The madness I have seen

I used to know a guy. Let’s call him Neil.

Neil and I met through my ex-boyfriend, J. They had been in a psychiatric unit together – J for bipolar/psychotic outbursts and Neil for schizophrenia – and when they were released J did his usual act of taking someone younger under his very unstable wing, acting like a “father figure” (his words, not mine) to Neil.

Although the schizophrenia was quite controlled with medication, Neil often heard voices, telling him to hurt himself and other people. His ex-girlfriend had committed suicide a few years earlier, and he never got over it. Still, he was a nice, gentle guy, too tall for his personality, apt to social bumbling and saying the wrong thing, but sweet and caring. We sometimes played D&D together, or talked about Discworld, or just chatted about every day stuff. I suppose I classed him as a friend; although, as I admitted, I don’t have a clue when friendship truly happens. He did text me sometimes and we chatted at parties and got on pretty well, so I went by that.

A couple of days ago, I read in the local paper that he’s been jailed for three years, for throwing lighter fluid on his brother while he was smoking.

I’ve had plenty of first-hand experience with the mental health system in England – mostly negative – and I can’t help thinking that, yet again, it’s let a vulnerable person down. Neil may have been given medication, but nobody ensured he was taking it; he was said to be “of no fixed abode” in the newspaper. Nobody made sure he went to his therapist appointmets, or looked out for him. Perhaps his family helped – they said they still love him and want to help him – but is it too little too late? Too many people just let the mentally ill fall by the wayside, letting the NHS pick up the pieces in an ineffective way.

I’ve seen so many people being seemingly abandoned by mental healhcare, left to fend for themselves and told to go away with a pill packet, and it makes me worry for my future, as well as that of others. If I have another breakdown, will those around me have the foresight to keep me from being sectioned? Or will they be sick of me falling apart on an annual basis, and lock me away for some peace and quiet?

Not everybody has to worry about this, I suppose.

In happier news, it’s been a long, lovely weekend. S took Friday and Monday off work, and so I stayed at his house from Thursday evening and we spent the time drinking white Russians and amaretto, watching Buster Keaton films, playing Worms on his computer, smoking in the garden and talking in bed. I gave very little thought to my decision to end my so-called friendship with O; I thought I should feel something, even though I stopped loving him a long time ago, but it just felt like a closed door.

It’s funny; O was the first person to suggest that S fancied me. We were in his car, parked around the corner after a quick night-time shag by the water treatment plant, and when he said that I just shrugged. At this point, I only knew S online; we’d never met in real life, and I had no indication that he found me attractive.

It did spark something in my mind though; the thought that perhaps it wasn’t so strange that I did like something about S, even though we’d never met. That maybe there was a reason why I looked for his name when I logged in to the forum. So, in a way, O tempted me into flirting a litle with S. He was the master of his own fate.

O and I…. it was a love story. He’ll always be the first man I loved, and I’ll always have fond memories of that short time we were blissfully happy. It will never compare to the story I’m writing with S, though.

13 Comments

  1. I wish I knew a solution to mental health problems, but we all know there is never going to be any easy fix. My fervent hope is that bit by bit, our society has more awareness of the issues of mental health, and of those caring for people with mental illness, and that together we find ways to create safety nets so that Neil and others like him don’t fall through the cracks. We could all be in that position one day – you never know what the future holds. Another thought-provoking and beautifully written post. Much love to you xx

  2. I know I shouldn’t like all your posts…but damn girl you are good, crazy, and i am so glad i found you. On another note, I can beat your heartbreak story with my own heartbreak story (totally proves i’m insane) JOKING! I’m letting go of a lot of past relationships/friendships too. It’s hard when dreams die. You have to find new ones.

  3. Duude. Remember when I last commented and you said my ex sounds a lot like O?

    I just found another similarity. My ex was also the first one to suggest that the-guy-I’m-currently-dating (let’s call him G), was interested in me, way back when I was happily in love with the ex and oblivious to anything whatsoever from G’s side.

    Anyway. That’s not really the point of this comment.
    I wanted to comment on the state of mental healthcare facilities. I’ve never had any experience with it, nor with any mental patient.
    I think the first thing that people think of when they imagine someone going mental is them getting violent or uncontrollable and that probably scares them. It is probably what makes them consider having such patients locked up. I have to admit, I’d be wary of mental patients too, but I believe in the power of the human brain and of seeing reason, and I think, sometimes mental patients’ conditions are worsened by no one trying to really understand them.
    I have a big problem with this concept of what is normal and what is not, and people turning their noses up at things not considered ‘normal’ by their society. I mean, what is ‘normal’ is not even universal! Asian cultures think it’s complimenting the cook if you burp at the table, but western culture thinks it’s being rather rude. So if someone is not acting ‘normal’, maybe it’s only because they do not see things the same way as you. But instead of trying to understand their idea of what is normal, the usual way out is to pump them full of sedatives and lock them away, which probably disorients them a great deal.

    I think I shall end my rant now.

    May you always have friends and family who will understand this and be patient with you if you have another breakdown. :)

    • Rant away! The concept of normal has always frustrated me; who decides what’s normal or not? I certainly didn’t get a memo at birth to remind me to be nomrmal. I can understand why Neil was jailed, but at the same time, jails don’t have the right care for someone with such severe mental health problems, and I worry how he’ll cope. Hopefully he’ll be moved to a unit. I’m not a fan of hospitalisation for mental illness at all, but he’s obviously not safe, and needs 24 hour care.

      Looks like our exes dug their own graves ;) Serves him right!

      • You say mental hospital and I imagine a padded room with a straitjacket and a zombie-like patient.
        I don’t know if that’s really how patients are treated in mental institutions.

        Did Neil plead insanity? I know that life in prison is terrible (not from experience, just from stories :P) and a mental institution will be better, where at least someone will make sure he’s fed properly and he gets his medicines in time. I hope neil gets the care he requires :)

        • I have no idea what he pleaded, just that he admitted to being guilty. Does past mental illness get taken into account with cases like this? I always assumed it did, but I’m still confused why he was sent to prison over something he did because of being mentally ill.

          In my experience, mental hospitals are pretty much like normal hospitals, without the wards. Pastel-painted walls and No Smoking signs, with a rubbish area out back to get a little bit of air. The first time I was admitted to one, I remember feeling disappointed that it wasn’t more stereotypical and creepy.

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