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Black is the new Orange: How I Endured Living In A Home With Women With Personal

Black Is The New Orange]

by Anita Shanelle



All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means, including scanning, photocopying, or otherwise without prior written permission of the copyright holder. Copyright © 2017



Table of Contents


Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight





This is a short mini memoir of when I stayed in an adult group home. I had just been released from the psychiatric unit of a hospital. It didn’t take too long for them to place me in a home. I gave them a boo hoo story about how I felt hopeless. Actually it was the truth, but even if it wasn’t, I would’ve told them that anyways. I needed a place to stay. And thank goodness they were able to help with that. I think anyone who has NOT run out of medication and ends up in a psyche ward anyways is probably in a very desperate situation psychologically or financially. A psyche ward isn’t a place you just go to for fun.

They had us all in this big room with lots of beds. It was both men and women in the same area which I thought was insane. The women were quiet and balled up in a fetal position…including me. There was one belligerent lady that eventually had to be strapped down and escorted out the room.  The men paced the floor. Some even talked to themselves. 

It was one small framed quiet girl walking the floor. I would look around every so often then would ball up and put the sheet half over my head. These people are crazy. During one of my moments where I was ready to peek out again, the petite girl was standing next to my bed looking down at me with this blank stare like she was contemplating doing something to me.

Well…so much for relaxing. Now I’m feeling very uneasy. Now I’m angry that she made me feel uneasy and that the staff at the nurses station didn’t realize that a patient was standing over another patient. They should’ve noticed that before I did. As she paced the floor, she still had that stare. I must have shot some really bad vibes towards her because she began looking away from me. I guess it dawned on her that I’m in here right along with her and she really didn’t know if I was really crazy or not.

I was glad to be released. I was waiting for my ride to show up to take me to this AFC (Adult Foster Care) home. It would be a temporary home until they were able to find a more long term home for me. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be out of there.

A van pulled up. It was my ride.



A lady came to pick me up. She was nice. She was a staff member at the home. Again, it was both men and women there. It was about 4 guys. They looked to be in their 20’s and early 30’s. It was one female consumer (client/patient). I figured this must be a safe place since a woman stayed here plus the staff were women.  The boy’s rooms were upstairs. The one room for the ladies was huge and fitted 4 beds with lots of space to walk around and it had a bathroom in it. I stood in front of the mirror staring at my medium brown skin and short hair. My roommate’s name was Mary. She had dark hair and blue eyes. She was in her 40’s. She was nice. 

We all ate dinner together and had to do minor chores. It’s wasn’t like a scene from the movie Annie. We just had to keep our bathroom and space clean. I think I did the dishes one day. My only odd moment there was when I was sitting at the dinner table and one guy (Who talked to himself from time to time) looked at me and said a couple of times “You think you’re tough, don’t you?”

Again. Uneasy over here.

That was the only problem I had at that home and for the most part he proved to be harmless. It was approaching a week. Mary and I liked each other. They found a long term place for Mary to go in a rural area that I was actually familiar with. Lucky her. I really didn’t want to live in the city where we were at. Mary asked if they had an extra bed for one more person (me). They did. We got our belongings together and off we went.


Chapter One




Now I know you might be wondering how did I end up in a psyche ward and a home for the mentally disabled? I have dealt with bouts of trauma throughout my life but I thought I was managing what I had gone through well. I didn’t turn to drinking and drugs. I hadn’t even turned to smoking cigarettes. I was what you would call a square. In 2003, One day out of the clear blue I felt a surge of panic and I couldn’t shake it. I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was called a panic attack. The ambulance was called and when I arrived at the hospital I was administered medication. One of the medications was an anti anxiety med.


They ran multiple tests on me and everything came out clear. Nothing was wrong with me according to the results. After they released me I was still experiencing bouts of panic and would be on the verge of calling the ambulance but then I would remember that I had a prescription to help calm me down whenever I felt anxious. I was 26 at that time and I been on that medication ever since then.


So, I, like a lot of people I knew, had a habit. I felt a little disappointed but I didn’t know what else to do. Well, throughout the years while on the medication I would do well, hold down a job then my world would fall apart and I was back at square one. I was taking the medication on an “as needed” basis. About a year later, it got to a point where I began taking it every day.


So I was “eligible” to be in an AFC home because the main requirement is you have to be on some kind of psyche med. I thought to myself, once my life goes smoothly I will just stop taking it. Unbeknown to me, I realized that I didn’t feel “normal” off of it. I took it not to feel good or high. I took it to feel normal. One day when life is perfect for a while then I will look more into on how to get off. That stretch of time never came.


Getting back to me and Mary’s arrival at the new home.  It was dark by the time Mary and I arrived at the ranch style home. The driveway was made of gravel. It was a lot of trees around us. The house was placed on the circle part of a circular street. It looked decent from the outside. We walked inside with our bags. It was nice looking in the inside as well. It was all women’s home. Thank God. 

It was a lot of commotion going on. There were people sitting at the table playing cards. Everyone in the house was overweight except Mary and I. I was about 125/130 lbs. Mary was medium build, height/weight proportionate. It was a big burly looking woman that broke out and started singing. Loud! The staff member that was on shift was a young plain faced biracial looking girl that looked bored as she handed Mary and I paper work for us and to sign. (I should’ve read the fine print but I was desperate). I scanned the paperwork quickly with my eyes and sign my signature wherever it was highlighted for me to do so.

I asked could I be put in the room with the more laid back girl. Mary and I would have to separate. The staff name was Monica. She was about 26 years old but had an older woman demeanor to her. I was older than her but the youngest out of all the clients. She looked so serious. I didn’t think I would like her. Every client in the home except me were in their 40’s.

So, it was a total of 5 consumers in the home including myself. My roommate was a dark skinned woman. Long hair. Maybe about 5’4. I would say she was on the side of being cute despite having a missing tooth. She hid it very well. She was on house arrest and had one of those tether bracelets around her ankle. It was a device in our room that kept beeping periodically. I guessed it measured how far she could go from the house. I found out later that she was bisexual. No big deal to me. I think everyone was to a degree in that house except staff and the LOUD one. I’m not sure what my roommate actually did to get put on house arrest. I know she had issues with drugs and was really out there in the past. This came from her own mouth. Usually when people were on drugs and it messed up their life in some way, you get a sense of regret from them. Not her. She missed hanging out on the streets getting high. She was seemed nice though.

There was another girl that had her own room. Lucky her. If she leaves before I do, I want that room. I probably wouldn’t get it though. There were people here before me. SHE was what they called low functional. She had a child by one of her brothers and needed to be told what to do. For the most part she was nice and she laughed a lot. The other lady that looked mean with the LOUD singing voice was in the home. That was Mary’s roommate. She was fresh from Prison. What did she do you asked? I found out later she killed a man.

O.K. What the hell did I just sign up for? Well, it turned out that she had issues with street drugs also. I don’t know the details but to her credit, I was told she killed a man in self defense. What lead up to that moment I’m not sure but one thing we did know is she seemed like she hated the road that drugs lead her to. Even though she was bossy and would try to low key intimidate people, she did NOT want to go back to prison. I think we all kept a mental note of that knowing she wouldn’t go too far with any of us. Plus she may have been under the influence when that incident that led her to prison happened. I could tell she had been in prison because she always had to prove that she was the “dominate” one of the household. She always felt the need to show people she was the “head consumer” by trying to regulate situations whenever she could. It wasn’t necessary. She had nothing to prove here. No once was going to try to bully her out of a sandwich. She needed to tone it down…just a notch…or two.

We were all there for one main reason. (Except the low functional one who laughed a lot). To pick up the pieces of our lives and gain some type of independence again. I wasn’t sure what was going on with government funding when it came to these homes but the home needed more staff members. Most of them was overworked and under paid. The job wasn’t physically overwhelming but it would take its toll on the staff emotionally. If someone decided not to show up, the main staff (Monica) would have to work a double shift. A staff member had to be at the house at ALL times.

Unfortunately, whenever someone had an appointment, we ALL had to pack up in the van and go. If someone needed to go to the store for personal items WE all had to go. It was days where we ran errands and spent half the day in the van. I couldn’t stand it. I felt like I wanted to barf every day from the cigarette smoke. Everybody smoked in the house. Everybody. I didn’t want to rock the boat by making a complaint. At the temporary home that me and Mary came from, everyone had to go outside if they wanted to smoke.

When we would ride in the van, once a person would finish off a cigarette another would light one up. Yea, they would roll down the window a little bit but when you’re sitting in the back of a van, that’s where the smoke that DIDN’T escape from the window would flow to. That meant me. I made it obvious that the smoke was bothering me by raising up the top of my shirt to cover my nose hoping they would have mercy on me. They weren’t moved at all and kept lighting up. Bertha, the one who killed a man (I will call her Big Bertha for future references), always had the front seat. You instinctively knew to sit down in one of the seats in the back when you got in the van. Not that I really cared at the time.

One day they were playing cards at the long kitchen table. The room I was in was next to the kitchen. Every day, especially at night, the smoke would creep into my room. I sprayed air freshener. Nothing could really knock out the smell. O.k. I can’t take this anymore. This has got to stop. I will talk to Monica about this tomorrow.


Chapter Two




I began to reflect. I thought about what happened six years before I ended up at this AFC home.

