Saturday, January 07, 2012

Just folks

We get a lot of interesting people at the psych hospital. One woman came in two months ago after wandering out of her house and being picked up by the police. She has a variety of delusions.   She curses people, she blesses people, she lies on the floor and refuses to get up. In other words, she does not appear very normal.

This week I was sitting with her on a day when she was pretty coherent. We were talking about a nun she saw on a TV program, and she said, "I love nuns. They rewarded me because I was a good girl." And suddenly I could imagine her in 1968, before her psychotic break, in a Catholic school.

She's completely batty, and she's also a regular person. She loves cheeseburgers and hates tuna.  She misses cigarettes and visits from her daughter. She had a childhood, and she loves nuns.

Another man came in and gave us a long lament about his anxiety and depression and how hard his life was. At one point he put his head in his hands and said, "I'm 49 years old. I live with my parents. I just want a girlfriend or a wife."

Of course he does. People with mental illness want the same things other people want - a cheeseburger, a girlfriend, a job, to go home, to leave home. Except in addition to the regular problems everyone has, they have extra problems getting in the way - the sadness, the paranoia, the voices, the desperate struggling to feel better, the despair that they will ever feel better.

But sometimes, social workers get to help people reach those things they want. That's why I love this work.

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