And I saw V standing there.....

I saw V standing at the bus stop the other day and I silently smiled to myself. In 1990 - 95 I worked in mental health. Primarily with men who suffered from schizophrenia. They ranged in age from 19 to 63. V came into the program when he was released from a hospital release program. He was moved into a three room apartment and would only leave for an occasional mandatory psych and med eval. He occasionally took a cab to the fast food drive through or bank. His priest came to the house to give him communion. I was assigned the task of increasing his socialization, help him with entitlements, and establish a treatment plan.
V it seems, was housebound by anxiety. It took days to work himself up to take a cab ride anywhere. As he became more comfortable with me he described the feelings he got in his head and feet. He told me his heart would race and breathing was difficult. He stated that it was God punishing him. When I refuted that, he confessed that he thought it was the CIA or FBI or possisbly aliens beaming rays down on him. In my easy going humor filled way, I laughed at him. "V, I said, you're crazy! None of that is real. What you feel is the natural rush of adrenaline rushing through your veins." To which he replied, "Oh, yeah?"
This went on for several months. I helped him plan his funeral because he had $4500 in the bank which made him ineligible for supported housing and State Insurance. The funeral director came to us and it took three visits to conclude the funeral trust. When questioned about what he wanted to be buried in, he said, "In my Boston Red Sox uniform. But I'm in a quandry. I don't know whether to be buried in the home or away uniform."At this, I fell to the floor laughing and V soon joined me. He did indeed own both.
V learned to trust me and began to believe that the symptoms that kept him home were part of his illness and not some outside force out to destroy him. He started to join the group as we went for breakfast and toured places of interest but he never left the van. He did this for a few months and I noted how his interest was piqued when we returned to the van and discussed how good the food was or how interesting something was.
One morning, we all filed out for breakfast and were seated in an old off the beaten path breakfast nook. They had a fire going. They had home made bread and real maple syrup. V ordered along with the rest of us like it was the most natural thing. No one commented on his attendance then or after.
This was the break in his wall. Soon V was out walking. He walked to church and attended an entire Mass. He would go about anywhere.
Seeing V standing there, waiting to catch a bus, gave me a feeling of joy and sadness. I miss the field of Mental Health sometimes. I worked around the clock and made very little money. I cannot support a family on that level of income. Burnout is high. What community mental health can offer is often mediocre. It's a frustrating, thankless vocation.


justrose said…
but it takes great people to work in mental health, and i can't tell you how much my life has been enriched and my experience broadened by my therapists who have worked with me on my OCD. my experience was just in appointments, not in community health, but the impact was and is great for me. i am not fond of psychiatrists ... but my various counselors over the years are truly angels on earth.
alix said…
i had a laugh when you told V he was "crazy" the absurdity of it and the caring contained in it. i agree with justrose, it DOES take great people...and great love. i am literally cheering for V, as it is truly for victory for him!
Rowan said…
What a charming story!