In 2003 I was working at a packaging company putting small auto parts in a box. I was staying with my grandparents at the time. I was feeling a little strange one weekend and it didn’t dawn on me to apply for Social Security. Years later, I was in my early 30’s and too young to disappear from the working world and live like a retiree. A broke retiree. A Lady at a church I would attend occasionally blurted that suggestion to me. This would be my second time dealing with a issue that has interfered with my ability to work. I figured I’d just wait it out and hope and pray that I get better. I’ve done it before. 

But while “waiting” to get better, I’d usually lose my job and eventually everything I own. I’d become either a burden to other people whose help I needed OR some people would try to try take my phase of helplessness as an opportunity to take advantage of me in some way. Plus I was getting older. How much longer could I expect people (who are getting older too and have their own problems) be patient with me until I get myself together? And if something is wrong with me, obviously working must be agitating it in some way. So if I ever were to NOT feel well for a while, at least THIS time I won’t be a “burden” or “Prey” to people. (Although I learned the hard way being unwell living by yourself comes with its own unique set of issues).

In 2008 at 30 years old, I decided to apply for Social Security Disabilitynoticed my heart wouldn’t stop racing. When I was discharge from the hospital I thought, I’m young, all the medical test came back fine, I should be back at work by Monday.” Well, It wasn’t that easy. I wasn’t well enough to work. Eventually my granddad called me into the bedroom where my grandma was at and announced that, “I can’t deal with two sick people in his house.” I had to leave and find somewhere go. I stayed with a co worker. He was in his 50’s and stayed in a small room at a hotel. Thank God he never tried anything. I wouldn’t have been up for it if he tried. When you’re going through certain things as a woman, having sex with someone who isn’t your boyfriend or husband is the LAST thing on your mind. It was O.K. I manage to apply for food stamps to help out. I had a car and he didn’t so that helped a little bit. It was mentally bothering me being in a tiny room with a man who I knew most likely had an attraction for me.

I basically moved from pillar to post and eventually ended moving in with other family members. It had been close to a year by this time and I was still suffering. The medication was getting me through but the pain and the burning sensation literally brought me to tears. I also had acid reflux. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody! I was prescribed some pain medication one day. I took it. I didn’t like how it made me feel. I couldn’t deal with the pain. I had lost 40 lbs already. Desperate for relief I decided to try the pain med again. I took a .5 (a half of 1 mg) Ativan and about 20 minutes later took the pain med. I notice I didn’t feel funny. I laid down and could feel the pain medicine going to work in every spot in my body that burned or stung and soothed it away.

I went upstairs to heat up some cream of chicken. It was either that or baby food. That’s how painful eating was for me. I ate the cream of chicken and finished it. I noticed something. NO pain! I went upstairs and boiled 2 hot dogs and ate them without any problems. I gained all my weight back (And some) and was fully functional again. I was better than functional. Not only had my health returned I now had pills. If I had any upsets, or heck, if I just wanted to feel good (this is when I first began taking it), all I had to do was reach inside my purse and I was calm and chill for majority of the day. I slept well too. I was beginning to gradually feel a little better now that I was eating regularly again.


 I ended up getting into a situation that put a strain on me and a family member I was staying with at the time. We had a fallen out over it. I didn’t feel that she was being reasonable and she ended up keeping something of mines that didn’t belong to her and kicked me out while doing so. Later on down the line I got hold of the item and destroyed it. We stop speaking for two years.

I ended up living with a guy (Fredrick). He wasn’t my boyfriend and we both didn’t care to be a couple. He had a few gray hairs but looked young in the face. Occasionally, when the mood would hit us, we would fool around with each other (Which wasn’t that often). It wasn’t that it was bad, it was just completely devoid of feelings. His mother took a liken to me and I believed she wanted me to be with her son. He was a mamma’s boy and she was all he needed. He seemed content with her. When They would have family gatherings she would invite me. Because of her I did feel like I had somewhat of a family. I agreed to get a home phone put in my name at his home. When I got the bill it was $800. When I showed him the bill, he confessed to running it up and said sorry.

An ex boyfriend of mines who drove trucks was trying to convince me to go into truck driving. He would tell me how there are women truck drivers on the road too. I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of driving a Mack truck but living in a situation where I’m occasionally intimate with a guy that’s NOT my man and isn’t interested in being with me (the feelings were mutual) wasn’t cool either. Luckily, the guy I was staying with mother gave me a lead on a driving position at the airport. She knew a friend who could get me the job. I went up there and applied for the job and began working immediately.

Fredrick’s house went into foreclosure and I moved into a hotel for a little while. 

I met a guy (Mike) at the airport. We dated. He was younger than me. He was nerdy looking, wore glasses, very dark skinned and overweight but he was nice and would do anything for me if he could.

Eventually I moved into my own apartment. For the most part I sat down driving people around all day and didn’t have to get up much. The pay was decent. About 4 months into the job they announced that a new company was taking over. I was switched from driving people from terminal to terminal to becoming a parking lot shuttle driver. That position was a little more vigorous. I had to load and unload luggage. Which was fine but on a busy day, for 10 hours, it catches up with you. 

Some days certain passengers would be in a rush hoping not to miss their flight. If traffic was clear and if it wasn’t a whole lot of people in the van I’d rush a little to get them there faster. They would tip me accordingly. My hourly pay rate was decent and I was noticing my paycheck going up. I would get a raise here and there. I would average $50 to $80 in tips every day (Some times more). I would come home and take off my clothes soon as I walked through the door with a pocket full of singles and 5 dollar bills. I always had money and was never broke. I plopped down on the couch and would think, boy I am tired.


I continued at this pace for about two years. I was feeling really tired one day. I drove to a terminal to pick up some passengers. I ended up going off route on purpose and slowed down my van to park. I had to rest. I called dispatch and told them I wasn’t feeling well. They said that I could go home. I proceeded to go home. I parked my car. I sat there for a moment. I still din’t quite feel like myself. I started my car and went to the hospital. I was there for 5 or 6 days. All my symptoms had returned by the time I was released from the hospital. I never returned to work. I finally applied for social security.







Chapter Three




This is how I ended up in a psyche ward and an AFC home. I lost everything except my car. (I sold it later on down the road). I had allowed a friend that I was staying with, prior to living in the home, to keep the car because the home that I was in didn’t allow consumers to have cars and my friend needed a car.

A LOT had already transpired in my life at that time. I didn’t have anywhere else to go long term.
I had ways of being able to still get Ativan but it was getting a little more difficult not having my car with me to go see my doctor on a regular basis. I had to see the doctors THEY assigned me to see. While in the home, I had to go to therapy and see a psychiatrist. When I spoke to Dr. Yang, with the manager of the home sitting next to me, I told him I take Ativan. 

He responded, “I don’t prescribe Ativan. It’s addictive. I give you Klonopin. Less addictive.” He was pretty cut and dry. At that time I really didn’t care what a psyche doc had to say because I knew how to get what I wanted elsewhere at that time. The typical person can’t do that anymore in this day and age with advanced technology but I could back then. The Klonopin made me feel sluggish. I didn’t like it. It felt a little strong for the first day or two then it felt like it wasn’t strong enough. So, I was still feeling sluggish but not relaxed enough physically because I could still feel pain that the Ativan and pain medication together would almost completely get rid of.

It was med time at the house. Everyone just shoved the meds in their mouths. My turn. I was a little hesitant because the meds were delivered to the home and came in small tiny packets. I usually take one pill and then another a half an hour later. I wasn’t use to shoving pills in my mouth all at once. I had to adjust. Somehow, I forgot exactly what happen but staff was suspicious of me and they started doing mouth checks after we took our meds.

They checked my mouth. They didn’t find anything but they still didn’t trust me. One day Monica was passing out nighttime meds. She popped out my meds out into cup. I smiled and down the hatchy they went. She told me to sit down in a chair next to her while she proceeded to give the other house members their meds. She didn’t say anything to me. After she finished passing meds she said “you can leave now”.

That night was probably one of the best sleep ever. It got to a point to where I couldn’t make it to my regular doc at all. I was stuck with the klonopin. We were always going to doctor appointments and running errands. That alone was enough to drive me bonkers. I was hopping in and out of the van just as much as I did when I worked at the airport. I mean literally. The only difference was I wasn’t loading and unloading luggage. When case managers would come to see me they would wonder where I was at. The home manager would say “she’s right here sitting next to me”. They’d look embarrassed because they always thought I was a part of the staff. I didn’t look like I needed to be there. I didn’t belong there but that’s where I needed to be. I didn’t need to be bouncing from one place to another. I finally was able to get an Ativan script filled and soon enough I was beginning to feel like my old self again.


Chapter Four




 I want to redirect the story at the point where I wanted to tell the staff how the cigarette smoke was bothering me. For the most part I really didn’t make any waves. As a matter of fact, In the beginning, I was kind of quiet and that made people (staff) in the home a little uncomfortable. Everybody was more or less extroverted. I was more of an introvert. I’ve always been a mixture of the two but as I’ve gotten older and dealing with issues and seeing how people reacted to me when I would hit a low point in my life, I became slightly MORE introverted and withdrawn.  When you’re in a home where you’re dealing with people with mental issues, that can be seen as a problem. The staff was always trying to get me to do things and participate in things. I’m really not a finger painting, lets play cards type of woman. I’m more of a ‘I’ll watch a T.V. show with you or I’ll have a one on one conversation with you’ type of person. That’s what I eventually did with some of the staff members. After everyone would take their night time meds, they would be knocked out. I think staff liked midnight shift. Everyone would be sleep.

