Q. Where would you like to be?
A. In a safe place.
Q. Is there something about your present place that is not safe?
A. What kind of a dumb question is that? Of course there is! Why else would I wish I were in safer place?
Q. Could you be a bit more specific, please?
A. What do you mean?
Q. What is it exactly about your present place that is unsafe?
A. That’s a good question. Let me think about this for a while.
A. Well, it’s like this. I can’t exactly say that I’m in an unsafe place, at least not with respect to many of the other places where I’ve been. When I slept on a pile of cardboard in a high-crime district, I was considerably more unsafe. Yet at the same time, if I took care of myself, and I did the right things, I felt that God protected me.
Q. And if you did not take care of yourself, and did not do the right things?
A. I sometimes got burned. He protected me insofar as that He spared me my life, and saw to it that I didn’t suffer as much bodily harm or psychological damage as a lot of the people around me. But I was hit enough — and hurt enough, hard enough — to get the message.
Q. That message being?
A. All over the Book of Proverbs — for starts. But I’m afraid we’ve drifted from the point.
Q. And what’s the point?
A. The point is that, even though I’m living in a nice one-bedroom apartment in a secluded area with good neighbors, lots of protection, and a couple of locks on my door, there’s something about the place I’m at that isn’t safe. It’s not my physical spot that is my biggest concern. It’s my mental spot — where my head is at.
Q. And where’s your head at?
A. All over the map, man. I still dwell on a lot of the situations from my past, people from my past — from my homelessness. The people who tried to help me, even though they didn’t quite really get what my problem was, and so they couldn’t really help. And not only them, but the people who tried to hurt me, and who sometimes succeeded. And not only them, but —
Q. But whom?
A. My friends. The people I miss. The people who were in the same boat as I was. People who, for one reason or another, had lost their homes. We bonded together. We prayed together. We watched each other’s backs. We were there for each other, whenever somebody was down, or hassled, or messed with in some way. It was powerful. And that bonding, that love — I miss it.
Q. But isn’t there love in your life today?
A. Lots of it! Don’t get me wrong. But it’s a different kind of love.
Q. What makes it different?
Q. What do you mean?
A. See, I don’t have the same issues here. And the people I hang with, they don’t have the kinds of issues I had back then. Most of them never have. So when we share our love with each other, it’s on an entirely different basis.
Q. Is that a bad thing?
A. Not at all. It’s just that — I sometimes feel alone. As though my own specific experience, the particularly powerful progression of my life that has shaped me, is too weird for anybody to relate to. So while I may not be surrounded by people who blatantly want to hurt me, the ones who want to help me don’t quite know how to help. Or maybe I don’t let them help. I mean, I gotta admit, my pastor helps. My lady friend, she helps — though it’s not her job, and I sometimes feel guilty. I should be helping her, supporting her. But I’m not. I’m still on disability, and all screwed up in the head. So I turn to the therapists, to the doctors, to the system. And I find that —
Q. That what?
A. They totally don’t help. It happened just this morning even. I go to the therapist, and I think I’m advocating for myself, and I’m finding once again that I really like the guy, and I’m thinking it’s all good — and then, at the end of the session, it all comes down to the same old thing. That same old useless, worthless band-aid that can never really stop what’s bleeding inside.
Q. What same old useless, worthless band-aid?
A. You heard me. No matter what I do and where I go, it all comes down to lithium.
Q. Why do they keep wanting to put you on lithium?
A. Because they’re boxing me into a box and not listening to my real issues. They think they know something more about me than I know about myself, because of their credentials and alleged expertise in their field. But how can they know me, if they’re not listening? They think that just because it’s well-known that those of us who are quote-unquote “bipolar” don’t like to take our medication, it means that I’m in denial, and I’ve got to take their medications. What a bunch of malarky. They might as well have told me that just because people are bipolar don’t like to walk across a pile of hot coals, then I’m in denial, and so I better walk across a pile of hot coals. Think about it! Do they think I’m stupid?
Q. I son’t know — do they?
A. Probably not. But I sure think they’re stupid, if they think that after all I’ve been through, I’m going to turn around and start believing anybody who wears a badge. And I won’t! Because I already know what’s going to happen That lithium won’t have anything to do with clearing out all of the garbage that is related to years of living on the streets. Which of course is the part they never listen to — the main part. The important part. And you know what else it will do?
A. It will destroy all the things that are good about me. The things that I waited years to be able to get inside and do – and that now I’m finally doing — because I finally got myself inside.
Q. What things? What things are good about you?
A. Dude! My piano playing! My speaking! My writing! My playwriting! My songwriting! All of that good stuff that I so delight in finally being able to do will be trashed and shot the hell if I take their lithium — just like it’s been trashed whenever I’ve taken any other psychiatric drug that those bastards have never ceased to cram down my throat! I lost a $50.000 annnual income in 2004 because of a psych med! And do those money-guzzling mainstream, medical monsters give a damn? Do they care? Do they care about Andy?? Do they???
Q. Do I detect a note of resentment?
A. Listen, I’m sorry I got so pissed off. But now you understand how hard it is to keep going back to that damn clinic and trying to advocate myself. When they throw their crap back at me, I explode. I hate those medical bastards so much for what they did to me all my life – you don’t even know how much I hate them. All of them.
Q. But aren’t you — stigmatizing them? Lumping them into a box? Much as you yourself dislike being pigeonholed, can’t you find it somewhere inside yourself to be more open to them? To forgive them? To give them another chance?
A. There’s a big difference between forgiving them and just swallowing any damn pill they stuff down my esophagus.
Q. Then what are we to do about it? Shall we adjourn until next Tuesday, and give you a chance to get your bearings?
A. Sounds like a plan. I’ll need about a week to cool down.
Q. May I be excused now?
A. You may. Thank you for your time.
The Questioner is silent.
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