Some days you can’t see past the eyes. They were kind. With wrinkles around the edges that made it impossible to tell the age. Old? Young? Just a hard life? The hair was a little too long, a little too thin. A little too unkempt. But that’s what happens when you’re without a home. Without a place to lay that head that is weary and broken and full of pain and hurt and abandonment worn in by years of abuse and neglect. Who never had a chance. You can’t outrun your genetics. You can’t remap a mind broken beyond repair. You can’t fill in grey matter and white matter and draw lines on the brain where you were born with none.
Vulnerable is the word that kept running through my mind. So vulnerable it makes my heart ache. Vulnerable like a bird with it’s tiny clipped wings and fragile feathers. No where to go, but you can’t stay here. No friends to mark the passing. No family to leave the light on. No belongings but the ones given in haste and in a subtle attempt to make things less not okay.
And I see them every day. The ones the world has forgotten and we find washed up on the shores of the emergency room because they’ve lost/forgotten/run out of their meds and their minds. And I try to teach compassion to a generation who is the only hope for change.
And they don’t realize that we’re all just one bad day away from the milieu and the ID band. One bad day. One MRI that shows a change in the brain matter. One pregnancy that gives birth to psychosis. One chemical imbalance that calls forth voices and allows us to proclaim ourselves the Queen of England in a hospital gown and fall resistant slippers. Instead we all shake our head and say “It’s just so sad” and flash the badge in front of the electronic key card to let ourselves out into the real world. The scary world. The world with wolves at the door and monkeys on the backs and no room at the inn or the homeless shelter.
And they don’t realize that these people are someone’s mom, wife, sister, friend. They are the prodigal son and the daddy and brother and uncle. They were business men and house wives and engineers. They were little girls and boys trapped in a life of chaos and abuse with no where to run. They are people just looking for some one to understand. Some one to help them see through their pain and their hallucinations. Some one to look beyond the diagnosis and see them for who they really are. For some one to recognize the vulnerability and offer them a jacket against the cold. A pair of shoes to warm their feet and gloves to protect against this Montana winter.
So I don’t forget the eyes. I don’t forget that feeling that I have in my gut that tells me this wont be the last trip to the hospital. Because how can you stay safe when you can’t live in a safe place? And I am reminded of how blessed I am to have a roof over my head. Insurance that pays the wolf at the door. A support system that takes the monkey off my back. That these wrinkles around my eyes are from a life dominated by joy, not sorrow. And each day I’ll try again to teach compassion. To show compassion. And to be reminded of this gift that we take for
granted: stability in my mental health.