Jack Bragen
Friday January 15, 2016 - 02:36:00 PM

I have heard it said that the main issues people deal with in their twenties are work and relationships. Yet, there are plenty of people in their forties who continue to have these struggles. A television show called, "The Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce" (while this particular show fails to maintain the "suspension of disbelief" that fiction is supposed to have) points to the idea that, for many people, these are issues keep coming back.  

Persons with significant psychiatric disabilities may never in their lifetimes resolve the issues of work and relationships and may be permanently impaired in those areas.  

This means that we must watch others of our age and younger experience the good things in life--money, houses, cars vacations, and the joys and challenges of parenthood, while we are stuck in institutional housing and are dependent on meager Social Security, for most or all of our adult lives. To put it succinctly, this sucks.  

Numerous persons with mental illness have resorted to drug addiction and/or suicide attempts, not just as a direct result of having a mental illness, but also because of the painful and deprived circumstances that come with mental illness.  

Additionally, persons with mental illness tend to develop "medical" complications (from poor diet, poor self-care, and the health risks of medication) by the time we reach middle age, and often die young of what would normally be considered "natural causes."  

In comparison to how people live in third world countries, and also in comparison to "guest workers"--who perform tasks that many US citizens consider distasteful, for less than minimum wage--we are not that bad off. Yet, before we became ill, many of us were brought up with the expectation that we would have better circumstances.  

In comparison to the lives of millions of less fortunate people on our planet, we are better off.  

Yet, there are some persons with mental illness who have become homeless or permanently incarcerated. These are the ones who have fallen through the ample cracks that exist, who have failed to remain in treatment, or who do not have family or an adequate mental health treatment system to meet their most fundamental needs.  

Housing is a huge challenge for many of us. If we live on SSI and/or SSDI, we probably can not afford to pay rent unless we have Section 8, or unless we live in some type of subsidized housing. I have briefly lived in the area of Concord called "the Monument Corridor." This is a bad part of Concord, an area in which many disabled people are forced to live because the rents are somewhat more affordable. A disabled person, if they have a roommate, may be able to afford this sort of housing.  

Persons with severe mental illness may sometimes lack the living skills that are necessary in order to live independently. Choosing the wrong roommates or other bad decisions may lead to not being able to maintain housing.  

Merely having adequate housing is the second biggest area of difficulty for persons with mental illness, second only to staying medicated.  

If we have good living skills and if we can keep our symptoms under control, we have a chance at a life with a modicum of comfort and independence. We may not be able to live under marvelous circumstances, and we may not have many of the good things in life that working professional people take for granted. Yet if we can remain housed, clothed, and fed, and if we can avoid being 5150'd or arrested, it is a good achievement.  

Persons with mental illness often do not live under great circumstances. However, if we are fortunate, we can enjoy at least some of life's good things.