San Francisco, May 2014
In the months leading to my psychosis surfing was a retreat from the stresses of life. Me and a few girlfriends bought thick wet suits and hit the beach on the weekends. I wasn’t good but I loved it.
Upon completing outpatient recovery I thought I could return to my life. Stubborn, unstable and against all professional suggestions I gave it a try. My mom came to San Francisco, patiently waiting for me to realize that I needed to go home.
Days after my return I went surfing. I didn’t tell my friend much about what had happened, but she knew enough. We strapped my board up and headed out of the city. My memory is fuzzy because I was pumped full of antipsychotics. My hands shook like crazy, as my body was not yet adjusted to the amount of Lithium in my bloodstream.
At the beach the early May sun beamed bright and a relaxing salty breeze whipped through my hair. I stood on sandy pavement when my phone buzzed. A massive group text, all unknown numbers except… Carol. .
Carol was a mentally ill homeless woman I met during my psychosis. I tried to save her. I promised her I would. Fear froze me still as I saw her name light up on my phone. She had previously left several scary voice messages throughout my recovery… The messages where about how the doctors tortured her, the aliens were coming. Scariest of all to me, he Death Ray machine loomed high above us in the atmosphere, it would strike soon.
After a few deep breaths I looked at the message. It was a photo of a deformed foot with text… All of you, look at what they did to me. They will come for you too.
I nearly dropped my phone. So grotesque, disturbing… Who were these other people? Luckily my friend was in the surf shop at a safe distance from my panicking melt-down.
I had to do something to protect myself so at that very moment I finally blocked Carol. My mom was right, this is unhealthy. I’m not a professional. I can’t help her. I felt guilty but I was traumatized enough. I couldn’t take on this woman’s delusions, her reality, her pain. Whatever it was, I couldn’t take it.
In the case of an emergency, airplane logic dictates that you place the oxygen mask on yourself before assisting others. This concept was something I struggled with deeply. To set boundaries. As much as I feared for Carol, I feared for my own life too. I had just left the other side of psychosis. It was still so close and her delusions scared me. Blocking her made me sad but I also know it was OK.
I grieve for mentally ill homeless people everywhere. I see them on the streets of Seattle and I watch them talking to hallucinations. I can see it clear as day. My heart breaks for them. I hope that someday I can meet Carol again and that she will be healthy. I’m not sure if that will ever happen. I’m not sure if she’s even alive now, four years later, or if she would remember me.
I drove away in a U-Haul five days later, heading north to Seattle.