I had the feeling that people with mental illness were treated a bit like lepers in a leper colony. Why do most people shy away from those who are different from themselves? David broke the silence with the shuffling of his feet as he paced up and down, up and down, or the repetitive tap, tap, tap of his restless fingers that drummed on the windowpanes. His clothing littered the floor of his bedroom, and newspapers, yellowed with age slithered from their dusty piles.
I had been a happy person before schizophrenia knocked on our front door but now, all that happiness had become for me, was a word in my dictionary. I was engulfed by an overwhelming fatigue which I welcomed like rain after a humid day. It was David’s birthday. I prepared his favorite dishes and goodies and we sat down to eat lunch. As we were almost done, David slowly and deliberately emptied his cola onto the table cloth. i watched the liquid drain ou of his glass and drip from the cloth onto the floor. I acted as if this were a natural occurrence in the life of a twenty-two-year-old and filled his glass again. He spilt some food onto his tee-shirt and gurgled as he drank. My appetite disappeared. He got up and sank awkwardly into his favorite, dog-smelling armchair, cast mistrustful glances at us and tapped the floor with his bare feet, all the while staring angrily at the carefully wrapped gifts we had chosen as birthday gifts.
Did my son feel ever a teeny bit happy on his birthday? I realized that happiness had become nothing more than a word in the dictionary as far as I was concerned.
“I don’t need gifts,” he said angrily. “All I need is my health.”