Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Do Nothing

There will likely be moments, long dismal moments, when everything seems empty, when all possibility seems to have vanished, and when your deepest desire is to simply vanish. The feeling, if it is truly profound, is one of hollowness. It is worse than melancholy. It is the essence of powerlessness, and this is the feeling inspired by true, clinical, depression. This is the backbone of suicide, and people can be brought to it by long hours of self criticism, blame, hunger, cold, and sadness.

If you get to this terrible country, first, do nothing. You think that the feeling will persist forever. It won't. It can't. Before you know it you get an idea, and that gets you thinking about something else, and then you think of something you'd like to try. Oh, you may sink back into the empty spot, but the worst part about being there is the feeling that it will go on forever. Once you know it goes away, it gets a little easier to take.

When the hours ache and linger, when the mind is poisoned with hurt, when the night is very cold and very dark, and when you can think of no where to turn, do nothing. Change will come.

Until it does, take a hot shower, and use some deodorant. Depression causes us to release all kinds of stinky pheromones.


At 10:21 AM, Blogger ana said...

My advice to homeless people, people in very difficult circumstances, the poor who cannot afford any help, loners out-of-luck and down-and-out:

When black depressison hits, don’t use an effort of will to ‘snap out of it.’ If things are bad, they are bad, may even get worse, and totting up the positive or pulling up one’s socks won’t help. It might even be detrimental, as one may come to feel - I failed again, I can't do what I decided to do.

More realistically:


Some people find it reassuring to assess the situation rationally (paper and pen help here.) Do it if you feel like it. For others, it won’t help, as most often bad situations are crystal clear.


Some people are helped by ritual communication (e.g. prayer, reciting poems or other texts, talking to a dead loved one, an absent friend..) To some this will feel silly, but it is certainly worth trying, as it is free and can be stopped at will. Singing (if possible) is actually a wonderful energizer and mood lifter. Even humming is good. Sing! You will feel yourself when you sing, and get a lot of oxygen (free.) If you are with other people, get them to sing - any song at all. Sing together.

*Try to get moving, move the body, rather than concentrating on the mind.*

When one is depressed, thinking is slowed and inefficient and tends to get bogged down in loops. Walk, exercise, do something. You may, now, have to use that effort of will: but the effort of will is very precise, and involves a tiny short term goal - it is achievable (Walking to the grove, doing 10 push ups, cleaning the floor, etc.) Do it. And once it worked, do it again. If you have the opportunity or the possibility, move, that is, move your body, and go to a different place. The very fact of acting (even if somehat aimlessly) will help.

*Do yourself / someone else a favor*

Eat that chocolate bar, use the last of the water to wash, use the last of the phone card to call a friend. Or, if you can, do a favor for someone else. Give, even if you have almost nothing - and give freely. The gift need not be material, it could be a presence, time offered, a service, a hand held out.


Talk to whomever is available, and talk to strangers. Don’t talk about your problems or expect help or focussed attention. Talk about whatever topic is conventional or appropriate in the situation - the weather, sports news, how to cook beans, Scottish kilts, the statue in the park, whatever. Being with others will re-affirm your own humanity.


Sit still (if you can) and listen. To others, to the news, to sounds around. To nature if it is there, to town noise if that is what is going on. Pay attention, listen. Listening will help take you out of yourself and will give you an edge - a minuscule one to be sure.


If possible. Libraries are worth a visit. Many authors have written marvellous books dealing with just such dilemmas. They can be a real inspiration if one has the diposition to capt their message.


Be patient. All this will pass.


Tall order. Try without pushing it.

At 1:17 PM, Blogger The Lioness said...

Just thought of you, was listening to the news and there was a segment abt a homeless man in England, who's been living in a shack in a wooded posh London area, who has been living there for so long he has actually earned the right of property. It's estimated at abt 1,8 million pounds. He, however, says he's been living there so happily and for free that it'd be unfair if he took advantadge of it. Thought you might like to know.

At 12:58 AM, Blogger Jay said...

Some days, I prefer to just wallow in the scent of depression.

At 11:50 AM, Blogger Aaron the Atheist said...

Asking for help is a big step in snapping out of a depression ep. Maybe it isn't even specifically "help" per se, maybe it's just calling someone and talking to them. Asking for help is hard, but it always takes me out of my comfort zone (a zone that can be too much about me me me) and out of my comfort zone I am forced to stretch. That little stretch can go a long way.

At 2:49 AM, Blogger Kanetha said...

thanks, I so needed to read that.

At 9:43 PM, Blogger S. Kahlon said...

I love this post so much. That last line, just as I felt I was going to cry from how real and relative this post is to me, made me laugh out loud. :)

At 3:16 AM, Blogger Bonnie said...

I also enjoyed the last line for its lightness & groundedness. I am grateful to find your blog even if it is inactive. I am directly connected with a person who has been homeless for a good while, none too successfully. I find it difficult to stay in close touch as our worlds are so very different and I don't want to add to the lack of personal success somehow. I plan to share your writings with my person and with others as well. Your contribution is much closer to teaching fishing than to gifting fish. Thank you kindly.


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