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Facing Life As One

Yossi Simonds

Yossi Simonds is an accomplished writer and poet, a man who is true to his work, his friends, his religion, and most importantly, his wife, Goldy. They have been living in an apartment under OHEL’s auspices for 18 years. Yossi and Goldy are a wonderful, happy couple. They both have a diagnosis of mental illness.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

When I first came to live in the OHEL Men’s Residence in the winter of 1985, I was, in the words of one of my mother’s friends (who was aVietnamveteran), “shell shocked.” I would just lie in bed and would avoid all conversation with my fellow residents. My roommate, Isaac P., however, was in a different place in his life. He would arise every morning promptly at 7 a.m.; don his tefillin, swiftly pray; and go off to his daily job in a workshop. Silently, I would watch him from the cocoon of my bed, taking in his impressive zeal. But I could never admit that to him. One day I got up the courage to get out of bed and tell him that, if he continued at this rate, he might even someday get married. He responded emphatically, “Get married! I mean, just look at me! Who in the world would marry me?!”

Here it is almost thirty years later, and I have been married to my lovely wife Goldy for nearly 18 years. For 8 years, I have been working as a Peer Specialist helping other people with mental illness. My wife and I lead a “normal” life of paying the rent, the bills, and just spent an overnight vacation in a fancy hotel inTimes Square. As for Isaac P., my zealous roommate, I see him every once in a while; he still lives in the residence, but has come a long way since our “salad days” and still has his job. In fact, there’s a metaphor in Chassidus that describes what seems to be his meager progress: When the shadow of a streetlamp moves a few inches, it means that the sun has moved a million miles. After all, who knows what it takes for someone with chronic mental illness like Isaac to motivate himself and to get up early in the morning; or to go consistently to a day program; or to go to group therapy; or even to go on a date?

 

 

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