Judgment Calls: Making Decisions When You Have a Mental Health Condition 

by Jack Bragen

There are many reasons people lose their housing. Much of the time it is not caused by anything the tenant is doing wrong. The landlord may believe they can get more rent money from someone else. They may want to sell their property or refurbish the building. They may have a personal dislike for the tenant not based on anything the tenant does wrong: People can be fickle. 

Property owners have a lot of power over other people. They generally have the power to evict, which can mean life or death for the tenant. Or sometimes a tenant makes a poorly conceived decision or a decision they did not think through enough. And this can also cause loss of housing. 

My diagnosis for at least the past ten years has been “schizoaffective disorder.” In the distant past, the diagnosis was “schizophrenia: paranoid-type.” Whatever way you want to define it, I have mood problems, I have paranoid thinking, I have delusions, and I even get hallucinations, maybe. 

Periodically, I have episodes where I lack judgment. This trait or disorder or what have you has caused me to create many problems for myself. Some of these problems have been life-changing, and not in a good way. 

Some types of decisions I’m good with, like split-second decisions in dangerous situations that have helped me survive. But I’ve made some doozies when it comes to life paths. I’m still here, but why that is is a mystery to me. 

Certain decisions can be made with gut-level instinct. But if I’m intellectually certain that the gut is quite wrong, I have to go against instinct, and this can be difficult. 

In some instances, I have to roll the dice and take action without having all the facts. 

The above is a description of life. The saying “if I knew then what I know now,” is the applicable cliché. I’m trying to learn more. I’ll make observations concerning the outcomes of my decisions, and what data and what factors went into them. When I study my mind and learn more about how it produces mistakes, I have more ability to stop myself from doing something really dumb. 

Poor judgment, poor assessment, and not thinking through your actions can produce homelessness, which in turn can cause death on the streets. This is only one of many scenarios in which people become homeless. We must not blame the victim. The victim is an individual who has found they abruptly don’t have housing. 

A victim of psychotic illness does not usually have a life of stellar success. And you can be a victim of your disease without having a human being to blame for it.

However, I have noticed that here in Contra Costa County, there is no acceptable, safe place to go if you are having a mental health crisis. This is so twisted, because we’ve had a series of laws passed purportedly for the purpose of helping mentally ill people. What happened? 

Because of my life circumstances and because I’ve written for street papers for well over two decades, I am close to the heartbeat of those in danger of being displaced, as described in the street papers. And this can be terrifying. 

I had recently had a thought of checking into a psych emergency ward because of the severity of mental illness symptoms I was experiencing. But no one would take over my responsibilities as a tenant if I were put under an involuntary hold for two weeks. Just getting help for psychotic or emotional symptoms could render me homeless. If there is no one here to pay utilities and rent, no one here to respond to inquiries, and if the premises seem abandoned, what is a property manager going to think? 

Poor judgment means you might not understand how everything is going to work when you carry out an action or set of actions. It is hard for me to give specific examples of this at the moment because I’m in the middle of dealing with life circumstances brought about by having low-level psychosis and taking foolish actions as a result. I’ve had delusional thinking, and this has caused me to make substantial mistakes that have affected the course my life is taking. 

No one has a crystal ball. Some of my actions have been right on target, but that doesn’t guarantee that the results will be easy. You could choose a course of life for yourself that makes the most sense, yet you might not be considering certain things, such as how a course of action will make you feel emotionally. Or you might not understand the level of discipline that will be needed if you do something that seems correct and choose that over something that seems idiotic. The idiotic course of action might be more practicable.

The truism is: “You reap what you sow.” Or “You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.” And that’s where I am at. But if I can come through the circumstances I’ve embarked on, things could really be good. However, if I’m unable to successfully jump through the flaming hoops, I might crash.

It would be nice if the systems that run our society were more forgiving, but they are not. Neurodivergent people are not always forgiven for, or protected from, our own ill decisions, or our words, or our actions. For neurodivergent people who have troubles in the executive areas of the brain, society is not very user-friendly. And if we want to be independent and live under decent conditions, we generally must meet certain expectations. And sometimes this is a tall order. 

Jack Bragen lives in the East Bay and has written for numerous publications. He has his indie books for sale on Amazon.