Warning – contains nuts….
I met David (not his real name) and Bruno (not his dog’s name either) some time back in a small coastal town.
As ever with the increase in the volume of people wandering the streets, fewer folk seemed keen to talk to me.
I was wandering near the town’s railway station when a tall, slim guy wearing combats – camouflaged trousers and top with bare sleeves – commented on the beauty that is Hubert.
We chatted a bit about how the weight of my luggage went through the wheels of the magical handcart instead if my back.
David introduced me to Bruno, his black lab, with whom he had a delicious relationship.
David told me that he regularly saw a psychiatrist, a community psychiatric nurse and a support worker to help him with his day to day life.
He had a gentle voice, managing to be both interested and interesting.
He smiled, “High five!” at Bruno.
He responds with…well, a high five.
He doesn’t say ‘Walkies’ he says,
‘Bruno, are you going to put your shoes on?’
He says,’Where’s Sandy?’ Bruno’s girlfriend, a pretty (?) collie, who’s on heat at the moment…
Bruno responds with a tilted head, pricked ears and look of heightened interest.
A woman walks up – she’s with her daughter – in her twenties, unable to make eye contact – unable to speak in this context –
‘Do you mind if she strokes your dog?’ the mum smiles.
It’s no bother – Bruno’s in his element – David’s in his element in a ‘love me, love my dog’ kind of way…
It’s lovely to watch it all unfold in front of me.
They leave – David and I get down to the serious business of comparing and contrasting symptoms…
‘Why do you self harm?’
His description of the noise in his head silenced/ eased/ abated by the simple act of causing oneself physical pain could easily have been mine.
In amongst our chat he tells me he’s read Mein Kampf.
‘Hitler was a genius…’ was he testing me?
Let’s go with it…’Well, he must have had something to have a country full of folk following him…’
It would have been so easy to look at this man, in his combats, the scars of self harm on his forearms, tattoos marginally hiding the products of his pain, and think, ‘Yeah, sure – I bet Hitler’s his role model…’
But no – he read it – he despised what was written in it so much that he burned the book so that no-one else would be exposed to that particular version…
David’s story…? Like so many in his position he was physically abused by his father to the point of hospitalisation at times.
He’s embarrassed by the marks on his arms – for anyone willing to listen he’ll tell them he got his arms caught in the machinery at the back of a fishing boat…
Thoughts of self harm and, not necessarily related, suicidal ideation are never far away for him.
Does he speak to his psychiatrist about this?
No – he’s afraid of being sectioned – he has been held in hospital more times and for longer than he cares to mention.
A system that’s supposed to protect him from himself simply instills fear.
I can’t pretend to have the answer there…more effective collaboration?
Perhaps more punter participation – in the main, folk with a mental malady have periods of relaxed thought – could these times be used to negotiate what happens to folk in the system when they’re less cohesive?
He’s a kind of sociable loner – for those who take the time to look beyond his appearance, they’ll find…
Well, they’ll find a man and his dog.
Walk a mile