Trena's Story

Trena Bristol, a person without a home for 5 years, was a guest for the project “A Place to Call Home.” Here is her story, in her words.


This is probably the last place I'd ever thought I'd find myself. I am a Harvard graduate, and also have an MBA from UC Davis. I have lots of experience in public accounting, and was a licensed CPA in two states. I have also been in the military for 10 years,  I was not in active duty but spent time in the reserves and National Guard and had a lot of great experience from that.

So what happened started back in 2011. I was working up in Lake Tahoe had been working up there for 10 years when my job went away. It was an after effect of the 2008 crash. Most of our real estate clients lost a lot of revenue and in2011 the revenue sank to a point where they couldn't pay me full-time, and I had to go looking for another full-time job.  I finally got an entry-level tax manager job in San Francisco through some connections, a fellow I used to work for at Price Waterhouse Coopers. So I pulled some strings and landed that job. I was very excited and got down there and then was laid off after six months without really given any feedback. So I thought I’d tryto get another job so I got three other jobs in quick succession with large public accounting firms and got laid off after a couple of months each time. Then I decided I'd try my luck in Sacramento and got hired by a public accounting firm, butgot laid off again. I am just completely baffled. This has never happened to me.  I had no idea what was going on. 

For the next year and a half, I tried various things including being a Buddhist nun for awhile but that didn’t quite work out. Then somebody I worked for in Reno, a former colleague of mine in Reno who thought highly of me, told me about a job opening. I have been unemployed for an unheard-of two years so I go work for that firm and do everything humanly possible to handle this job. They laid me off after four months and I was utterly floored. I was at the edge, and if it wasn’t for background checks to purchase a gun in California, I may have gone through with it.  

When I got laid off again for the fifth time in less than two years, a couple of very dear friends, especially one who knew me for four years, said there were motions I used that were odd and maybe I should check on it. She said maybe they think you are high or drunk. I went to a local doctor, but because I was adopted, they didn't have the background to make a diagnosis.

My world didn't make any sense anymore. You know it's like if you were trying to wake up in the morning and put on your pants and your pants won't go on.  I have never had troublekeeping a job.  

My first referral to a neurologist was December, 2015, but was a small disaster. I have learned that you really have to get in front of movement disorder specialists, somebody with a background who's got a history of looking at people and by their motions, they can tell if there's a Parkinson's tremor versus a Huntington’s. My dermatologist, on an annual visit, stepped in to help. He referred to me Dr. Sharon Shaw at Stanford, who worked in this amazing center, like a brand new six floor building dedicated to nothing but neuroscience.  Within ten minutes, she diagnosed me with a form of Huntington’s disease. Within a month and a half they declared me disabled.

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