September 30, 2006

This is my town


I live in a sleepy suburb in central Connecticut, the "oldest continuously settled town" in either the US or in CT, one or the other, I'll have to check the sign next time I pass it (!). The building, which is HUD housing and meant for low income elderly and disabled residents, is a 12-story highrise, the tallest buidling in town. It sits on the bank of a creek to the Connecticut River, just off the main commercial road into Hartford and a hop, skip and a jump away from I-91, whose noise accompanies everything, especially for those who live on the east face.

Often such subsidized housing is poorly maintained but here no effort is spared to keep the place clean and kept up and in perfect working order, not to mention well-decorated and landscaped. Nothing is ever left for later when it breaks, but is fixed at once, amazingly enough. If you have a problem in your apartment, you have only to call the office and the superintendent or the mechanic will be dispatched to attend to the matter before the end of the day or by the next one at the latest. It really is quite astonishing, given the condition of other places just like it in other towns and cities nearby.

We are a couple of blocks away from (YECH!) Walmart, and from Stop and Shop, but because there is a steep hill between us, they provide a shopping bus every week, and another market, cheaper but farther away does as well. Also within walking distance are two drugstores, chains but smaller at least than Walmart, and Marshalls and several other commercial enterprises that are popular with shoppers. Which is all very convenient if you are elderly or poor and do not have a car. Also just across the parking lot is a large out-patient clinic, a satellite of the largest hospital in the area, where one can get good basic medical care and referrals to specialists in the area, as well as a radiology group and a lab for bloodwork etc.

Not far away in Rocky Hill, though a car is needed to get there, is Dinosaur State Park, which has lovely trails to walk and boardwalks through the swamps where you can see and hear bull frogs and geese among other wildlife. I love to go there to scout out wildflowers, just to test my (old) knowledge and keep my hand in. Joe and I used to go there frequently, but we've only been there once since his diagnosis, and then could only do the easiest, shortest trail. I'm afraid we may never go again...

After having lived in Hartford for 20 years, in a series of more or less run-down and yet expensive apartments, I am grateful to be in such a wonderful building here. Even if I have to remain here the rest of my life, it is worth it, just to have the safety and security of knowing I have a roof over my head, one that I will be able to afford by the very definition. I wish all of us with schizophrenia, especially those who have nowhere to call home, had a place like this. It should be the bare minimum, rather than the best on offer.

Posted by pamwagg at September 30, 2006 10:06 PM


Dear Pammy the Feebs BD,

Yes, I got your email but I tried several times to email you back but have been unable to do it. So I'm afraid I'm going to have to use your Comments section to reply to your emails until I can try to figure out the problem.

I got down to Florida Saturday night. I'm visiting my parents for two weeks and my uncle arrives this evening for a five day visit. We haven't seen him for about four years, so this will be a good visit for all of us. I've brought a tape recorder and a bunch of tapes and plan to tape some of our conversations. I want to hear their stories and I want a record of them for when they're no longer here.

Of course you're right about the intelligence question, but my insecurity is hard to shake and it's not because of my family's behavior towards me. They never shame me for my ignorance, to the contrary they are always very kind and supportive of me. Also, I have to remind myself that I'm not dead yet and can still acquire the knowledge that I lack which I hope I will do. My mother has told me that ever since I was a little girl that I've been perceptive as to people's motivations. She's told me the story of when I was four years old: she was angry with my father for some reason and she began to take it out on me when I said "Don't be angry with me, you're angry with Daddy." That stopped her in her tracks because she knew it was true. While I was growing up many times I was the peacemaker in the family. Mom, my brother and I would have analytical discussions about our different points of view and I would provide a bridge between my mother and brother who often were in conflict with each other. I think I helped to bring our family together during some tense times. Unfortunately, my father was rarely part of these discussions. He was concerned mostly with his work and when he came home he often retreated to his room. I think this was, in part, due to the fact that his father had been an alcoholic and a compulsive gambler. He loved his father very much, but he became emotionally withdrawn. Now, after seventeen years of retirement, he is much more involved with my mother, brother and me. I'll always remember the day I called my parents to say I was going crazy and was going to check myself into the hospital. My father was there for me the very next day and stayed for a month. It was so touching but while I was growing up I really didn't know him that well. But I did usually stick up for my father when my mother and brother would get on his case, which was too often and I think he was always grateful for that support. Again, I was trying to keep us together as a family.

I still don't understand your father and why he withdrew his support from you while you were getting sicker and sicker. Your mother too. I mean I'm glad that he comes and visits with you now, but i feel a bit annoyed at him on your behalf. What is your parents' story? Where did they grow up? What were their families like? What kind of education did they get? I picked up two books on anorexia and I'm getting the idea that for many young girls the family dynamic played an important role in the development of their illness and possibly understanding it could help combat it. That's where a good therapist should come in to help, but lacking that maybe I can be some help. I told my parents about you. When I told them your height and weight my mother said you should probably be about 110 pounds and my father said that my mother when he met her was 5'2" and weighed 103 pounds, so you are now right on the borderline of being healthy. So please get yourself up to 101. One of the books I got on anorexia was a national bestseller in 2003. It's called [APPETITES] WHY WOMEN WANT by Caroline Knapp. I've read 14 pages and it's very good. The depressing thing is that the author died about six months before her book came out. She was anorexic and she didn't make it. She was only 42 years old. but
it brings the point home. So you keep fighting this hateful illness. I want you to stick around for a long time to come. And I'm relieved that so far you're not in danger and that you DO want to gain weight, even if it's only four or five pounds. There are a couple of parallels between you and Ms. Knapp. She also graduated from Brown University and she had a twin (though not identical I don't think). And her writing is very thoughtful and sophisticated. She wrote three other books before this one. Have you ever read any books on anorexia? The other book I got is called ANATOMY OF ANOREXIA by Steven Levenkron. He is a psychotherapist who has worked with anorexic girls and women for over 20 years. I'm hoping to get a clearer picture of the illness from reading both of these books.

Yes, alcoholism is vicious. Those alcoholics who are abusive are incredibly draining to be around and often the abuse escalates to violence as it did in both our cases. I'm sorry for what you went through all those years but I'm kind of glad you and Lynnie put an end to it. You've got enough to deal with day to day with schizophrenia and Joe's illness. God, I wish I lived close to you. I'd be your friend in a heartbeat. I wish you had someone other than Karen to turn to for support. How often does Carolyn get to see you? Well, I'll be around and Paula (who seems like a wonderful person) and other online friends. That support group for those with Lou Gherig's disease and for their loved ones might be a good place to find a new friend to help support you while Joe gets sicker. I hope so anyway.

Well, I've got to go for now and oh, I bought a copy of Bee Season and will try to read it while I'm here. Thanks so much for the reading suggestions. And keep emailing me when you can because I am able to receive mail and I look forward to it.

Affectionately Yours,

Kate (the Cheshire Cat :D)

Posted by: Kate K. at October 2, 2006 02:55 PM

Hi Pam,

Thanks for sharing your home with us. Your home looks comfortable and cozy. I hope some day my daughter Cassie will find such a place to live. For now she's living with us.

One question I have... what's with the foil in your bedroom?


Posted by: Yaya at October 1, 2006 11:16 PM

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