"The label you give yourself cannot impact external forces that are not motivated by your own psychology or influenced by a third party's pre-existing consciousness of you. We are all presented with reasons to struggle which come from completely external forces; to pretend that one is not struggling is either arrogance or an admission of defeat. To admit that one is struggling is a sign and a source of strength." - Evan A. Baker

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

How to Talk to a Schizophrenic

I once cast a movie where the mother of the lead was a schizophrenic. A lot of women came in and played "crazy," but when you are playing a character who is mentally unstable, keep in mind that to the character, he or she is not crazy, everyone else is. I went to the lobby where the actresses were going over their lines and I tried to illustrate what the experience is like. "Imagine this character told you that the sky is not blue, but pink. She sees pink. She's not crazy. She knows what she sees is right, is real. Just like how you know what you see is right and real. Make your blue sky pink." The difference in the performances were incredible.

My mother is schizophrenic. She hears voices. She believes things that are not true. And I've found the best way to deal with her is to not argue. I go along with it. Because arguing with her, telling her that what she believes isn't true and never has been, causes her to worry that I'm one of them. I don't know who they are, but I would rather not upset her. Yes, the sky is pink. And such a lovely shade today.

My mother wrote the songs "Jolene," "Muskrat Love," and a few other other hits that went gold shortly after they were released. We have cousins who are Native American with the surname of Lightfeather. The weather was cool and crisp today and you could see pink sky for miles. I tell Mom I love her songs. To give Sally Lightfeather my regards the next time they talk. That the sky looks like a Valentine.

My mother was in the hospital the other day. She had a fever and felt dizzy, but she believes she can't afford to go to the hospital because she has no insurance. The caretakers whispered to the paramedics, "Tell her it's free, or she won't go," and they did. She went.

She is fine when I got there. I go to her room, knock lightly hoping not to startle her, but when she sees me, she still jumps. "I thought they forbid you to come," she said. "They said it was okay this time," I said, and sat down asking her how she felt.

"I can't go back to that place. They don't like me there. I'm going to die."
"We pay them to like you. They like you plenty. You're not going to die. You'll go back and everything is going to be okay."
"I'm going to die."
"I don't think you will. But if I'm wrong, do you have any last words to say to me or Keith or Vanessa?"

Maybe it's because she wants to die and has been waiting for it for the last 15 years, that she is not afraid. It is matter of fact. And her last words to me and my siblings is merely, "goodbye." I laugh.
"That's it?" I ask, "Do you want me to throw in an 'I love you,'?"
"I don't love them. I don't love you. I like them. I like you. But I don't love any of you."
"So, when I was born, they said, 'Congratulations! It's a girl!' and you replied, 'Meh'?"
I am laughing. She is laughing.

This is how you say, "I know you're sick. I know you did once love me, as much as I loved you."

This is how you say, "I'm glad you're feeling better. I'm glad you're not in pain."

This is how you say, "Yes, the sky is pink. Almost magenta. And it is the most beautiful I have ever seen it."


  1. Beautiful. I just recently started talking to an old, old friend of mine who is schizophrenic. This was stunningly written.

  2. I want to wrap my arms around you sometimes because your strength is just so goddamn beautiful.

  3. Truly Beautiful. I can't say i can relate. I hate when people say that. It's different for everyone. But a close loved one of mine has Dimentia. It's hard but you are 100% right. Go along. To them everything is right as a rain-filled magenta sky.

  4. How beautifully written and poignant.

  5. this just left me a sobbing mess. not from sorrow. just because it was so freaking beautiful. sigh.


Play nice.