Oct 1, 2011

Mental Illness is a Lifestyle?: now isn't that a convenient fix to a big problem?

Without a Chance and Without a Net

If an Invisible Kid Dies, Does it Really Count?

The past day and a half has been rather troubling for me, on a personal level. To explain:

On Thursday night, while shuck'ing & yuk'ing with a small group in one of my 'burghs, I was approached by a young lady in a state of distress. Her “bags” were missing, and she sought our help in locating them as she pointed to the opposite sidewalk. Nothing made sense, as her speech was baffling, to the nth degree. I began to suspect some sort of hallucinogen was flexing its muscle in front of me.

Within a few minutes, a waitress emerged from the nearest door, with the two handbags in question. She handed them off to the rightful owner, saying something to the effect of “you left them in here again; now you really need to stop coming here and doing this.” She'd obviously been there before.

It soon became apparent that I was dealing with a youngster in possession of some sort of mental health issue. Notice the word “I” in that previous sentence: the folks with whom I was running with were now making cuckoo motions around the ears and signaling me for me to move away from her, as if I was endangered. Be aware that this kid was college-aged, 5 foot-something and 100 pounds. Against their advice, I sat her at a table in another nearby joint, with instructions there to get her whatever she wanted — she looked like she could use something to eat, pronto. I went about wrapping up some affairs nearby, after telling the owner there (a friend) I would be back in a bit to settle the accounting.

I returned in an hour; the gal was surprisingly still there and had run up a grand total of $1.50 on me for an unfinished soda. My pal took me aside with news that that some of his staff were familiar with her, and labeled her with such terms as “mental case”, “homeless person” and “wacked.” Sitting down with her, I attempted to ascertain her status, but was again answered with barely-audible fragments of incomplete sentences, random-access thought pattens and lost-in-the-headlights eyes. In addition, she was not properly dressed for the elements (example: ballet slippers).

Closing time was upon us, and she asked to stay with me in the hotel room I was in up on the main drag – confirming the homeless part of the profile. I concluded that such a scenario would not be in anyone's best interest— given the circumstances— while at the same time not willing to leave her to fend for herself at 2AM. So, I went Plan B, ringing up my longtime friend JR and going into Pulp Fiction mode (but showing up with a live body vs a dead one or an OD victim). I knew that his brand new abode had some extra crash spaces, and off we went. The hotel room went unoccupied that night.

Once there, I went about getting her some food and the safety and security of a small little room all her own. Meanwhile, more and more random bits emerged from here life story, but not in any coherent and connected format. The next morning, JR – the gracious landlord of this sudden flop house – joined the scene and took an equally active interest in both learning what we were dealing with here as well as brain-dancing with me as to what we could do to best help this poor creature.

The day progressed at a relatively mellow pace, scattered with meals, naps, strolls, work sessions (I helped JR with a real estate legal hassle he was involved in) and soft conversations. The plan was to “make some calls” later in the day to check the status of our new young friend's possibly impounded car as a means of determining her true identity. From there, we were hoping to track down a family member --- we kept hearing 'Connecticut'.

But we didn't quite get there to that end game. As is usually the case with mentally troubled individuals, a great big 'hassle moment' always lurks. Ours hit the scene about 3PM, when a surprise visit from JR's sister sent our girl into panic mode, with a demand that “you and I need to get away from these people and it has to happen right now!” She wasn't getting talked out of this idea, either: the best I could do was to get her to agree to let JR drive us downtown, where she and I would go about figuring what to do from that point onward.

JR and I had another idea, course; that being to get this kid into the Emergency Room at the hospital, which just happened to be right on our planned path downtown. We came up with the ruse of my having to “get a prescription filled in there,” and off we went.

But the plan failed miserably. She smelled a rat and bailed out of the vehicle while I was inside the E/R trying to arrange some sort of intake session with a mental health evaluator. Before JR could get a handle on the situation, she was gone — disappeared into the neighborhood , not to be seen by our eyes again. She had obviously been down this road before, too.

