Moving on, but conflicted

Some of the most vulnerable times for Chris were the times following release from a mental institution. Three years ago I did my darndest to keep him out of hospital because I felt he would get worse the longer he stayed, which turned out to be three months. During that time he watched someone slit his wrists and bleed all over the bathroom sink. That’s the one that I heard about. I have no idea what else went on during his time there. I decided in the end that a psych hospital is a learning experience, and chances are, Chris gained some valuable insights.

As it happened, Chris emerged three months later in reasonable shape, but, as I said to the psychiatrist, he was in better shape on in-take than he ever had been, so they were getting a better product to start.

However, on being sprung from the institution, his mind was still very much in fantasy land despite the vaunted drugs and the psychiatry, and that took time to straighten out. An old college friend of Chris’s, who was then aged 25 and in grad school, came to visit, and Chris insisted that they play Magic: The Gathering together. That shows how he was still clinging to fantasy. He first got interested in myth and Magic cards at the age of ten. It seemed a giant regression for him to be playing Magic at aged 25, but I said nothing. Over the course of the next year, Chris began ruminating a lot on his childhood, and past transgressions. He telephoned a few old friends from childhood who he hadn’t seen for years and apologized to them – for what I really have no idea. I suspect it had to do with the odd sly kick directed their way. This kind of behavior is not acceptable, but to my way of thinking it’s part and parcel of childhood. As a child, Chris professed to be as good as gold, and being too good is always grounds for suspicion that the person isn’t as good as they claim to be. Chris seemed to be feeling awfully guilty about his past deeds, not a healthy sign, but then again, perhaps a way of coming to grips with his past. His apologizing to people sounds like what people are encouraged to do in Alcoholics Anonymous. Perhaps Dr. Stern was urging him to do this.

I saw this post hospital phase of Chris’s development as very positive, his learning to move beyond childhood and into adulthood.

One problem, though, on leaving the hospital, was that a couple of older people in the community (a man and a woman artist) who were mentally unstable were attracted to Chris. At first, I was glad that they were there, to offer friendship and to receive it. Chris had no friends at this point, and they had virtually none. He thought the older man was extremely interesting and learned, and yes, he was all of that. He and Chris would get together for coffees occasionally and talk about mythology and literature and the state of the world. Chris helped the man move several times. This man had a habit of very suavely talking his way into getting people to house him, but it rapidly went downhill from there as he always got verbally abusive and was kicked out usually after only a few days. I almost took him in, but I had the foresight to call someone I could trust, and was told under no circumstances should I do this. Nonetheless, the man kept telephoning me, always with a new excuse as to why he needed accommodation. When I didn’t bite, he got verbally abusive. I began to not answer the phone, never sure what number he was calling from.

I felt very sorry for this man, because I could see that he was isolating himself and consequently, his mental problems were getting worse. I also felt guilty that I did not want to do more to help him. He was repeatedly urged by others to see a psychiatrist, but always refused, claiming that it was the other person who needed to see one. But it was when he moved beyond verbal abuse and started getting violent, not with Chris, with other people –a push here, a shove there–that I lost any sympathy I still was harboring.

On his own accord, Chris began distancing himself from the man, and the woman artist. He can see that they haven’t dealt with their demons. He now sees them as “mentally ill,” and this bothers him because he knows that he got the same label, and it was unjust. Chris is moving on emotionally, but it is sad that the other two people have not sought the help they need. One person can only give so much.

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