I'll be poking reality with a stick on your behalf.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
*grin* No worries--it's a kind and generous thought. I like the idea of existentially knocking (as well as the literal). Thank you!
(no subject) - julia_here on March 17th, 2011 06:19 pm (UTC) (Expand)
Loligololigo on March 13th, 2011 09:42 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you're with us and able to write about all this, and I hope things are on the upswing from here on out.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
Ememrinalexander on March 13th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC)
I'm really glad to see you are back. I've been checking your LJ periodically for a long time now, and was so relieved to see this post. If there is anything I could do to help, let me know.
Anna S.eliade on March 17th, 2011 05:47 pm (UTC)
You are very sweet--thank you. *hug*