“Hey, you tried,” is the automatic response we got from everyone to hear our story the rest of the day. “Not too many people would have done what you guys did.” Yeah, right, big deal. Aren't we the heroes? On the contrary, JR and I then went about concluding that we hadn't done enough and then beating ourselves up for such a shortcoming So, we started making those planned calls anyway, figuring that we could find the girl downtown again if we had a reason to do so. But we weren't given that reason.

The car pound didn't know what we were talking about. The hospital said they couldn't do a thing unless she showed some obvious signs of suicidal tendencies. County Mental Health said that she couldn't be admitted without consent, and the E/R incident told us that wouldn't happen. The Police Department was actually familiar with the individual (ah: a breakthrough?), but they couldn't do anything because.....

“..this is just a lifestyle choice she's made.”

A lifestyle choice? This young kid, who is possibly from an upper-middle class New England background, has apparently – in the eyes of the local Department of Public Safety, at least --- CHOSEN A LIFESTYLE whereby she is: a) roaming the streets day after day in the same set of clothes; b) seeking shelter by asking to stay in strangers' hotel rooms; c) penniless; d) possibly off her medications; e) incapable of walking properly in a crosswalk, ordering food in a public restaurant or even asking for help in a coherent manner; and f) not even entirely sure of the name of the small upstate city in which she currently finds herself in or where her car might be sitting for the past 60 days or more. Quite the lifestyle there to strive for, isn't it?

The system is broken when a 20+/- yo kid (sorry: when they're my own son's age, they are kids in my view) is as incapable of basic survival as what I witnessed here; while totally alone in the world to do anything about it, and there is no mechanism for the larger community to reel her in somehow.

Oh yes; I can hear the wise ass crowd now: “Well, she isn't that incapable of survival. She got you two assholes to wait on her for a day and she probably has someone else doing the same thing right now!” To those people, the best reply would include something about feeling a bit toasty in a rather unpleasant location run by a creepy fellow with a pitchfork.

Meanwhile, the citizens of the City of Saratoga Springs – that facade of charm, beauty and livable community – are hereby advised that there is a desperate kid roaming around in their midst, in one day-at-a-time mode but without the functional reasoning capabilities to figure out how the hell to get there. Granted, she wasn't in your recent Lip Dub, but there's a good chance you'll be reading about her in the paper one of these days soon.

Per chance, if any of you are by some longshot chance concerned about that fact and have some sort of useful advice to remedy that situation, get a hold of me. I'm all ears. Why? Because my own "lifestyle choice" is in this general give a shit category, but it feels kinda lonely here in that camp.



Bets said...

I don't know. Let me ask some people in this field.

Raining Iguanas said...

B, hang in there, giving a shit will come back someday, and you will be in style again. You did the right thing, thanks. I sent you a link that ties to this issue.

Sam the Sham said...

u need to get out of caring mode

come on down to the city

we got one on every block

sometimes 2 or 3 on every block

Anonymous said...


CC said...

No advice here to give you. But why aren't you published like everywhere?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Well, open your doors and give her a permanent room in the house then. Ah, so you do you have your own limits, don't ya? I guess you're not the most noble man in the universe after all. Eh?

CC said...

To Anonymous # 1:51pm,

A big fuck you to you jerk.

PBD NY said...

The real insanity is the insanity of how the system works. They can't reel them in as you say without consent. The fact that they are not able to rationally make a decision on consenting or not is immaterial. The only move that you could make that meets the goal of getting her taken in would be to lie about her being suicidal. But then you've just committed a fraud crime yourself. That's before we even get to the "ok, ya got insurance?" part.

Anonymous said...

No insurance? HA! The kid's days are numbered.

L said...

STATUS REPORT on this, my man?

Nanoburgh? said...

L: Nada. Still trying to make stuff happen, via long distance. But it ain't happening.

The 'can anyone help here on this?' request remains in effect.