Helping the Salvation Army of Tallahassee

I’ve been working at the Salvation Army as a Social Services receptionist for about two months now. I greet visitors and let employees know when someone is there to see them. I answer the phone and forward calls to voicemail or let employees know they have a call. Also we have bread and pastries that people can take two items per day. And sometimes we have candy canes if they are donated.

In the area where I work, people come to get food, clothing vouchers for our thrift store, or hygiene kits. If they are transitioning from homelessness to a home and they have a letter from FEMA or Red Cross, or a caseworker, and they have a truck to move it, they can get furniture and kitchen items.

Salvation Army helps people do community service for legal restitution. They mostly help in the thrift store or the warehouse in the back and the basement. Salvation Army does emergency disaster relief, makes presentations on human trafficking, and recently are starting up a program called Pathway to Hope, which involves counseling and assistance for families.

Sometimes, like everyone, I get frustrated with all the bureaucracy. Because the Social Services are funded by grants, there are rules and limitations with regard to how often people can receive help and what kind of help they can receive. Everyone has to have photo identification and part of their social security number is entered into the computerized case managing system.

I’ve enjoyed working there, meeting new people, helping people in need and connecting professionals who do great work in our community. I hope that as I work there, I will become qualified to help people in more and better ways. I feel privileged to have this opportunity to participate in the charitable work that Salvation Army does.

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More Thoughts about Suicide

I had more thoughts about suicide today. What it would be like to just disappear. Again, more romanticizing of it. How shocked everyone at work would be. What my wife would do. How everyone would feel sorry for me, sorry for my wife, sorry for themselves. What would my brother’s kids think and feel? I’m sure life would be more of a challenge for them. My poor Dad. As if he hasn’t had enough loss. And my mom, could she hold it together? So much drama. And maybe that’s why it fascinates me. Suddenly, in ending my life, it actually gains significance, people who don’t seem to pay much attention are now attentive. And what if I overdose, but I don’t die? What if I end up in the mental hospital? Perhaps it would be good to go there first. How do you know if you need to admit yourself? Is it worth waiting and risking impulsive acts occurring? I don’t have a plan, but I’m struggling. I just feel so insignificant.

Thinking Twice about Suicide

Today I contemplated suicide for a little while. I thought how easy it would be to overdose on all the pills I have. Knowing me, I’d probably just get really sick. But it seems so easy and overdosing seems on first impression like a pretty painless way to go. It’s funny because I like my life right now, for the most part. Sure, I still get uncomfortable sometimes, but overall I think I’m in a pretty good place. I guess it’s because I watched a movie this weekend that showed it very subtly and made it almost matter of fact. Nothing gruesome, no blood, just a quick ending. And it almost seemed romantic, like Romeo and Juliet. But then I snapped back to reality. What would it do to those who love me? It would be very painful to a lot of people, especially my wife and my parents. No, it would be wrong. And I am gradually putting my life back together after leaving my job and going on disability. I have a bright future ahead. I have to keep reminding myself where I was a couple years ago. In bed, in tears, in agony, not accomplishing anything. I’ve come a long way. Actually looking forward to tomorrow.

A Needy Place

“On the turning away

From the pale and downtrodden

And the words they say

Which we won’t understand

“Don’t accept that what’s happening

Is just a case of others’ suffering

Or you’ll find that you’re joining in

The turning away…”

—Dave Gilmour, Anthony Moore,

Song by Pink Floyd

I’m on my fourth week of volunteering with the Salvation Army. It’s become abundantly clear that not everyone is cut out for that line of work. Some, who may have begun with idealism, are now burned out. Some want to help, but not become too close with those who are in need. Perhaps they’ve been burned too much also. There are always those who are going to seek to take advantage, those who ask for a little too much, those who are dirty, smelly, or ugly. So, it takes a special kind of person to embrace such as these. It takes a special kind of person to see them as just like oneself, another human being. To treat them with love and respect, not as a problem. Maybe one day I can be that special person. For now, I’m just starting to learn about this place, where two very different worlds meet and dance a beautiful dance together.

A letter to my wife

Remember playing cards in your

Apartment, going on long walks together

At night, remember me sleeping all day,

And me blowing up like a balloon,

When I ate tuna casserole? Remember

Me being admitted for suicidal thoughts?

Remember the med changes, the visiting

Hours at the hospital, being mad at me,

Not believing that I would do it, and

Maybe you were right. Remember the

Tears, the arguments, the

Disappointments and heartbreak?

