By Linda Hansen

The dictionary defines gratitude as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” The saga of the mentally ill is a sad one for many.  Lives that are going well are suddenly disrupted by the mind in shambles which affects life in negative ways.

This is one of my journeys since becoming mentally ill. One day I started hearing voices that I thought were coming from my apartment.  In 2003, I decided to go live somewhere else get away from them. I would describe the voices as constant talking.  I left my apartment and was going to live elsewhere for relief. I chose to take the train, since I had taken some trips years ago.  San Francisco is where I ended up at and thought that I could get a job and stay there. But what I did not realize is that they had a serious homeless problem.

Market Street seemed to be a major area with business and shelters present. I quickly found out that being homeless does not have any advantages, especially when bathrooms are closed to you and food is hard to find.  The shelters were fine, except that I was kicked out for some unfair reasons.

I was out in the cold, literally with a broken nose to deal with in addition to all else because a woman at one of the shelters punched me out of nowhere. So then I concentrated on getting my Social Security check from Wisconsin to California.  This consisted of several trips to the local office before the money came to the post office.

In January 2004, I decided to go back to Wisconsin.  I was also homeless in Madison when I returned. Five months went by before a friend gave me a place to live.  I was out on the streets for one and a half years. The whole time that I was homeless, I was still hearing the voices and was miserable.  Help came for this also.  

The gratitude part came as I was settling into my new place.  I was grateful the whole ordeal was finally over and sent several letters of thanks to individuals and organizations that had helped me in that time.  This journey has taught me to be appreciative when things are good and to accept the smallest kindnesses.