It will be strange to be back in Northampton, Massachusetts, USA with my new wife and step-daughter where I was homeless—alone—for a year. This will be part of our summer vacation. I know I will drive by the shelter, and I will want to stop, and knock on the door, make some kind of contact.
But I have been advised not to by my therapist. She didn’t exactly say that, but cautioned me that I might be prone to relive the experience emotionally when I return to the setting…in other words, become depressed. I could. It’s possible. But being homeless was not strictly about depression.
Far from it. It was a creative time for me, with a bit more than a tinge of excitement and danger attached to the experience. As a poet, I want to immerse myself in the experience again, I must admit—up to a point.
No, I would not choose to be confined by those circumstances again. A sense of imprisonment was one of the primary features of my experience of homelessness. I tasted freedom in my homelessness. However, I felt constrained. Deep inside, I wondered, is there a light at the end of the tunnel for me? I asked myself a key question: when will I regain a reasonable measure of economic independence? I went on, in moments of solitude, to ask myself a tougher question: when have I ever mastered the art of economic independence? The answer, at least then…never.
My entire life could be characterized as a vagabond existence. Looking back, the pattern was clear. I moved from job to job, place to place, relationship to relationship endlessly, When you live like that, your finances are bound to deteriorate. Mine certainly did.
My poetry and songs conveyed a sense of yearning for roots, a permanent home. Yet, it seems that I fled from that type of existence for years. Why?
The answer is complicated. The tough questions seldom have simple answers. I could easily attribute this tendency to my Bipolar Disorder. Thankfully, the experience of hitting bottom during the homeless period led down a pathway to full acceptance of my Bipolar and effective treatment. I could also point to family history as a causative factor. Or, simply, some of the unfortunate choices I made, repetitively, in my life. I could mention a lack of spiritual depth or insight. That type of growth is never-ending. I certainly have much to learn in terms of deepening my insight—at the deeper levels of the psyche.
I can acknowledge that since 1999, when I finally accepted the Bipolar diagnosis and accepted psychiatric help, that my life has gradually turned around. I place emphasis on the word gradually. It takes can take years to disassemble the existence of a person with Bipolar Dipolar. It can certainly take years to put all the pieces of his or her existence back together.