Tuesday, March 15, 2011
You want my help. But you don’t want my help.
“We fear violence less than our own feelings. Personal, private, solitary pain is more terrifying than what anyone else can inflict.” –Jim Morrison
I’m standing outside your door at night, in the freezing cold, ringing you on your intercom.
Who is it? You ask.
It’s me, Alizah, I say. You called me five times, and told me you needed to talk. So here I am.
An hour goes by; an hour of you and me and the intercom and the cold. You have a different answer each time: I’ll come and let you in … Who is this again? … I think you should go to where the people are … I’m out of cigarettes … I can’t push the button, something bad might happen … I’m not home, I’m out of town … Why aren’t you in your car if you’re so cold? … Don’t come in, it’s dangerous here.
I begin pushing buttons at random, until someone in the apartment finally lets me in. When I get to your door, it’s open. You greet me with indifference, wearing a thick winter coat, pacing slowly around the room and muttering to yourself.
You wanted me to come talk, so here I am, I say. So can you tell me what’s happening?
You respond with sarcastic rage: Well, if you don’t know what’s happening, then you don’t know much of anything, do you? You should know by now what’s happening! You talk to them behind my back. You post mean things on my Facebook page. You’re trying to turn my daughter against me. Why are you here? Who is paying you to be here?
I sit down and keep my voice low. Hun, I’m not talking to anyone about you. I didn’t post anything on your Facebook page. I’m here because I’m worried about you, and because you called me and asked me to come. So here I am. Will you talk to me?
Two more hours pass. I ask questions, gently. Have you talked to any of your family? When is the last time you saw your doctor? Did he prescribe any medication for you? Are you taking it? Are you sleeping? Are you eating?
Your responses vary. Sometimes you break out in tears. Sometimes you stare at the wall. You pick up a magazine and pretend to read. You look in the refrigerator. You turn your head away and mumble. Then you attack, accusing me of conspiring against you with people I don’t even know, saying that you had faith in me and I betrayed you.
But you don’t answer any of my questions.
You tell me your daughter is ignoring you. During my visit, your daughter pops by. She says she needs to run an errand but will be back later. When she leaves, I say, See, your daughter is talking to you. When? You ask. Just now, I say. I don’t remember that, you say. And you start digging through your purse.
Is there a doctor I can call? Do you want me to drive you to the crisis center? Wall. Refrigerator. Mumbles. Then more accusations.
I’m very concerned about you, I say. I don’t like to leave you like this. I want to know that you’re going to talk to a professional about this. Do you remember that this happened before? And you went to the hospital for a while, and then you were better for a long time? Do you want to feel better again? If not for you, for your daughter?
You’re just like everyone else, you snap. ‘Get help, get help.’ I know how to drive to the doctor. I know where the office is. I don’t need help from you. I thought you would help me, but you won’t. I don’t know why you came here. But I want you to leave. Now.
It’s gotten very late. I apologize. I say that I’m willing to help mediate between you and your daughter, but you have to work on her own recovery before I can do anything more. (I make a mental note to call NAMI this week to get advice, but I already know the answer: If you don't want treatment and you're not an immediate threat, there is nothing anyone can do.)
So I come home, after three hours. Last time you were this sick, family and friends did this dance with you for six months. Tonight, I did my best for you. And at this moment, that's all anyone can do.