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I never thought I would be pushing an empty wheelchair around the Moorhead Target looking for the owner of the wheelchair, my client, who had driven away and disappeared on his electric scooter he insisted on trying out that day. That is, I never thought I would be doing that before I met Jayson…

The first time we “met” was in 2020. I sat in my car outside his facility to work on his ARMHS intake by phone. I had driven to Barnesville after confirming his intake session time and location. He had left out the, um, minor detail that his facility was not letting anyone into the building due to COVID restrictions. Have I mentioned Jayson is diagnosed with ADHD? Many people diagnosed with ADHD struggle with paying attention to details and this is something Jayson works on too. It definitely gave us a fun first “meeting” story!

Fast forward a few years where what started out as a fill-in weekly session while we dealt with our staffing shortage in early 2022 turned into a permanent client assignment in which I popped over to Jayson’s home weekly and encouraged him to leave his room and explore what Barnesville, and the larger community, had to offer. At that time, Agoraphobia and physical limitations prevented Jayson from making it out the door often. So, on the days we stayed in, we worked on organizing his room, which included his vast collections of keys, postcards, and books. We set a goal that every time we picked up a box of treasures from his daughter’s garage, where most of his collection is stored, we would get rid of another box or organize an area in his room for it, in order to prevent him from becoming a character on the hit TV show, Hoarders.

On the days we took a road trip to the FM area, Jayson would often become faint and panicked and ask to return home soon after leaving. He did enjoy learning how to use the Bluetooth system in my car to play random songs on Spotify, which helped ease his anxiety while venturing out (and possibly some anxiety from me being his driver, although he knows I’m a perfect driver). His knowledge of music and stories of past concerts and experiences he has had involving the music scene would be difficult to surpass. In his current facility, it isn’t uncommon to hear music blasting from the Echo in his room from down the hallway- something I’m sure his neighbors appreciate.

This love of music led to an instant connection between him and his therapist, Pat, as he hesitantly agreed to try another “shrink” despite never having connected with one in the past. Jayson would later comment that having the right professional supports sure makes a difference. He has gone from barely meeting 50% attendance once per week at 1 hour/ week for ARMHS to regularly meeting twice per week for ARMHS for a total of 3+ hours and once per week with his therapist for another hour.

Jayson has had many trials in his lifetime, and demons to slay, struggling with opioid addiction and homelessness being major ones. It’s inspiring to hear him now reporting he has over 3 years of sobriety under his belt, not an easy feat for sure. Jayson has gone from being terrified of taking psychiatric medications, due to his high risk of relapse, to now having found the right combination to help him manage his symptoms so he can enjoy his life as he should be able to.

Despite the trials of his past, one could say Jayson tends to have luck on his side. Or maybe, the universe feels like giving good people who have gone through hard times a break sometimes. The first time I witnessed this luck was at the DMV, where Jayson immediately was seen to get his ID updated and had polite workers throughout the process… Another time this was witnessed was during a phone call to the Social Security Administration to inquire about a letter he had received in the mail, in which a very pleasant woman asked if he had time right then and there to do the intake since it could take a while for him to schedule one. Um, what? These things generally don’t happen to most…

The biggest evidence that luck may be on his side, however, is his recent graduation from Hospice. Jayson enjoys telling people that he graduated the better of 2 ways people generally graduate Hospice. Jayson was given a very grim diagnosis around Christmas of 2022 and he and his family had started preparing for the worst. It appeared his past had caught up with him and doctors weren’t very optimistic. He was hospitalized several times and placed in a nursing home, where he experienced terrifying hallucinations and lucid dreams that went along with his diagnosis of dementia and multiple serious falls which were the result of his blood pressure plummeting when he got up from his chair. Jayson bravely faced this prognosis and embraced the support from Hospice and the nursing staff at his new facility, making friends along the way as he tends to do.

ARMHS and therapy during this time focused on radical acceptance and finding meaning in the end of life. Jayson created a bucket list and renewed his passion for painting. He jumped at the opportunity to start leaving his room, and facility, once he was strong enough, embracing all of the newly exciting parts of life that one tends to overlook when not faced with the reality of having a set “end date” to our lives. As Jayson continued to build strength and respond positively to a new medication, his family and professional support system were cautiously optimistic there was hope. His daughter Sarah, who was by Jayson’s side through the whole terrifying ordeal, sent a text on January 16th saying “Dad signs off of hospice today. Reach out if you can!” This was truly a dream come true for everyone.

These days, Jayson continues to enjoy living life in the moment and focusing on the things that make life worth living- meaningful hobbies, family, and friends. He loves picking up his favorite junk food items, which he may or may not be sharing with his nursing staff, hitting up area antique and book stores to find hidden treasures, and filling up his room with said treasures and the amazing canvas paintings he is constantly creating. He is as quick-witted and sharp as ever, and creates laughter and excitement wherever he goes.

So, if you ever see someone wandering a store in the FM area with an empty wheelchair looking slightly panicked, look out. You just might, literally, run into Jayson shortly after as he joyrides around the store, full speed ahead (don’t worry-it’s actually pretty slow, at least at Target), as he lives life to the fullest.

Laura Anderson

Laura Anderson, ARMHS & Aftercare Treatment Supervisor, is originally from Twin Valley, MN. She started working at CCRI in 2012, and while working as a DSP, completed her Bachelor's Degree in Psychology at NDSU and then joined the ARMHS team in 2017. Laura enjoys advocating for mental health and teaching people who struggle with mental illness strategies to live their best life. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, spending time with her family (including pets), and doing outdoor activities like kayaking and camping.