A Recovery Blog

This blog is about my continuing recovery from severe mental illness. I celebrate this recovery by continuing to write, by sharing my music and artwork and by exploring Buddhist ideas and concepts. I claim that the yin/yang symbol is representative of all of us because I have found that even in the midst of acute psychosis there is still sense, method and even a kind of balance. We are more resilient than we think. We can cross beyond the edge of the sane world and return to tell the tale. A deeper kind of balance takes hold when we get honest, when we reach out for help, when we tell our stories.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A Stranger In Town

I got a phone call from my brother early in the morning after Superbowl Sunday. He called to tell me about a stranger who had been in one of the town bars, a seemingly sociopathic stranger. He said this man was "creeping out" everyone in the bar. At first not drinking, then drinking heavily, hovering over people, acting inappropriately, becoming incoherent, spending a lot of money. At first my brother and his friends thought the man was coming on to the college girls but then the man turned his attention on my brother. This definitely unsettled him and made him cautious.

Turns out this man might be a pedophile. Someone said they saw him on the internet. He's moved into a local hotel but has been kicked out of two bars, a coffee shop and a unimart. The local police have been alerted but everyone is now nervous. My brother stayed away from the bars Monday night and will stay home tonight as well. Hopefully, this man is just passing through. But what if he's not?

While I'm unsettled by his presence in our safe little town (I've locked all the doors...), I also can't help but wonder: what can people do to help a man who is a social pariah? The man sounds isolated and psychotic and I know what that feels like. I've been very fortunate that my illness never led me towards hurting others but I can see how it could happen. Don't potentially violent people need therapy and support groups, even more than those who are ill but not violent? Don't we owe it to our society to take care of those who threaten it? Prison doesn't work, it just creates more of a problem, it strengthens a subculture and doesn't address the humanitarian issue of underlying mental illness.

But few people want to deal with sociopaths or psychopaths. I can't blame them for that because these sick individuals are manipulative and potentially dangerous. Regardless of that, they need to be helped. But I have trouble envisioning a Sociopath/Psychopath Anonymous group starting to spring up across the country. And I have trouble imagining my therapist treating this man...but she did treat me when I was deeply psychotic and I bet she could. I don't know the answer. But there needs to be an alternative to prison. I could see closed therapeutic communities but there's got to be therapy, individual and group therapy. Which means there needs to be trained therapists and support group facilitators along with rules and restrictions.

But what to do about the stranger in town? Though I had an impulse to find the man, I will probably steer clear of him and keep in closer touch with my brother to make sure he and his friends are okay. But I have started to pray for the man. And why not? Why shouldn't I pray for a sick man to be healed? Why shouldn't I pray that he harms noone and gets help? I do believe in Jesus' command to love your enemies. How else will the world eventually heal unless we stop all this fighting and start going to work on healthy solutions? But the truth is, the man will probably be arrested for one thing or another but I don't think that will stop him from being psychotic or change his behavior much or even keep him locked up forever. His problem won't just go away unless someone actually deals with him as mentally ill.

I know it's hard for many people to understand but wouldn't it be better if people surrounded the man with concern rather than with fear and resentment. Fear rules too often and often sets up conditions conducive to violence. I've had the fantasy before of what it would have been like if I was a member of some Native American tribe a century ago or so. How did they treat mental illness, violent or otherwise? Did they shun and exile the individual or did they find a place for him or her within the group? In my ignorance, I do not know but I imagine that the tribe would shelter their own.

No one wants to claim this man, not even me but I'm not proud of the fact. And if there were a group willing to deal with the man, I think I would join in. On my own and with my own psychotic residue lingering I'm not strong enough to help this man. Maybe someday that will change.
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