Monthly Archives: March 2012

Ladies Choice

As I was trying to purge a closet today I ran across a gift I have kept sealed away for about 14 years. I had stowed it in a tin and I smiled as I saw what lay at the bottom. A series of memories arose aided by the aroma. Years ago, just out of college, I was the house manager at a home for individuals with persistent mental health challenges. Translated, I shared a house with 3 individuals with severe mental illness for over 4 years. I managed the home and loved many aspects of this job and living situation. Thinking about my housemates, the “clients”, makes me smile. The one man that lived in the home for at least a year I’ll call Anthony. He’s an intelligent man who began to experience psychosis while studying engineering in college. A ranked chess player and continuous student he was always looking for ways to stop the voices he experienced. When he learned a new medication received final approval to treat schizophrenia he stopped his medications in order to decline enough to be hospitalized and start the new medication. He would listen intently to his headphones to study new languages. His hope was that if he learned a new language he would no longer be able to hear the voices which he heard in English. He attempted to learn Spanish, French and numerous others including Esperanto. There were attempts at playing three dimensional chess which I believe he thought would give him a new perspective and unlock answers to him. We also had an adventure with spearmint schnapps which contrary to Anthony’s opinion at that time does not stop voices originating from schizophrenia.

From Anthony I learned one of the most crucial scrabble words to play when you get stuck with a Q. From Anthony I learned that a man should walk closest to the road to protect the woman they are walking with, as he would do so with me. From Anthony I learned how a soft boiled egg is cooked. From Anthony’s I received Ladies Choice. Anthony typically would not smoke cigarettes but for a period of time he felt that smoking pipes would help alleviate his schizophrenia. It was important to him that he smoke the correct mix of tobacco in a corn cob pipe. Anthony was also looking out for me. He came home one day with a gift, my very own corn cob pipe and Ladies Choice tobacco. Though my attempt was to purge I remember that day clearly as he was insistent I keep the gift, insisting it was “important.” Anthony worked in a local restaurant which was challenging for him as he regularly talked out loud, having conversations with the voices he experienced. Though he was working to find a way to stop the voices I never knew him to give up or be stuck in a depression because of them.

Anthony is someone I wish you could all meet. He’s a man who actively tries to live his life despite having diagnosis of schizophrenia. He made me laugh, looked out for me in a brotherly way, and I was glad that we were housemates. For two reasons I wish you could all meet Anthony. First because of who he is as an individual, he’s worth meeting. Secondly, because despite having diagnosis which comes with a host of images and opinions, he is not his diagnosis. He’s not scary or violent rather he’s intelligent, hard-working, and compassionate. He was my housemate who gave me an “important” gift that will always make me smile.

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