Crazy Life: Just Can’t Say ‘No’

He simply cannot say “no” to anyone. This was especially evident when everyday several different people would ask him for cigarettes. Like all smokers in the group home, he received his daily ration of one pack, and he was a pack-a-day smoker, so he would end up short of smokes by the end of the day. If he had some spare change, which he usually did, he would then buy somewhere around five to six smokes from those individuals who both better conserved their supply and could do without a couple. 

By no means am I advocating smoking, especially one pack a day, but this just happens to nicely illustrate the point. This “John Doe,” who was so meek and mild, simply could not say “no” or set any kind of personal boundaries. My take on this, at least after a few months getting to know him, was that this was part of his overall psychological troubles. Clinical psychologist Bruce Kugler might agree:

There is no psychological disorder per se about the inability to say no, but it may be viewed as one of many symptoms of various disorders expressed as an inability to say no and set limits with others.

He continues:

Low self regard, having felt beaten down and undeserving of having one’s feelings and needs go along with being overly compliant and not able to set limits with what others want of us

David Kronemyer of the University of California, Los Angeles, goes so far as to say that this condition refers to “dependant personality disorder, defined by the DSM-5 as ‘a pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation.'”² However, I’m somewhat skeptical of this diagnosis, as this John Doe meets only, perhaps, three out eight diagnostic criteria for dependant personality disorder. Nevertheless, it was/is certainly disruptive in his life.

John was always very quiet, very unassuming, and compatible with everyone. But several individuals used him like a vending machine: They wanted it, he gave it (if he had it to give.) Of course, this was not his only struggle … perhaps the least of his struggles. He also frequently heard voices and, point in fact, ask me more than once if I was hearing anyone speaking in our room at night. I never did, but he quite evidently did and, naturally, it was disturbing.

I don’t know how exactly his lack of personal hygiene fit in with his schizophrenia, but the mental health technicians (MHTs) were constantly having to point-blank tell him to take a shower, brush his teeth, change his clothes, etc. Maybe, after all, he was/is dependant on others. Well, during my 14 month residency in the group home I came to know his habits and daily routine, but I never really got to know him personally. It was as if there was very little there to really, truly know.

This sounds sad, perhaps even somewhat derogatory, but I don’t mean for it to come off this way. It’s just that “John” went through his simple schedule and daily patterns and no more. He slept, ate, drank, smoked … attended day treatment, went to group sessions, and … that was pretty much it. Well, of course, he showered and changed clothes when he was told. Beyond this there was very little. He had family, and his mother, who was in terrible physical health, came to visit twice while I was there, but no one else.

Truth be told, I don’t know that he expected any more than this. He’d been in several group homes before moving to Samson. By the time I met him, this just seemed to be his way of life. So far as I know, “John” had no expectation of leaving the group home system. So far as I could tell, he had no real aspirations, which was tragic. And he is still there, of course. In fact, I saw him yesterday, and he did manage a friendly smile and barely audible “hello.” Such is seemingly the extent of his communicative abilities.

Surely I will go back to the Samson Group Home to visit. I’ve made this commitment, anyway, and I fully intend to keep it. After all, some residents there, including my “John Doe” roommate, may never leave… A few will only leave if they are transferred to another facility because they have no where else to go, and they simply cannot take care of themselves without significant help. This is the sad truth in group homes and like facilities across our country, though… All the more reason to get involved as we can!

