I was born a twin. My brother lives in Baltimore and I also 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 Washington, DC. I have a daughter who is 29 years old and is 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 also have 3 children taken away from me by the system.

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 she 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. If I took my medication, I managed to stay very stable, but I did not finish school. 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 got and lost jobs. I got 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 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 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, they helped me to make 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. Trying to be a part of my family is more difficult than I expected. There are a lot of lost years. 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 Placethat allow me to discuss some of the feelings I cannot understand and 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 there.

Bee Bee, Resident at Hyacinth’s Place