Yesterday, I was feeling very down when I woke up at 3:45 in the morning. That feeling of depression lingered throughout the morning despite the fact that I had to do something about my hair and makeup as I had to go out into that feared realm: the public. And, I do mean the Public as I have no car and rely on my feet, legs and the bus to get around town. So, there I am at the bus stop waiting for the bus so I could get to my therapist’s office which is some distance from where I live. Fortunately, my abode is centrally located next to the bus stops going North and South as well as the office of my psychiatrist which is a five minute walk across the street (so is the ER, just in case I go mad, well madder than I already am).
There were several people already at the bus stop which was a little unusual for that time of day. It was about 1:30 pm, and the general malaise had yet to lift although it was quietly being joined by mania. There we go off into mixed episode world, again. I swear I never get depressed and I never get manic, I just stay stuck and somehow balanced in the weird middle ground. Anyway, the people at the bus stop were comprised of an older gentleman named Charlie who had an impressive white beard, his wife, Stephanie, and I am assuming her son as they both spoke with accents, and Charlie did not. Charlie was also Caucasian, and I am not sure where Stephanie and her son had come from originally. As it turned out, her son had just been released from the mental hospital where I go for psych appointments and used to be a “frequent flyer” in the locked wards. The man, Charlie, spoke to me right off even though I was lost in 80’s metal land. There was something pretty nasty beneath the bench; I will not speculate on what it might have been. Charlie pointed it out, so I took out my ear buds to respond.
My Brain Is Bouncing
Stephanie’s son picked up on the fact that I had these little ear buds, and made a point of showing me his head phones which he pointed out were much bigger than mine. As her son and I talked (I cannot for the life of me remember his name), it became clear to me that he was mentally “different” (the term illness has been talked to death over the past week). As it turned out, he suffered from Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Asperger’s (?) Syndrome, was also somewhere on the Autistic spectrum, some features of Borderline Personality, and ADHD, in other words, he had a multitude of mental “differences” that rendered him quite interesting and somewhat difficult to talk to (it helped that I have ADD, and Bipolar disorder that was slowly becoming manic) so I was sort of able to follow his train of thought.
This kid/adult was so excited to have someone to talk to, he could barely contain himself. And, not just someone to talk to, but someone who understood most of what he was thinking. He told me he sees and hears things that he knows are not there but he sees them anyway. I replied that I do not see things that are not real, but I hear things I know are not real. This young man was so hyper, I almost couldn’t take it, and I was becoming manic (and have ADD). I am naturally hyper, but this young guy had me beat. As he was also on the Autistic spectrum and had Asperger’s, he became fairly fixated on two things: his headphones being bigger than mine, and his dislike of his meds which he had apparently been off of for several months. It was obvious. I told him that I take medicine too to help me feel better, but that even when I feel okay, I still take my medicine because that is what is making me feel better. I gently told him that going off your medication just because you feel better is not a good idea, because after a month or two, you will feel worse and you are back to square one and the medicine has to build up in your body to make you feel better again. Charlie quietly agreed with me, and I told him the various anti-psychotics I had tried, and that a combination of Abilify and Seroquel had finally put me in the weird middle ground that is the true nature of manic-depression (you are one and the other at the same time).
I mentioned Zyprexa and Resperdal as being some alternatives if Abilify doesn’t work and Seroquel puts you to sleep which makes it a night time medication. Charlie agreed, and asked the young man if the Abilify had worked. The answer was an emphatic no, it had not worked. I am sure that his mother and stepfather accompany him to his therapy appointments. I suggested that maybe they could see what the doc thinks about trying another atypical anti-psychotic. He had apparently been on Haldol and Thorazine for some time. Which in retrospect explains his complaining that the meds made him sleep. I have taken Haldol, and been prescribed it for aggression (when I get overstimulated, I can get aggressive), and yes, it will calm you right down, but the next thing it does is make you sleepy. Add Thorazine to that, and yes, you will sleep most of the day.
What was even more curious was the man who came by stating that he knew bus stops were a good place to get spare change. I live on disability. I do not even make minimum wage for a 40 hour week. I have no “spare” change. To me, that’s currency, and I need all of it to get by. Charlie and his wife, Stephanie, replied they had no money and were about to lose their storage if they could not come up with the rent that day. They were homeless, and all of their possessions were in that storage locker. Charlie told the man that he was looking for money to save their stuff.
All of a sudden, my life shifted about 10 paradigms to the right. Here was this family with both parents using walkers and not terribly well themselves, and their mentally “different” son whose mother had cared for all of his life, and I was depressed about what exactly. The fact that my brain is chemically messed up and I have no real control over my feelings be them manic or depressive. I have a place that I can call my own. Granted, it takes more than half my monthly income to pay the rent. But, I have the knowledge that when I am done with my therapy appointment, I do not have to look for a place to sleep. My mother picked me up so I could buy some groceries; more than I could conceivably take on the bus or carry as I often do. What I do not know is where were these folks going to find food. They were truly the faces of the homeless. Not the homeless as our society thinks of the homeless as worthless drunks and addicts that are to be stepped over on the sidewalk or crossing the street when one sees a person coming and they can’t be bothered to say that they have no change, or if one does have change, to give it to the homeless person. Many times they are trying to get enough money to pay for one night in a flea-bag motel so they can sleep in a bed, and take a shower. There are those who have become homeless because of addiction, but there are also those who have become addicts because of their homelessness. But these people were clean, clothing intact (probably from a thrift store, but that’s where I shop), hair clean and combed. Even the ever so excited young man was clean with clean clothes, hair brushed. They were clearly not society’s picture of the homeless, but they do represent a good portion of people who have found themselves losing their jobs, then their savings, then their homes.
Homeless Women and Children
“Oddly” enough, my mood shifted. I no longer felt sorry for myself but rather hope that this family could save their storage locker, and hang onto their stuff for another month. Who knows, they may have been living there. That locker could have been “home” as there are a number of rescue missions that provide showers and other types of personal care. I have a friend whose dad (now deceased, too bad because he was a character) lived in his RV which he parked every night at his storage locker.
It is amazing how a random encounter with three people when you are feeling low and socially stunted can transform your day and your world. I am a practitioner of Nichiren Buddhism and we hold that all people are deserving of compassion,
respect and fundamental dignity. We believe that all people no matter what walk of life they may come from all have the heart of the Buddha (we just forgot, and have to find it again), therefore when speaking with people, you try to tap your own inner Buddha so that your heart meets theirs, and a dialogue between Buddhas occurs whether the other party knows it or not. I generally wear my ear buds with my music cranked up loud so I can ignore the over-stimulation that can be public transit, but something about this family really made me tap that inner Buddha. It is not that we had anything truly in common except that both their son and I struggle with mental issues. They just seemed like good people in a bad circumstance, and doing what they could to make the best of it and care for the young man (who is going to need life-long mental care). The bus arrived before any of us realized it. I do not believe in random encounters. I was meant to be on that bus, that day, at that time so I could meet these people so they could help heal me in a small way, and I could help heal them in a small way.