 I do remember me still being the only one up with certain staff members just talking and watching T.V. Before they got to know me, I was viewed more or less as anti social and a little spooky. I was small at that time. I was around 130 lbs. A lot of times staff wouldn’t see me coming until after I passed them by. I was like a cat. What was I supposed to do…blow a whistle every time I made a move? Or stomp really loudly so they could hear my footsteps? They eventually got use to me and got over it. By this time it turns out that the home manager, Monica, actually had a wonderful personality and was actually pretty funny. She told me how she noticed my face when Mary and I first arrive there when big Bertha began singing. She knew why I wanted to be roommates with the more quiet one (April). Bertha is a little over the top. She has a BIG personality but not in an enjoyable way. Especially if you don’t know her. But to be honest once I became more familiar with her I still felt pretty much the same way.

I adressed Monica about the smoking. I didn’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. Aside from the exit signs and paperwork taped in certain areas of the kitchen, I knew everyone wanted to feel at home. I didn’t want to ruin that for them. Monica didn’t smoke either so I thought after I talk to her that the problem would be solved. It seemed like she was slow to getting around to it. One person would light one up in the kitchen and nothing would be said. I would look at her like ‘O.k., what’s going on, I thought we talked about this?’

We’d have little house meetings and slowly but surely the smoking did eventually stop. No smoky house and no smoky van. Yes! Fresh air! I think they knew I was behind it but I couldn’t allow myself to really care. They saw how bothered I was by it and they didn’t care one bit. Oh well, they’ll get over it. They did.

I don’t know how much time passed but we did eventually get a little doggy for the house. Yes a puppy! Yay! It was a Jack Russell /Chihuahua mix. We didn’t notice at the time but her genital area was swollen looking. Her tail hid it when she was at the pound. Mary picked her out. I wanted her to consider the small black dog that kept growling at us but Mary had already connected with the Chihuahua mix. We didn’t know if it was a deformity or if someone did something to her. She hated men. She scared children (I didn’t like that). She was so sweet to us but she almost ran a male case worker out of the door. She chased a boy on a bike down the street despite us yelling for her to stop.  A police woman put her hand on her gun because she wasn’t sure if she was going to bite. Mary named her Angel. Somehow she ended up being called Lulu. It’s  back story to that. She reminded us of the Taco Bell dog. I would call her Chalupa and people began calling her Lulu for short. I don’t think Marry was too fond of Angel’s name being morphed into Lulu but she responded to Mary every time she called her Angel so I don’t think she minded too much. Angel was smart. It was almost like she knew Lulu was her nick name and Angel was her real name.

Lulu was an angel. She was white and brown with hazel eyes. Mary took care of Lulu in the morning (Meaning taking her out to use the bathroom and feeding her). I took care of her more so during the night. When it came to taking her on walks and giving her baths, I ended up being stuck with those duties. I didn’t mind. I needed the exercise and she was my baby too. We notice that she grew a little. We suspected she was a puppy but we didn’t know if she had reached her growth limit. She was very intuitive. If Me or Mary wasn’t feeling well, she didn’t try to play with us, she would just lay there next to one of us.

I used to have Mary walk on my back. She would always hit that spot where I’d feel a little tension at and we’d hear a small crack and I’d feel better. This was done on a regular basis. One day I was lightly karate chopping Mary’s back and Lulu got in the way and laid on May’s back willing to take a hit for her. She was trying to protect Mary. We showered her with love and kisses.

Big Bertha wasn’t too fond of an animal being in the house. She made it known. Even Lulu knew. If Bertha was in the kitchen fixing herself something to eat, the dog couldn’t come in the kitchen. Lulu would sit at the border of the living room and kitchen. Bertha would shoot a mean look at the dog. The dog would look down and away from her. This happened a couple of times where she would shoot a cold stare at the dog to intimidate her. Although I get it that she didn’t want a dog around her while she was cooking, I still felt like part of her was doing that and making a big fuss over it to prove that she was “running sh—”.  I didn’t like that.

We had a very handsome male staff member. One of my friends (the one who had my car) that came to visit me, that only liked very dark complexed men, even admitted to me that he was very handsome to her. He had a medium to light brown complexion like me. He wasn’t the greatest cook but I would be secretly checking him out. He wore a baseball hat flipped to the back. I got over his good looks after a short while. I was more focused on getting my life straight but he was eye candy at the time. I know it was a few times me and Monica clashed. Again, you’re dealing with a house full of women plus female staff that’s overworked and under paid. Aside from one person, we are all high functional. Most of the staff were in their late 20’s/early 30’s years old or younger. Some were as young as nineteen. I’m not trying to sound uppity but some of the consumers came to the home from jail or some other facility where they were told what to do. For the most part, the staff was O.k. But there were a few that was questionable. Meaning some of them probably should’ve been a consumer and not a staff member. I’m just saying.

The ones in their middle twenties and up seemed more capable for that kind of position. It was the teeny boppers that lumped everyone up in a certain category and would talk you a certain type of way before properly getting to know you. That’s when age became an issue for me. I’m not saying all teenage adults act this way in the health care industry but from my experience and observation that seemed to be the case more often than not. I came from having my own place and job. I technically still had a car that I wasn’t allowed to park on the premises. So to be told when to eat and when to go to bed and hoping in a van when I don’t have an appointment was a heck of an adjustment for me. So when a staff member would have a rough day and they didn’t know how to deal with their emotions, some felt like they can take it out on you. I nipped that in the bud real quick. I’m not what you would call super confrontational but under certain circumstances I could be. Yea, I got an evil look here and there from certain staff but eventually they would get over it and straighten up. I’m primarily talking about the teenagers.

We were all under pressure trying to hold it together. Trying to deal with each other’s different personalities and quirks including staff all up under one roof. Trust me, it more easier said then done. I and the male staff knew it was some attraction between us. I forgot the set of circumstances but I remember either owing Monica some money or feeling the need to compensate her for a small favor that she probably done for me. All I had was coins and I just tossed the change on her desk. Some of the money fell to the floor. She had got on my nerves that day. She was cool but we had days with each other. She threatened to have me taken to the hospital. The male staff was also still there and when he got out of Monica’s view and only I could see him he was silently pleading for me to chill. I realized then getting upset or having an emotion can get you sent to the hospital. In the real world when you get upset (As long as it doesn’t turn physical) you’re not under that threat. This was different. I learned I cannot get upset and show it. That’s when I realized how being “mentally ill” can work against you in that type of environment. Just like Bertha didn’t want to go back to jail. I didn’t want to go back to the psyche ward again. I went to my room and kept quiet.


 It wasn’t always bad around the house. There were times where laughter happened. One day Big Bertha was doing a dance. It wasn’t anything wild but it looked funny and she knew it. Every time she would do it people would laugh. One day Bertha decided fix us breakfast. That woman can cook! She was a little heavy on the butter and grease but her meals were amazing. Plus it gave the staff on shift a break and they gladly ate as well. We were all getting a little more comfortable with one another. We sometimes even played with each other. I did a sneak attack on big Bertha from behind. She was standing next to the couch. I put my arm around her neck and she gently flip me over on the couch like I was as light as a feather to her. O.k. Play time was over for me. We were older adults so our playing with each other came in small spurts.

Rose, the low functional consumer, who laughed a lot and needed to be told what to do, had a moment where she got upset about something and slammed her bedroom door hard. I thought she may have broken it. It was still intact. What are these women eating that gave them all this strength? There were five of us including five staff members (rotating shifts in and out of the house), so maintaining a state of cohesiveness among each other was a challenge in the home. Deshaun, the male staff would bring us these DVD’s about the entertainment industry and conspiracy theory type of content. We didn’t have the internet and I was unfamiliar with what was going on in the cyber world at the time so the DVD’s I found to be interesting and entertaining. Every now and then me and Shaun would glance at each other but we had to keep our distance because I was custody of the state and by me being in a AFC home that would be terms for him to get fired. Maybe even worse.

My laid back roommate (the one I was assigned to when I first arrived there) was apparently trying to hint to me that she wanted me. She wasn’t my cup of tea. Plus I try to stay away from having “casual encounters” with someone that I work with or in this case live in the same house with. I don’t have time for issues of jealousy or hurt feelings to arise on my end or theirs. I dated people here and there at work but I try to avoid it unless I think the person might be a keeper.

As a matter of fact, one of my old ex boyfriends that I met at my last job, Mike, began inching his way back into my life. We parted ways after I stopped working a lost everything. He obviously didn’t know how to handle it. My hair was short while I was working and it was short when I arrived at the home. When the staff had down time and they would be bored they would sometimes do our hair. After a while my hair began to grow. I loved having people do things for me. It just seems right for me to have servants (Jk)…. I mean helpful people around me. I think I miss that part most of all. Mary was a decent cook. Bertha and another staff member made delicious meals but they added a lot of butter and grease to it. Monica was my favorite cook. She knew how to make meals delicious but it was more of a healthier version of what the other people who cooked. I still know how to make crispy baked chicken till this day because of her. No need to fry it.

