Becoming Homeless - Living With Schizophrenia

January 17, 2008

Becoming Homeless

I became homeless in the summer of 1999. I was kicked out of my apartment on Franklin Street in Bellingham, Washington by the cops.

First, I should explain how I got the apartment. It was my first apartment that was all mine. I'd previously rented rooms, either in apartments or the YWCA.

In the Spring of 1997 I applied for housing through the Bellingham Housing Authority for myself and my unborn daughter. I waited with baited breath at the YWCA, and in September of that year, my housing came through. I found a place on Franklin Street that had a dishwasher and a washer and dryer. I moved in at the beginning of October, approximately two weeks before Aeyre was born. I was happy for a little while. My friends Bonnie and Shari helped a little bit with furniture, and Bonnie's mom, Fran donated a microwave she had found.

I got a credit account with Fingerhut, and got myself some pillows, a vacuum cleaner, and a fake Christmas tree. (I do believe I still owe them money....) I got a few other things too, but I no longer remember what they were.

I should have been set for a long time. I wasn't making any money except what I was getting from welfare, and I did not have to pay any rent at all. After Aeyre was born I could afford diapers, and since I was getting WIC I got milk and cheese and other stuff. I was getting food stamps of course.

But I was smoking a lot of marijuana (which was against the housing rules, as well as illegal). I blamed a lot of my symptoms on the marijuana. I must have been addicted, because I just couldn't seem to quit even though it was, in theory, causing so much chaos. I tried not to smoke cigarettes or marijuana around the baby, but it wasn't too long before I was smoking cigarettes while breastfeeding and marijuana in front of the baby. I realized that everything was totally out of control and told God/dess several times that I just couldn't do it (raise a baby, that is).

Her breastfeeding worsened the rape hallucinations too. I could not handle the combination of her suckling on a breast while I felt like I was being raped. Sometimes she wouldn't latch on correctly or would chew. I'd get so frustrated and enraged I'd shake her. I shook her about ten times total the four months I had her in my custody. I knew it wasn't her fault but I couldn't really help it. It was so uncomfortable. In the day time, the hallucinations were really mild, if they were there at all, but at night, they would go on for hours. Fortunately she seems okay now.

She began to avoid my eyes when I held her, and that frustrated me too. I had been screaming at the voices occasionally, and a couple of nights I let her cry herself to sleep. I could not seem to calm her while I held her. Other people could, and I flirted with the idea of adopting her out, but did not know who I could adopt her out too. I lacked the mental resources to research adoption, and probably would've trusted no one anyway. I didn't want to adopt her out to Leslie, the adoptive mother of Chelsey, my firstborn, because she had not sent me pictures since Chelsey was a baby. I knew if I lost my daughter, I'd lose my housing. At this point in time I had no explanation for what was happening to me.

I almost left her alone a couple of nights, but did not do this. I felt trapped in my apartment and helpless as she was. When CPS showed up for the first time, I was labeled hostile. I had been rolling my own cigarettes and the worker inquired whether all the butts in the ashtray were roaches. I told him no, but did not admit to smoking marijuana.

About a month after I came back from the hospital in Missoula, Montana, Aeyre was sent to Bellingham, too. She moved in with a foster family. I was on Haldol at first and had to stay at a respite house until the Haldol wore off, because I could barely move or talk on the stuff. They put me on Seroquel. But it's sedating effects scared me. I was afraid I'd stay asleep through some night terror or rape hallucination and die while asleep. I guess it helped with the rape hallucinations, but I never noticed any change. In the meantime, I took the trip down to Navajo country and tried to help them against Peabody Coal. I saw aliens and imagined all sorts of things while I was down there. I remember one night in particular I saw a huge (ten foot tall) feet and two transparent aliens. I thought it was God at the time. I slept alongside the road a lot while travelling the reservation.

I had weekly supervised visits with her. It really seemed like my case worker from CPS had it in for me. She'd write eight to ten paragraphs against me in her reports and one paragraph against the father, who was a crack addict and a convicted rapist who was pretending to be mentally ill. She recommended treatment for me, but not the father. She just refused to believe John Michael smoked crack or did other kinds of drugs. They never even tested him. (While he was on probation -- or parole -- from his conviction of date rape, he would drink. Perhaps I should've turned him in, but he had been a friend for about five years before he went to court.) I really didn't get it, and my paranoia didn't help. The drug counselor recommended inpatient treatment, but I knew that they'd monitor my meds and make sure I was taking those. And I had no intention of quitting the marijuana, since it seemed to be helping my depression. So I refused to go to drug treatment. In an attempt to pacify them, I lied and told them I was going to NA meetings. This did not work. I still couldn't quite believe I was mentally ill either.

