It’s funny what strolls through your mind in the middle of the night when you should be asleep. I was thinking of a man who I had once taken care of who lived in an assisted living facility for people with mental illnesses. My daughter who also works in the nursing field, she and I were both working at this facility at the same time, as a matter of fact we were both taking care of this same resident. His name was Eddie. He was actually six years older than I was at the time, but mentally in his mind he remained in his twenties.
He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic with bipolar disorder. Like a great deal of people who have a mental illness, I don’t think his family realized he was ill at first. I believe it’s because we tend to view all differences we observe in others as stages that will eventually pass. Many clients have told me that they thought the unusual behavior of a loved one was some sort of phase, or alcohol/drug issue. Eddie’s mental health issues became more evident during his service in the military in his early twenties. He had been a difficult teenager so his family thought that a career in the armed services might straighten him out. His drinking, and drug usage became wildly out of control. He had a nervous break down and his family could no longer endure his erratic behavior and had him move into this particular facility.
Eddie like most people I have known with a mental illness was extremely intelligent. He was prone to violent outbursts, and some very erratic behavior. He himself knew very early on that something was wrong. He was intelligent enough to be completely aware of his diagnosis, and this knowledge terrified him! To make matters worse he had lung cancer. Life had dealt him a pretty unfair hand. He was dying and except for the occasional visit from his poor excuse of a mother he was alone.
For reasons I am not too sure of Eddie very much liked my daughter and I. Well my daughter is very beautiful so this was not a mystery to me, and mentally he identified with himself as being her age. Bathing and grooming were huge issues (to say the least), and Eddie had decided that I was the only one who could help him with these matters. Even I spent inordinate amounts of time persuading him to let me help him shower. When I was finally able to convince him (his body terribly weakened from his cancer) that was the time he chose to tell me his story.
He was very sweet to me and wanted me to know that if I were his age (keep in mind chronologically he was a few years older than I was), he would choose me to be his girlfriend. He was very smitten with my daughter, he told me that he wanted her to be his girlfriend but that he wanted me to be his mother. He searched my face to be certain that he had not hurt me by telling me all of this. I assured him that I understood. He proceeded to tell me that he knew my daughter had a boyfriend, that he just wanted the other men in the facility to think she was his girlfriend. He again searched my face for my response, I again reassured him that I understood his intention.
He then told me he was dying and asked me what I thought would happen to him? He told me how frightened he was. He confessed that even though he had told me he had quit smoking (something I already knew and pretended not to know) that he was still smoking. I hugged him, I told him that I knew for sure that no matter what would happen that he would be okay. I told him that there wasn’t a death timeline that I could walk out that door and be hit by a bus and die before him. This made him laugh. He told me that he loved that I made him peanut butter sandwiches, and ice coffee to bring into the shower with him. He asked me why his real mom didn’t come to be with him? He asked me not to leave him, and if he died before I got hit by a bus would I remember him?
I told him that I would never leave him. I told him his mother loved him so much that she could not be with him because seeing him sick hurt her so badly. It was better than the truth believe me. I told him that he was unforgettable! A few days later he died in his sleep. I have not forgotten Eddie. I remember him every time I make a peanut butter sandwich, and many times in the middle of the night when I cannot sleep. 😉