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.