The down side to getting use to everyone doing things for you, you get a little use to it. After hanging out somewhere it was nice coming back with my home cooked meal set aside in the microwave. All I had to do was heat it up or eat it as is. I don’t like my food hot. I like it warm. I don’t like blowing on my food fifty times before eating it especially if I’m really hungry. The staff were the main cooks, they cleaned and jotted down all of the appointments. I didn’t have to think or remember much. I didn’t have to worry about bills. Well, I only had one and that was a cell phone bill. It wasn’t a lavish life but it was a good side. One staff even did my laundry for me. That only happened once. I found it hard to get comfortable with other people washing my clothes but they did it for Rose regularly. If I didn’t feel like doing my hair there were usually someone willing to do it. It made their work shift go by quicker. It was a win-win situation. My hair was almost getting long like my roommate. I usually change clothes in the bathroom. I know we were all women but I still liked a little privacy. Rose was in the bathroom. She was in there for a while. When Rose is in the bathroom for a while and she’s not showering, Trust me, you do NOT want to go in behind her. I will spare you the details. Everyone was aware of Rose and the bathroom. We all ate the same meals so I’m not sure how things turned left when it came to her.

I decided to change in the room really quickly KNOWING that my roommate was attracted to me. She wasn’t even looking at the television anymore. She was looking at me. I felt her eye balling my girly area. That was the last time I changed in the room with her. I found out later down the road that she wasn’t too happy about me keeping myself covered up and NOT changing in front of her more often. She had no problem showing me her crotch. I knew that she was hairy. She always wore a short gown and soon as I would walk in. Bam, there it was. I thought maybe it was a slip up but after the 10th time I got a clue that that was her way of advertising to me. I was thinking to myself, if I haven’t took her up on the offer or winked or flirted with her then maybe she should give up. She didn’t. I was flashed on a regular basis.

She had a boyfriend. They weren’t serous. They just fooled around and had fun with each other. They wanted to add another woman into their little rendezvous. She invited me. I politely declined. When he would come to visit her he would rape me with his eyes. He was far worse than her. Although she was flashing me she wasn’t aggressive with her approach with me. She didn’t have this “sexually aggressive” energy about her. It was more like “if I ever decide to change your mind I will be ready and available for you” kind of energy I got from her. So I was surprised to hear that she was upset with me. Her boyfriend on the other hand had a “If I ever get a chance with you I will tear you up” vibe about him. It was intense. I hated it but he never said anything out the way to me. The way he looked at me said enough. Then she tried a non sexual invite to chill with her over her boyfriend’s house. I politely declined. I didn’t want to be within 50 feet of him. I made up an excuse as to why I just didn’t want to chill and eat Bar-B-Q with them. O.k. She was beginning to wear on me a little. She kept trying to find new ways to get me. One day she upped the ante. I would ignore her flashing me in the room. I walked in the living room and there she was showing all her glory wearing a short T-shirt styled gown. Shaun was on shift so I’m pretty sure he may have gotten a view. This chick doesn’t give up easy.


Chapter Five




One day Monica asked me if I would like to make five bucks. I asked, “Doing what?” She wanted me to take her braids out of her hair. I agreed to do it. This should be a quick easy few bucks plus any extra money was good. About an hour later I realized that it was long tedious work. She laughed and said, “You should’ve known something was up when I offered to pay you to do it.” She had a lot of hair. 

Big Bertha walked by and I somewhat got the sense that she might have been jealous. It probably seemed like Monica was beginning to favor me over the others. It is somewhat of an attachment that a consumer can form with someone who’s cooking for you, making sure all you basic needs are met and being that ear when you need someone to talk to. Bertha was there longer than me so I’m not sure if she had any “moments” with her. Well, I’m here now so she will just have to deal with it. Plus out of all the staff, Monica would go a little over and beyond what her job called for and it gave you a sense that despite the job sometimes being stressful, that she really did care about our overall well being despite whatever little quirks we all had. To be honest I don’t know if I would have been able to do my complete time there if it wasn’t for her. Bertha seemed like deep down inside that she probably was a cool person, but it was like she always had this mean hardcore demeanor or maybe that was just her normal look. Aside from her cooking and occasionally doing her silly dance it would not be too long afterwards she would revert back to that “I’m the head consumer in charge” vibe about her.

One day we were out grocery shopping. I was putting items on the belt. Bertha was running out of patients with me and began aggressively grabbing more stuff saying, “Girl, you’re moving to slow”. I gave her a look. I was moving at a regular pace. Her adding more items on the belt didn’t make anything go any faster. The cashier still scanned each item at her own pace. Bertha was getting on my nerves. I knew it was only a matter of time before me and her would collide. I been keeping quiet because I was new and still trying to feel my way around and adjust to teenagers (well, technically they were adults) and people younger than me telling me what to do. I still respected them and the position that they held as long as they did their job and treated me with respect. I’m sorry, but I refused to give a consumer, who’s in the same position as me, that type of authority over me. She’s going to have to find a way to shake that prison mentality off of her. She should know by now that no one going try to take advantage of her if she relaxes a little. If she got issues that’s too bad. We all have issues. One of the younger staff members said, “If you ain’t crazy, a place like this will drive you crazy.”

Maybe it was some truth to that because I was breaking under the pressure. I was so happy when Monica was on shift. She made me feel… human. She treated me according to my functioning level. Which was at the level of your every day person in the outside world. She wasn’t forever “testing” me to see what she could get away with or to see if I was “hardcore” or not. One of the younger staff members was trying me or maybe just assumed certain things about me because I was there. Bertha, in her own way, was constantly doing the same thing to everyone, staff included. It dawned on me that although she may have been regretful of her past, I think a part of her was glad that word had gotten out about what she did because she also was USING her past to gage how far she could push a person. Monica didn’t put up with her B.S. and Bertha backed down a little from her. I believe if they did have to fight it out, Monica would’ve been able to take her down. Monica was pretty good at being able to psychologically assess a person too. So that helped. You got to let a bully know that they won’t be able to bully you. Plus we all knew Bertha really was all talk because she did NOT want to go back to jail despite the fact that she was still acting like she was still there.

Maybe it was just me. Maybe the rest of the house wasn’t bothered by certain things like I was. Aside from Mary having Bertha as a roommate she didn’t seem bothered by anything. Rose didn’t care. She didn’t mind being told what to do like a 3 year old. My roommate didn’t seem bothered. Nope, just me. I will say this, an [*{color:#000;}AFC home can be very difficult for a person who is high functional and knows how to be independent{color:#000;}. *]

I needed a drink. One day Monica came in looking kind of worn out and sad. She was having a family crisis. She told us about it. It was pretty serious. I felt for her. My roommate blurted out something totally unrelated as if she didn’t hear nor care about what Monica was going through. I saw Monica’s face. She began preparing dinner. I will talk to Monica later.


 So far me and Mary’s relationship was going pretty well. She would call me her “sista from another Mista” Even though we were two different races. She was actually a nice looking woman. She developed an interracial relationship with one of the young men at the temporary home that I met her at. He would occasionally come to visit her. I personally didn’t see what she saw in him. He seemed nice but as far as looks were concerned, I didn’t find him really attractive. I’m not merely talking about looks because I had a few unattractive men in my past. I’m more so talking about he looked a little unkempt. 

Mary had a very traumatic past. She was a pill addict. Her and her mother had a heated argument one day and not soon after she found her mother lying on the bed. Lifeless. She had swallowed a bottle of pills. The guilt Mary must’ve been carrying around. She had a sister who I believed helped raised her daughter while she was in and out of treatment. I don’t think her and her sister got along. Naturally as a result of her addiction, it put a strain on her and her daughter’s relationship. I believe they were trying to work it out with one another. Whenever she would get a phone call, if it wasn’t from her boyfriend, it was from her daughter who was around the age of 17 at the time.

Mary had an air about her that screamed “I’m a teenager” although she was in her middle 40’s. Her boyfriend was in his 20’s. I was puzzled as to what she saw in him. Well, when you’re in a situation like this you want to feel some kind of connection with someone. Yes there were staff members and although they took care of you, you knew it was just a job to them. It was nothing personal. You had house mates but everyone was dealing with their own issues so if you didn’t share a common interest with them, like playing cards, it really wasn’t much connecting going on among each other. It seemed like, if the person was high functional, you would find them more than likely talking to their favorite staff than each other. Whatever Mary got from the store, as far as snacks, she would always share what she had with me. When it got warmer she would walk around in these short shorts. She had some nice legs. I knew I could have her if I put the moves on her but I just wasn’t interested. She told me she had been with women before. It was something about her “irresponsible, I’m a helpless little girl” persona that I just couldn’t get with. To her credit, she never tried to overtly entice me in any way. Mary prided herself for never doing hard drugs. Just pills. Well let’s just say, word got out that she broke into the medicine cabinet of the temporary home that I met her at and stole one of the clients medication. So, no she wasn’t on hard street drugs but she’d pretty much would do whatever a hardcore addict would do for a high.

I hardly ever saw her in a bad mood. The only thing I would see is her knocked out on the couch, depending on what she took that day. She had a very high tolerance for drugs. Mary wasn’t trying to get high, she wanted something that would knock her clean out. Her boyfriend would share his pot with her. That’s the one thing she could possibly get out of him. So I concluded maybe that’s why she was with him. I’m sure it wasn’t the sex or anything. It was nothing about him that screamed “I’m a good lover”. I’m sure I would’ve heard about it. One of her quirks was she couldn’t hold water. She was a bit of a blabber mouth.  It was a time when a company was holding an event to where your pet could get free shots. We took Lulu to get hers. Mary was a little more talkative when it came to strangers. She told one guy that we were living a home. When she told me that, I was upset that she was telling people who didn’t need to know our business. I said, “Mary, don’t be telling people that. They don’t need to know”.

