The Tragic Reality of Homelessness And PTSD: How They Impact Each Other


I stood beneath the drench of a falling sky, no concern for the chill entering my bones. At my feet lay a dead body. A woman. Discarded to an alleyway like a piece of trash. It was the one time in my life when rain ceased to be beautiful. It instead acted as macabre ambiance to a heinous sight. A pale river of blood poisoned the running water that drifted away from her skin. My eyes transfixed to its journey from body to drain, a terrible trickle of death.

Standing in the presence of the newly departed was always something that felt strange to me, and as a medic, doing so was sadly stock and trade of the profession — many strange nights.

The woman, a petite, malnourished one, had died from an overdose. She was discovered when another patron of the streets scurried to find shelter for the night. He attempted to soften the craggy, rock-laden ground by compiling nearby swaths of decaying cardboard, papers and plastics, and when doing so, he found a woman he believed to be sleeping. She wasn’t.

By the time we had arrived on scene, the vagabond had fled. My partner and I walked apprehensively yet managing purposeful gait. Each step we took we drew nearer to the damned.

Resting beside a beleaguered dumpster, there she lay. Whatever belongings she did have were now forfeited to a five-finger discount of those who had happened upon her before we did. The only thing to remain was the needle, still in her arm. Vultures even took the tourniquet, her shoes and likely whatever money she might have had.

She was young, but she looked old. Black strands of unkempt hair stretched out like spider legs across her cheek. Even through the dark, I could see that her eyes were open. Why I chose to shine my flashlight onto her face, I’ll never know. But I did. And now her face is one that lingers from behind closed eyes.

I can’t quite explain the level of inhumanity that befalls you on calls such as those. Overtime, they stacked and sickened like a cancer. I learned to hate the world. Despise the people. Loathe myself. Though that last one was, and is likely a byproduct of a complex childhood.

I love the rain, but sometimes, just sometimes, I think of her… How she fell in a desolate alleyway in some random section of the city. Ironic, isn’t it…? A city; a place where you can’t buy a moment of peace and stillness, people everywhere, and yet they remain some of the loneliest places on earth. Apathy, the modus operandi of the busy. Willful or otherwise…

There were many nights like this one. Bodies found in all manner of ways. Some at home, some wherever home was for a night, and some slain by others… as I said, many strange nights.

Today, today I find myself standing beneath the drench of a falling sky… no concern for the chill entering my bones. I believe it was Mr. Cash that once crooned, “that old familiar sting…”

I think I’m done writing for now. I’m going to stand here a little while longer. The rain feels peaceful today, albeit with a slight ache of remembrance.

Breathe… in with the good, out with the bad. This too shall pass.

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