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.