At the age of 25 I was your average American male in that I was deeply depressed, and very unsure of myself. I had finished my third season fighting fires in the backwoods of Idaho, and was getting ready to join a hotshot crew in Alaska.
My girlfriend and I had been dating about a year and really were too young to understand each other. I drank too much and really knew nothing about myself either.
My parents were divorced when I was very young, and secretly I felt pretty alone after that. I enjoyed the Forest Service work, but thought I should be doing something else because I had a political science degree, and a secret desire to write.
Then I had a big psychological release while talking to a college friend who persuaded me that the divorce was not my fault. After that for the next couple of weeks I just kept feeling better and better, nothing seemed to bother me anymore and I began to talk and feel very spiritual.
I was going on a planned trip to New York with my uncle and as we were boarding the plane in Idaho I remember thinking I am going to understand what God is about. One thought I had on that journey was, going to heaven is like going to New York, you can take a plane, you can take a boat, a bus, a horse, a taxi etc. This is of course an analogy of all the different spiritual paths available to the human race.
By the time we arrived in New York some paranoia was starting to mix in with all that spiritual euphoria. My uncle was starting to get nervous as was I. As we were walking around downtown Manhattan, looking for the mental hospital I saw this young girl maybe 11 or 12 sitting against a wall writing on some paper. It seemed odd to me that she was there and I slowly approached her. She saw me and said, “It is a house.” I must have looked confused because she added, “If you want to know what I am drawing it is a house.”
Her drawing made me sad, it was in pencil, there may have been a house there but it looked pretty chaotic and scribbled. I said, “It looks good to me, ” this made her smile, but then it was time for me to go. That girl has always stuck with me, looking back she was probably homeless. At that time I was naïve enough to think that somebody that young couldn’t be homeless. I had to leave, but part of me wanted to do more to help her or understand more about her.
Well I ended up in a mental hospital in Seattle for a couple of weeks. I came out with a blood stream full of Lithium and a bi-polar diagnosis. At first I didn’t question the mental health diagnosis, they said it was pretty common, but in my mind it had always been something very spiritual to me.
Several years later, I started reading about other ways of looking at what happened to me, some called a spiritual emergency, that type of experience was also considered very normal in tribal and shamanic cultures.
My family is pretty traditional and main stream and for the next decade and a half I would come off of and go on lithium depending on my anxiety levels. This is not recommended by doctors of course and made those who cared about me pretty nervous.
As I mentioned in other posts I had a molestation memory surface in my late thirties that eventually drove me onto the streets. Had I been on lithium it might not have surfaced, my experience of that drug is that it masks the emotions.
My mom and brother came down to Florida when they figured out I was homeless. I was in jail at the time for loitering of all things. I would not see them. In jail they give you, your mug shot picture as an ID. I looked crazy even to myself and I didn’t want them seeing me like that.
They had me put in a mental hospital on what is called a 72 hour hold. but they could not keep me because I was not a threat to anyone nor suicidal. I refused their medications, and wanted out of the medical model, I just did not want to go that route.
The next seven years it was the streets for me, I had very little contact with my family or anyone for that matter, but I did manage to find my heart again. I also learned what would help that little street urchin I met in New York City. I have been talking about it the last couple of posts, affectionate kindness. It is a simple type of feeling this kindness, it wants to do something to help when it sees somebody suffering and can usually find something affective, like a hug or a kind word, to do so.
Had I met that young girl today I would have spent as much time with her as she would have allowed, paying her every kind of kindness.