Friday, February 12, 2016

Granola Bars and Restrooms

Several years ago, there was a woman {whom I will call Stacy} who was receiving services at the mental health organization where I work. Stacy had a substance abuse problem in addition to mental health challenges {kinda par for most of our clients}. The particular substance she chose to abuse was alcohol.

I bonded with her. I admired her. I rejoiced with her successes and was sincerely sad when she backtracked. She was my age and I'm sure that helped with the bond. She had been married and bore children. Now she pretty much lived with her mother, visiting her grown children and grandchildren when they would allow.

I was introduced to one son when she brought him to the office. Stacy wanted him to see where she came to get help. You could see he loved her.

Her mother was sort of a substitute home health caregiver. When the primary caregiver needed a break or vacation, she would substitute for them. This meant, when she did get a job, she was gone for several days at a time.

First thing one Monday morning Stacy's mom came storming in, with her in tow. Mom was washing her hands of her. She'd had it. Story came out that Mom had been away working all weekend leaving Stacy home alone. Mom had tried to get a hold of her off and on and could never make contact, which was worrisome to her. Stacy had basically been on a drunk all weekend, oblivious to the outside world and anyone caring about her.

And so Mom left. Stacy sat on a chair in my little office, waiting for a crisis worker. It took way too long. Based on her history, there wasn't a lot of urgency. Finally a therapist came and talked to her. She realized that because Stacy had been drunk all weekend she hadn't had anything to eat. She took her to feed her and left her eating to come get the scoop from me as to what was going on.

When she went back to the kitchen area, Stacy way lying on the floor, unconscious, in a small bathroom just off the kitchen. She was evidently so famished that she had eaten too fast, choked and gone to try and throw up in the toilet.

Medical help was given. Ambulance was called. Stacy never regained consciousness. Her mother has to live with her last moments with her daughter being those of washing her hands of her. I live with that, too. It's a way too vivid memory for me.

Fast forward to today.

This client, a man, {I'll call him John} was dropped off for his 10am appointment way early. I checked with the person who brought him and she nodded when I confirmed that she would be here to pick him after his appointment at 11am.

John has been in prison for 26 years. The last stint was a short amount of time, during which he fell/had an accident/something and hit his head so hard that his skull was fractured and pieces of it pierced his brain. Surgery was done and part of his brain had to be removed as well as part of his skull. His eye on that side is useless. He has long, unkempt hair, scraggly facial hair, a slow, halting gait {due to the brain injury} and has poor hygiene. But he is the quietest, most polite, gentle man. Looks are deceiving in his case.

During his appoint, he divulges to the therapist that his ride has dropped him off and headed south for appointments. At the earliest they'll return by 5pm. What is he going to do?

The whole day he has silently wandered our building, going outside now and again to smoke. He was able to walk a few blocks to a store and get some food; even though his balance and stamina are not very good. He tries to call to see about a ride but only gets an answering machine. I offer granola bars. Make sure he knows where the restroom and drinking fountain are.

Plan B is in place. Another mode of transportation is in place if needed.

Finally, his ride does come about a half hour before closing. Even though his home life is probably not the best, my heart is lighter that somebody did come and pick him up.

I'm just trying to wrap my head around this. So much about life is unknown. I try to factor in that people make choices which have consequences. I get that sometimes you have to let people go - maybe even people you care very deeply about - because they drag you down or bring stuff into your universe that is unwelcome and hurtful - maybe even dangerous. My heart just hurts.

Maybe I'm more concerned that either one of these people - Stacy or John - could be me. Will you offer me a granola bar and show me where the restroom is, please?