Sorry for the delay – I was ill.
Does anyone else feel psychotic when they are ill? As in, “I haven’t heard from anyone – has the rest of the world disappeared and I am the only one left?” And being feverish, everything takes on a surreal quality – the way your blankets feel, the way things look sort of wavery around the edges – and you feel sort of wavery on the edges, too.
It makes that statement that we all have our own realities hit a little closer to home. We all perceive reality differently – we have our own interpretations of tones of voice, facial expressions that set us on edge, our own ways of presenting ourselves in the world: quiet, confident, self-effacing, brash. Yet we all are functioning in the same times and places, seasons and hours – in the same reality.
Most of us. Being in that sickroom twilight zone made me think of our patrons who are paranoid schizophrenic. Since our state closed the mental hospitals, many mentally ill people are part of the homeless population. Being lost in the system, or lost from the system, I suppose, they have days when they are not medicated.
Those days are more precarious. They cannot speak, only motion and groan. They pace around the library, unable to sit or relax. Yet they have come to a familiar environment with familiar faces, and they still want to be recognized.
I am usually fine with this. I can greet the man who introduces himself as George Bush and thinks he was in the space program under President Kennedy and has flown in the space shuttle. I can usually understand his mumbling and get the pictures he wants off the internet – isn’t Google Images great? I can usually nod as he paternally assures me that he understands the inside of a nuclear power plant and that we have no worries because he is capable.
Let me say – I do not know much of this man’s history, and I do not doubt his intelligence. But I do know that none of those things above are true, though he believes them to be. Perhaps at one time, he did fly, did understand about nuclear power. But not now.
I also am usually fine with the man clutching the teddy bear, even on the days he cannot speak. Those days he usually just wants to be acknowledged – a wave, a hello, someone who will look him in the eye and not shy away or mistreat him.
This particular day, however, the one that being ill reminded me of, was a full moon day. I don’t care what scientific evidence you have against the correlation, I know from experience, and my colleagues agree, that the full moon agitates people already on the edge. This day, both of the above patrons came to me. At the same time. Both talking at once. And then they started talking to each other.
This only made me nervous because both of them are very touchy about others dissing their abilities. Mr. Bush has walked off in the middle of a conversation if someone cannot understand him, or if they contradict him. The man with the bear has turned his back and pretended to kick dirt on someone who showed their fear of him. And I was in the middle, holding my breath.
Both of them wanted pictures, both of the space shuttle and some aircraft. They made various unclear comments to me, and then a few to each other, about their flying experiences and places they had been. I’m not sure how clearly each perceived the other – they certainly did not question or express doubt about the other’s experience, which might have been a relief from the usual reaction, I don’t know. The short interchange seemed to be somehow satisfying for them, as were the pictures.
I really wonder what their interior planets are like. It frightens me, frankly, to think of walking alone in the world, with altered perceptions. I am not a good candidate for recreational drug use, I realize. That is not my idea of a good time – unable to fully function, vulnerable. And they walk around like that every single day, alone.
Like a person with a fever, just wanting a cool hand on their forehead telling them it’s ok. Telling them their interest is valid, their comments are understood. Telling them they are visible, that the whole world hasn’t disappeared. It’s right here – and they’re here, too, I can see them - no matter how wavery the edges are.