Many years ago, I loved a good and gentle man named David. Beautiful inside and out, he was intelligent, talented and had a good sense of humor. He was also schizophrenic. I didn’t know this latter fact when I met him. He’d been high functioning, perhaps the mental-health version of what remission is to cancer.
David had a few bizarre stories of things that had happened to him, but they weren’t so bizarre that I questioned his sanity. He had a keen intellect and we’d have long, wonderful conversations. We also shared a love of the arts. And he was a kind soul. He always kept granola bars or bags of trail mix in his car to give to homeless people or those who begged. He didn’t know their story, but felt if they were there, they had a need.
As time went on, David began his descent into his own personal hell. The outlandish stories now tipped the edge of Wow into full-fledged paranoid delusion. My heart broke for him and I made the mistake of sharing my heartbreak with a co-worker. Hearing about his delusions made her laugh so hard, you’d have thought I’d just told her the funniest joke. “It’s not funny!” I said. “This man is tortured by his own mind and everyone who loves him suffers, too.” She quickly stifled her laugh, apologized and excused herself.
I was so incensed that anyone could laugh at another’s suffering. It reminded me of when I was in the second grade and a classmate was shamed by a teacher. The entire class laughed. Except me. A sensitive child, I watched in horror as my classmate writhed in public humiliation. As I look back, I realize they were children. Not everyone is capable of feeling empathy, but at least adults should have the good sense to resist turning another’s pain into fodder for their entertainment and amusement.
Those who are mentally ill are victims of torture by their own minds. Those who love them suffer considerable pain as they watch the transformation from who they were to the tortured souls they become.
Imagine if the delusions were true – and happening to you. Imagine that a group of influential people with international connections had reason to kill you. They had their people everywhere and even poisoned the hearts of those you loved. No matter how much you loved your family and friends, you were no longer safe. Not even within the privacy of your home because they had your place bugged. There is nowhere to escape the impending doom of torture and possible death because something you did pissed them off. And now they’re using friends and family to get to you.
Can you imagine living like this, perceiving this to be your reality?
One by one, David distanced himself from his friends until there was only me. And then the interrogation was directed toward me and I knew my days as the last person he trusted were slipping away. I tried to encourage him to get help from a professional, but that only hastened his distrust toward me and the inevitable alienation. I’ll never forget the day when I lost my friend forever. I wept.
I hadn’t seen or heard from David until I got a call four years later. He was dead. A car crash. He’d been speeding on the freeway, trying to evade those he perceived were chasing him. A police officer stopped him and issued a speeding ticket. David tried to explain his perilous situation to the officer, that he was being chased by those who wanted him dead. The officer told him to drive to the closest hospital and check himself in, but left him at that point. Ten minutes after the ticket was written, David exited the freeway. He crashed into a tree. Killed instantly. Just 49 years old.
I cried many tears for David, but one thing gave me comfort. He was finally free from suffering as he cast off the body and mind that sadistically taunted him.
Rest in peace, dear one. I could never forget.