Separation to Reconciliation
I am a twin. My brother lives in Baltimore and I have two sisters. Both my sisters work for the federal government. My mother worked at a hospital and my father passed away when I was 18 years old. We were raised in a big white house in Southeast DC. I also have three children taken away from me by the system. I have a 29 year-old daughter who is a registered nurse living out West with her military husband. And I have a son employed at the Post Office.
I had to be very grown-up when my younger sister was born because I had to take care of her. My mom had to work and couldn’t afford a babysitter. Life was simple back then. Clothing wasn’t expensive, nor was rent, but food cost a lot. We were not 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.
At the age of 15, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and severe mood swings. I did not finish school. I tried to build a home with men that I thought loved me, however, my relationships failed. When I took my medication, I managed to stay very stable, however, when I didn’t 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 found and lost jobs–I kept and lost homes.
I was ashamed of who I had become and stayed away from my family because I did not want them to know what was happening to me. None of my relatives or my childrenknew where I was. I was a very differentperson. I’m sure my family would nothave recognized me if they saw me and I really did not care if I lived or died.
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. Sometimes I felt like I knew every street in DC. I begged for money and I bought alcohol. 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 didn’t eat.
One day I collapsed in the streets and woke up in the hospital. I was very sick for a long time, with pneumonia diabetes, high blood pressure, and other complications. When I was feeling better, a social worker started working with me to help me get my life back together. She helped me 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. I would not allow the social worker to contact my family.
When I came to Hyacinth’s Place, they helped me contact my family. Trying to be a part of my family’s life is more difficult than I expected. Years of living on the streets, bad relationships, and alcohol left me more fragile than I first realized. I cannot explain my lost years to my family and they can’t understand what happened. However, 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
Having my own unit at Hyacinth’s Place is a beautiful thing because it allows me the time to heal and fully understand my illness. I attend group sessions that allow me to discuss some of the feelings I can’t understand to help take away some of the hurt. I know my road back to my own apartment is long, but I feel as if I have the help to get myself back. I am taking my medication now and doing better. I have not touched alcohol for three years.