Mary would use her teenage helpless charm on Monica to get her to do little extra things for her. I was surprised Monica would go out of her way to do little things for Mary. She couldn’t see that she was being manipulated. But hey, everyone has to decide when enough is enough. It took Monica a little while but eventually she started telling Mary no to certain things. As intelligent as Monica was, I think she liked to be well thought of. I guess most people do. I could be wrong but I was taking a wild guess that Monica probably liked the thought of being everyone’s favorite staff. 

One day I heard someone who sounded like Mary on the phone. She seemed very direct, serious and adult like. I went out into the kitchen to get a glance at who was talking on the phone. It was Mary. She was talking to her daughter. I couldn’t believe it. She sounded almost as though she could’ve been intelligent and stern enough to be a staff member. That’s how I knew her personality was semi concocted. But oh well, she hasn’t done anything wrong to me. But I was a little surprised. One day Mary called me to her. She was keeping herself busy by cleaning and taking out the trash. She discovered packets of Benadryl. It was probably 20 or so. It was paper trash and the packets were clean. She shared them with me. Tension began to rise between Mary and Bertha. One day they had a heated argument in the kitchen. I was pushing Mary back and someone was holding Bertha back so they wouldn’t attack each other. That was probably the first time I seen Mary loose her cool. It was a long time coming. Bertha was making up rules telling her how to do things like how to close the bedroom door. She told her not to let it swing shut and to close it very softly. I can only imagine how sharing a room with Bertha had to have been. Mary spent most of her time out of the room anyways. I was more surprised Mary snapped on her before I did. 

Staff thought it would be best to switch Mary out of the room and put her in mines. My roommate ended up going to the front room with Bertha and Mary came back there with me. The room I was in was smaller and not as fancy but Mary didn’t care. It was me and her as roommates just like we were in the other home. This time we had a puppy too.







Chapter Six




I want to mention my therapist I had at the time. Her name was Patty. She was a true angel. She had long dark wavy hair, blue eyes and dimples. At first I really didn’t think much of her. She was just a regular therapist to me. For the most part, I do like therapy. It gave me somewhat of an outlet to release what was bothering me about the home that I was at. We talked about my goals and other social services that would be helpful to me. When I was back at the home and needed to ask her a question I would call her and get her voice mail. I don’t recall her ever not getting back to me about a question I had. I never experienced her half halfheartedly doing things when it came to things that needed to get done. If there was anything that she could do to help me out or make my situation more comfortable, she’d do it if it was in her power to do so. I thank her very much. She really opened some doors for me. As a consumer, a client or patient of anyone…you can really tell who’s just doing their job and who actually really want to see you succeed and don’t mind going the extra mile for you to see to it that you do. She was one of those types of people. So far I haven’t found another like her at the time of me writing this. BUT hopefully I will need case worker assistance less and less in the future. She wasn’t a caseworker but she did the things that a caseworker would do.

So far things got better since Mary and my roommate switched rooms. My ex roommate, April, didn’t seem to mind. She didn’t make a fuss about too much of anything. She just went with the flow. I don’t think her and Bertha had any issues with one another. She made a pretty decent roommate. Aside from her moments of trying to entice me, I didn’t have an issue with her at all. To be honest her attempts at trying to “get me” didn’t start bothering me until her boyfriend began visiting. It seemed like she became more persistent. I was wondering was he behind it. Yea, I know she was attracted to me but she was really chill about it. I’m not trying to downplay how she might have felt but her liking me was like finding out that a 7 year old likes you. I just didn’t take it to seriously at all. I didn’t mind it as long as it had a ring of playfulness to it. 

Rose had a brother that would take her out somewhere with his family every weekend. Obviously this wasn’t the brother who impregnated her. Her daughter would come to visit and I could tell the gene pool was hitting really close in her daughters features. She sounded intelligent but she did have that “look”. Rose’s other brother was well spoken. He sounded really intelligent and communicated with her very well. If there was anything that Rose needed or if he felt like the home needed to better assist rose with something it would get done. I could tell he really cared for her. Although he did talk to her like she was 12, he was very respectful and made sure she understood what he was trying to convey to her. I believe Bertha had an adult daughter. I don’t recall seeing her visiting her but I think Bertha went out to visit her daughter a few times. She had been apart from her child for a long time while she was in prison (over 7 years) and that may have had some affect on their relationship as far as parent/child bonding. 

Me. My family would come to visit me every so often. My family loved me but everyone had their own issues. But the love was still there. I tried to introduce them to Lulu. They hate that dog till this day. Yes, she growled but they still should’ve tried to see the light in her. She was protecting me. Unfortunately, the only people that knew she was angel was Monica, Mary and I.  The dog got along with everyone in the house but she mainly stayed up under me and Mary. One night while everyone was asleep, me and Monica was talking. She held Lulu and she fell asleep right there in her arms. No one else really bonded with her or helped out with her. She was considered Me and Mary’s dog…not to mention our responsibility. Shaun would get on me and Mary’s nerves when it came to Lulu. He’d make her dance and twirl around on her hind legs for a long time and would give her nothing. Whenever we’d “make her dance” we’d give her a treat for her “performance”. Shaun didn’t see what the big deal was. “She’s just a dog!” he’d say.  I see if she danced for 10 seconds but he would pretend like he had something in his hand and make her twirl around for what seemed like 2 minutes straight with no reward. It used to piss me off.

I ended up going through a major family crisis similar to what Monica went through. I began drinking. I’m a light weight and usually a couple of shots of liquor would give me a nice little buzz. I drank a whole half of pint. I went in the living room testing myself to see if I could be around people without them noticing that I was drunk. Rose said something to me and we began laughing together. We looked like we were on the same level with each other. I needed to laugh. A family member called me. I was so happy to hear her voice. I don’t think she picked up that I was drunk. 

After I got off the phone, I thought to myself. O.k. being drunk isn’t so bad. Plus no one seems to notice. Even Rose was able to make me laugh. I needed this feeling. I know things were going on but it was nice to not feel the heaviness of my situation. I’m not sure what happened but I walked back towards my room and noticed I now was beginning to stagger. I decided to keep a low profile and just stay in my room, lay down and just rest or sleep it off. I laid down. The room began spinning. It felt like my bed was constantly tipping me over. It felt like the room wouldn’t stop moving. The effects of the liquor crept up on me out of the blue.  The motion of the room was beginning to make me feel nauseous. Ut Oh.  I had to hurry up and grab the mini garbage can. It’s coming up. I hope I don’t miss.




 One day I believe it was Shaun that was on shift and we decide to go to the fireworks. O.k., That would be cool. Well, I didn’t really enjoy myself. It was a lot of traffic and when we finally found a spot to sit at we were waiting around for a while for it to get dark. It just didn’t seem worth it to wait hours swatting at mosquito’s for an event that only lasted 20 minutes. On our way there in the van, a song came on that I liked and Shaun turned the radio station. On the other station it was a song that April liked. I told him that I liked the song on the other station. April said she like the song that was currently playing on the station that he turned it to. He left it on the station that April wanted it on. It didn’t take me long to put two and two together. If he was googly eying me, he was probably googly eying her. Plus her peep shows must’ve put her in his favor. I was done with Shaun from that day forward. Plus the walls talk. He liked a little bit of everybody (minus Rose) it seemed. It was hearsay BUT it wasn’t hard to believe. I didn’t have any type of feelings for him but it was still surprising and a little disappointing to hear certain things about him especially if the things they were saying about him, I experienced it myself like the flirtatious stares, etc. One day I was in the kitchen with Monica. It was dark outside and we seen some car headlights shining through the window. It was Mrs. Hightower, The owner of the business and the home. I met her first couple of days there. She was one of those types of women that although she was in her 50’s she was still “fly” and you could tell she knew it. She scared me a little and I couldn’t understand why. She was a petite woman with fair skin and long black hair. She was very professional and direct when speaking to you and appeared confident. She drove a white Lexus. 

It was a family owned business. She had a son who shared her white complexion. I believe he was in his mid 20’s. She had a daughter (20’s) that looked black. She was pretty but her hair bothered me. It looked like she put a bunch of yarn in her hair and just walked out the door like that. She seemed a little ditsy but I believe she is a Doctor or have the credentials to become one in the mental health care industry. It was another son she had that I never met. He may have been in his 30’s. Her children seemed decent. They drove BMW’s. 

They seem to have some kind of hold on Monica. Monica, in my opinion, was doing way too much for what they paid her for. I’m not sure how much she got paid. All I knew is that it was salary. Whatever it was I knew it wasn’t enough. I could tell. But Monica just couldn’t seem to leave. Mrs. Hightower and her children had bachelor and master degrees in psychology. Even though they didn’t communicate much with us lowly consumers, they were educated and experienced enough to deal with this kind of work. While she spoke to Monica she took down some type of notice that was pinned to the wall. Before she left, she had a bag of clothes and welcomed me and the others to sift through it to see if we found anything that we liked. Then she left. Whenever she came around it was the same feeling as a landlord coming to visit you. I lived there but I wasn’t your typical tenanted so I don’t know why I would feel on edge every time she came through. If her son or daughter came by on their own I wouldn’t feel anything. But like clockwork, when the tiny women appeared I would feel nervous.

