Friday, July 22

There but for the grace of genetics

Back in the dim, distant days of my youth, I was a case manager for the chronically mentally ill. I enjoyed it quite a bit, and some of those folks will be with me forever, such as the young man who ran a glass of tap water, drank a sip and poured the rest on his head. Repeatedly. Hundreds of times a day, if you would let him.

By far, though, one of my most memorable clients was a young lady whom I'll call Kelly. Schizophrenic, and severly isolated while living with a family out of "Deliverance," Kelly was still no dummy. She had been attending college when she had her break, and some of her wit still shone through at times. Kelly had delusions that she was married to John Wayne, whom she met while hitchhiking. He picked her up and told her that it was dangerous for a young lady to hitchhike. This lead, inevitably, to their having 64 children together. He wasn't around currently, but they still got together occasionally. Once I challenged her, stating that John had died. Nope, she said, she had just seen him on tv the other night. Can't beat that logic. When it came time for me to move on, I introduced Kelly to her new case manager, and asked Kelly to tell us about her 63 children she'd had with John Wayne. She looked at me like I was out of my mind. "I don't have 63 children with John Wayne!" Delusions are pretty stable over time, and I was surprised that she had given this one up. Until she said, "I have 64 children with John Wayne." My bad.

If you ever want to test your ability to ignore rudeness in others, take a schizophrenic bearded lady to Krispy Kreme.

When I first started seeing Kelly, she had talked about using a dipilatory to remove the hair on her face. Come New Year's, I asked her what resolution she would like to make. After we had nailed down exactly what a "resolution" was, she was still drawing a blank, so I suggested she have that facial hair removed. I won't forget the anguish in her voice when she stood up and screamed at the sky, "Why me, God?"

Why her, indeed.

To find out more about mental illness, please visit the folks at the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill.

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