"Get A Fish Tank"
No this is not a blog about pet goldfish….tried that once with really bad results. But I digress! A warrior rarely operates on their own. Usually a solid tribe surrounds them and I am one of those lucky ones. My crew is amazing and made up of so many unique and caring individuals that it would be impossible to list them all. You know who you are. There are the ones who wrap themselves around me at any and all hours of the day or night no matter what. There are the ones challenge me when I need it. There are the ones who talk and the ones who listen. And then there are the ones who make me laugh and tell me to “get a fish tank”. It’s as if I have members of my tribe who are there for each and every emotion and feeling I may have on any given day.
I’ve said it before and will keep saying it…I am very lucky. Not everyone has these connections and that’s important to recognize. The man on the streets who is talking to himself might be homeless and have no one there for him. The woman who is in an emergency shelter due to violence may be an only child whose parents are no longer living. The child who is quiet in school may have no friends and be ignored at home. Not everyone has a tribe. Social support networks play a key role in recovery but if someone has no way to meet their basic needs, how can we expect them to work on their healing? We can’t.
We need a full overhaul of the entire mental health system and part of that must include the basic necessities of life along with the building of social support networks. I know that the fact I have a home, a job, a nice car, and food in my fridge, ensures that I can put the effort needed in to my emotional recovery. There was a time, not so long ago, that I had to work every day just to scrape by. In fact, there was a two year period where I did not have even one full day off. I missed family moments; I worked sick as a dog; I had to borrow money just to pay bills. I came very close to losing my home and everything I had worked for, due to circumstances both within and outside of my control (bad life choices often comes with mental illness). During that time, I struggled mentally but had no choice to put my recovery as secondary in order to survive financially. I have entries in my journals that talk about how I knew I needed help but couldn’t afford to get it. No one should ever be in that position.
I don’t know what it’s like to be on the streets and homeless, but I have worked with many clients who live in that reality. I’ve heard their stories and cried over what they have gone through. This is why I am a firm believer in the “housing first” concept. People need the basic necessities of life before they can work on their emotional needs. I’ll never judge why someone has ended up in the place that they are in because, quite frankly, they would likely not be there if we had the right systems in place to ensure it didn’t happen in the first place.
I am so happy to be in a place now where when a friend tells me to “get a fish tank”, I can laugh and see that they are truly trying to help me in the best way they know how. There is an appreciation for where I am at but also a sense of obligation to those who don’t have the same. I will fight for them always. Part of that is because I truly know how lucky I am and that not everyone has had the same chances in life. I value my tribe and hope that in some small way I can reciprocate what they have contributed to my recovery.