¹ Bruce Kugler, “What is the Psychological Disorder of the Inability to Say No?” as accessed on 09/27/2018 at 

² DSM-5, 301.6 (F 60.7), “Dependant Personality Disorder,” 675; See this interesting article based on the DSM-5, and/or this article as well

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV

Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

Crazy Life: Ecclesia et Mentis Morbum


Crazy Life: Sally Dumped and Deserted

The only visitors she had were the voices in her head… During my entire 14 months in the Samson Group Home, no one ever came to visit her ~ not family, not friends ~ and from what others told me, this “Sally Doe” had been there for many years. Of course, none of the therapists or mental health technicians could divulge to me her background or personal information, but from what I did end up knowing, I concluded that she had simply been dropped off and forgotten by her loved ones. Very sad, to say the least…

One time in a group session, Sally expressed her heartfelt desire to go home, wherever that may have been. That was when I realized that despite the severity of her schizophrenia, she remembered family, at least some of the time. But then it was hard to say anything about the reliability of the memories Sally had; after all, there were times she believed herself to be pregnant, or to be a movie star, or some great singer (and she did, in fact, have quite a bluesy, Janice Joplin-type voice.)

Still, she knew she had family. Presumably, her family still knew they had her. They just didn’t visit her. One might quickly conclude they no longer cared, if ever they did care. I know this is what I thought and, honestly, still think; however, it also eventually occurred to me that it might be too psychologically, emotionally difficult for them to visit Sally. This may seem like a lame excuse, but I knew nothing of her family. Who knows what difficulties they struggle with and how vicious those struggles might be?

Did you know that “there is a high heritability to schizophrenia … with heritability estimates ranging from 64 to 81 percent?”¹ This being the case, then, it’s possible that Sally is not the only one in her biological family to struggle with this, or some other, malady. The lesson here (for me, at least) is, “Do not pre-judge! Especially when you don’t know the whole story!” Nevertheless, it was sad to see her day in and day out, seemingly so alone in the world… Funny, though, Sally didn’t seem too upset by her situation.

Point in fact, Sally is mostly happy, although the voices that speak to her do upset her from time to time. She talks to them all through her waking hours, and every so often you might hear her burst out with, “Leave me alone!” or “Go to hell!” or some other virile reaction. Otherwise, Sally is an adorable, happy, 40-something year-old with one of the most beautiful smiles you can imagine. Couple this with the fact that in many ways she is so like an innocent, little girl, and you can’t help but fall in love with her.

Ah, but what about so many of the others with whom I lived? Sally Doe was not the only one who never received visits from family or friends. Tragically, out of anywhere from 14 to 18 residents (at any given time) around eight to ten never had friend or family visit … or even call or write! It’s like they’ve simply been abandoned. According to Natasha Tracy, writing in 2012, oftentimes someone…

… is just left because of the pain and stigma of dealing with a mental illness. Sometimes people just can’t last through the stress of illness and treatment. Sometimes people really are abandoned by those they thought loved them unconditionally

Well, this is one of the important reasons I’ve determined to go back to the group home from time to time just to visit. Perhaps my determination no to forget will make some positive difference. I certainly hope and pray so… Just out of curiosity, what about you? Would you feel comfortable visiting a group home for the mentally ill? If not, of course, that is understandable. If you’ve never experience any kind of mental illness or been hospitalized or lived in a group home, it can certainly be uncomfortable!

Ah … but there are so many in need of pure, genuine love and camaraderie. I think of my second family still residing in the Samson Group Home and my heart aches near breaking. By the way, this is where the Church (and, I suppose, mosque, synagogue, temple, etc.) has really “dropped the ball.” Do you know that during my entire 14 months at the group home, we never received one visit from any church (or other religious institution)? Yes, someone might come by to pick someone up for Sunday service, but…

More on this subject later. It’s an important topic, I think, and perhaps in openly, honestly addressing it we might encourage more interaction between Church and the mentally ill. 

¹ Susan K. Whitbourne and Richard P. Halgin, Abnormal Psychology: Clinical Perspectives on Psychological Disorders, Seventh Edition, 151; for an interesting, informative article on heritability, cf. Natasha Tracy and Harry Croft, MD, “Schizophrenia Genetics: Is Schizophrenia Hereditary?” as found at Healthy Place

² Tracy, “Fear of Abandonment Due to Mental Illness,” as accessed on 09/24/2018 at Healthy Place

For previous articles in this series, go to:

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part I

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part II

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part III

Crazy Life: My Testimony, Part IV