My ex boyfriend Mike would come pick me up from time to time. I couldn’t take him too seriously. When I needed to stay with him temporally until I could figure out what I was going to do in terms where I was going to live after I lost my job and apartment, he treated me badly. Plus I had lost a nice amount of weight. He liked me on the heavier, thicker and curvy side. I was no longer that person anymore and he treated me like sh—. I didn’t sleep with him when we would hang out. He did come in handy and he gave me money here and there. Not a lot but every penny counts when you have nothing. The home made sure your basic needs were met but it’s something about having your own money in hand. Mike loved the fact that I was regaining my weight. He never saw me with long hair. Well, it wasn’t fully long at this point but it was growing and more was able to be done with it. 

I had collected new clothes that would periodically be donated to the house or by a staff member if we were similar in size. I will admit, Even I was impressed with what I saw in the mirror. I was looking pretty good so Mike was just happy to have me in his presence again. One day I got my hair done by staff and was looking very nice. I hung out with Mike and of course he had to make a stop over his family’s house. That’s what some guys do. If they feel they are with a hot girl ALL of a sudden they need to make all these little pit stops so they can show you off to their people. I knew what he was up to but I didn’t say anything. Him getting me out of the house from time to time helped. I would never get seriously involved with him ever again though.

Bertha was still being who she was. It got to the point where if she wasn’t in the van by the time we all was out there, whoever felt like getting in the front seat hopped right on in there. One day I had a doctor’s appointment and unfortunately the whole household had to come with me. This was a new clinic that I was assigned to. They gave me a check up and a physical. Everything came out fine. My second time going the clinic was moving very slow and everyone was cramped up in the van. It felt like I was there for hours. Somehow Bertha made her way back there where I was and was telling me to hurry up. I told her, “I have no control over how long they were taking”.  I’m not sure, but I think she was conversating with one of the nurses. She still didn’t make things move any quicker. They were moving extremely slow that day but it still wasn’t HER place to find her way to me. If anything Monica should’ve been the one trying to see what was going on with me but Monica knew it was going to top take as long as it was going to take. I did feel for the others a little bit. I know how it feels to be just sitting around in a van all day. I made a vow to myself that if I ever had an appointment up here again I will use Mike’s car and drive up here on my own. They really need to have extra staff on shift that will specifically take people to their appointments so the whole household wouldn’t have to be forced to wait hours for something that was totally unrelated to them. Big Bertha’s ways will soon dig her into a deeper hole.


Chapter Seven




I’m not sure who suggested that I enter a work program. Probably a therapist. It’s basically for people who are on social security or awaiting social security. The work was easy. You don’t get paid much BUT it will give you something to do and make you feel productive (not to mention put a little cash in your pocket). Like I mentioned before, I personally like having money in my pocket. I didn’t like going to a staff member if I needed minor things and having the whole household coming with me. The process took about a month to get accepted into the program. You can work when you want. I figured I’d probably work 2 or 3 days out of the week.

The first day I arrive at this factory I immediately realized that I didn’t belong. What’s new? I should be use to being in awkward situations. The work was easy. You sit down at this long table and you screw these bolts on these small metal parts. A caveman could do this. It was a man sitting next to me trying to strike up a friendly conversation. I wasn’t really trying to get all friendly with people but I didn’t want to seem rude or stuck up so I talked with him. Another guy, who I later found out was deaf, was trying to strike a conversion with me also. I’m glad somebody told me because I was having trouble trying to understand what he was saying. He seemed nice and compared to the rest of the people there, he wasn’t too bad looking either. But I couldn’t overlook not being able to have an easy flow of conversion with him.  It’s like trying to talk with someone from another country that only knows a few words of English. I had to do a lot of pointing and gesturing with my hands. I wanted to focus more on my work which was more difficult to do with him around because I had to actually look at him to make sure I understood him correctly. 

I was getting a lot of stares. Whenever a person would wave at me or try to begin a conversation with me, a person I had previously had small talk with would look jealous. A good portion of these people were from AFC homes and then it hit me. These people are getting attached to me. I was in the break room and the deaf guy came to the table I was sitting at to talk to me.  It was like these men felt like that they had to keep talking to me so no one else could get their time in with me. In a nutshell, if you talk to someone at THAT job you immediately became their woman. I didn’t know this, but I got a clue by the end of the day. Well, I decided that the next time I go to work I will bring a book with me just in case we had any downtime waiting for parts. If I’m reading then they won’t try to talk to me. It was other women there so they shouldn’t any problem trying to speak to them. 

Bringing a book meant absolutely nothing to them. They would still talk to me. They ran out of parts early so it was a lot of just sitting and waiting around. I wasn’t happy with that because the job paid you based on the amount of work you did..not by the hour. So you can get paid for 3 hours of work and may have been sitting there for 6 hours. I didn’t like that. I wish these men would quit talking to me.  I don’t mind small talk but I don’t want to talk ALL day to them. I don’t want to talk to a person who I have no romantic interest in who is trying to block other people from talking to me by staying up in my face all day long. Although the deaf guy was moderately attractive, he was annoying too. How do a person who can’t speak be so talkative? I heard through the grapevine that he had a girlfriend. I couldn’t tell. I definitely hope she didn’t work there because then that could create a situation where I could have problems with someone that I don’t know. 

This isn’t working for me. I just wanted a little extra money in my pocket but instead I’m working at a place where either they may or may not have work. The men acted like they were in prison and haven’t seen a real woman in ages. There were other women there but they acted as though I was the only one there. When I got back at the home, I realized that the work program really wasn’t for me. Instead of working three days out of the week, I would only work one. I’m not going to sit at a job for six hours and get paid for only two of those hours because they ran out of work. 

One day the van broke down at the AFC home and a staff manager at [_another _]home (that the Hightower’s owned and operated) agreed to take me to the work program. A few of her consumers worked there as well. This time I will bring my headphones. 
BINGO! It worked! It kept people away from me. They ran out of work early again. A handsome muscular looking man spoke to me when I took a moment to take my headphones off. We walked to a fast food restaurant together. I didn’t quite know what to make of him but the other men didn’t try to talk to me after they noticed me and him were talking. I had a weird feeling that I was claimed by him. It was like people knew I belonged to him. It wasn’t even like that but I didn’t mind because I really didn’t want the others to talk to me. We exchanged numbers. He had a friend and wanted to know if I had a friend who he could hook his friend up with. I didn’t but Mary agreed to go with me if I decided to hang out with him. They were aware that Mary already had a man and that it would be a platonic hang out. They still agreed to it.

I’m not quite sure what happened but we never did meet up with each other. Plus his mental diagnosis scared me a little. It’s hard to tell if a person is exaggerating their mental disability or if they are telling the truth. After a few conversations I knew he wasn’t someone I wanted to get to know so we never met up. I went to the job again. When I walked into the job, the lady who was the leader of the table I was assigned to told me that they didn’t have any work. People were still there sitting around. Some were talking amongst each other. I really really didn’t want to be there with nothing to do. I called the woman from the other home that dropped me off but she didn’t answer her phone. I called Monica. Monica told me that whether they have work or not, once I got dropped off at the program, I was suppose to stay until the end of the shift. She told me she will call the lady who dropped me off and let her know that it isn’t any work. I probably had to hang around the job for about an hour and a half. I went to the bathroom and began crying. No in particular reason. It was just everything. My ride arrived. I could tell she was not happy about having re route to come back to the job to get me. Our van wasn’t working and the job was way too fickle. I had no intentions of returning back to that job. I picked up my last check a week later. I didn’t return.


One day we were eating dinner. We had chicken wing dings. We fed Lulu some of the bones. Big Bertha explained to us that we shouldn’t feed her that and the dangers of feeding chicken bones to a dog. Lulu was in ecstasy. This is a situation where she may have been correct but why in the heck would she care? She never played with or petted Lulu. She never showed any signs that she cared about the dog. Not one iota. She was trying to assert her dominance and I knew it. She took it a step further and took the bowl from Lulu and tossed the bones in the trash (as if to say “problem solved”). SNAP! I was heated and me and her had words and were arguing with each other. It didn’t last too long and I’m not sure if we stopped on our own or if someone had to intervene. I continued to eat my dinner. I’m not sure if she knew it or not but she was definitely on my hit list. MEANING that all that letting sh-t slide and me keeping quiet days were over for her. I took another bite of my chicken. Weird, I felt something hard. Must be a bone, but it didn’t feel like one. Bertha looked as though she may have bit a bone herself. I couldn’t really read her face. 

I hurried up and finished my meal. I went into the bathroom and felt something soft and squishy in a certain area of my month. I tasted a little blood in that area also. Did I lose a tooth? I opened my mouth and it turned out that I DID lose one half of a side tooth.  If I knew what I knew now, I probably would used a Q tip and dappled the area with peroxide or alcohol (Liquor) to keep if from getting infected and would of left the area alone so it could form a clot and heal on its own. Nope, I didn’t do that. I hurried up a gargled water in my mouth. I paid for it dearly in future days. It eventually caused me problems and great pain.  I went into the kitchen where Bertha was still at and looked down into the trash. Was the other half of my tooth in there? On the outside you couldn’t tell I had just lost half a tooth. I still had a shell of a tooth on the outside. It was an awkward silence. It turned out that Bertha was simultaneously having issues with her mouth. She felt a lump. We took it as a sign to make peace with each other. I told her what happened to me. We quickly hugged and made up.


That was my last time having any issues or altercations with Bertha but she still was causing the problems at the home. There was a time where it was night and Monica was driving the van. I’m not sure where we were coming from but they were having a disagreement with each other. Bertha got out of the van. Monica “urged” her to get back into the van. She wouldn’t. Monica drove off. We left her where she stood. She eventually circled around to where she left her at but she was gone. We weren’t too concerned because she wasn’t too far from the house. There was a certain kind of peace when we walked back into the home. The atmosphere just felt…lighter. After some time had passed we did eventually hear a knock at the door. It was Bertha. 


