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Round-and Round with Silvia Benson

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My friend Silvia Benson loves her stimulants. Silvia ran stimulants years ago in NYC and found herself doing serious time in the corrections system for that very love. So, here is the deal. If you haven’t figured it out yet. I’m young, I’m white, and I have some money. Silvia’s Black. As black as Afro-American gets, in modernity, and in Wales county. Silva Benson knows that it means to be the house negro in a system of unjustified privilege. Today, it feels like she was just leaving my party, making her exit and heading back to Van Mole street for the last time. 

Van Mole street espoused a large supported housing complex in in the CITY of LIGHT RAINS.  Silva will tell you she is the mother of supported housing in New York State. Maybe everywhere, when that powder hits her nasal passages.

“That’s a good hit!” You take big hits Silvia! I told her as she took another line. 

” I secured the funding stream to Supported Housing years ago!”

“Yes, you did, Silvia! I’d be homeless without you!”

I went on to validate Silvia’s successive recanting and revisionist understanding of her life. A long legacy of “firsts” and “undocumented” victories as a woman of color in the Mental Health Peer Movement in Wales county.

“We all love you for it, Silva,” I said. Smiling into her bugged out pupils.

 

Silva talked a big game when she was on stimulants. I was always right there, with her, validating another one her drugged induced delusions. A long standing pattern of mishandled situations, and unexplained emergencies that cost her another job, her reputation, and whatever legacy she had in her own reality.

When I met Silva she was the supervisor of a peer network at a local mental health agency we both worked under. I still remember the story I am about to tell like it was yesterday. Mostly because I still hear about the agony that resulted for Silvia–she’ll never let anyone, least of all herself, forget what happend.

****

“Wow that was a big hit,” I said.

I told her, about two weeks before she was fired.

“Where’s Silvia?” I would ask the program secretary, because I had to resolve a programmatic issue and wanted to troubleshoot the situation with Silvia. 

 

“Nobody has seen or heard from her…” The secretary stated factually, and yet, very much assumingly, because we all knew they didn’t get along.

 

“She’s probably sick!” I would say, or learned to say, very quickly, as the secretary was quick to add: “but she didn’t call out!….”

 

I nodded, because everyone could hear me, but very few were addressing what had or was or was about to happen. The very next day the secretary approached me:

“Silvia was fired!” The secretary concluded, remarking upon her departure first thing the next morning.

I didn’t know what to make of all of it, concerned mostly for my friend, Silvia, who was the crux of a dangerous crossroads, her future, and our friendship.

“I’ve got twenty years under my belt!” Silvia reminded me after each new interview.

She would love to reinforce her superiority of the other applicants after interviewing for the next job, and largely, Silvia’s reconquest of the peer world, its recipients, and all crossroads of mental health intersecting the system. Silvia’s aim, was even higher, not director, but the first commissioner of peer services in New York State, the United States, and anywhere someone had a problem with their health.

“You’re like the mother of healing…in the world, Silvia!” I told her. 

As Silvia went on another interview, to once again reclaim her empire and fallen image from ten years ago. The ironic part, Silvia was always reclaiming something. Silvia was poised between losing, and winning, black and white, and things that found good fortune and lost it, only to find it once again with the same fate, bound in the history of all enigmas, and question marks surrounding her fate in Wales systems-of-care.

In the end Silvia’s fate was in the hands of the very system she once spoke out against as unjustified. Fate’s cruel hand was about to deal her another set of unfair cards.

It seemed her job working as a security guard, and working her way to the top of safety management pissed off a few people with badges. Silvia was always gunning for a new job, someone else’s job. Either, because she as a better fit or just smarter.

So, how does this story end? Did Silvia fuck up, again? 

As I have come to hear it from the local Light RAINS newspaper, when Silvia didn’t show up to work the other day the mall got concerned. They sent out the police to do a safety check because they were concerned for her welfare and knew about her mental health history. They entered her apartment to find Silvia cold on the couch, with empty bags of stimulants everywhere.

Taken into the station for questioning, Silvia’s record came undone, and her charge from her college glory days running stimulats for the cartel in NYC was starring the jugde in the eye as he sentenced the future mother of the corrections system to do her great work in jail and once again rise to the top.

About the Author

J. Peters

Max Guttman '08, MSW '12, is the owner of Recovery Now, a private mental health practice. Through his work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, therapist and disability rights advocate, Max fights for those without a voice in various New York City care systems. He received a 2020 Bearcats of the Last Decade 10 Under 10 award from the Binghamton University Alumni Association.

Guttman treats clients with anxiety and depression, but specializes in issues related to psychosis or schizoaffective spectrum disorders. He frequently writes on his lived experiences with schizophrenia.

"I knew my illness was so complex that I’d need a professional understanding of its treatment to gain any real momentum in recovery," Guttman says. "After undergraduate school and the onset of my illness, I evaluated different graduate programs that could serve as a career and mechanism to guide and direct my self-care. After experiencing the helping hand of my social worker and therapist right after my 'break,' I chose social work education because of its robust skill set and foundation of knowledge I needed to heal and help others."

"In a world of increasing tragedy, we should help people learn from our lived experiences. My experience brings humility, authenticity and candidness to my practice. People genuinely appreciate candidness when it comes to their health and recovery. Humility provides space for mistakes and appraisal of progress. I thank my lived experience for contributing to a more egalitarian therapeutic experience for my clients."

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