Thursday, August 16, 2012

Statue Friend

I've always found it funny that every psych ward has boxes of puzzles. And of course, they are usually missing one or two pieces. What a great metaphor.

Puzzles, though, are often a helpful tool to focus and "stay in the present." They don't work for everyone, but they help me. And they give hospitalized people a reason to be social.

When I started working on my first puzzle I was very new on the ward, and very nervous. A gigantic man came and sat beside me. Beside him was a security guard.Tom was always shadowed by a security guard. The guards ignored me when I tried to talk to them. Probably because I was "crazy."
Tom never said a word, or showed any emotion. But he watched me do puzzles. He was a statue, shadowed by security statues. So, I began having one-sided conversations with Tom. Soon he started sitting by me at meals (with his security guard), and walking with me up and down the hall (with his security guard).

I learned from other patients that Tom wasn't being guarded because he was dangerous, but because he was one of the few patients to have successfully escaped. In only a hospital gown and bare feet, he made it almost ten kilometres through ice and snow along the Fraser River before the cops got him. To me, he became a kind of hero - I started looking up to my statue friend.

I would talk to him for hours. I told him about my family, my hobbies, my work. He was great to have around - my giant, silent buddy. I couldn't tell if I was bugging him. But he stayed close, so I assumed not.

Then one day they took Tom away for Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT).

I didn't see Tom for a day.

The next morning I was eating my breakfast, and I heard a booming voice say "D'Arc! How you doing, buddy?"

The statue had come to life. Tom was gesturing and smiling, and he knew everything about me. Over the next weeks we became best friends, and I learned things about him, too.

I guess I'm a great judge of character, even when a person is catatonic.

Mental Note: Make an effort to stay in touch with friends, even when you feel at your worst.

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