I’m not sure what prompted the home/business owners to come to the conclusion that Bertha’s time was up and she had to leave. Every time something happened, even if it was minor, staff had to write an incident report. I could only imagine how many reports were written about her. Although by this time I had no problems with her, I didn’t feel a sense of sadness at all. I don’t think nobody did, including staff.

I’m not sure how long a person was permitted to stay at the home. Whenever I would ask, I would get a vague answer. I believe if you had Social Security benefits you could stay there forever. I thought they were getting some kind of government funding for all of us being there. I do know that they did get MORE funding from people with Social security benefits. That’s what Mary and I was trying to get. Mary had some physical ailments and I did too. Mines would come and go. I would have this long phase where I would be doing O.K. Then I would have these long periods were I wouldn’t. I’ve had all types of test ran on me and everything would come out clear. So They (Doctor’s) just chalked it up to it being depression. “You know depression can cause physical pain”, some doctors would say.  

I eventually just agreed and decided to at least put myself in a position to where if my condition is severe enough to interrupt my ability to work then I need income to flow through rather I’m doing “O.k” or not. I thank God I was having a window of feeling O.K. while at the house. I don’t know how I would have made it through the constant van rides and overall stress of being in a home full of people with conflicting issues. The day arrived to where Bertha packed up and left the home. She would call periodically call Monica. April now had a room to herself. Empty beds don’t last too long in homes but things were going pretty smoothly with just 4 consumers. A week or so passed and we were informed that we had another client coming to the home. When she arrived, I looked her over from a distance. She had long brown hair, blue eyes and she wore glasses. She was slightly overweight. She looked nerdy and innocent. Her stay here was jail related. She was involved with some kind of theft. She seemed easy to get along with. One day a staff member who was half Muslim and half Christian noticed that her I.D. and debit card was missing. She highly suspected it was the new girl. I thought she was jumping to conclusion too fast. “You sure you didn’t misplace it or leave it at your home?” I asked. She was positive she had it in her purse. She checked outside, the van and our rooms. She didn’t find them anywhere. She was distraught that someone stole her cards. All throughout her shift she wouldn’t let the topic die down. When she wasn’t talking about it you could see the distress in her face. I hoped she’d find it. 

I didn’t think that a girl charged with theft on her records would be stupid enough to come into the home stealing, at least not that soon. I felt a little sorry for the consumer because what if she was innocent and because of her record anytime a person misplaces something they would automatically assume it was her. That must be a hard way to live. This in particular staff member was very nice. I actually made a beaded bracelet on her shift. I don’t do finger painting or arts and crafts but she talked me into it. Plus I was bored that day. It wasn’t so bad either. She had light brown skin, was slender built and although she didn’t wear makeup she probably could have passed for a model at that time. She had very pretty features.

Another staff member came in to do a shift change. It was usually about a half an hour that two staff members would be on shift. Naturally if it was an incident that they felt the other staff needed to be aware of they would report it to one another. Her shift ended and she left outside the door. She came back through the door reporting to everyone that she found her I.D. and her debit card but she didn’t sound too happy. I was so happy for her. We asked, “Where did you find it?”  “Scattered across the lawn” She replied. We knew what that meant. She didn’t misplace her cards. We knew who the culprit was. It was the thief!


 The new girl had a court date coming up. I believe at this time Rose was in the hospital due to health issues. Monica went inside the court building with the new girl. The rest of us waited around in the van. It was taking quite a while. I was getting restless. I needed to get out and stretch. About a hour or so later, Monica returned to the van by herself. We asked, “What happened, were is she?” She was convicted and arrested for whatever charges she had previously had pending against her. She would not be coming back to the home. Monica was happy about it. I guess she didn’t want to be the next target of theft. That was quick. She wasn’t even at the home for a full two weeks.


None of us thought much of Rose being in the hospital until it was approaching a full week. Monica called to check up on her progress regularly. It was odd not to hear Monica barking at her saying, “Love yourself!” Usually Rose would have done something to merit that response from her. Her name was usually being shouted out by someone…. mainly staff. One day Monica allowed her to fix a snack because she kept telling her that she was hungry. She ended up fixing herself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You can’t possibly go wrong with making a sandwich such as that. Well, with rose, it did. 

She started off doing well. I was in the living room watching from a distance. It was one of those jars that had the peanut butter and jelly all in one. I was still watching. She was spreading it carefully not making a mess. I was impressed. She decided to add a little more to the bread but before doing so she licked the butter knife on both sides and dipped it back in the jar. I was mortified. Although I wasn’t planning on fixing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches anytime soon, I knew that it was supposed to be shared amongst the household. Now Rose’s had her germs mixed inside the jar from licking the knife. Monica shouted, “Rose!” and got up to assist her and explained to her what just happened. 

Rose seemed oblivious to what she had done. She put the other slice of the bread neatly on top of the sandwich and sat down at the table and ate. Monica threw the jar in the garbage. 


 Good news. Rose was finally released from the hospital but she wasn’t herself. Monica and Shaun helped her to her room. They realized she needed a bath. Rose was too out of it to do it on her own. I was so happy that it wasn’t my job to bathe her. I could hear them struggling with her putting her in the tub. Rose was a big girl. They finally got her all nice and cleaned up and put her on some nice clean and comfortable clothes that she could rest in. Not a good 10 minutes had pasted by and she walked into the kitchen like normal. Monica shouted, “Rose, you mean to tell me you were fine all this time!” Rose just stood there and laughed. I was amazed at the miraculous healing that just took place. I was tickled by Rose’s acting skills. Despite Monica’s obvious irritation over the stunt Rose just pulled, I believe overall that she was happy that she was back to her old self again. Her longer than expected hospital stay had her a little concerned. I’ve heard of caretakers getting attached to their clients in nursing homes. I’d imagine supervising a consumer in an AFC home is probably similar. They may get on your nerves from time to time but you don’t want to see anything bad happen to them.

In the meantime it was a neighbor that would stare at some of the staff and clients at the home. He liked me. Well, He liked most of us. Eventually we began talking. He was having relations with another woman but it wasn’t anything serious. His home was newly built and he would throw parties and invite us. The inside of his home was nice. He had a beautiful kitchen. His daughter did hair. He had full custody of her and her younger brother. She was young (around 17) and super sweet. She would sometimes come over to visit us. We got on the subject of hair. I said to her, “Your dad said you do hair.” 
“Yes I do, If you want yours done one day just let me know.” 
“I sure will let you know”, I replied.

It was around my birthday and her father bought me a cake and cupcakes for the house. That was sweet of him. He spontaneously asked me did I want to hang out at the park with him. I decided to go. I signed out and hopped in his car and off we went. I regretted accepting his invitation. He spent the whole time playing horseshoes. The older women in his family gave me the side eye. I caught him eying an attractive woman in a bathing suit that was hanging around him and his buddies as they played. I walked along the shore of the water by myself. His round brother and I began to talk. He was a great conversationalist. He wasn’t trying to hit on me or anything. Maybe it was out of respect for his brother (who was completely ignoring me), or maybe he had a special lady in his life. Either way, we laughed and had a ball with each other. It was getting dark. My neighbor who was supposed to be my “date” was saying his goodbyes to his buddies and family members. I shook his brother’s hand saying how nice it was talking to him.

I got into my neighbor car. My a-- should've stayed home. I could tell that his vibe changed to more attentive towards me as if he didn't just ignore me the whole entire time we were there. I wasn't irritated with him because I liked him. I still had a nice time thanks to his brother. I was irritated because that was an opportunity for us to get to know one another to SEE if we even liked each other on that level. But instead, I got to know his brother who wasn't my date! When we returned home, I told him I was sleepy. It was no way I was going to go into his house. For what? Did he think just because I was in a home that I didn't have the ability to critically think? I friend zoned him.  I walked into the home and signed back in feeling disappointed. This man just wasted my time. I could tell he had no clue what he just did. He probably thought that it was still a chance between the two of us. Unfortunately Mary and I would soon have an altercation.


Chapter Eight




 I had already made my mind up about my neighbor but I was still friends with his daughter. I took her up on her offer to do my hair. I was hoping she worked quickly because I didn’t want to be over there long. She took maybe an hour or so to do my hair. I was guessing maybe I was her first because the style was uneven and the only way I could make it look right is if I tied it up in a bun. She didn’t do a horrible job but I figured I will stick with the staff at the home the next time I want my hair done.

I noticed I had left my purse on my bed while I was getting my hair braided by my neighbor’s daughter. I didn’t think much of it. I trusted the people in the home for the most part but I typically take my purse with me if I leave the house, even if it just next door. I noticed Mary was sound asleep when I returned. I mean she was really knocked out. She apparently was eating a bowl of cereal because it was still some left in her mouth. The rest of it was in a bowl on a small night stand next to her bed. She must’ve been tired because she didn’t even finish eating. I could hear her lightly snoring so I knew she was O.k. I took Lulu out to do her business before I got ready to go to bed.

