By Deborah Foster
In a private care facility in the mountains, there resided one who seemed to everyone to be off her rocker, but all is not what it seems. She was a diminutive lady who always wore her snowy white hair in a bun on top of her head. She smoked cigarettes, but due to the rules of the house she was only allowed to have four after breakfast, two after lunch (one extra if she cleaned the resident bathroom), and three after dinner. To see her standing outside with a cigarette in her hand, rocking back and forth, and puffing smoke out in a continuous, forceful way was almost comical. To see her talking and yelling at people who were not there was sometimes too much to bear and the staff would secretly burst into laughter. One incident was in particular memorable. This occurred when I was in the kitchen making the residents their lunch. In walked an agitated Ms. Kathy with a look of panic in her hazel eyes, wringing her hands in a continuous motion as she walked to the kitchen counter and said with urgency, “You’ve got to call 911!” Wondering what had occurred that I needed to call 911, I could not believe my ears as she explained why. What she said was so unbelievable that all I could do was to listen in amazement at what she believed was happening.
“Oprah Winfrey is in danger. She and her sister are being held hostage down the road from the house.” Ms. Kathy whispered in horror. Not knowing how to reply, I was hardly able to contain the bubble of laughter that I could feel spewing forth. When I saw how distressed she was, I knew that I had to remain in control in order to contain the situation. In Kathy’s mind, she really believed that this was happening. Calmly I explained that I was sure that there was some sort of mistake and that Oprah Winfrey and her sister were fine. This did not reassure her for she still kept insisting that I call 911. I then did the only other thing that I knew to do which was to pretend to call 911 and have them look into the situation. This seemed to appease Ms. Kathy and she hugged me in gratitude. After that everything seemed to calm down, but I knew that it would not be long before another occurrence.
Ms. Kathy was diagnosed with schizophrenia at a young age. With the medication that she was taking, most of the time it was under control. She was not a danger to anyone or even to herself. She would hear and see things that others could not. There was an instance when she tried to explain to me what was occurring. She called it Kathy Co. and she went into great detail about the people and the situations that she was convinced was real. Kathy Co. was a corporation that would come to play at various moments of the day. The head of the corporation was an identical replica of herself and this person was in charge of the images and voices which were plaguing her. They were a group of individuals that would cause dissension by arguing with her constantly and convince her that things were happening when in fact they were not. To Kathy, this was something that was completely real and not imagined. She lived with this every day of her life. To others who would watch and listen, it was funny and intriguing, to say the least. Kathy Co., according to her, was a sophisticated network of international components that were designed to specifically gather evidence of corruption and turn that corruption to their advantage. They consisted of female counterparts who secretly despised each other but were committed to the same purpose which was to cause her anguish. Upon hearing this I was astonished that Ms. Kathy maintained any semblance of normalcy. Her display of strength in holding herself together day after day had me in awe. To deal with the complexities that were occurring in her mind was enough to drive anyone to distraction, but Ms. Kathy seemed to handle it all with a sense of grace and dignity.
All of us have moments when we play out situations and conversations in our heads and sometimes even speak out loud to ourselves in order to gain perspective. To us this is normal and we do not think anything of it. Others, however, like Ms. Kathy, have a hard time distinguishing fact from fiction. I no longer find humor in the situation when I hear her speaking to people that only she can see and I am ashamed to say that I ever did. When she gets in an agitated state I calmly talk to her and reassure her that everything is alright. It is a rare occurrence for her to want to talk about Kathy Co., but when she does, I listen with an open mind and remind myself how much courage it takes for someone to live with schizophrenia.
Category: Fiction, Short Story, SNHU Student