Remember the good times, with family

And friends? Remember the parents in

The hospital, your surgeries, my

Procedures, shock treatment and vocal

Cords? Remember the trips to Shands,

The Sunday school mornings and church

Services, music and children and

Candles and sermons? We’ve been

Through a lot in 21 years. And I wouldn’t

Change a thing, if I could! Love, Bonch

Wednesday

I’m laying here, feeling warm,

Wondering what my family and friends

Are up to. What do you want for

Christmas this year? It’s cold in the

House, but Ronnie just turned on the

Heat and I’m under a blanket. Tandy

Was laying on my stomach for a few

Minutes, but then she ran off. Now she’s

Sniffing around for anything she can

Scavenge off the floor. Stella is barking

And whining to come in. She acts like

Someone’s torturing her. Jackie just let

Her in.

Transitions

It’s been almost three years since I was hospitalized for a major med change. Everything went really well while I was in the hospital, although I got into a friendship with another patient that wasn’t good for me. I would end up taking medical leave for an extended amount of time and then attempt to return to work. That didn’t work out, though. I ended up back in the hospital, and, when I got out I decided to leave my job on long term disability. I hired a lawyer to help me get approved for SSDI, and after a couple denials it went to hearing and I won my case. Since then I started taking classes at Lively Technical Center. I finished the program for legal administrative specialist but decided by the last class that I wasn’t completely sure that was what I wanted to do. So, this Fall I reenrolled at Lively in hopes of getting certified in Microsoft Office. I eventually realized I was only going to be able to get certified in Microsoft Word, as Excel was too difficult and I was feeling ready to finish with school and move on to a part time job. I plan to finish the administrative office specialist program in the Spring, and start looking for a job.

Looey Is Missing

Looey is missing. I don’t remember

When I last saw him. I know he was

Laying on the new pillow that Jackie’s

Mom made for him in the afternoon.

Sometime he went outside, and that

Was more than 24 hours ago. I hope

Nothing bad happened to him. Jackie

Said someone told her that there are

Dogs in our neighborhood that kill

Cats. I went around two blocks near

Our house and spoke to people who

Were outside. I knocked on several

Doors and rang several doorbells, but

Most people didn’t answer.

Mental, Part 3

Filling out all the paperwork once I was heavily medicated and in need of social services was a challenge. My dad helped me a lot with that as well as staying organized and getting my thoughts in order. He helped me apply for Dial-a-Ride, which was a must for appointments, since sometimes I couldn’t drive.

When I was in the hospital and they were trying to figure out what to do with me, two options kept coming up: being referred to UF Health Shands and ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). After several months of no improvement, I asked my psychiatrist for a referral to Shands Psychiatric. That would mean a two and a half hour drive, and my appointments were usually late afternoon, which meant an overnight stay in a motel.

Shands had me seeing an intern, with consultation during each visit with a resident doctor. They put me on trazadone for sleep, which helped a lot. Just before I had transferred to Shands my psychiatrist put me on perphenazine, an antipsychotic that would also help with sleep. I tried Shands for about six months, then I started thinking about ECT and going back to my local psychiatrist.

I did a consultation with the ECT doctor and he mentioned Buspirone, which is a non addictive anxiety med. He approved me for ECT, and Jackie’s Mom and my Dad volunteered to be drivers, coming from out of town and staying in our guest bedroom, switching off each week. After the 14th treatment, my memory had taken a plunge and I was still depressed. The doctor recommended stopping there.

I went back to my regular psychiatrist and since the ECT doctor had taken me off the anticonvulsants, Depakote and Gabapentine, they decided to try an old combination that had worked pretty well for a while, Zyprexa and Prozac (Olanzapine and Fluoxetine). Then he put me on Buspirone as well. I had been having mini anxiety attacks with a burning sensation all over my body and my body shook when talking about thoughts and emotions. The Buspirone stopped all that, along with a three times daily dose of propanolol, another anxiety med that I had been on since Shands.

We asked my shrink about memory loss. He suggested referring me to a neurologist. I went to see the neurologist, and he put me through a bunch of tests and memory function was very low, so he started me on a dose of Donepezil. After two months he tested me again and I went from a 70 to a 100 out of 130. He declared it a success.

Back in the Fall of 2017, I started the legal administrative specialist program at Lively Technical School. I had a hard time with the memorization at first, but by the Spring semester I went from D’s and F’s on quizzes, to A’s and B’s. I was very encouraged by my progress. Vocational Rehab was paying for my tuition and books, and after two rejections my SSDI case went to a hearing and I was approved, just as my long term disability coverage was about to run out.