Some time in 1998, I believe it was summer, John Michael showed up at my apartment carrying Aeyre. He had gotten unsupervised visits, and was going to use Aeyre as leverage to get into my apartment. I hid from him and called my public defender immediately. I was floored. I could not believe it. I would not have left that helpless little girl alone with him, and was stunned that CPS had allowed him, a rapist, to watch my daughter unsupervised. The unsupervised visits did cease after a little while.

They made a big deal about me not talking enough, or asking them questions like was it safe to feed the baby baby carrots. Once I did not do the dishes, and they claimed my whole apartment was filthy. It wasn't. They also made a big to do about unspecified delusions. I don't remember sharing any of my delusions with them, much less much of what I believe about God/dess. They wouldn't identify the delusions in question for me. I suppose she wanted to sound professional.....

I didn't want to tell them who my friends were, especially Bonnie, because although Bonnie's parenting practices could be called questionable and she was addicted to painkillers, the father of her daughter was really abusive. She had been embroiled in a nasty custody battle for quite some time, and I didn't want CPS to investigate her. I was certain, since she is part Cajun, they would've taken the children away from her. I just knew they were too white for my friend....

Bonnie and I had become estranged during this time. I had found a wicker bathroom shelf outside by the garbage dumpsters that looked exactly like one I had given her. I found out later that it had just been coincidence, and she still had the wicker furniture, but I had assumed she had been poking around in my garbage. She had also scared me when Aeyre was three months old and she was swinging her around. Her head came within six inches of the corner of the wall. She smiled, and it seemed like the evilest smile I had ever seen. I thought she was threatening to bash Aeyre's head into a wall. It took me about a year to recover from that scare.... I refused to talk to her, and even went to the police, leaving my daughter with Oak, who had proven himself violent before.

I managed to attend Western Washington University for a quarter during the Winter of 1999. That's where I learned to program websites. I'm still not sure how I managed, since I was still halfway sick, and still smoking marijuana. I was careful with my marijuana, careful not to get caught by CPS. Sometimes, though I'd smoke it within a couple hours of them coming over with my daughter.

Finally the foster family offered to adopt Aeyre after I completed that one quarter at WWU. It took me about a month to take them up on the offer. I had no intention of stopping the marijuana, going to inpatient treatment or accepting that I was permanently mentally ill.

It turned out that somebody told the Housing Authority about the adoption within a month or two of it happening. I don't remember who did that. They gave me a couple of weeks to move out. I couldn't find anyone to move in with. And I didn't know how to get housing for my disability. I was on SSDI and SSI by this time, but that didn't seem to matter to the Housing Authority. I was ticked off at a combination of things, my meds for making me so sleepy, the adoption, my failure as a parent, and the voices and hallucinations. I stopped taking my meds, stopped going to appointments with a therapist and my nurse practitioner. I got enraged at the voices for accusing me of raping my daughter repeatedly and sent coffee cups sailing through the window and porch door. My housekeeping went to pot. I couldn't seem to find the energy to clean the house or get off the couch.

I managed to give away several things before I was kicked out. I donated my clothes to Wise Buys. I donated my vacuum cleaner to the YWCA. But I lost most of my stuff when the cops showed up at my door and kicked me out then and there. The apartment was totally trashed. I had painted on the walls, and then washed off most of the paint (although some of it remained.)

I told them John Michael had busted out the windows during a fight. I wanted him punished for something, and I didn't want to pay for the damage.

I kept hearing screams at night. I'm sure now they were hallucinations. I tried to walk on water. I thought John Michael had my daughter and had thrown her in the stream by the apartment. I had no friends at this time, either rejecting them or being rejected by them. Shari stopped speaking to me shortly after I accused Bonnie of threatening to bash my daughter's head in. Most of my so called friends at this time were drug addicts, and by this time I was too. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing that I lost these friends.

I spent the night after they kicked me out under a bridge in Bellingham. I got scared that someone who liked to beat up bums, would find me, so in the morning I moved on. I started hitchhiking, and went down to California. My aunt in Eureka would not have me, so I asked her if I could use her address. She agreed to this, at least. I got my SSDI and SSI transferred to California, where they paid more. One has to have an address to get SSDI and SSI. I proceeded to check out California, keeping as much of my delusions and hallucinations to myself as I could. But occasionally I would break down and start screaming "Faggot" at God/dess, the voices, the devil and whoever else was in earshot. I tried to fight off the rape hallucinations several times, my fists encountering empty air.

During my time as a homeless woman, I decided to make it an objective to see all 48 continental United States. It took me a couple of years of hitchhiking around to accomplish this, but I did accomplish it. I had no ID, having burned this "symbol of government oppression" shortly after I became homeless on the road out of Washington, and could not visit Hawaii and Alaska without it.

I spent three years homeless, total.

January 17, 2008

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About This Post

This page contains a single entry by Theresa posted on January 17, 2008 5:01 PM.

My Waking Nightmare was the previous post in this blog.

How PTSD affects me. is the next post in this blog.

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