I’ve known Jack (not his real name) a long time. We were room-mates when I was still in high school and he was in university. He was never a shining example of robust mental health, but he always maintained at least a half-hearted grip on his sanity, despite his contention that sanity was over-rated.
I used to think of him as eccentric, or idiosyncratic. I wondered, occasionally, over the years, about certain traits, and what they might mean. Mostly, though, I didn’t see any need to label him. He was just Jack. Witty, clever, a master of puns and word play, a musician, a writer, a traveler, a pessimist, a cynic, an unmotivated, unreliable, lazy layabout. He slept all day and split his nights between the streets and the forests. He loved nature and animals and thought human beings were a plague upon the planet. He saw no reason to try to make the world a better place: the best thing for the earth would be if our species to kill itself off, and the sooner the better.
I hadn’t seen Jack for quite awhile. He’d called a couple of months ago saying it was urgent that he see me, but then he stood me up.
I ran into him outside Hartman’s on Friday afternoon. He was no longer sane.
He told me that they had put a thing in his head, something that listened to his conversations and intercepted his thoughts, something that denied him privacy and therefore deprived him of any chance to have a girlfriend. He said the Masons were behind it: they were behind everything. He said he could prove it by analyzing their logo, which contained four letter shapes. All his ex-girlfriends had at least one of those four letters in their names.
He said they’d given his ex-girlfriend’s dog cancer because he loved it.
He showed me several deep and horrible open wounds on his body and asked if I knew what they were. Back of his leg. Elbow. He said he’d had them all over his body but they were clearing up now.
The more he talked, the more it sounded like he was fighting a losing battle. The worst part was when he said “I just want out.”
Because I’d been to Elmaks’ funeral the day before, I couldn’t let it go.
“Out of what?” I asked.
He didn’t say. For the first time ever, in all the years I’ve known him, I saw tears in Jack’s eyes.
“Everything?” I asked.
“Everything. I just want out of everything,” he said. And then he told me that the Masons had thwarted his suicide attempt.
I’m one of the few people Jack trusts, even at the best of times. I think there are only about three or four of us. He’s estranged from all his family except his father, who propped him up financially and emotionally all his adult life. His father recently moved to a nursing home. He can’t take of himself any longer, let alone Jack.
I told Jack I thought he should see a doctor.
He said he didn’t trust his doctor because she denied being able to see the big scar on his head. (For the record, I couldn’t see it either, but since he didn’t ask, I didn’t tell him.)
I suggested seeing another doctor.
“For my insanity?” he said. “I’m not insane. I know it sounds crazy, but everything I’m telling you is actually happening. It’s all real.”
“For your sores,” I said, thinking that if he went in for his sores, the doctor would intervene with his mental health issues.
He said no. The sores were clearing up on their own.
I said maybe a doctor could help him get on Disability, and then maybe he could get a place to live. He looked interested. I suggested he make an appointment at the Centretown Community Health Centre. He said he would, but I think we both knew he wouldn’t.
My lunch break was over. I had to go. Besides, I didn’t know how to help him, even if I stayed.
I still don’t know. How do you get help for someone if they’re paranoid and think everybody’s out to get them?
I honestly can’t think of too many things worse than suffering from paranoid delusions. Imagine how horrifying it would be to believe that some evil, powerful force is coming for you and reading your mind and tricking your friends and potential allies into thinking you’re insane and it’s just trying to help you.