That November my grandmother passed away and a month later I found my friend Curt dead in his house. He had a bad infection in his legs and his body went into sepsis. When I found him all the lights in the house were off and he was laying face up on the floor in his bedroom, with his eyes and mouth wide open. It was a little unsettling, to say the least.

Mental, Part 2

In 2001, I was in grad school for library science and having trouble with group work. I got into an argument online, then felt embarrassed and ashamed and had thoughts of ramming my truck into a brick wall. Instead I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and got on different meds. This was also when I started seeing a psychotherapist. The same one I see to this day. It’s been 17 years now.

Another thing that contributed to my previous crisis was my psychiatrist took me off my heavily sedating meds and put me on something that allowed me to feel and express my feelings better. I eventually got used to it and my mother in law described me as a flower opening up. After that, I was stable for 15 years.

I started on a downturn when I was working in the yard and got into some poison ivy. I went to a dermatologist, and they didn’t look at my chart. They prescribed Prednisone, and it wreaked havoc with my mood. I changed medications numerous times, but I became more and more unstable.

In the Fall of 2015, my doctor wanted to make some major changes in my meds, and we agreed that the best course of action was for me to be hospitalized. I admitted myself to the behavioral health center and it went pretty well, except I didn’t get much sleep. At the end of the week I finally started sleeping through the night and they released me.

I went back to work, but being in the mental hospital again had changed how I saw myself. My confidence and self esteem dropped significantly, and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I then applied for Family and Medical Leave and was out of work until December. During the time I was on FMLA, I didn’t do much. I was very emotional and fought with my wife, Jackie. She was distraught and didn’t know what to do. I started seeing an art therapist, and doing a lot of marker drawing of abstract designs.

When I returned to work, I wasn’t ready. I was extremely anxious and I couldn’t focus or concentrate. I tried for a few weeks, but showed no improvement. I started getting paranoid about my supervisor and fellow employees, thinking they were judging me and being critical of me. I started to regret being so honest about my mental illness. I knew my boss didn’t really understand, but it wasn’t her fault.

One day in mid-January, I didn’t go to work. I stayed home and wrote an essay entitled, “I’m a Human Being, Not a Robot!” I was tired of the way numbers of production and money were the basis for everything. I was interested in quality, but quantity was valued much more. Jackie texted me but I didn’t respond. She tried calling me, but I didn’t answer. Finally, she got a ride home with Uber and she came in furious. I hadn’t even called work to say I wasn’t coming in. She figured I was manic, and she told me I was going to the behavioral health center.

I went along with it at first, but after I was there a couple days, I got angry and wanted out. I didn’t like how I was being treated. Jackie and the social worker arranged a family meeting, and I broke down. I cried for a long time. The psychiatrist changed my code to compulsory, which was like a Baker Act for someone already admitted and my wife signed it.

I had a hard time this go round. I clashed with the nurses and the social workers, and I seriously considered filing grievances. I was also having a hard time with the group therapy. I was so sensitive to everything said, and it was overwhelming. Finally, I asked the social worker if they could give me something to turn my brain off. I just couldn’t take it anymore. We discussed some of the meds I was on back in 1996. Risperdal. Depakote. They gave me really strong doses and put me in a blocked room that was not normally used. They gave me permission to be in the day room to journal and do art during group time.

I talked to the music therapist and she suggested I meet with the chief officer of the hospital. Later that week she came by and introduced herself, but we didn’t discuss any issues. I got really sad one day and cried in my room. I wanted to go home. I wanted to be free again. That day I didn’t go to eat lunch and the med nurse tried to talk me into eating. She brought me a sandwich and I ate. Then I remembered that my family had brought me snacks and drinks, so I started asking for them.

I refused to go to the cafeteria for meals. I didn’t like the atmosphere. One time they made me go. I had a hard time figuring out what to do and I didn’t eat much. One night I started to get delirious and started to think about suicide. I told the chief nurse and she gave me a sedative. She tried to get me to go to sleep but I wouldn’t cooperate. After that happened, the chief officer never came back.

Eventually, I started to sleep through the night. I couldn’t think well, and my speech was slurred. I even requested a wheel chair because my legs would get weak sometimes. Once I was calm and stopped acting out, they started to prepare to release me. When I got home I eventually put in for a medical retirement. I filed for long term disability through my job, and called an attorney they referred me to about Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).