Oh do I remember the stress and anxiety as I attempted on a couple of occasions to obtain a conditional release plan approved by the review board and ordered by my Judge. Finally, after ten+ years the day came in 2011.
The original release plan gave me the permission to move into what was once called a boarding home. Now the name of the facilities has officially been changed; however, the operations of these places haven’t changed much. Essentially, they are a group home similar to a nursing home, but only that the people who live there all have mental illnesses. They have a person that is qualified to hand out medications, as well as, being in charge of cooking and cleaning the facility. There are generally three to five people who work in the home full-time.
I have had the privilege of living in two different boarding homes in two different parts of the state. The first I did not like; however, the second, was much better. Memories of the first one include: crowded kitchen areas, revolving door of roommates, lines to wait in for medications, bus rides to the mental health facility during the week, your name etched in your underwear and socks with permanent markers so you have a chance to retrieve them once everyone’s laundry was washed by the staff, and smoke sheds where the people coughed as they huddled on the wooden benches thankful to be out of the cold wind and snow….
Another stipulation of the conditional release is that I must attend a mental health facility regularly. I’ve been to two different ones as I transferred from one boarding home to the other. The second one (current one) has a housing program that unfortunately, the majority of the ones across my state (like the first mental health facility I went to) do not have. It basically has two housing classes that are a bit different from regular “rehab” classes in that the housing class curriculum is more geared toward learning independent living skills, such as cooking and budgeting.
After almost two years of boarding home life, I enrolled in the housing class and a bed finally opened in one of the transitional living homes. This basically consisted of: five people sharing a house, cooking your own meals, budgeting to save your money, cleaning chores allotted, smoking in the garage, quitting smoking for a while, getting education via an on-line class (using my personal laptop and paying for internet access), and enjoying the relative peace and quiet as the sun went down and you listened to a gang of wild coyotes/dogs howl at night….
It also meant that for three hours of each day, a staff member was available to help teach any skills that needed to be developed, as well as, hand out medications (for all the medications were locked up in a closet/box). On weekends, the staff only gave out medications and didn’t stay for the three hours. The staff also took the housing occupants on weekly shopping trips and most of the money was handled by the housing manager of the mental health facility (meaning most people got a certain amount of money each week to help them budget and not run out of food and necessities).
After a year there came the miracle: moving into my own low-income apartment for the elderly and disabled—acquiring furniture, buying a new mattress, getting a refurbished computer, taking a stray cat in and giving her a home, blogging as the dream of publishing my own book gets closer every day and creating a website for others to learn more about schizophrenia and the life of a criminally insane woman in the United States.
Each of these step ups (moving into the transitional living home and into my own apartment) had to be approved first by my Judge. I have currently lived in my own apartment now for over two years. Looking back, I feel so blessed to have recovered this far. I take a total of 21 different medications, every day. I set them up every Monday afternoon, on my own, and I make all arrangements for my own doctor visits such as getting transportation and being sure the mental health facility gets a copy of all doctor reports.
So for anyone out there who may still be stuck in an institution or boarding home, there is hope. I know I have been blessed by finding such a wonderful mental health facility with a housing program. Personally, I think the state should make it a requirement for all the mental health facilities to have some sort of housing programs or classes for those who wish to live independently. Many people are quite content staying in the boarding homes. Some in fact, leave for a while to try it on their own; however, they either stop taking their medications and relapse or they choose to come back to the boarding home.
I for one, am more of an introvert who prefers the peace and quiet of nothing but the air conditioning going and the clock ticking in the living room. After ten+ years of constantly hearing a TV blast, I have a TV; however, I do not have cable and since I live in a small town, there are no stations nearby that I can pick up. Suits me perfectly as the DVD player works and the internet provides plenty of free or cheap movies and shows that I am able to watch on my TV thanks to some doodad that connects my computer and HDTV.
Well, this sums up in under a 1000 words what my recovery stage has been like. I intend to write more as time allows. Thanks for stopping by and God Bless.