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The Edges of Reality- Mental HELLth for Houseless Youth

Updated: Apr 2

By Frankie Hicks / Po Peoples Media / POOR Magazine

It’s happening again. It’s happening now and it’ll never stop happening. The edges of my reality are curling in themselves like the pages of a well-loved book. Flowery wallpaper starts to peel off the walls in huge chunks, the smiling faces in educational posters turn to grimaces. I vaguely register grief at the loss of comfort in this space, one of the precious few safe spaces in my life. I come to Ms. Webber when I need a break from daily stresses, asking her to call me out of class for mental health emergencies like this. I recognize that these gruesome visions are just that – visions. It’s not real, but that fact doesn’t make it easier to understand or cope with. All I can do when my world starts to tilt is wait it out, and that strategy is making it hard to focus.

I try to explain this, but before I can speak, my mouth melts off my face.

Drip. Drip. Pale strings of flesh dribble down my chin to the floor. I expect Ms. Webber to scream in terror and run out the door, but instead she simply tilts her head in sympathy. With a dull thud, I realize that even if I were to speak, she couldn’t possibly understand. If she did, she’d be sitting in my seat, where doubt seeps out of my pores and stains the too-soft chair. 

The utter normalcy of this breaks me out of my trance. No one is coming to save me. I bleed back into the scene. Suddenly I feel small again, person-sized, manageable.

Panic attacks like this one are so common during this time of my life that I ask to speak to a psychologist, who diagnoses me with “acute attenuated psychotic stress symptoms.” I believe they’re caused by the stress of moving out of my parents’ home. I take it as an obstacle to be hurdled, so I square my shoulders and move forward.

Eventually, I stopped feeling the symptoms entirely. As time went on, the memory of confusing panic attacks faded into the background, yet the lessons I learned from it became the fulcrum of my new identity. I’m adaptive and tough. I can handle anything. Soon, I’d have another opportunity to prove it.

Frankie Hicks is a formerly houseless povertyskola and recent graduate of PeopleSkool for PovertySkolaz at POORMAgazine. Frankie is also the 14th houseless resident of Homefulness - a homeless peoples solution to homelessness  

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