A Long Slow Slide Into Oblivion

Homelessness, Psychiatry

This was originally posted in response to a story about a different individual. This person was suffering a nightmarish existence because of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Change a word or two, and it could apply to the person in the story linked below, unfortunately. Such is the sorry state of the treatment of those with psychiatric disorders and the homeless:

Sad. I have worked in the mental health field for thirty years. Currently, I work as the Program Director for a homeless shelter. Yes, heartbreaking stories like this are way too common. We are the repository for the failures in all the other programs and systems, as shelters are the last stop before the gutter. Yet, shelters are among the most chronically underfunded of all social programs. And social services are being slashed left and right. Far too many people are either unwilling or unable to see the warning signs in those succumbing to mental illness.

These factors conspire to make tragic stories like the one in the article even more prevalent. I too was in such a dark place not too many years ago, so I can empathize. Constantly, I hear of people getting caught in a vicious downward spiral, stuck in the horror of the perseverative loop of a dysfunctional thought process, or the insidious trap of destructive behaviors. Like the gentleman who was making lots of money in New York City working for a construction company, albeit in a very stressful job. He went through his daily routine, with perfunctory dedication until one day, his mind suddenly blindsided him and it became his worst enemy. Like some sort of nightmarish ouroboros mindlessly swallowing its own tail. Anhedonia, the horrible inability to experience pleasure even in the slightest thing, set in. His world became increasingly darker and more suffocating, until he ceased working, and he just withdrew into his apartment, waiting for the money to run out. The world became for him an alien and sinister place. His ability to reason things out was severely compromised by his dark thoughts. He felt totally cut off from all that he knew and loved, and a crushing loneliness was his constant companion.

A few weeks before he exhausted his financial resources, he was somehow able to muster up some energy to see me about getting on our waiting list. He told me that he knew he should seek out psychiatric help, but he was so hopelessy stuck in his psychological pain he did not even know where to begin. Eckhart Tolle would say that individuals like the man in this story are not responsible for their behaviors because they are so mired in unconsciousness that they they are incapable of conscious choice. I believe that.This man needs to know that love still exists in the world, that other people still care. I hope that he can get the help that he needs and restore his life to a semblance of what it once was.