Category Archives: Stigma

Random Acts of Kindness – Reaching Out to the Homeless

Greetings! And welcome to my little corner of the world. Thank you for spending your moments here with me.

The homeless. A big subject. And I feel there is a definite stigma to this whole thing. Similar to the stigma that follows Mental Illness. The stigma usually lives within the ignorant. The ones who sit and judge things that they haven’t taken the time to get beyond the lack of knowledge about. Without knowledge comes lack of empathy. Without empathy follows judgement. I don’t know a single person who chooses, or enjoys being mentally ill. It is a daily struggle, feeling alone, no answers to match the thousands of daily doubts and fears that come with.

Being homeless is no different. Who would want to live homeless? Sleeping on street corners and park benches. Being looked down upon, and being so hungry you hold up a cardboard sign on a street corner. I have heard statements such as:

They should work like the rest of us.

I won’t give them money, they will just use it on drugs.

They are just lazy.

People walk by, judging, elevating themselves as “better”. Better than what? Most of us are a paycheck or two or three away from being homeless ourselves. Add mental illness to the equation and you have many unmedicated, unsupported, poor, hungry, people literally living on the street. On the STREET. No where to shower, use a restroom, just rest their bodies. Rest their souls.

Nobody should live like that.

Now, none of us can save the world.. Fix the homeless catastrophe. Many believe if they can’t do something big, worthy, notable, well then……they just do nothing. I have always believed it takes many to do a little, as opposed to a few doing it all.

My mantra: Do what you can. With what you have. Where you are. So I have adopted this ideology into my daily life. No matter what town I’m in, what I’m doing, not being dependent on how much extra money I may or may not have. I can always do SOMETHING.

So here’s what I have started to do. My little contribution. May not make a difference to the masses But I know it has made a difference to the few. I collect things on sale and save it in a box. I get quart sized ziplock bags and fill them with some randomness, a few necessities, and a love note. Letting them know that someone cares. With a positive quote or whatever strikes me at the time.

Here’s an example of things I put in my bags I hand out to strangers. And I have to admit, some have become friends. I have learned more from the homeless people I have hung out with than I could ever impart. It has been a life habit I am thankful I have adopted. It’s just my little contribution.

I have bought a loaf of bread, sandwich meat and cheese, turned it into sandwiches, fruit and small bags of chips and hung out at a homeless park. The pureness of heart and the absolute gratitude by sharing simple sandwiches is overwhelming. To hear the stories, of how they got to where they are, their hopes and dreams are not too different than mine. To be accepted, loved, and to feel safe. And I have never done this where I wasn’t offered to share what little they had. One time I got a rock. A rock! But it was a “lucky rock” that a man had carried in his pocket for over a year. I still have it. Precious to me.

I lived up in Ukiah California, which is about an hour and a half north of San Francisco in a hotel. As I walked to my car, I noticed a man with a bike, rummaging through the trash. Heartbreaking. I went to a restaurant across the road and bought two breakfasts to go and two coffees. I went back to the parking lot, and he was still at it. I walked over to him and said hello. He immediately looked at me, with shame, and guilt hidden behind his eyes. I introduced myself and shook his hand. I asked him what he was looking for. He just said two words. “I’m hungry”. I invited him to come sit on this small wall with me that was in this parking lot. I offered him breakfast and we sat there for over an hour. We ate, we shared stories, we laughed, we cried as well.

I’m nothing special. I struggle just like we all do. I have a busy job, and I’m alone most of the time. But I do what I can. With what I have. Where I am. And I’m telling you, it makes a difference. He probably gave me more than I gave to him that day.
His name was Elias. And he is my friend.

I am hoping that if your eyes have reached this far, that you can collect a pearl to take away with you. Perhaps something to think about.

Until next time……..be kind……always,

Polley93

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Understanding the Stigma Surrounding Mental Illness

Greetings and welcome to my little corner of the world. I thank you sincerely for visiting here and my hope is you can bring something away from your time away here to tuck away in your pocket. I call them Pearls. I am continually adding to my pearl necklace.

The subject being broached today is very near and dear to my heart, and for many reasons both personally and professionally. Mental Illness is everywhere. All around us. In those who we know are struggling and those who we don’t – as it is sometimes hidden so well. Mental Illness is a very broad subject with many pieces to it, all with their own symptoms, challenges, and specifics. But with all of these pieces, the struggle is real. It is relentless. It is sometimes non-ending.

It can also be deadly.

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The stigma that surrounds Mental Health Issues is world wide. What is stigma? Stigma in greek or latin, was a mark or brand, especially one that marked a person as inferior. When the word “Stigma” began to be used in English, it usually meant the kind of mark you cannot actually see. In our Current society, this stigma is everywhere. This silent “attitude” if you will held by those who have not either experienced anything like this themselves, or have not been close to someone that has. It is simply ignorance. A lack of information. A lack of knowledge. A fear of the unknown. A fear of asking or discovering. With some, it is just easy to ignore. After all, if you don’t acknowledge something, well then……it’s not real then, right?

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The above statistic should alarm anyone that reads it. One in FOUR. Do you have four friends? Do you work with four people? Do you ride the bus or train with four people? Do you have neighbors? Think about that above statistic. One in FOUR. Mental Illness does not discriminate. It can affect any gender or race or age group. A very alarming statistic is this:

From 2000-2016 the biggest increase in successful suicide incidence, related to Mental Illness, usually undiagnosed,  (by SIXTY PERCENT) is females between the ages of 45-64. Grandparents? Seriously?

For those that have never experienced, I have been told that the following description is close to what it could feel like:

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Also this:

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So what can we do? How can we as a caring society, help to curb this ignorance? How can we start to bridge this gap?

The first thing is NO MORE SILENCE. Start talking about it. Ask questions so that we might all know more about the struggle. Discover ways we can be of service, ways we can support those we love, those we know, and provide the kind of support that is NEEDED. Do not be afraid of the words. There is no harm in verbalizing “have you ever considered hurting yourself?” Don’t be afraid and be quiet. Be strong. Ask.

For someone struggling with the lengthy list of ailments, Depression, Anxiety, Bipolar, Eating Disorders, Schizophrenia, PTSD, and a plethora of others, a simple day can be overwhelming. Sometimes an hour can be overwhelming.

Also, a word, a gesture, a genuine smile, a moment taken out of your busy day filled with clutter, and details and lists and chaos…..

Can make a difference. It takes small steps to conquer a big journey. Small steps.

The bottom line here is don’t wait. Reach out. Be kind. Send a card, Send a text. Be present. I think that is the most important piece. BE PRESENT. Don’t ask “how are you feeling today”, or “How are you doing today?”, how can one answer that when one doesn’t even know themselves?

How about, “I’m thinking of you and just wanted to remind you I’m here” or “You are enough” or a simple “I love you”.

 

img_1670-1I remember the horrible stigma and misinformation when HIV and AIDS became an issue. It took two decades for this to be adult conversation and erase a lot of the fear. This epidemic and the ensuing stigma surrounding Mental Illness reminds me of that time. Let us be a better generation. Let us speak up. Educate the ignorant. Embrace the afflicted. Let us be the people we are.

I am looking for those who are comfortable telling their stories. It is heavy on my heart to allow you to have a voice. We all need a voice. Any and all mental illness, therapists, parents, children, or interested people wanting to learn more, share more, learn more, educate more. I will be highlighting these stories every Friday. Please consider! My email is Lifeinasuitcase2014@gmail.com or DM me on twitter @Polley93

Until next time…….be kind…….always,

Polley93