A mirror and a stranger

Posted: May 31, 2012 in Mental Health
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I had a strange encounter last night which seems almost as if it wasnt real as I sit here now, it was initially very sad and ultimately quite heart warming but it was strange as in many ways I met myself, the me who didnt have the good fortune I have had, yes even in the realms of BPD I can accept I have been unbelievably lucky compared to others, I dont think about it often because it would interfere with my self pity but its still a fact.

I broke a toe last night, stupid thing to do I know but the door opened onto my foot and crocs arent very health and safety, so after bravely doing my late shift on the phones, foregoing my agony to help others in pain, get the gist I was a hero really. So I finished my shift and limped home, the toe was swelling and I am off on a very long drive this weekend so my right foot needed to be in working order or at least strapped up for use so I went to hell on earth, the dark pit of damnation and devastation which calls itself Chatham Maritime hospital. The experience is always a bad one, the staff, hard done by no doubt, are unfriendly and robotic as well, did there best to discourage me from actually using the facilities when I showed the oft fabled tenacity I possess they agreed to X-ray me and this was all done within twenty  minutes, I was on a buzz, I could done and dusted in less than an hour, stupid man to even think this but at the time I was in pain and hopelessly optimistic.

After having my photo done I was sent back to the main waiting area where I was promised I would be called soon, soon as in the world cup is happening soon not as in a few minutes. the room was packed which is unusual for a Wednesday night, I have been here a few times, and there wasnt much choice in where I sat. While I had been in the queue waiting to be booked in I overheard the lady behind the counter gossiping about who was back again and how she had rebuked them, the police wouldnt have done it but she was brave enough to tell this sole whats what. The seat was next to the little snack shop run by the charity that does that stuff in the hospital, I was at a right angle to another set of chairs where there sat a large bald man in a Chelsea shirt. now those who know me will have perked up at this point and with good reason. We did what big blokes do when we cross paths, door men and any rugby player will know it, a nod of acceptance, youre a big lad, so am I but this isnt the place to do anything about who’s the biggest or strongest, we just nod and keep ourselves to ourselves.

The wait was interminable and a group of out and out lowlife chavs from Chatham were behind me with a very poorly little boy, no one spoke to me or him and we both had a few empty chairs around us, strange or just the way it always is? I dont know. as the child got called in the two girls left behind, I use the term very loosely and a strange thing happened. He started to speak to the girls, he knew their names and although they were clearly trying to avoid a conversation he was keen to rekindle whatever relationship they had shared in the past, platonic and very causal drinking buddies seemed to be the score. He spoke about not drinking anymore and problems with a few doormen, I was half smiling as it literally could have been me ten years ago. then he dropped bombshell on the girls and made them very uncomfortable, they tried to hide it but they were ill prepared for the fact he was there due to a mental breakdown he had been having since monday. As uncomfortable as they were, a few nosey neighbours were also a bit perturbed I was struck with his bravery, he was being honest and open and this made me like him a bit, the Chelsea shirt and mental health issue tied me to him a little and although I didnt really want to talk to him per se I didnt turn away or avert my eyes, why would I? I have no skeletons left in my closet either on that front.

I had to get up and move around, it had been and hour and half at least and I was getting grumpy this is now gone 1 am, when I sat down I must have been sitting differently as he was chatting to another patient about being tired when he started to excuse himself for changing the subject, I heard him say he was aware of a special tattoo and needed to say hello. I looked up and this big scary looking guy was smiling at me, nodding towards my leg where my Chelsea badge and my new gold star tattoos were situated. He started off by talking about the champions league final, what we had done and I wasnt very forthcoming to be honest, tired and in pain is not my best conversational environment but as we got into it he was a nice guy, he was ill informed about the transfers and rumours so I told him everything i knew and he accepted it too readily, this got me wondering so I asked about the Maast team he was waiting for, how he felt about them etc. He then went on to describe his long and often acrimonious relationship with them, I told him about my many fallings out with them and he very tactfully didnt ask anything further.

As we got deeper in, he was up for a real heart to heart I got a very clear picture of his life, the trials he was going through and obstacles he had faced. He said they had just decided he might be Bi-polar but what he said didnt ring true on that one, I know lots of Bi-polar people and he didnt have the highs ever, just stability for short periods followed by deep depression and aggressive behaviour which often got him hospitalised. Then he dropped another little bomb, he had been told by a fee medical people he was BPD, I didnt show any surprise but when he started to tell me it was a form of schizophrenia and meant he was basically screwed for his future, I couldnt let him believe this so fessed up, I told him about my BPD and set him straight on his misconceptions, explained where I was right now and after explaining I wasnt there for anything to do with my mental health he grilled me.

Now this big scary Chelsea supporting bald man with BPD then introduced himself to me, he was Steve, known as big steve by his friends, I was gob smacked, the many coincidences were staggering and as he unloaded his story, a sad and very complicated tale of lost relationships and estranged children, I was struck with where he was and how easy it could have been me, that without a diagnosis and the offer of therapy i would have lost my family, I was tearing it to shreds and it was the love and support of those around me that got me what I needed. This poor man was going through hell, told he was a basket case and derided by those meant to are for him, yes he had been the man who had been told off by the receptionist. I told him that he needed to get into a different hospital as Maast were useless and about Dr Denham at priority house who had bucked the trend and diagnosed me correctly, I wanted to step in and bring him to Ruth at the unit, she would have placed him on her list in a heart beat but he wa stuck where he was, the police tried to do something differently but got blocked by the system, this guy who was regarded as an ass ache by the hospital had more allies in the police than the mental health service, that alone says everything.

He talked for over an hour and half before being led away for an assessment, his third that week and we parted with a warm handshake, I told him to fight his corner and gave him as much info as I could in the short time. When he left I realise that I hadn’t only told Steve about my past but those nosey sods nearby and this hadn’t endeared me any further with them, the guy behind the counter looked at me as if I had two heads and I felt for a moment I had fucked up by being honest about stuff, then I remembered what Steve had said just before he had left, he smiled, a great smile that changed his persona from brooding thug to friendly nice guy and said talking to me had made him feel better, I didnt let him know about my Samaritans persona but it felt good knowing he had left the reception area in a happier frame of mind.

I was there for another hour and spent the time reflecting on what had gone on, I was that man, ten years ago I was on target to reach all the lows he was suffering, without the love and assistance of my wife and family I would have been in his boat, undiagnosed, ill informed and probably in some sort of custody whether a mental health facility or a prison it would have been a toss up. I am happy to know how far Ive come, just a chance meeting with a stranger, who was so similar to me, apart from his lack of boyish good looks he could have been my double in almost every area except the one that counts, loved ones who dont just complain about your behaviour hut do something and challenge you to do so also, I am grateful for th experience of meeting him, wish him all the best and pray, and I dont even have a God so who to I dont know that he gets the help he needs, because he was a good man in a bad situation and thats a tragedy for him and his children who would have been loved and cherished by there very specail father.

  1. magicallymad says:

    Wow, this is one of my favorite posts ever, really wonderfully written, & what a special thing you did for another fellow. Best, MM

    • bigsteveg says:

      Thanks, that means a lot, dont know about how important speaking to him was for him in real terms but he was in a better place when we parted which is a win in my eyes

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