The House That Crazy Built

October 26, 2009 at 2:35 pm Leave a comment

I was riding the bus to work today when not one but two mentally ill men boarded.  The first had been sitting on the bench waiting for the bus with me and continued to harass me to buy him cigarettes until I finally I told him I was under 18 and could not buy them for him.  (A blatant lie, I’m not kidding anybody if I say I’m 17!)  We both boarded the bus and a few stops later, the second man stepped on to the bus.  He was carrying a bottle of chocolate milk and some sort of bread in his other hand.  His beard was unkempt and his hair unruly.  As he inched his way towards the back of the bus, crumbs started spraying everywhere and eventually the bread flew out of his hand and hit me in the head.  I was shocked.  The man sat down near me, did not address the fact that he had JUST THROWN BREAD AT MY FACE, and proceeded to mumble under his breath.

He looked directly at me and said, “Do you remember me? I remember you.” “I remember you from the parking lot of Cambridgeside Galleria.” “I remember you walking when I told you to give me your money.”  In that second, I remembered this man, too.  He had tried to rob me SEVEN years earlier.  He was arrested and later confined to a mental institution for rehabilitation and treatment.  I was lucky – he started to approach me and threaten me with a gun (that he did not actually have) and I ran as fast as I could to the mall where I found a cop who was more than helpful.

I cannot believe that this man remembered me, but at the same time – I’m not surprised.  Mental illness is a strange demon.  I was reading about “Mad Pride”, a movement where those who ‘suffer’ from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, mood disorders, etc. embrace their diagnosis as distinguishing them from those without. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder over a year ago.  I am lucky enough that, at the age of twenty five, I have sought and received an accurate diagnosis as well as treatment.  I also know how easily I could slip into the state that this man was in – it is not so difficult to watch your world crumble when you feel trapped by the inconsistencies of your own mind.

There is such a stigma surrounding mental illness that we only picture ‘crazy people’ as something negative and that is a disservice to anyone with a mental illness.  I wonder if there aren’t more people with mental illnesses than without.  I hope that soon there comes a time when it is socially acceptable to discuss the pitfalls as well as the benefits of having a mental illness.  I know that without my bipolar disorder (and its effects on my brain chemistry) I would be nowhere near the creative person that I am.  I also know that medication is going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life.  Someone asked me how anybody could view their high school years as the ‘best years of their life’ – well I know for me, right now? They are the best years of my life because before I turned 22 or so, my brain functioned properly.  At the age of seventeen, I had no idea that I was slowly descending into madness.  I was normal, social, and able to function and fulfill my daily responsibilities.  I was a straight-A student with a perfect attendance record.  I didn’t wake up, feeling that my body was being suffocated by the weight of my blanket, a numb paralyzing feeling leaving me stranded in the sea of my bed, unable to move. That is no longer the case.

To be continued…


Entry filed under: Mental Illness. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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