A Non-Portrait of
Mental Illness: Meet Allen
This question-and-answer series is dedicated to honoring our clients at our Horizon House 1 & 2 and Five Rivers campuses, our community supportive housing for individuals navigating chronic mental illness. We aim to showcase that while our clients have a mental health condition – there is so much more about them that is worthy of embracing. Read Allen’s conversation:
Q: What do you do for fun, Allen?
A: “I like to play video games, listen to music, watch movies – and when it's safe, go to the movie theaters. I enjoy going to live baseball games if I have the money.”
Q: What kind of music do you listen to?
A: “I listen to country music. I listen to a bit of rap – but the old stuff like MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. If it sounds good to my ears, it’s okay with me.”
Q: And you said you liked going to the movies - do you have any favorites?
A: “I like the Star Wars movies, Superman, and Captain America. I’ve got all three Captain America movies.”
Q: What about food – do you have a favorite?
A: (Chuckling) “Well my most expensive favorite food is seafood! Something more affordable...I like too many.”
Q: Is there a time when you’re at your happiest?
A: “I feel happiest when I’m around good people like Dave and Tyler (other Horizon House clients) and when I get to do things I enjoy. Part of life is not only working and making a living and putting a roof over your head and putting food on your table, but also having fun too. Whatever that might be – there’s no right or wrong. Whatever floats your boat. My opinion is as long as someone goes out with a smile on their face – they had a good life. Anything else is not measurable.”
Q: Thank you for being so honest. Are you comfortable sharing a situation where you’ve been given a hard time?
A: “At a job I had, someone was telling me to work faster. I had to tell them I had a disability. I tried to explain to them that I wasn’t making excuses. It’s just my brain processes information slower than average, which makes me work slower than average. Even though I think I’m going fast, in reality, I am not. But to me, I’m going as fast as my body can go. I never know if people are being mean or if they just don’t generally understand.”
Q: I’m sorry to hear that, Allen. After experiences like that, what would you say to someone who doesn’t understand mental illness?
A: “Even though we’re not the same, it doesn’t mean we can’t achieve the same. You just have to be patient and understanding and be willing to understand that it’s not our attitude. I was born with this brain. Having a mental illness is something that is beyond my control and something I’ll have to manage forever.”
Q: Thank you so much for sharing that! What about the future – is there anything you’re looking forward to?
A: “In the future, I want to travel. I’d go to the Grand Canyon. In the past, I’ve been to Niagara Falls and Yellowstone National Park. When I was younger, I’d go to Florida with my parents, and I’ve been to the Smokey Mountains many times. I like National Parks – the popular sites. If I were rich and could travel internationally, I would go to Mount Everest or see the pyramids. I wouldn’t mind going to see Victoria Falls in Africa. It’s supposed to be the biggest waterfall next to Niagara. The tallest one is supposed to be in South Africa – Angel Falls.”
In 2015, a national survey found that 250,000 homeless individuals are also mentally ill. We saw the need to support our neighbors in East Tennessee who were a part of that statistic. Without programs like ours, Allen, unfortunately, would be homeless. As of February 2021, Allen has been a client at Horizon House for five years! Although our clients in these programs manage a mental illness, we know they are not defined by it. We are proud to be a part of the mission to de-stigmatize mental illnesses and provide valuable resources to our community, not only in Mental Health Month but beyond.
For more information on enrolling at Horizon House 1 & 2 or Five Rivers, visit our website or call 865.524.9896
Q: What is something you’re proud of?
A: “In high school, I made the National Honors Society and went on to Vincennes University. I didn’t take the advanced classes in high school because they went at a faster pace, but I guess I still had what it took to get into the National Honor Society. I’m proud because, since I have a disability, I had to work harder than the average person to achieve the same result.”
Q: That’s amazing!
A: “Yea, people misjudge individuals with disabilities. Some of us can do just as much as an average person does. We shouldn't be looked down upon. Some people with disabilities have it more severe than others. Some people can work with their disability. Some people can’t. It’s unfortunate. There are people who are neurotypical that don’t understand mental illness and sometimes people give me a hard time for it.”
This transcription has been edited for clarity. This conversation was mutually agreed upon and all answers were given voluntarily.