The lunatic is in my head

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I just witnessed two instances of mental illness that are much worse than my own. Does it make me a bad person for feeling better because of that?

The first was a quite clearly schizophrenic woman sat upstairs in McDonalds whilst I was killing time waiting for the bus. I noticed her immediately as I sat down at the table opposite as she was having several hushed conversations with herself and kept repeating phrases like “stupid stupid, get the bus get the bus, paint the door,” etc etc. She seemed quite unnerved by my presence but after 5 minutes or so approached me and asked if I could spare twenty pence for the bus home.

Now, some clarification here. In the UK whenever someone on the street asks you for a minute amount of money “for the bus”, it’s almost never for the bus. It’s so they can buy booze, drugs or whatever. However this woman did not give me that impression, she didn’t look like a habitual drug user or an alcoholic but she was quite clearly not all there. I’ve no idea what she actually needed the money for, perhaps it really was for the bus, but despite this I lied to her and said that I didn’t have any cash on me.

I felt bad for lying but I was a bit anxious of interacting with her and I was worried that if I gave her some money she would just ask for more. Also at the time I was face deep in a spicy bean burger and wasn’t really in a position to have a conversation with anyone. I started thinking “shit man just make up an excuse, say ‘oh look I did have some after all!’ and give her the twenty pence” but before I got the chance she had already asked the two young girls that had come and sat next to her in the meantime. She took twenty pence from each of them, muttered something that nobody could hear, and then shuffled away still having several conversations with herself at once. I was off the hook, and I was glad the two young girls (who looked extremely startled by the whole exchange) had given her the money. I hope she gets home ok.

I finished my food and started on my route to the bus stop. Literally as soon as I exit the McDonalds I see a small elderly man in a bright blue coat who stares right at me and screams at the top of his voice “GET TAE FUCK! MOVE!”

This was quite jarring, so I swiftly carried on my way but not before hearing him utter the exact same phrase about five times at the same volume, whenever someone even came close to his location. It seemed like anyone who dared enter this old guys space (or at least came within five meters of him) got yelled at. He clearly had some problems.

Now what’s the point of me telling you all this you ask? Two things.

One: It both comforts me and frightens me to think that no matter how bad things get mentally for me at the moment, I am still largely able to function in society. But at the back of my mind I worry that I could just be one small step away from a breakdown that leads to permanent, damaging mental illness.

Two: Our ‘civilised’ society does not give a fuck about people with mental illness. If you eat yourself into type two diabetes, you will have treatment thrown at you by the NHS and be given fuck tons of support from all sorts of groups. If you get depressed because: who knows why, you are stigmatised and largely ignored by those who don’t understand that it’s not just a case of “Oh I feel a bit sad today.”

I hope bus lady and shouty man get where they need to go tonight because even though I’m struggling with my own life at present, at least I get to go home to someone who loves me and a roof over my head. So I’m thankful for that.

f.

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12 comments

  1. This is absolutely true. It’s a shame that mental illness is seen as so much lesser than physical, people practically believe we cause it ourselves because they can’t see a tangible manifestation. It sickens me sometimes…

    1. Plus were all willing guinea pigs. “Here’s some medication that does ‘something’ with serotonin levels. We don’t know what, but who cares take it anyway!”

  2. It’s not shameful that you take meds. Never, ever let anyone tell you that. Sometimes that’s the only way to pull through. This being said, anti-depressants are some scary shit if you find the right articles. Sadly, I was on them for 15 years solid before I found out the bad side.

    The medical community is not very well educated in the U.S. regarding mental illness or the meds used to treat them, either.

    After reading this article, I started withdrawing from anti-depressants. http://www.madinamerica.com/2011/11/depression-2/

    It was scary to learn that there is evidence to refute the “just take it and shut up” philosophy, and I have no idea how it will turn out, but I’ve decided that I personally can’t be on them anymore. The article, combined with the symptoms my husband and I were both noticing in me, finally got my husband’s support to help me get off the meds.

    1. Yeah it’s not shameful at all, I think I didn’t convey what I meant clearly. I meant that we are chucked these drugs whose mechanism of action is still largely unknown. We don’t understand the brain enough to categorically state that more serotonin = happy. It’s ridiculous.

      Some of the journals and studies I’ve been reading often indicate that certain types of AD are no better than placebo. Yet they keep throwing them at us. We are data, that’s all we are.

      I’ve felt better for longer after taking a couple grams of dried shrooms than I ever have from taking my anti depressants. But hey, can’t do that anymore because of the anti D’s! FUCK YOU 5-HT2 RECEPTOR! Y U NO WORK PROPERLYS?

      1. I wasn’t saying you had said it was shameful. Having been on them for so long, I know what the stigma is like and I was responding to another commenter.

  3. I’m gonna push back on that “eating yourself into type 2 diabetes” stuff. I’m insulin resistant naturally, because of an endocrine disorder that approximately 10% of women have. You know what that means? My body basically takes ANY AMOUNT of carbohydrates and freaks out. In order for me to have normal insulin levels, I’m basically eating permanent Atkins.

    You know what fucking sucks? Having severe clinical depression and PTSD and not being able to eat a bowl of fucking ice cream on a shitty day. Or drink a beer. But that’s what I have to do if I don’t want type II diabetes.

    Also, plenty of mood meds can cause Type II diabetes. Seroquel, for instance.

