If you ever want to increase your creativity, hang out with a psychotic. These lovable folks are some of the most interesting and creatively maladjusted people on earth. Enter their world and make your life interesting.
Back in the early 1990’s there was a mass exodus from psychiatric hospitals. Patients who had been residents (prisoners) for years were moved out into community group homes – single family residences in regular suburban neighborhoods that were staffed by psych techs around the clock. I was lucky enough to work full-time for two years at a home where three schizophrenic gentlemen were being reintroduced to community life.
I decided early on that if I were going to spend 40 hours of my life every week with these guys, that I’d enter their world and try to learn something, rather than expect them to enter mine. My life sucked anyhow. Who was I to demand anyone model himself after me? I also decided not to be afraid. And that was that.
I quickly became one of the few staff members the guys actually liked. They’d ask all day what time I was due to show up. When I got there, we’d hop in my VW Bug and head out for an adventure. We’d go to do park, to the convenience store for coffee or just out for a walk.
Hallucinations out on the town
It happened all the time. We’d be walking along and suddenly one of the guys, Keith, would say, “Hey Mike, there is someone following us!”
I’d turn around and see no one. “What does he look like?” I’d ask.
“He looks like a Ninja.”
“Oh. What should we do?” I’d ask Keith.
“I don’t know. You are supposed to know, Mike!”
“You wanna walk faster, or would that even help? Do you know Karate? Maybe you can protect me.”
At that point, Keith would start laughing hysterically, put his arm around me and forget the whole thing.
I made it a point never to tell them their hallucinations weren’t real. They were real and I always found it more helpful to enter the hallucination with them and try to figure out what to do together. I’d say that at least 50% of the time, the hallucinations vanished within a few minutes. In fact, their creative view of the world became a bond between us.
The times when Keith became possessed with the devil were much more challenging
He’d sit in the living room and take on a deep, gravelly voice. He’d chant like he was a demon claiming a body and fight off other demons who wanted the same body – or something to that effect. The look in his eyes was intimidating.
I’d sit in the room with him and just let him know I was there. During those times I never reached Keith. I’d just sit there with him until he’d somehow had enough. He’d always get up and go to his room and not come out until the next day, when he’d be smiling again and asking if I would take him for coffee.
After about a year, Keith’s psychiatrist, who visited with Keith for roughly 15 minutes a month, got the bright idea to put Keith on a stronger anti-psychotic medication. Within three months, Keith gained 80 pounds and was complaining about not being able to go to the bathroom.
His hallucinations didn’t stop, but Keith became less available as a person. He walked around in a daze and was much less interested in going on adventures outside the house. The regular staff were less intimidated by Keith because he was less animated and kept to himself more.
I was outraged and spoke the Keith’s counselor about it. She actually took me seriously and suggested that I speak to the psychiatrist. I made sure to take Keith to his next appointment and asked if we could take Keith off the new meds. I spent more one on one time with Keith than anyone. I knew him better than his own family, whom he hadn’t spent time with in years.
Yet, I was dismissed without as much as a moment’s consideration. This psychiatrist, who never lifted his ass out of a chair to shake Keith’s hand, never attempted a real conversation with Keith and didn’t know anything about Keith beyond a diagnosis based on second hand information – he wasn’t the least bit interested in actually helping my friend.
Is this mental health? Keith was healthier than this doctor. Keith was troubled, but not cruel. This is why I support MindFreedom.
Are you afraid of the mentally ill? Don’t be. These folks are just more creative than you. So, join me in supporting creative maladjustment week, a new awareness program at MindFreedom International. I’ll be writing more about it soon!