Schizophrenia runs in my family, though I didn’t know this until almost a year ago.
My father had an uncle who lived on the streets of Detroit, derelict, a loser and suspected alcoholic, rejected by his sister and brother and seldom discussed. My father’s brother, my uncle, was in a car accident during college, causing brain damage and sparking his downward decline. The uncle I knew smoked a lot of pot and painted images of the Virgin Mary, sporadically present in the lives of his wife and their five impoverished children. His wife later became a psychiatric nurse, and is now the primary caregiver of their adult child, my cousin, who is the only family member to be formally diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia runs in my day-to-day life, too, and has for a few years now.
Yesterday, I tried to offer a homeless man food, and he screamed at me and called me a cannibal. I retreated, quietly, and felt hurt and scared, and then wondered what it must be like to go through life, balled up in the corners of loading docks, believing the world to be full of marauding monsters who want to eat your flesh. A woman at work once smiled at me and said that I made her sad. She knew that I was really dead and being remotely controlled by Hell’s Angels, as were all of her friends, and that, eventually, all women would end up this way.
Not knowing how to respond, I walked away.