The next day I checked my purse and something told me to count my pills. I had gotten a prescription filled from my regular doctor the day before yesterday. That’s when I noticed I was like 20 or 30 pills short. I called the pharmacy letting them know that they shorted me. They assured me that they double or triple count them to make sure they give the accurate amount. I insisted that someone made a mistake.  They said I could call them back when the head supervisor got in. I could sense that they thought I was trying to swindle them. I knew I wouldn’t get nowhere with their supervisor. I had a quick flashback to Mary sleeping with cereal still in her mouth. Nah, she wouldn’t steal from me. If she had something she was always generous to share with me and if I had something that she needed all she had to do was ask. I would’ve helped her out to tie her over for a couple of days. Stealing from me would be unnecessary. I knew the truth deep down inside. I knew that the pharmacy didn’t miscount my pills.

Once I narrowed it down to Mary being the culprit, it wasn’t hard to get the truth out of her. She didn’t appear to feel guilty about it. She almost seemed like it was MY fault for leaving my purse around knowing she was an addict. I wasn’t too distraught because I technically had alternative pills that I didn’t like to take that the home was supplying me. But I could no longer trust her and whatever “friendship” we did have it was out the door. I told Mary not to talk to me. I shortly realized it was almost impossible NOT to talk with her at certain points and times living in the same house with her and sitting in the same van with her. I changed the rules. I told her don’t talk to me UNLESS it’s absolutely necessary. “If it’s not important, we have nothing to talk about” I said. She didn’t listen. The staff had to eventually separate us. They knew what happened by this time. I moved into the front room with April. My old laid back roommate who flashed me repeatedly. By this time my roommate was over me. Her family gave her a new laptop and she seemed more occupied with that. Every morning I would wake up seeing her on the floor bowing down over her bed praying inside her head. She’d then get up like it was nothing and get ready for the day. 

She wasn’t trying to hit on me or anything. It was nice. She was very easy to get along with. Our relationship wasn’t like me and Mary’s. We didn’t speak much but it was peaceful. Those days of praying must’ve really paid off. She was leaving! The right way. She had a supportive family structure. She had an apartment set up for her with furniture included. She completed her house arrest. No more having to wear that tether around her ankle. I was slightly concerned because I clearly remember her saying how she missed the drug life. Other than that I was happy for her. It’s nice to see someone get themselves together and leave the right way. It gave me hope. In a lot of cases, not only does being in the home help you out but you have therapist, case managers and social workers working together to help you get out on your own again. Plus if your high functional (function as a normal everyday person) you already know what to do, you just may need that extra boost. We could all use a little help from time to time. Mary would peep inside my door and say “it’s lunchtime or dinner time or med time”. I could easily hear the staff announce these things. She was purposely gloating at the fact that she stole my meds and “Got away” with it. For the 50th time I told her to quit talking to me. She got loud and said she can talk to me if she wants to. I retreated to my room in silence. I was waiting for her to go outside because I didn’t want to knock over or break anything in the house based on what I was going to do to her.

I overheard Monica on the phone telling a caller that Mary wasn’t there and went to the store. When she got off the phone I said, “I need to make a quick store run”. She gave me the sign out paper not thinking much of it. By the time I made it up the block I spotted her. She didn’t seem bothered or alarmed. I showed her my hands to let her know I don’t have any weapons. I sure she didn’t know what the point of me doing that with my hands were for. I quickly punch her. I kept punching her. I dragged her by the hair and drugged her to the ground scraping up her knees and elbows. The fight probably didn’t last over 30 seconds. A white van was approaching and as I walked away and they slowed down to see if she needed help. I think she said she’d been attack and to call the police. I walked back towards to the house. She was walking behind me from a distance hurling insults and obscenities at me.

The cops were called. She was irate and was uncooperative with the police. I was sitting there calm. Nothing was done about the situation. The staff was alerted numerous times about Mary bothering me. It was all on record. She went to the hospital. She was provided a script for Vicodin. It actually worked out in her favor. She was happy. I was interviewed by the owners about what happened, Mary still spoke to me but by that time I didn’t care. They eventually sent her to another home. Good riddance! More events happened while I was there. Two more women moved in. I ended up catching a case and ended up on probation. It was one thing after another living there. All I kept thinking of is that young staff member telling me, “If you’re not crazy, and place like this will drive you crazy”. That seemed to be the case. I realized from being there that it’s a blurred line between being sane and mentally ill.


There were times where we had to be dropped off at other homes if a staff had to take a consumer somewhere that other clients weren’t allowed to go. One of the homes we were dropped of at was where Mary was place. Mary acted as though nothing ever happened between us. We eventually were cool with each other again and she even let me know when she was approved for social security benefits. I was actually happy for her. It gave me a little hope because trust me, it was looking like I wasn’t going to ever be approved. The owners of the home gave me and date to be out of the home. I made some fast and desperate moves wrote letters etc so the people who were in the position to help me would help me. They did the best they could but I wasn’t left with any guarantees. I was in limbo and signed up for a work training program. I couldn’t work general labor jobs so I needed training in something else. I wasn’t a whole lot of options to choose from. I needed reliable transportation. I didn’t have that. I had them tow my vehicle that my friend had so they could get it up to standard. If they do find me leads on a job, I would have a means of getting there. They sent the car back to me stating that the car needed repairs that exceeded the budget that they usually would spend on getting a car fix. The car didn’t get fixed. Basically, if I did everything that I was supposed to do, like getting proper training, it wouldn’t matter because if I got a job, it would be a high chance that I wouldn’t be able to get myself there. I cried out to God. Maybe I need to do what April did and begin conversing with him because no one, not even being in a home for the disabled couldn’t garner me favor with social security. I am proof that being unfit to work and being in a home still might not get you social security benefits. I began to talk and pray more to God because right now he was the only one that could help me. I would see a little light at the end of the road then it would be put out. It seem like it was happening more frequently and intensely. I kept my eye on God. I talked to Jesus. I knew I would completely fall apart if I didn’t. My date to having to leave the home was creeping closer and closer. I was in a situation where I was losing it and needed to get out of that home environment but at the same time being sent to the streets was not necessarily a better option. I had no real support symptom.


One day Mrs. Hightower came by for a visit. As usual she mainly spoke to staff. She then surprisingly approached me. She said, “You know that letter you received about having to leave. Don’t worry about it, you can stay.” I was really surprised at that statement. Did social security send her a letter? I said, “Do you think I’m going be approved for benefits?” I don’t know if she winked but in my mind she winked and said, “Yes.” She really did say yes.


I hoped she was right. I’m sure she was familiar with the system and how social security worked being that she runs a business that’s based of her clients already having or being granted social security benefits. A little more time passed. Although I felt it was pointless going to the job training program, I continued to go. It got me out the house. Who knows, maybe I’d get a job on the bus line that I can work at. Maybe my world would fall apart, maybe it wouldn’t for a while. If it did, Then I’d be without a home, car and back at square one again. I couldn’t bare the thought of that happeneing.


To make a short story even shorter, I received some mail. It looked like a check. I could sure use the money. I opened it and it was indeed a check! It was a $1600 check in MY name from the Government. I was soo happy. All this time I would receive a little money here and a little money there. It was never enough to do anything with but maybe by personal items and pay my phone bill. Maybe I could buy a cheap little car that runs. I didn’t want to be broke buying a car ESPECIALLY if I couldn’t even have one on the premises. That $1600 dollar check felt like a $50,000 dollar check at that moment.


Well it turns out that I misread the amount that was on the check and it was really a Back Pay check. It was much MORE than $1600 dollars! I was approved for social security! Mrs. Hightower was right! To say thank you to God would be an understatement. There weren’t any words that I could really say to express how grateful I was to him at that time. I bought a vehicle, laptop computer and packed up and left as soon as possible. I was a little paranoid. I didn’t want the Hightower’s to find a way to freeze my money in my bank account. I took it all out. Although I had my own opinions about how they ran the business, I wasn’t going to leave them completely hanging. They let me stay there. It got rough for them financially towards the end and we had to feel the brunt of that but they kept a roof over our heads. Staff and consumer alike found ways to get by and help one another out…the best way we could anyways. I wrote the Hightower’s a check for $7,000. I put my money back in the bank. If they wanted more than that they would have to do whatever they felt they needed to do to get it. I knew once the back pay check was spent I would have to find a way to live off of a tiny check each month from there on out so I was trying to buy whatever I thought was important plus a few things that weren’t important for my enjoyment. Patty, my therapist pulled some strings. She was aware I was staying at a motel. What I had left after buying a car, a computer and a few other things plus paying the Hightower’s their cut of money my funds were dwindling down quickly. I personsonally didn’t want to touch the money but you have to pay rent, even if it’s a motel bill. By the hair of my chiny chin chin, with no more money left, she get me into a housing program and told me to look for an apartment within a certain price range. I found and an apartment and was in there within a few days and been here every since. As of this date it will be 7 years (going on 8) that I have been in a stable safe environment. God is good.









Black is the new Orange: How I Endured Living In A Home With Women With Personal

This is my mini memoir of how I managed to live in a home for the mentally disabled. I was inspired by Piper Kerman #1 Best seller "Orange Is The New Black" and Netflix hit show series to tell my story of the struggles, mistakes and triumphs of being in a place where you don't quite belong to reach an end goal. This story reveals the different ways people deal with mental illness. How there is sometimes a link between prison, addiction psychiatric facilities and mental health. I hope you learn a few things and enjoy this book. Thanks.

  • Author: Anita Shanelle
  • Published: 2017-06-25 21:50:14
  • Words: 18772
Black is the new Orange: How I Endured Living In A Home With Women With Personal Black is the new Orange: How I Endured Living In A Home With Women With Personal