Several years ago I found out about a newspaper called the New York City Voices. The publication was founded by Ken Steele who was a mental health advocate. Steele, who was by that time deceased, had lived since the ago of 14 with diagnosis of schizophrenia. He was haunted by the impact of hearing voices from which he desperately sought relief. He also believed in the power of organizing to make changes in the mental health system. His story was detailed in his autobiography The Day the Voices Stopped.
The only voice that haunted me was my own, asking what had happened, what had I been thinking and where was I when I needed me the most. At the time I was rising in Vets Place Central, still reeling from the downward spiral my life had taken. So I sat down at a computer and wrote a story called The Long Walk Home, which reflected upon my fall from being an employed homeowner to volunteering with the Warmline.
At the Warmline I struggled to respond and listen to the concerns of others while I was taking aspirin to counteract symptoms of high blood pressure. I believe that people fall into crisis because they have become isolated and lack the resources to help themselves.
Thus, I had found myself calling MacCannon Brown of Repairers of the Breach, a daytime shelter, about finding shelter for myself. I had not known about the free clinics where I could have sought assistance in obtaining medicine.I was too ashamed to call my family and ask for help so soon after they had helped me try to hold onto my house.
The one outlet that I had available to begin the work of grieving the past and seeking out the future was New York City Voices. Over a 2-3 year period I wrote stories from the veteran’s perspective. I evolved as the paper did changing editors. Last week, I was still reflecting upon my recent success in obtaining certification as a peer specialist when I saw an article about the attempted resurrection of New York City Voices.
After being unable to find a google link to the voices website I wrote to the editor Dan Frey to ask what had happened. This week he replied that an effort was underway to restore the website. For the sake of irony, I should add that my new supervisor in my peer support position is a young woman who I met while volunteering at the Warmline.
What I have learned over the years is that no matter how bleak your situation my appear, never to panic. If we give in to the fear that stalks our nights, we will never survive to face the day. Carpe diem. That’s what Ken Steel did.
- On the Road to Recovery, Some People Will be Left (kenyattayamel.wordpress.com)