Saturday, March 24, 2012

A lesson in gratitude....

While waiting for the bus on W Broadway today I was reminded of something that I too easily forget. Even with all my struggles and problems, I've got it pretty darn good.....

Behind me was an older woman. She was sitting at one of the outdoor tables mumbling to herself and occasionally yelling out random obscenities mixed with gibberish. She was clearly, to me at least, schizophrenic or severely manic and in some sort of dissociative state. Those sitting near her and those walking past glared, whispered, passed judgment, and looked down their noses at this poor woman who was resting her feet, completely oblivious to the fact that she was out of place or bothering anyone. I, however, looked at her with concern, pity, understanding, and an extreme thankfulness that I was not in her same situation. I do not pretend that this makes me any better, kinder, or more informed than the other passersby. I feel so differently than them because deep down I am much more similar to the mumbling old lady than the offended onlookers.

I wonder where she has come from. What she's done earlier today that's brought her to the McDonald's patio at 4:30 on a Saturday. And where will she go when she leaves here. Does she have a home, a place to stay, a warm bed to crawl into tonight and forget her troubles for a few short hours? She is shabbily dressed, not exactly clean, and carrying a back pack so it is impossible to tell where she might have been, or where she is headed. I feel a deep sense of gratitude and a feeling of luck wash over me as I realize that but for a couple twists of fate I could be that woman. I want to help her but I don't know how. A couple dollars or a sandwich is merely a "band-aid" solution that does nothing to truly address her problems or help her in the long-term. She has clearly been let down by the health care system and is either unmedicated or self medicating as the drugs to treat schizophrenia or extreme mania are more expensive than even I can afford. While pondering what possibly I could do to help this woman or people like her the bus arrives and my thoughts turn to my own situation...

I am sick, but not as sick as this woman. I have had wild manic bursts but nothing to the point that would have me mumbling on the street corner or yelling at strangers. I have been unable to work for quite some time now, but by some glorious twist of fate I landed a government job a year before my illness totally took over my life and incapacitated me so I receive disability that makes it possible for me to live a semi-normal life. I can pay the rent in my very nice apartment, in a safe, quiet, secure neighbourhood. I can pay my utility bills, cel bill, and there is always food in my cupboards. I won't be taking any tropical vacations this year, or buying any of the designer shoes and clothes I love, but I've got it pretty darn good considering. I spend my short bus ride being ridiculously thankful for that glorious twist of fate and the things I do have, for if it weren't for the disability I receive I would be either homeless or living on a farm outside Podunk Saskatchewan with my parents. Neither of which sounds like a very great situation compared to where I am.

I spend so much time being mad at the fact that I have this illness, and longing for the me that was before it took over. I dwell on what could of been, what should've been, and all the potential that will never be realized. I forget too easily to just sit back, breathe, and be thankful for what is. For what still could be. And for not having worse than I do. I may never fully get over the pain. I may never escape the darkness and hurt and self-doubt that consumes me, but I hope that I never forget the light that I do have. The luck that has brought me a safe place to keep my things, and a warm bed every night to escape, even for a few hours, the craziness that is my life.

(I have yet to come up with any ideas of how to help in any way the woman I saw or people like her. It seems almost futile and pointless as the problem is soooo big and so complex. This makes me sad. I wish somehow, someway, there was something I could do to pay my luck and gratitude forward...........)


  1. I think it does make you a better person than the annoyed passersby who look down on her. How is she really bothering anyone? I mean, really. She is basically minding her own business. What the judgemental people whom are offended by her are ignorant and have no right to be so. I am offended by them. I don't know how to help this woman either. I feel the same way, I want to help, but how? You can't make someone get help. I find myself sometimes wishing I could be them. They seem to be less bothered by their illness than I am by mine. I sometimes think it would somehow be easier to be obliviously crazy than sane enough to know you're sick.

    1. "Obliviously crazy rather than sane enough to know you're sick".... That's an interesting point. I'd never really thought of it that way, but I think you could be right in a way. As the saying goes, "Ignorance is bliss"