By Jon Leslie
Dublin’s Homeless – 8 Months With Adam
[Names have been changed]
Sitting upon my fold-out Ikea dining chair, hunched to keep his phone in range of the plug whilst using it – Adam’s large, Jamaican frame still managed to take up 10% of the volume of my Rathmines bedsit.
Minutes earlier I’d been woken to a Whatsapp message from him asking if I’d like some company for a while. As one of those lazy douchebags whose day typically starts at 6pm, the honest answer was a weak groan, but having correctly assumed the nature of his visit as well as Dublin’s scrotum-tightening November temperatures, I sent him directions before catching another minute or two of pass-out.
Until this point, Adam was the guest of my childhood friend – a UCD student whose flat has gained a reputation as a place where people can come and go as they please, hang out, and take part in one of many themed nights such as Guantanamo Bay Night, Conspiracy666-Theory Night or my personal favourite: Drug Kingpins on the Up and Up…um…Night. To avoid an inaccurate representation of the place, I should clarify that there’s rarely any alcohol or drugs involved, which is partly why it plays host to such a diverse range of people, and also why Adam found himself so easily able to socialise and feel like the human he was (/is).
Adam’s a big guy, but for reasons unique to him as they are to anyone, there’s an ill-fitting shyness about him that I can only assume is the result of years of internalising societal standards and his subsequent inability to live up to them. My friend said something interesting about this: Had he been from a rich family, he’d probably be called ‘eccentric’ – but he wasn’t.
His childhood was turbulent, and his youth proportionately wild. As he matured he grew into the mild-mannered yet ailing soul who I was watching teeter back and forth on his chair with each hand movement, due to the fact that two legs were in my living room, and two in my kitchen, which sits about a centimetre lower.
Inevitably, it was half-term at UCD, which meant that his current host had returned home to be force-fed Vitamin C by his Mother – a fact that had brought Adam, now deprived of a roof, to my flat where we had now begun sharing our stories:
Early Life: London – Dublin
Our interactions with Adam began after he approached a local church group upon being kicked out of his Dublin house, which he had been sharing with his former girlfriend and her now-boyfriend. A member of the church group – a previous patron of my friend’s place, told Adam to get in touch with him. He arrived, recently homeless and unemployed in addition to his unfortunately ended relationship. I actually asked Adam how he felt about that last bit because if it were me I’d probably have placed all their towels and bedsheets in a vat with my rotting corpse, however Adam was impressively benevolent about the whole thing. He told me how she and their housemate had gotten closer over a few months and the course of events that took place was quite natural. In his own words, “Nah, I’m not bitter” – and he means it.
He had met his former girlfriend on a Christian dating site and moved from London to Dublin to live with her.
His life in London was expectedly difficult. Having grown up with an abusive father and a mother he doesn’t get along with, he described himself as the black sheep of the family (there’s a joke in there somewhere) – his siblings having gone on to “do things”, Adam was the one that never really found his place. He’d worked a number of odd jobs, one of which was as a care assistant in a hospital. Probably due to a number of factors, the most pertinent of which was probably the presence of a growing mental disorder, he found it hard to hold down a job, eventually having to sell his motorcycle which to this day, he aspires to replace.
I’ve often wondered why he hasn’t since decided to move back to London, but I can only imagine the memories he associates with the place. Plus, if you’re not raking in the dolla, London can be a cold place, in more ways than one. I can understand why Dublin, with its generally friendlier population makes for a more attractive place to find your feet.
For the 8 months I knew Adam, he racked up an impressively rich portfolio of bad decisions, the highlights of which include:
- Starting a college course whilst homeless
- Spending all his money on motorbike gear for his still-prospective motorbike
- Spending all his money on a suit
- Quitting a job to attend a motorbike lesson in England
- Quitting another job to finish a 600-word college assignment
My friend was the main person involved in helping Adam find his feet again by helping him with job hunting and saving any resulting cash for a rent deposit. It was a formidable task since each time square two came into sight, it was shot back over the horizon by one of these impulsive decisions, and after a few months of this, square one was beginning to resemble a Jackson Pollock.
I was vaguely aware at the time that Adam suffered from a depressive illness of some kind, but the words “Manic Depression” (now known as Bipolar Disorder) came straight from the horse’s mouth. This allowed me as a fellow med-bandit to draw a correlation between Adam’s destructive impulsivity and the mindset behind it.
The issue with mania, or a manic state, is that any decision made from within it feels like a good one. When your little brain people decide that today is dopamine-pumping day, the filter you perceive the world through all-of-a-sudden becomes tinted with Ebay pregnancy test levels of false-positivity. As a result, many bipolar people, depending how it manifests itself, grow a healthy mistrust of their wants and decisions. It’s a practice that Adam, who is approaching his mid-40’s, is yet to learn.
After showing me pictures of his new girlfriend (who he plans to take on a motorbike trip one day), we spoke of the various treatments he and I had received for our respective problems, and he told me about the support he was receiving in Dublin. Amazingly, one of the most beneficial periods for Adam was the time he spent sleeping at my friend’s place, since he was constantly surrounded by good people and support. We joked about how my friend’s carpet has healing properties – Adam and I had both slept on it during our own difficult periods and have since managed to scrape a previously inconceivable existence for ourselves. I was also glad to hear that he’s seeing a therapist, although I’m not sure how he’s paying for it. He told me of the wonders of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and how he hopes to help similar people once he earns his qualification in mental health.
It was difficult to imagine this guy as a troubled London youth. In his middle ages he’s become increasingly subdued. It makes you think: It can be exhausting being in close contact with someone who suffers from mood swings; how much more if you are one? Adam’s story breaks my heart for a number of reasons. Primarily it’s the fact that a lot of his actions scream ‘misdirection’. Without the guidance of a proper maternal figure, I feel he’s missed out on a lot of the wisdom and common sense that we take for granted, as well as the discipline that might typically come from a non-abusive paternal figure. Not only does Adam look 30 years his junior, but in many ways he acts it, and upon talking to him you realise that it’s not due to some mental deficiency – if anything it’s a lack of love and care.
The other reason is, simply put, the time scale. Adam has spent decades learning things about the world we probably already know. We’ve all been forced into education, bitched about it at one point or another, but Adam recently asked us how much 600 words was – was it a lot? Was it a little? He had only really started reading at the age of 43 in my friend’s flat. In the right conditions this kind-hearted guy could have flourished, despite his struggles. I’ve since wondered what the most constructive way is to help someone like Adam. We did what we knew best, helping him save money and look for jobs, but at 43, there’s only so much someone can change their ways. Frankly, I’m yet to come to a viable answer that’s a bit longer-term than a soup-run.
There was one moment that stuck with me during that conversation. When I shared my story with Adam, he looked at me, mouth open and said, “Suck my cock”…no just kidding, he said, “Twenty two?! You’re only twenty two? Oh the things I could do if I were twenty two!”.
Reproduced with permission, originally posted here
If you enjoyed this article please share it using the buttons below…