When I started my blog I thought it was going to be all about sex, sex and a bit more sex.
But life is not like that. Even sex is not like that. Nothing is simply black or white. Life and sex are multi coloured and I think that is how my blog has developed – rather than having one theme, it has many.
It has to be said I have experienced more than a few ups and downs. Slept with some devils and have known some angels. As my blog has grown I have delved into my younger days which perhaps are not typical.
To be honest, exploring these times have really helped my sanity.
The prompt for wicked Wednesday this week is Mental Health. I regularly write about different issues that have directly affected my psyche or others that I know. Such as abuse or Lyme Disease, to name but a few.
However, in this post I want to look back directly at a time when I was actually working in mental health and I met Vincent.
Many years ago I was studying for my degree in abnormal psychology. Thinking I would eventually find a career in this area I took on a voluntary job a few evenings a week, working locally at a drop in centre for those with mental health problems such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder. I thought this would provide me with the experience I needed to include on my CV.
After Vincent I changed my mind.
Quite a few of these drop in centres had sprung up as a support network since caring for the mentally ill was provided within the community. The umbrella was, and still is, Mind. My job was to help those who attended if they needed advice regarding forms or medication. I was supplied with the necessary information. But mainly I simply sat down and chatted with them over a cup of coffee.
As time went on it was difficult not to care about about these people. I remember one experience when I was talking to someone who was having an illusion that he was some kind of royal prince from the Tudor age. Another member was a very talented poet. On my birthday he gave me a poem he’d written especially for me. They all had such individual stories and I cared about their welfare, did my best to help them but managed to keep a professional distance.
That was until Vincent.
We didn’t meet straight away. I had been working there about six months. It was Autumn and one day he popped in. He had quite a few friends who attended. Yet after chatting to him the first time I couldn’t work out how he knew so many. He seemed normal (cause I’m so normal, right?) – level headed, stable, beautiful.
I can’t lie I had noticed him the moment he walked in. He was so handsome. Dark good looks with an amazing smile. We would always find our way to each other for a quick chat.
Vincent was twenty five and not on any medication. He rented a small flat in the nearest town and cycled to work each morning. He was a tool maker and grateful for his life because, as he told me one day, it had nearly turned out very differently.
When he was eighteen he’d gone out with a group of friends. On the way home there were five of them in the car. I can’t remember the circumstances but I know he wasn’t driving. He never drove. The car was involved in a horrific accident.
After a few days of being sedated because of his injuries Vincent woke up in hospital. He began to recover and ask questions. It was then they told him – everyone involved in the accident had died, apart from him. He couldn’t compute. His brain would not accept this load. Getting out of bed he began trashing the ward. A break-down. Consequently, he was sectioned and spent the next six months as a patient at the local mental hospital. This was when he first met some of the people who attended the pop in centre.
After therapy and time Vincent was able to leave and get on with his life. His illness had come on because of external events. Many people suffer with mental health problems which are triggered my internal circumstance – chemicals in the brain, for example. Most of those I worked with at the support club did.
Luckily, once Vincent had managed to deal with what had happened, and work through some of it, he was able to get on with his life. But he never forgot the friends he made in hospital.
Christmas came upon us and we held a disco social evening. There was music and a few people sneaked in some beer. Vincent and I spent the entire night deep in conversation. He wanted to know all there was about me. We danced. Sat outside holding hands. He told me he liked me. Because of my position at the group I really didn’t know what to do. I knew I cared about him. We decided to remain friends. My work there was due to finish in the March, before my final studies and exams. He kept popping in and once we went to the pub on the corner together when I finished the session. But then he stopped coming.
After a few weeks I asked around. But no body knew why. These were the days before mobile phones. He couldn’t afford to have a land line so our contact point was the club.
On the third week one of his main friends came in. As I handed her a coffee she said,
“You and Vincent were close right?”
I nodded my reply.
“Have you heard he’s dead.”
Abrupt – but that is what she said.
It had happened just a few days after I had last seen him. Cycling to work he had pulled up on the curb side of a lorry at the traffic lights. Not realising it was about to turn left. The cab was not not indicating and the turning was obscure – going back on itself and narrow. The driver didn’t even notice the cyclist.
Apparently, Vincent was unrecognisable. They had to put an advert in the local paper to find out if anyone knew who he may be. I still have the cuttings.
This took me very hard. I retreated into my head for a few weeks. Couldn’t focus on anything but Vincent. Looking back it’s clear I was mourning, but more for what could have been than the past.
I wrote to his Mum and got a heartfelt reply. Thanking me for being his friend. He had spoken to her about me.
A few months later there was an inquest. Determined to attend I had to walk out of an exam early. We all knew it would be accidental death. Thankfully, the road was deemed not safe to enter from that side and was blocked. Still is.
When my studies were complete I was offered a position in the mental health profession. I turned it down. After Vincent I doubted my ability to cope in such an environment. Instead, I entered an office base profession. Harder to collide with angels traveling too close to the ground.
For some light hearted blog posts have a look at my A to Z challenge