I was born a twin. My brother lives in Baltimore and I have two sisters. My mother worked at a hospital in Washington, DC. We were raised in a big white house in the Southeast section of DC. I have a daughter who is 29 years old and a Registered Nurse. She lives out west with her husband who is in the Army. I also have a son who works for the Post Office. My father passed when I was 18 years old. Both my sisters work for the federal government.
I had to be very grown-up when my younger sister was born because I had to babysit her. My mom had to work and she couldn’t afford a babysitter. Life was simple back then. Clothing wasn’t expensive, nor was rent, but food cost a lot. We weren’t rich, but we lived in a neighborhood where everybody knew each other, looked out for each other and helped each other. Everybody went to work. I graduated from the Blackburn Center at Howard University. I went there to study to be a Certified Nursing Assistant. In 1989 I worked at a nursing home. My daughter had an interest in education and I helped her go to Bowie State College.
At the age of 17, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and severe mood swings. If I took my medication, I managed to stay very stable. My daughter doesn’t have Bipolar Disorder and neither does my son. I tried to build a home with men that I thought loved me, however, my relationships failed. I did not always take my medicine and there was a lot of abuse. I turned to alcohol, and for years I stayed in relationships that were abusive but there was always a lot of alcohol. I kept and lost jobs. I kept and lost homes. But I stayed away from my family because I was ashamed of who I had become. I did not want them to know what was happening to me.
Eventually, I could no longer keep a home, a job, or a man, and I ended up on the streets for a very long time. I didn’t want to go to a shelter, my life was a mess and I had a lot of hurt. None of my relatives or my children knew where I was. Sometimes I felt like I knew every street in DC. I have walked and slept on these streets in good weather and in bad. I met a lot of men and women like myself during this period of my life, and sometimes, we helped each other. There were many days I did not eat, I was a very different person. I am sure my family would not have recognized me if they saw me and I really did not care if I lived or died.
One day I collapsed in the streets and woke up in the hospital. I was very sick for a long time. I had pneumonia and other complications, I was diabetic and had problems with my blood pressure. A social worker started working with me when I was feeling better, to get my life back together. I still would not allow her to contact my family. She helped me to register with a mental health agency and I was discharged to a shelter where I made myself a promise to get back on my feet and stay there.
When I came to Hyacinth’s Place, I made contact with my family. I am working on rebuilding my relationships. The years of living on the streets, bad relationships and alcohol has left me more fragile than I first realized. I cannot explain my lost years to my family and they cannot understand what happened. I am taking my medication now and I am doing better – I have not touched alcohol for three years. Having my own unit is a beautiful thing because it allows me the time to heal and fully understand my illness. I now visit my mother who is living in a retirement home and she visits me sometimes. I speak with my daughter often and I am hoping one day that I can make sense of what happened with my life. I attend groups at Hyacinth’s Place that allow me to discuss some of the feelings I cannot understand. I know my road back to my own apartment is long but I feel as if I have the help to get myself back there.
Dee Dee, Resident