I saw J on Friday afternoon. Spotted his distinctive bright green velvet jacket out of the corner of my eye whilst chatting to my hairdresser. First impressions were that he looked sick; sick as in manic, and clearly off his medication again. I watched him waving his arms around while he rocked back and forth on his heels and talked to a man I’d never met before, his head freshly shaved under his wide-brimmed black hat. I remember that hat; it’s the one he bought and wore when he was starting to get psychotic. You see, J always wore hats, and very rarely took them off; even indoors. I assumed it was a security thing.
I felt a little sad. J put me through a lot, but I did sort of hope that after the last time he was in hospital – he’s been sectioned six or seven times – he’d finally take some sort of control, or at least his family would step in for once and make sure he took the medication, or at least stayed away from the conspiracy-theorists and criminals he spent the majority of his time with. I’m still unconvinced by the bipolar diagnosis – J fits perfectly into the definition of a true narcissist - but it’s nothing to do with me now. Did I somehow think that my attempts at helping would change almost twenty years of psychotic episodes and violent outbursts? I suppose I hoped it would, but clearly it made no difference at all.
A few years ago, we were both in the same place, mentally. He was running around inventing grand schemes to make millions, and I was lying on the sofa, a joint in one hand and a bottle of morphine in the other. He was snorting experimental party drugs and screaming at me if I spoke too loud or accidentally knocked something over. I was hiding in the house, terrified to go outside. He left for days on end, with no clue as to where he was going, leaving me with no gas, electricity, and – sometimes – no door key. I slept in his car rather than have to be in the same bed as him, because he didn’t wash for weeks on end, not even brush his teeth. Once we moved into the house his parents bought, I believed things would change. I stopped the morphine and forced myself to get help from my GP. When J was sectioned after shaving all his hair off and taking a Bible into a pub – shouting about Islam and the EDL – I promised to help him. I tried. I failed.
I watched him, with his scruffy beard and the brown cord trousers he wore every day, and wondered why our lives took such dramatic turns on the day I left him. J is forty two now, and still stands in the street with his odd mannerisms, wearing poorly-matched charity shop clothes and, obviously, still not washing. He’s still in the cycle of taking medication then, when he feels it isn’t working anymore, refusing all medical help and ending up right back where he started.
Despite everything I feel about our time together, I do feel sorry for him. He never had the support of a family who were involved with his psychosis. They just pretended it didn’t happen, and never visited him in hospital; preferring to go on holiday to Venice instead. He has nobody to make sure he takes the medication or at least has somewhere safe to be when he loses it. His ‘friends’ are all ex-cons, patients from the various mental hospitals, or religious and conspiracy fanatics. He has never been given responsibility – his parents willingly throwing money at his wild schemes and places to live – and I don’t think anyone has ever suggested therapy.
Sadly… J just wasn’t a nice person. His bipolar or whatever had nothing to do with that. Mental illness or no, he’d still have been a dick. Which is why I stayed in that seat, surrounded by the smell of peroxide, and eventually looked away. He’s not part of my life anymore. I don’t want to give him the satisfaction of knowing he ever entered my mind.