I Saw a Schizophrenic Struggling

Originally posted on Feminine Collective 

I have a local hang out spot that I frequent more than a few times a week, which is located across the street from a county hospital which includes a mental health ward. Between that and the homeless people who to occupy the small South Bay town, there are some interesting individuals that come in, from time to time (meaning, like, every other day). I’ve seen people on drugs more times than I can count, a self-professed prostitute who told me I could make more money because of my red hair, and once, a man with schizophrenia.

He did not tell me he had schizophrenia. But I know my people. That may seem like a stereotypical or very prejudicial statement, but being schizophrenic isn’t like being white, or female. There are not very many of us still “suffering from personhood” (see: John Green, The Fault in our Stars) and most of us who are, appear to be functioning but are struggling to appear to be functioning. We know the look. To most we just appear weird or eccentric, but to schizophrenics, we appear schizophrenic. It’s like knowing there’s something wrong with your kid when your kid appears fine to everyone else.

A graying man, maybe in his late forties (possibly younger and physically aged by various coping mechanisms such as illegal drugs and alcohol) walked in with a small voice and kind demeanor that you don’t see in the LA area (or anywhere, really) too often these days. He asked if he could take a look around. We, of course, agreed. He circled the shop once, pulling a magazine from one of the cases on his way. He sat down on the couch at the edge of the shop, and he began to quietly argue with himself. It wasn’t a harsh or irrational arguing like the schizophrenics are unfortunately known for, but he was, in fact, having an argument with someone I couldn’t see. He set his magazine down and began counting the change he had in his pocket. Then he began to laugh.

The people I was with were obviously disturbed—even most medicated schizophrenics would be triggered—but I wasn’t. I was when he initially walked in looking lost and out of his element, but as soon as he spoke with such otherworldly kindness, I knew. People with schizophrenia are the kindest, to those they have the courage to deal with. I’m sure there are people with schizophrenia out there that are assholes, somewhere, but I haven’t met any of them.

I texted one of them—the people I was with—to ease the nervousness this man’s unusual behavior instilled.

He’s not dangerous.

(I know; people who use periods in their text messages are statistically proven to be assholes. I guess I have in fact met an asshole schizophrenic, and her name is Allie Burke.)

The man began to laugh. Unfortunately, for the person I had just texted, he didn’t get the text yet, because his eyes widened. His hand was on the phone, ready to call someone who could help if needed. He was protecting me. Bless his heart. Had I not lived through the experiences I had, I’d be doing the same damn thing. If I were a person not familiar with identifying the symptoms of schizophrenia (like Diversability Interactive CEO Jason Chun Lee says, there is a lack of education on mental health which causes most of our social issues), I would have reacted the same way. In fact, I might still, with someone with different symptoms that are more elevated and uncontrollable.

Read the rest of the article here.