This Is Who I Am

Back in Regency England there was an infamous courtesan by the name of Harriette Wilson. When it came time for her to retire, she decided to write her “memoirs”. She would write a draft of a chapter then send copies of it to all the men mentioned in it by name. If a gentleman paid her a nice sum of money she’d remove all reference to him. If not, she’d let it stand. Some of her former clients included both royalty and members of Parliament. So a lot of them did pay. But not everyone.

When the Duke of Wellington received his copy he had only one response. “Publish and be damned!” I’ve always admired his nerve. He understood that secrets only have the power you allow them.

My family’s history reads like a bad soap opera. But what’s always hurt us the most were the secrets we kept – or tried to keep. From each other and from the world. I suppose I’m going to the opposite extreme, but this is what I need to do for me.

This past November I left Florida and headed to New York. Florida is becoming more and more hostile to the homeless. I didn’t really expect much in the way of help. I just figured there were more shelters in NYC and maybe the cops would be more likely to leave me alone. What I got was a lot more, from a lot of different sources.

But I still struggled with my depression. So in December, I voluntarily checked into the psychiatric ward of a local hospital. I’ve had suicidal thoughts a number of times before in my life. But this time was different. I’d reached the point where I just didn’t trust myself not to try something.

I knew I’d had 3 or 4 major bouts of depression over my lifetime. But the doctor said what really was happening was that I had an ongoing depression (since childhood) and that the major episodes were piled on top of it. And when I thought about it it did make sense. He asked me why I’d waited so long to get help. Well, duh. I waited because it felt like normal to me.

I spent 3 weeks in the hospital – checking out on Christmas Eve. I’m now on anti-depressant medication for the first time. And I’m going to see a therapist. I’m coping. One day at a time.

I don’t see myself as some sort of inspiration. But I do know that there has never been any problem that was solved by not talking about it. I hope my blog will add just a little bit to the general public conversation about homelessness and suicide/mental illness. The more people who can talk about it – the easier it will get for others to ask for help. Those who survive are the ones who are able to ask for help – and then get it.

Howie Mandel felt really embarrassed when his struggle with OCD first became public. Until he realized he was making a difference. (http://www.upworthy.com/when-howie-mandel-revealed-his-most-intimate-secret-he-had-no-idea-he-was-live-on-air?c=bl3)

I refuse to be afraid to speak.

This is who I am.

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