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Colorado Quarterly Magazine 

"Rewriting the Myths, Redefining the Realities"


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Nobody Calls A Mental Patient

by Freddy Bosco

Of all the forms of social leprosy that can afflict an individual, developing mental problems is one that stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of being able to seal oneís fate. At last count, there were ten people who I reached out to, trying to make amends and rekindle friendships where they had left off. They all, to a person, expressed enthusiasm for the idea of getting together and took my number. None of them have called in the two months since I made the pitch.

All I can figure is that people are no more advanced in terms of seeing this now manageable disorder than people were in the Middle Ages when doctors drilled holes in the heads of the mad to let out the evil spirits.

The fear of the unknown, of not being able to predict which fork a guest will use for the escargot, no doubt prevents many ordinary folks from having any association with people with a psychiatric diagnosis. There are those mildly daft who can lead a whimsical discussion on any subject under the sun that get invited once in a while to events for which there are convenient exits for the squeamish host.

Better not give them a chance. They may enjoy themselves. Maybe they will commit a faux pas or two. Canít have any guest for whom total control is not possible. We canít have unpredictable types roaming the lawn. We have neighbors, after all. What will they think?

Getting together with another person who has had a bout with depression can be an adventure, of course. Even among us there are those who cannot be trusted to behave. Even those most successfully steeped in social graces are inclined to say something embarrassing or out of context but, for me, that is the fun of associating with the mentally challenged. 

We are all touched by a streak of unpredictability. Those who regularly put on a do look for the completely safe and dull to populate their parties. Hosts think they play chess with their guests, putting Mrs. Higgenbottam next to Professor Teedwilly just for a laugh. Just to sit back and watch the fun. But Dr. Coatstote might blow up. He did once in 1952. Better not take the chance. 

Professionals will sometimes take an enlightened view of socializing with their clients. They throw depressing placebo parties and show up for a few moments to laugh politely at blurted jokes missing a punch line. They can sit back and wait for their own excesses to reign while standing like marble in the middle of a patient party.

The only hope comes in mental patients hosting themselves for parties that give full expression for our condition. The treatment we need can only come from us. Nobody with a textbook understanding will ever know what it is to suffer mental illness. We alone are equipped to celebrate our condition, and to promote the comfort of others who join us.

So as for those who do not call, be pitying. They are fearful people who fear themselves and their own strain of problems more than they know anything about us. If they will not give us the chance, let us show them the compassion they cannot find in themselves. It is incumbent upon the mentally ill to exact appropriate behavior from those who are terrified that we couldnít have any idea of what is truly appropriate. We must teach them.

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Copyright 2002 A&H Publishing Corporation