Monday, November 12, 2007

Gifts from the Girl Next Door

My neighbor, Joyce, just brought me this. Yesterday it was a bunch of bananas. Today it was Kroger Shells and Cheddar. The food offerings are completely random. It is her way of saying she cares and she wants someone to talk to. It is an excuse to come inside and sit awhile. I always graciously welcome her in and accept whatever she brings me. Maggie goes completely nuts with excitement much to her joy. She is going through a terrible time with her mental illness, and all the new medications they have prescribed her.

"I feel strange," she told me sitting in my lazy boy lounger a moment ago. "I just don't feel right. I am scared. I don't want to lose my mind."

We held hands and I told her, "You come over anytime and I am here for you. No matter what the time of day or night. I understand."

"I will do the same for you," she replied, clasping my hand firmly and rubbing it.

She's 61, divorced, and alone. She has a daughter who lives several states away and rarely visits. Her dog died and she is afraid to get another for fear of one more sorrowful parting. She spends her days watching television amid psychotic breaks -- soap operas being her preferred form of entertainment.

Mental illness ostracizes the sufferer. Family ties grow strained. Relatives grow tired of the constant drama as if the person was vying for their attention. My family completely dismissed my recent panic attacks as psychosomatic much to my dismay, and not as a truly physical reaction. I know my family grows tired of it. My brother and sister only call me on my birthday. My father comes over only to force medications down my gullet saying he can't deal with me un-medicated.

There are those of us with unwell minds. There are no tests to diagnose these ailments. You can't look at a MRI scan and say, "There it is! Schizophrenia!" Psychiatry is a vague and unexacting discipline. Doctors prescribe potent medications solely by observing behavior (which is rare, to be honest, as you never see them out of their little offices), and by what you or your family reveals (more likely).

Keep Joyce in your prayers. She needs a collective sigh of relief. My heart broke today watching her hands tremble and listening to her voice waver. That little box of macaroni and cheese was a special gift -- a gift between two sufferers of mental illness. A truce amid the loneliness. A thought, no matter how small, that was monumental in its giving.


Ryan said...

... Food for thought there?

Josie Two Shoes said...

I am sure your friendship means so much to Joyce, Andrew. Just having someone who understands the fears and frustrations is priceless. I agree with you that psychiatry is a hit and miss "science", no easy answers and no simple cures. I'm just glad that you are doing well right now, we take life one day at a time, and somehow we make it! :-)

Ana said...! i like this story...well, first, sorry for my´s not perfect! I´m a Spanish girl..I was searching something special in this page, full of blogs..and I found your blog! It´s great...very interesting, like this reflexion... Probably your neighbor´s gift is the best present you could receive, no? for me... it sould be! Well... u know, people like her needs our help..and we have to help them little by little and with all our love! So, congratulations for your blog!

Anonymous Boxer said...

so well written.

hensteeth said...

This is special, both in the tale and the writing. You touched my heart.

Bridget said...

I get daily, personalized inspirational e-mails from a group called TUT. You can sign up (it's free) for them yourself at A little slice of positive reinforcement, in your e-mail every morning. The one that I received this morning, I think, should have been for you, so I am copying it below, substituting your name:

Do you know how to give folks what they most, most, most want from you, Andrew, without even asking them what it is? In all regards, Just Be Yourself. That's what they were after when they manifested you into their lives.

The Universe

We ALL have issues and handicaps - every single one of us. Mine happen to be that I drink too much on occasion and can have a hard-edged attitude for no apparent reason. You're perfect just the way you are. Don't even waste your energy thinking about people who don't understand or who want to make you feel bad. Stop beating yourself up over your illness. It's nothing to be ashamed of or atone for.

Anonymous said...

thank you for being her friend. just because family doesn't visit, doesn't mean they don't love

Sharyna said...

It is good to have a friend like Joyce. I hope she is feeling better. I am sorry you're having a disjointed day. I hope all your withdrawal symptoms go away soon.


CJM-R said...

You are so right about psychiatry being a vague and unexacting discipline.

I work with children and teens and I see so many diagnosed with psychiatric issues who are heavily medicated. The labels change as weary and frustrated parents take their children from one psychiatrist to another trying to get a proper diagnosis.

Sometimes, more harm is done than good. It can be heartbreaking.

Did you have symptoms as a child?

Thanks for the profound and well written post.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos and descriptive writing. I enjoyed the personal short story I came across when I happen to click on NEXT BLOG.

If I may be so bold, I would suggest you visit an acupuncturist, it is a proven and natural way to deal with mental/emotional disorders and addiction. I see it help people who sound like you every day.

I wish you happiness and hope in your journey through life!

Glenda J said...

PRayers for you both, and Maggie.

My best to you always--

johnandem said...

I am also guilty of becoming tired over my Dad's constant drama, and often find myself thinking that he is just vying for attention. He is lying in hospital as I type. I was sure he was drunk when he fell asleep with his heater on in his caravan, the toxic smoke has damaged his lungs, he's lucky that he woke up in time and got out alive. But this is now the 4th near death experience that he has had in the past 3 years. Its is getting too much for us, we are tired of all the drama.

He is now drugged up to the eyeballs on sedatives as he was hallucinting after just 3 days in hospital without alcohol. Yet why do I not feel worried or sad, rather frustrated and angry? I do love him, but I love the old him, not this one who has taken over his body now..

your post really hit home to me today.

minngrl said...

My first time commenting... I've been reading for several months now.

I'm originally from Mississippi, and my mother has suffered from severe mental illness for the last six years. It tears a family apart, and it brings you much closer together.

My parents are so poor that they rely on state-funded care. Mississippi, being the poorest state in the nation (Alabama can't be far behind), gets abominable care. It's a revolving door between home and the psych ward at whatever state facility has a bed.

No solutions here...just keep on keeping on. I try to understand what it's like to be mentally ill, and I can't. All I can try to do is remain sympathetic and do the best I can to keep the family afloat.

Lynette said...

You are doing good for each other. Tell Joyce she can be Maggie's Doggie Aunt, she obviously likes Magge.

Portia said...

prayers and good vibes for both of you:)

Kelly Jene said...

Well put, Andrew. I have to thank you, the more you write about what its like, the more I understand and can see what your life is like and Joyce's life. I will definitely pray for her. You are a good and dear friend for her.


I will keep her in my thoughts..
wow! beautiful words here!

Samantha_K said...

I'm glad the two of you have found support in one another.