    “But,” you might say, “plenty of people get diabetes FROM eating 12 cakes in a sitting or whatever.” Two things about that: 1) compulsive eating and binge eating are eating disorders, which are mental illnesses, and 2) even if you are sick from your own fault, you still deserve to be treated with dignity and not stigmatized. Plenty of mentally ill people can be said to have contributed to or exacerbated their own mental illness, but that doesn’t mean we should stigmatize them.

    I’m not trying to be harsh here, and I know that was just a few throwaway words — stuff like this kind of strikes a chord with me because I used to have an eating disorder. Diabetics and mentally ill people — anyone with chronic illness — need to stick together, not cannibalize each other.

    1. OK so I was a bit too vague and off the cuff. I understand what you mean but let me try and explain it again from my point of view.

      My wife is a type one diabetic, she was born with it, passed down from faulty genes from her father. Insulin dependant since she was 7 years old. The level of treatment and support she gets versus what type twos get is obscene in the UK so perhaps I’m a bit jaded because of that. And when I say obscene I mean things like, she was taken off insulin pump therapy after a month because she had one bad night when the unit malfunctioned and the doctor refused to even entertain any continued use of it even though it definitely WAS helping. Not a single one of the type twos had their pumps taken away despite continually violating their prescribed diet plans.

      Of course theres other stuff that causes type two, I’m not saying that everyone who has type two diabetes is a fat bastard with no regard for their own body. But that IS true in a hell of a lot of cases, especially in America where greed in all its forms is celebrated and encouraged.

      I feel for those with eating disorders, I do not feel for greedy motherfuckers who don’t know how good they have it and had everything in their power to not get the illness. And those people exist, in droves.

      1. Dude, I’m so sorry for what your wife went through. That is flat-out nonsense.

        I don’t know much about the NHS because I’m a fat, greedy American :P. (Actually, I’m not fat.) (Actually, speaking of which, I’d kill for some nice national healthcare. I’m paying 400 bucks a month out of pocket to talk to my shrink. God bless the USA.)

        It’s just not nice to call people “fat bastards” or “greedy motherfuckers.” Like yea, I’m actually saying these words: “it’s just not nice.” Fat people really, really don’t need to be bullied any more than they already are. Plenty of poor people are fat and have type II diabetes — are they greedy motherfuckers? Fat lot of good that does them, because they’re poor. They should have greedy’d harder.

        Some people make themselves sick. For whatever reason. Alcoholics make themselves sick. Smokers make themselves sick. People who refuse to go to therapy for their depression make themselves sick. People who ride motorcycles put themselves at increased risk of accidents. I feel for all of these people. None of them are stealing anybody else’s healthcare.

      2. I know what you are saying but I still respectfully must disagree.

        I am all for trying to be more compassionate, I realise I need to be if I want to truly get better, but it sounds like you are giving *everyone* a free pass.

        There are people out there who have every opportunity to not get sick and do it anyway, and revel in it. They don’t need the 32oz soda, but yet they continue to chug them. They could get away with having a normal size meal, but instead they supersize it every time.

        There are people out there who are just plain greedy, who have no eating disorder or indeed any other ailment other than the fact that they are obese. I can’t just look at them and go “aww it’s not your fault, there there”.

        I’m not just talking about food either, I’m talking about the need to have more. More money, faster cars, more expensive watch, MORE STUFF RAAAWR. People who will step over you to get what THEY want.

        There are shit people out there, I have met them, and I refuse to let them off the hook.

        One guy in the insulin pump meeting sat there scarfing several bags of crisps before the doctor came in to the meeting room and then looked at everyone else and jokingly said “Don’t tell her! I know I”m supposed to diet but fuck that shit! I just don’t wanna pay for the pump!”

        All the type twos laughed and nodded in agreement. “Yeah I know right! she can’t tell me what I can and cannot eat!”

        The type ones, of which there were three my wife included, looked at each other like “What the actual fuck??”

        I’m not concerned that they are stealing others healthcare, I’m concerned that these type of people are abusing a system that is there to help people who actually, genuinely need it.

        Despite what my Buddhism for Dummies book is telling me I cannot get past that fact. There are a lot of shitty people out there and they make it difficult for people who genuinely need help.

        Then again maybe I’m just a jaded asshole. That could quite possibly be the case 😀

  4. I know what it’s like to have a stack of medical “difficulties” like mental problems, PCOS, and others and I also know what it’s like to look around in frustration because treatment options are treated in such a blase manner. The gods forbid you want to treat your PCOS but you aren’t interested in having kids. And if you want to try and not take the meds for a mental issue, well, your doctors will just push and push and push until you cave, even if you move from doctor to doctor.

    Greedy dicks are all over the world, not just America. There are definitely people out there who cause their own problems for whatever reason, and there are people who bust their asses and still get stuck. The key point is perhaps to not judge one way or the other unless you have hard evidence regarding whether or not the person is just a dick (the diabetes support group example being a good one).

    And yes, those people are in a way “stealing healthcare” – if they aren’t taking care of themselves, if they aren’t willing to try and give their treatments the best possible chance that they can, then they are, in fact, utilizing limited resources and funds that another person, who may be in the same boat but more willing to put in the work, could put to better use.

    I’m not saying that a person should be denied care, but the jerks who don’t pull their own weight with their issues make it 10x harder for the rest of us just to get our foot in the door, because we end up carrying them too, one way or another.

    I do my best not to judge someone based on surface impressions. I try my damndest to think positive and give people the benefit of the doubt, but when someone is obviously being a dick (like blatantly ignoring their dietary requirements and constantly playing the “pity me” card to everyone as a now deceased acquaintance of mine with severe Crohn’s disease did), it is really hard to think anything even remotely charitable.

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