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.
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.¹
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 http://www.quora.com