Monday, February 04, 2008

What's the answer?

"What's happening? Something is wrong." I knew the voice on the phone; I'd been expecting the call since the woman who owned the place Daniel had last stayed had run into me at the market and said he was phoning daily and she didn't know what to do. Give him my number, I said. I'll talk with him.

He was calling from San Francisco. "Have you ever been in San Francisco?" he asked. Yes, I told him. Lots of people, right? Yes, he said, and he said "they are reading my mind. I try to keep my thoughts quiet but they are reading my mind and they are scaring me".

We had a long conversation. He hadn't eaten for days, he hadn't slept for three. Well, said I, just that will make you extra vulnerable. But I knew that wasn't what was needed. Where are you now, I asked?

He was in a bus station. He had a bus ticket in his hand. Where had it come from? He didn't know. He said one of his demons had been torn out of his body in the park. He said he felt pains in his stomach. He said he was scared.

I gave him the phone number of the mental health outreach worker he'd met at my shop. I told him "when you get to the town at the end of your ticket, there is a clinic there. Maybe you should go in and talk to someone there".

So he showed up a few days later, in the company of a young couple; I'd met the girl before; she often comes and curls up in the big armchair and reads interesting books while my dog sits at her feet and the rain pours down outside. Didn't know her new friend. Felt good that Daniel was at least hooked up with some friends.

But a few hours later he came to me and said that people look at him funny. They are reading his thoughts again. He can only sleep if he hangs onto someone else, otherwise he will fall through the center of the world. "What's happening?" he asked again.

You know, there are questions to which I don't have answers. I gave him a new sleeping bag, because somewhere he'd lost his. I gave him some clean dry socks. I said I'd look for some boots, since his are wearing out.

I looked over at Dina, the girl with the huge dark eyes who loves to sit and read poetry. She smiled. Neither of us knew the answer, I think.

Daniel said "the father sits on my back, and the sister is by my side. They are trying to eat my heart" is what Daniel said. Oh, said I. Here, have a banana, take some more fruit for your friends.

And the rain keeps falling.

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9 Comments:

OpenID cemeteryconsort said...

You do so much more than most, including myself. You are a unique person. I think you have answered the What Would Jesus Do question.

3:09 PM, February 09, 2008  
Blogger David said...

One of my friends from high school was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his early 20's. That was about 20 years ago. He really went through hell and came close to killing himself. The hell was not so much the disease, but the drugs that his doctors gave him. I have not seen him in years, but I have heard that he is doing better. The newer drugs have fewer and milder side effects. I'm not sure that he has much in the way of quality of life, but at least he has access to some treatment. As far as I know he has Social Security disability and medical care.

It seems like your friend Daniel would quality for Social Security benefits too. Has anyone helped him to apply so that he can get some help?

12:19 AM, February 12, 2008  
Anonymous marlyat2 said...

There is some weird wisdom in the offer of fruit to those who would eat his heart...

Hope that clinic is good and persistent.

7:12 AM, February 15, 2008  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

One of the best descriptions of schizophrenia I've seen in print. There are always mistaken beliefs about it. As for the fruit. Well, lets just put it this way. Today I had the opportunity to help someone I knew little about and risk being the fool. Or not. I immediately thought of you and opted to take the risk and help this person. I figured if I'm going to be taken advantage of it might as well be of my own free will in trying to help.

7:02 PM, February 17, 2008  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

well, cemeteryconsort, your comparison is a bit lofty--and I keep thinking Jesus would heal these friends of mine, something I haven't the gift of. And I don't do much, really.
Yes, david, we are trying to get Daniel some help; it is hard. and marly--ah, marly, mental health services here do what they can, but it is not very much in most cases. I keep feeling we are trying to hold back an earthquake by putting a pillow against a landslide.
And LiveWire--you've got it. Better to do it yourself, indeed.

But I have good news! We have a shelter...at least for the moment. An ad hoc group including street folks has been working for months and we have finally located and rented a place not far from my shop. The key is in the hand of one of the organizers tonight, and tomorrow I am going to stroll over and we will start cleaning, fixing, and figuring out things.
My friend the organizer says "we'll just do it a day at a time".
Fine by me. You can feel the hope on the street. As he says, "people are feeling like it is okay to care".

10:41 PM, February 17, 2008  
Blogger LiVEwiRe said...

That is absolutely wonderful; congrats to all!!

6:52 AM, February 18, 2008  
OpenID Melantrys said...

You must be infectious. Congrats indeed.

1:25 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger jarvenpa said...

What's infectious is caring. I think the tide is turning. My partner says "don't get all excited and fall in love with the possibilities!"
To which I said, from my vantage point in the middle of the building we are going to be using, "hey, if I listened to that sort of caution we would never have gotten together". And he shut up, and our co organizer chuckled.
But I am excited. I love it when things everyone says are impossible happen anyway.

5:14 PM, February 18, 2008  
Blogger am said...

"I love it when things everyone says are impossible happen anyway."

Yes. Yes. Yes

1:14 AM, February 26, 2008  

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