Wednesday, February 01, 2017

The Cost of Freedom

I remember when Fred was staying in our house.

It was his deepest desire to just meditate and read scripture and focus on God.  He is the most natural monk I've ever known. Even today, he spends time in his room, reading the same passage, day after day, atoning for sins that only he knows.

Fred's problem is that his schizophrenia demands that he stop eating and drinking in atonement for his sins.  Not like a meal fast, or a three day fast.  His mental illness convinces him that he will recover from his mental illness if he stops eating completely.

I was able to convince his caretakers to not jump the gun, but to give Fred what he wanted.  That if he would drink and eat daily, they would allow him to not take his medication, to not force him to be committed.  Again.  But if he became ill from his lack of nutrition, then he would be committed and have to be locked up and forced to take medication.

Fred is the nicest person in the world.  Kind, extremely gentle.  But when his mental health deteriorates, he spirals.  He would strip his clothes off and walk around the house in the nude.  As the father of two daughters, I didn't care for that one.  He would walk around the block, spinning multiple times at each corner.  He would touch his Bible, then again, then again, before he would open it.

Later, he would stay out in the rain all night, soaking wet, wrapped in a blanket.  It was summer, but it didn't look healthy.  Fred, however, was content, making loud grunts with a smile on his face.  Not in a nasty way.  But we could see in his eyes that he was spiraling.

Like I said, Fred is the nicest person in the world.  Everyone loves Fred.  So when he started to lose it, others couldn't bear to see him suffer.  Mind you, Fred didn't think of his life as suffering.  Suffering was being forced to take medication.  Fred was joyful in his freedom.  But he wasn't the same.

I was screamed at by housemates for allowing Fred to spiral this far.  But I knew what the alternative was.  Still, he wasn't healthy.

For one, he wasn't sleeping.  And, it turns out, we would watch him eat and drink.  But he would go outside and spit his nutrition in the dirt.  Took a week to figure that one out.  I would threaten him with being committed and then he would eat and drink.  But he ate like a bird for forty days.  Longer perhaps.  Barely drank anything.

The point was to give freedom until freedom cost him living.  And that time came, and we called the social worker.  We all agreed that I would drive him to the hospital and have him checked in, where he would be committed.

We waited for three hours in the emergency room, where I had to convince Fred every few minutes to remain and wait.  When they saw him, they didn't believe there was anything really wrong.  Until they saw his medical record.  Then they committed him immediately.

I saw him checked into the ward.  Professional, kind people who took no backtalk.  Fred was checked into his room and offered his medicine.  He refused.  They offered again.  He refused.  So they prepared an injection, and security guards were called in and forced him down while they gave him the injection.

To see this kind man, this gentle, thin, bare man screaming as they held him down, forcing him to take medicine that he knew would destroy his soul...

It took another eight months, but a suitable place with the proper incentives were found for him to take his medicine willingly.

When I come to visit him, he is polite, but he is clear that he really wants to get back to his prayer, his scripture.  He is a content monk.

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