Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Being Schizophrenic

Recently, I came across a beautiful blog, Cinda, meanderings from the inside..., where she often writes about the heartbreaking and courageous story of living with a daughter mental illness. The other day she wrote a most beautiful story, See Me, of when her daughter was confined and her initial guarded reaction to the others there that actually turned out to be a healing and learning experience for her.

The story reminded me of my dear friend, Jim, who was a schizophrenic. We met in a laundromat in New York City. Introducing himself he said, "Did you know that you have a perfectly balanced face?" We sat on the bench outside the laundromat all night talking about everything under the sun. He was brilliant. That night he told me of his struggles. Anytime he was at his worst, he would call me and I would find him in various places in the City often after having cut himself, not enough to be hospitalized but enough to seek help.

Usually, I would bring him back to my loft and clean him up. Some people on the subway, sensing that something was amiss, would look strangely at us. I drew Jim closer to me. He is from an incredibly wealthy family and had a lovely apartment that his parents paid for. Yet, he could often be found on the streets or in parks when he did not take his medicine. He was never dirty and always clean shaven. He is a tall attractive red head with a few freckles. It appeared that someone loved him.

Jim was raised in boarding schools and felt utterly alone. Once he gave me his mother's number in New Jersey. I wanted it in case of a true emergency. Once I called her after not having heard from Jim for a month and having gone to his apartment to be told by the doorman that he hadn't been seen for some time. His mother asked me right away, "Do you know about my son?" I assured her that I did.

Jim would sleep in my loft bed with me and watch over me the whole night. I would awake and he would be looking at me rather lovingly. (God was always watching over both of us.) I would always prepare something for him when he was over. He would eat and say, "Your food tastes the best." I don't know if he ever really ate well enough. He was frightfully thin. There was never any food in his refrigerator or cabinets. Sleeping besides him might have been a really silly thing to do; my mother and boyfriend at the time were very uncomfortable with my friendship, but somewhere deep inside of me I knew that he would not hurt me. He never did. He was more interested in hurting himself.

Love endures and covers all. It has been 15 years since I have seen my friend, Jim. I hope he is well.


septembermom said...

What a beautiful story of human companionship and compassion. I hope Jim is okay now too.

Judith Ellis said...

Kelly - I have been back to New York and have looked for him without success. I have since lost the number of his parents and remember that his parents live near the Forbes. I guess I could find out where they live and track him down this way. My first unpublished novel had the working title, "Jim" and one of the characters is loosely based on his life. Thanks for your kind words.

Dave Wheeler said...


Some say it. Some live it. You have touched a great many lives during yours and I'm reminded of a talk I had with a friend of my daughters who was is a policeman. He said his goal on the street was to always leave people in a better place than he found them, something he learned from one of his trainers. You do this daily! You're the best Auntie "J"...

Judith Ellis said...

Dave - What a beautiful comment from the policeman. I must say that this is also my daily desire. Many times I am successful, other times I am not. When I show a lack of patience or am perhaps unduly harsh with a worker whom I have given instructions to more than once or who has cost us money by not paying close attention on more than one occasion, I get more than a bit annoyed. But I wake up the next morning with the same desire to be better, facing the same situation and adjusting accordingly. This is all I can do: try to be increasingly better daily. My effort to do good does not cease; it is easy to do otherwise.

"Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle."


Corrie Howe said...

I love Cinda too. And this is a beautiful story. I have a few people I wonder where they are and how they are doing too.

Judith Ellis said...

Thanks, Corrie. Blessings to your friends. And, yes, Cinda has a great blog!