There are days, like today – where I run through that phrase ‘People who are really crazy don’t know they are crazy’ in my mind, and I think of all the times I have been called mad, or that I have wondered if I am. It is a serious ‘point’ of thought for me because I am aware that I am hardly the poster child for ‘balanced and mentally all-good’.
I have a ‘friend’ who is a paranoid schizophrenic, and in the 15 years that I have known her I have moved several times in my position or my stance on how to treat her. I know what it feels like to be grossly misunderstood, and to feel bitterly alone in my own way of being and thinking – so when I am in the right frame of mind I try to afford this particular girl some patience and some compassion. But she makes it hard, let me tell you.
About 12 years ago, we were sat on her bed and we were talking and laughing, and she had a beer in her hand. I was overcome with nausea and I told her that I believed she was pregnant and I took the beer from her and poured it down the sink. The father of the child, who was also there – called me crazy, and I was asked to leave.
I am now god mother to that bright eyed red headed force of nature that was taken away from my friend about four years ago. I stood in court and testified for her, saying that she was imperfect but that she tried her best. That same hearing, I was asked why I was testifying as a friend and a witness to her character when I had kicked her out of my own home just after she had, had her baby girl.
I answered truthfully – which did not help the mother trying to keep her child. It was clever of opposing lawyers to bring that up – because the people who took the child knew that I would not lie. I detest lying – even if it is to my own or someone elses detriment.
She had phoned me and asked me if she could stay with me for a month whith her new born because she had been kicked out of her mother’s home and she just needed to find some temp work or whatever and then she would move on. I agreed, and she came in.
The little baby had only a carrier seat and that was about all. No cot, no blankets… and so I told the mother that she could sleep in my bed with the baby and I would sleep on the couch – as it was only for a month. A month came and went and I was growing increasingly annoyed because I am OCD and my symmetry and my cleanliness and my idea of how a home should look was all going out of the window. She was smoking my cigarettes, drinking all my coffee, eating all the food, and I was still forking out for formula and for clothes for the baby and she wasn’t looking for a job…
So one afternoon I came from work, and I snapped. I have a busy mind, so I need my surroundings to be minimalistic. If its not… I don’t cope well, and I had been trying hard for over a month now to ignore the things that were freaking me out for the sake of the child. But on this day, I came home to several coffee cups lying about, tea bags dumped onto the counter and left there, oily spoons from spaghetti bolognaise staining my white kitchen surfaces… this woman’s hair all over the place (she malted for some weird reason) … and I walked through to my bedroom to get some more comfortable clothes and a sideways glance at the bathroom presented me with a thick black ring around the bath tub, more hair on the floor, a smell that reminded me of sulpher and my white linen was also a weird very dark shade of gross.
I calmly closed the bedroom door, punched the cupboard door, and then went to her. She was sitting on the lounge floor eating some concoction she had made and I noted that she was smoking my last cigarette and that another five or so mugs were on the coffee table.
So.. you need to get out. I said.
She looked at the baby in the carrier seat and said: I’m not going anywhere.
I recall clenching my fists, and she noticed, so she stood and stood right in front of my face and dared me to hit her.
I could feel my pupils dilating. I fought hard to stay in the moment and not to black out.
I lived on the fifth floor. I scanned the room, and mentally noted what was mine and what was hers, including the baby – and picked the carrier up with the baby in it and ran down five flights of stairs. I placed her in the middle of the parking area, and a screaming mother came lunging at me. She was skinny and easy to push. So that’s what I did. I pushed her and then ran back up stairs and locked the door behind me.
I launched all of her stuff and the things I had bought the baby over the balcony and told her that I was calling her father because I was not a charity. I called him, and he came to get her… while she called me all manner of names. The Nigerians that lived below me came up later to tell me that they were happy she was gone – because she had left her baby alone and come to them to hang out while I was at work.
Even since then I have fought for her and tried to explain to people who torment her that she doesn’t think the same way we do, and that she is still a fun and beautiful soul underneath it all and that they cant punish her for a mental issue that she is not in control of. But about a year ago, I pulled all my compassion back in and stopped giving her money, stopped humoring her when she beleived that the government was after her. I stopped letting her post secret documents to me and stopped phoning her back.
Kind people kept falling for the charismatic woman that is well spoken and funny. My name is on her resume as a character reference so naturally they phone me whenever she falls in love with a guy and then when he rejects her she cries rape and it becomes my job to explain her life history to them.
A year and a half ago she fell pregnant again, and two families were promised a baby and the woman I called a friend once chose a couple who would give her money with out checking any background. That was the last straw. I could no longer bring myself to be kind. She used to arrive at my door with her little bag and beg me to feed her. One night I practically threw food at her and told her that if she opened her mouth I would break her face so that she couldn’t speak.
I felt like an animal, but the emotional strain of being the ONLY person to have any hope for her for so long became a burden that took its toll. I had long since learned that there was no point in trying to reason with her and the only language she understood in any given moment was harsh words that hurt her enough to be quiet.
I sat and watched her sleep one night. I knew that if I left her alone she would take something from me… but all the while I knew she had endured more than most human beings could. Losing a child. Rape. Being homeless and doing heaven only knows what to be allowed to sleep in a service station cubicle. Barricading herself in and then begging her way in and out of any situations. She had shock therapy as a teenager. She was bulimic and she was a crack head. She had been sold, violated and misunderstood. But… everything someone tried to help her – and they didn’t subscribe to her way of doing things – they became a threatening part of the greater conspiracy that was always present.
My heart broke but I let go – because I couldn’t help someone who wouldn’t help themselves. She wouldn’t take her medication and everything I gave her she sold or gave away because the demons or the angels told her to.
So in context to my opening paragraph – when you compare crazy with crazy – there are different types. I have a temper. I have PTSD. I black out. I have also been the victim of sexual assault, attempted murder, homelessness, drug addiction… but I managed to cling on to the fighter inside me who refused to be a perpetual victim. I clawed my way to where I am now and I may have lost some of my compassion and my empathy – but I know who I am – even when I am bending the crazy rules.
I take stock, and remember to be grateful – that I have a family that may not understand me, and sometimes don’t even like me – but will always be there for me. Grateful that I had access to doctors and rehab and that even when I was homeless, I was looked after by fellow homeless people and I was able to stand up again, and DO SOMETHING with the chances I was given.
Life still punishes me in other ways. Ways that I have no control over and that I often think is Karma for having hurt people physically or emotionally on purpose back when I was in so much pain I saw no other outlet.
But here I stand. And as I said before, I may now be the poster child for ‘all well’ but I am a far cry stronger than I would ever have thought I could be 15 years ago.
I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar, among other things by those who didn’t investigate and dig a little deeper. And for a time, I bought all the labels because they saved me from having to make any real effort. But I know now, that people who REALLY suffer with those things – and things like depression and such, I take my hat off to them – because I would not wish on my worst enemy that living minute by minute hell.