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Living with Schizoaffective Disorder

The Sad Woman

I saw a young woman crouched down on the ground,
against a wall. She was crying sorrowfully.

Michael David Crawford, Baritone,

December 12, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Michael David Crawford. All Rights Reserved.

Walking back to the Burrard SkyTrain station after posting my previous diary, I saw a young woman crouched down on the ground, against a wall. She was crying sorrowfully.

My heart went out to her, but I just walked on by. I've seen her around before: she's asked me for money several times. There's something that's not right about her. Perhaps she is a meth addict. She is rail-thin and further, there is something about the way she moves and the contorted expression she usually has on her face that makes me think she has some kind of neurological damage.

"What can I do?" I thought to myself.

As I got to the train station I thought, "I should have bought her something to eat." But still I got on the train and didn't go back.

I'm sure to see her again though. She is one of the regulars downtown.

A couple days ago an older woman asked me for money and I just said "I'm sorry, I can't help you". "But I'm so hungry!" she said.

Now things are tight for us because we've been paying down a lot of debts. But they aren't so tight that I can't afford to hang out in all the trendy cafes.

Things aren't so tight that I can't afford to buy a meal for a hungry person.

It occurred to me just now I could carry around some kind of snack in my backpack, granola bars or something, and offer it if there isn't anywhere nearby to buy someone a meal.

My first week here I bought meals for several panhandlers. Everyone seems to think I was crazy then, but I think I was a better person for it.

The Sad Woman Didn't Want Supper

Today after work I went looking for her.

I also realize now that I met her somewhere before. When I've seen her on the street since then, I thought she was a meth addict, but I don't think so now. I think she is mentally ill, and badly so.

I generally see her somewhere along Burrard Avenue, but I didn't have to go far to find her tonight. I rode the SkyTrain from Waterfront to the Burrard station, and found her sitting just uphill from the station, the same place I saw her last night.

I thought to myself "They're not going to let her into McDonalds with all those blankets".

She was crying and holding her head in her hands. I crouched down and said "Hi, what's your name?" She shouted something, but I couldn't make it out.

"Would you like something to eat?" She shook her head in refusal, then started speaking loudly and rapidly. I couldn't make out her words. I thought perhaps she didn't speak English. But then I thought maybe she's speaking in Word Salad.

A man stopped and handed her a blue card, saying "Merry Christmas". She threw it on the ground in front of her.

"I'm going to go get you a burger, OK?" This really upset her. She started yelling, I don't know what, but waving her arms. Then she picked up her blanket and her knit cap, which had some coins in it, and hurried up the street then sat down against a light pole.

I guess I could take the hint.

I've met this woman before.

In My Deepest Fear I wrote:

There's no damn good reason to be homeless in a country like The Soviet Republic of Canuckistan. But even safety nets have holes in them: the shelters won't house addicts because that enables their addiction, and some crazy people either refuse treatment or are just too far gone to know they could get free room and board for the asking. Some are too far gone to find their way back if they wander too far from home.

In my first night at St. Paul's hospital I was admitted to a very small psychiatric ward on the first floor, next to the emergency room.

In the bed next to mine, on the other side of a curtain, was a very disturbed woman. She was making a racket all day and night. She was fiending for a cigarette but they wouldn't let her have one. Instead the nurse offered her medicine to reduce her craving, but it didn't seem to be helping.

I'm pretty sure now that was the sad woman.

I didn't see her again after they moved me upstairs. I was in the Two-North Mental Health Unit. There is also one on Two-East, that I was told was "secure": for more deeply disturbed patients. I expect they admitted her there. No one on my ward was wigging all that heavily. She must have gone to Two-East.

I picked up the blue card that that man tried to give her. It was for Raven Song Addiction Services. Is she an addict? To cigarettes yes, but I don't have the sense she is to anything else.

Many here have advised me not to give money to panhandler, lest they spend it on liquor or drugs. Better to buy them a meal or to give to charity. But sometimes I do give them money. I'm going to tonight, if she's still there when I go back to the train station for the ride home.

I have a ten-dollar bill in my wallet. I'm going to give it to her then ask her to buy something good to eat.

I don't think the reason she cries so sorrowfully is because she is hungry or homeless. Perhaps she is addicted, but I don't think that's why she cries. No, I think she cries because her own mind torments her mercilessly.

I know this, because there have been times my own mind tormented me so.

She Wasn't There

I looked around some, but she was nowhere to be found. I hope she went off to find some shelter.

On the way to the station, before I realized she wasn't there anymore, I emptied all my pocket change into a Salvation Army collection bucket. The two folks there were pretty surprised and grateful. It was about five bucks.

I read The Vancouver Sun today that a special effort was made to clean up the refuse that was scattered all over the Downtown Eastside, and they found eight thousand used syringes scattered everywhere.

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