Dennis: Moving Mountains

At age 65, I was on top of the world.  Looking to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming an actor, I had just moved to Los Angeles and everything was falling into place. I landed a great day job, found a place to live, and bought a new car. 

But soon my life began to unravel.  I lost my day job and couldn’t replace it before my savings ran out. My car was repossessed and I could no longer afford my apartment.  I eventually found a job and a room to rent but it was a far cry from my initial setup and I could barely stay afloat. 

Then the unthinkable happened. I was diagnosed with HIV. I descended into a deep depression and was ready to give up. I managed to tread water for a while by getting healthcare through a local university hospital, but all the requirements and paperwork for the assistance programs were more than I could handle. I decided to go back to Michigan, where I had been living before moving out West. With the help of a couple friends I will never be able to pay back, I managed to get myself and the few possessions I had back to Michigan and into a friend’s house. 

I got very sick in Michigan. Although I found a doctor, I had no insurance and once again, could not handle the overwhelming amount of paperwork necessary for assistance programs. I had very little hope for my future. But then Matrix Human Services got involved.  My case manager, Dorothy, connected me with funding through the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program to immediately restore my healthcare coverage. She moved some more mountains to help me get dental insurance – another administrative behemoth, especially for someone in my situation.

I had been at a low point for so long when I met Dorothy — and she could see it.  She was my light in the darkness, my navigator through the ever-changing, seemingly endless sea of paperwork that stands between drowning and getting back on dry land. 

But getting immediate, necessary healthcare was just the beginning. I was also suffering from crippling depression. Dorothy knew that I needed help and connected me with a therapist through Matrix. I found such solace in my therapist, Shelley. I finally had someone to listen to me! There is an expectation for people “of a certain age” that if you’ve lived this long, there shouldn’t be anything wrong with you, that you’re the old, wise one who everyone goes to for help. And you listen. Well who listens to the listeners? Shelley not only listens to me, she gives me tools — tools to deal with life, tools to deal with the world, my place in it and how to get where I want to go.

Through Shelley and Matrix’s mental health program, I’ve been able to see a psychiatrist and get the therapy and medication I need to feel hopeful and be productive again. Shelley also provided me with access to local groups and online resources so that I never feel alone or unheard.   

Matrix helped me get over what seemed like an insurmountable mountain.  Dorothy, Shelley, and all the other wonderful, behind-the scenes folks at Matrix do this every day, for hundreds of clients like me. I never felt neglected or rushed, or that I was anything less than the center of their attention.  Because of them, I can now manage bumps in the road without feeling like a mountain is stopping me in my tracks.

Dorothy at Matrix Human Services was the light in my darkness