Storms terrify me, and we had a big storm in Southern California yesterday. The wind was rattling all of our sliding glass windows (we live in an old condo, on the third floor, and the sliding glass doors are very loose and in need of weatherizing). The rain was coming down so hard it sounded like someone had turned on a very loud shower. The thunder would occasionally boom and rumble. I curled up in bed and in a pathetic attempt to drown out the sounds of the first winter storm, I turned on a fan.
As I was wrapped up in the covers of my bed, I thought about the people, over ten thousand of them, living on the streets, some within walking distance of where I was warm and dry. Many of the people without a roof over their head last night are mentally ill. I tried to imagine myself out on the street, in soaking wet clothes, shivering as thunder and lightning popped and crackled overhead. To be so cold, uncomfortable, and to have no option but to sit there shaking and alone is a reality for real live people in the city where I live.
On a night like last night it is impossible for me to imagine the depth of loneliness, and discomfort of the homeless. Do they feel as if the world has forgotten them? Do they feel as if they are still human, with dignity, and value? While so many of us sit in our houses, protected from the elements, playing on our computers or phones, eating a snack, watching television, reading a book or newspaper and casually wondering about the meaning of life or are we happy enough, some people are simply wondering where they can get a little less wet and be a little more shielded from the wind.
To try and imagine the thoughts of the people on the street breaks a part of me open. To try and imagine what it is really like to live such a hard life where even going to the bathroom is a struggle, and being thirsty means relying on the compassion of a shop owner to give you a cup so you can get some water, these thoughts give me pain.
I spend a good portion of every day reading about people’s experience with being mentally ill. And don’t get me wrong, being mentally ill can be like a road block, and battle at every turn, but being mentally ill and having the luxury to keep a blog, write articles about your symptoms, be in therapy, go to doctors, eat when you are hungry, turn up the heat when you are cold is a very different experience than being mentally ill and having nothing except what you can carry.
I hope that as I try to write about what it is like to have schizophrenia, and that while I am carving out a space for my voice on the Internet that I never forget that I have a responsibility to give voice to the truly voiceless – those living on the street and possibly being tortured by their symptoms.
We are moving into the season of Thanksgiving and the season of giving. If you can buy socks, or rain coats, or an umbrella for someone living without a home, that would be fantastic, but if you can’t afford to do that, you can use the power of your words to bring attention to those people who are so often overlooked and forgotten.
This blog post is for people living with schizophrenia whose names I may never know, but whose faces I see as I’m waiting for the bus. I’m writing for you today, because it is one of the few things I can give you to try and make people see that you are suffering and hopefully use their resources to help change it.
Welcome to the holiday season.