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.