Profile of Cathryn Buttle

I’m sitting down at a Starbucks near my school when all of the sudden a lady leans over and starts talking to me. We strike up a conversation and before long she agreed to do an interview with me. This interview is the first in one month special all about the homeless in Portland. The following is Ms. Buttle’s account of her life and story. No fact checking has been done and she is the only source on this story.

“There was a nurse in the room when I was born that told my mom about me being “special”. It was documented at my birth in the hospital. It’s not that I’m special, I’m a human being.”

All her life, Cathryn Buttle has been labeled as being ‘different’. Most people see her as being mentally ill while Buttle knows she’s special in a completely different fashion.

“I was born a psychic. [I see] the future, some past, some present. I have abilities that to me seem like they go beyond anything that I know of.”

From a young age, Buttle has felt something special about her. This feeling resides in the form of psychic capabilities. Although it is unclear how much of this is truly valid, we do know this: when she was in her 20s, her doctor diagnosed her as being mentally ill. And they “piled on the medication.” Soon, Buttle got dependent on the medication and decided to move out of her home that was “haunted” and opted to live on the street. This initial decision to medicate Buttle came after a series of near death events that could be attributed to mental illness. In one instance she got hit by a car when she wandered aimlessly down the middle of a busy street in the middle of the night. Another time she passed out and started seizing at school. Although there may have been some underlying mental health issues, the amount and kinds of medication prescribed has left Buttle in a very difficult situation.

“They didn’t give a damn about me anymore. They look at me as a problem. My daughter has a lot of bad feelings about me. She doesn’t want me. It’s really hard. I feel like I’m leading the life I’m not meant to lead.”

Several years after she was misdiagnosed, she signed up for a program at OHSU (Oregon Health Sciences University) to test her mental well being.

“There were  28 doctors and students at Kaiser and they had cameras on the group. Every day. They brought in a therapist. And they said she is spiritually (challenged), not mentally ill. They said she’s practically a vegetable now because of the medication.”

Buttle is in her fifties and lives on the street. Although there by her own choice, Buttle says there are things the state could be doing to make life a little better for the homeless. For example, she believes many could benefit from state provided psychiatric help. But one thing Buttle made very clear is what she would do if given the proper funds: “The doctors need to be sued.”

From shelter to shelter, life is rough for Buttle and the multitudes of people like her. One part self inflicted, one part victim of challenged medical system, one part plain old bad luck, Buttle’s story is not unique. There are many people out there just like her who share the same kinds of stories. Buttle understands this and for this reason does not want to be pitied. One question she does find asking all the time is “Why is it me?”

“[The hardest past of living on the street is] knowing that I may not live too much longer.”

Cathryn Buttle currently battling breast cancer.

2 thoughts on “Profile of Cathryn Buttle

  1. This is an intense story. May Catherine be given love and support by strangers like you.

    Treatment for the mentally ill has been cut consistently over the past 30 years. How do I know? I have a family member who has mental health issues and have seen many closures of hospitals, clinics and residences over the years.


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