Due to the circumstances I’ve been through I’m very acquainted with temporarily of unsound mind and I have been there too, especially during meltdowns or panic attacks.
My friend had been retrenched a a year or two prior to the events described in my previous blog, as the company, an international one, was in severe difficulties. Pay phones were no longer in demand for one thing. He was not subsequently able to find something ideally suited to his particular field of specialization.
He had initiated further studies in computer troubleshooting but was battling to focus on them. He was in total turmoil because of several things. Firstly, losing the lovely little house we had rented for seven years. We had given a happy home to a number of dogs who wandered the large garden and got into various scrapes. We lost our very first dog, Eureka, when she slipped through the very threadbare fence which we had at the beginning, to follow me when I walked to the nearby shopping centre to buy the Sunday Times. Unfortunately she crossed the street directly in front of a moving Kombi and went right under the front wheel. They stopped, and I thought she may be OK but she succumbed from internal injuries. We had her cremated and her ashes placed in a little urn.
A succession of dogs of various shapes and sizes followed. We had a small black and tan mongrel who adored cookies and recognized his favourite word instantly. Then there was a neurotic but lovable Rottweiler with an undocked tail whom we loved dearly. I collected him from the animal welfare society and he was too nervous to climb into the car. Gentle care gradually eased his fear of strangers and he became very protective. We also briefly had a white long-haired Alsatian who was too boisterous for the property and we eventually gave him away to a good home, but not before he fathered a litter of puppies with Gina, our little biscuit coloured terrier, the one who howled nonstop in accompaniment every time Khatchakurian’s Sabre Dance was played. I don’t know how such a big father and such a small one managed to produce a successful litter but this they did and we helped Gina to bring her snow white puppies into the world, for whom we found homes.
Last but not least was another small black female whom my friend rescued from someone selling them for next to nothing by the wayside. I was fed up with my friend in the beginning as I felt we had enough dogs in the family, but grew to love her just as much as the others.
When we had to leave the house because neither of us was able to afford the rent, both being without work at the time, we gave the dogs to a lady who stayed on a plot and had a whole tribe of dogs for whom she found homes. She always kept them and did not have any put down. Her noisy, battered old car was testimony to her preference for dog welfare over material things and they probably ate better than she and her family did!
To cut a long ramble short, my friend had to cope with retrenchment and being unable to find suitable alternative employment, as well as having to cope with the loss of our home and our furry family, as well as missing me because we were no longer able to stay under the same roof. I got the chef post at a game lodge 100 kilometres away, and he thought all was well with me and that I’d manage without him, but the reality was that I never could have coped with things had he gone down that road of no return, and also, things at the game lodge were not going as well as it seemed, for a number of reasons.
The difficult adjustments he had to make led to a deep depression, the depths of which I wasn’t fully aware. Partially the attempt to remove himself from society was a cry for help. One result was he drew closer to his father and brother who rallied in support following the incident. I began to realize the fragility of the broken human psyche and how important it is to constantly be aware when things are amiss and not be afraid to talk openly.
Once before in my life I had encountered an actual suicide of a middle-aged female colleague with whom I had regular chats. One weekend she shot herself while alone at home, to be discovered later by her traumatized adult son. She had spoken of slitting her wrists once, but never indicated that she was still experiencing thoughts of self harm. Always take it seriously when someone has depression:. It’s not always too obvious but I believe we can often see it between the lines.
I strongly suspect that my friend is also on the Asperger spectrum, although he has completely different “symptoms”. But the unique chemistry between us and the fact that he can’t stand office team-building among other things, quite apart from being a computer geek who prefers the company of dogs to that of humans, made me realize that he cannot be described as “neurotypical”. It took some time after my own diagnosis before I became 99% certain that my assessment is correct.
Had I been diagnosed in the 1990’s or earlier in my life, it would have given my friend a framework in which to work when handling various situations, such as my meltdowns. Knowledge of a condition brings understanding and a better ability to direct it in the right path.
Few people are more understanding or have a more strongly developed sense of justice than my friend. Like my much loved grandmother, he too is a Libran.
We don’t refer to the distressing events of ten years ago, as we were both going through major changes causing temporary loss of sound mind and inability to process all the knocks. But time does heal, and the good memories are always there for us to share.
I believe the wheel will turn to bring good times round again. Life can be like a Scrabble game. One round you can be stuck with seven vowels, unable to score even ten points. A turn or two later you might have a bingo worth 100 points!
When you enter the grass stretch of Kingsmead Stadium after 89 kilometres of running, accompanied by protesting thigh muscles, ominous cramps, a rickety back and a dark side of the mind that cries “Objection” at all points like a zealous US defense lawyer, then you begin to see that it’s all worth it. That little oval of grass seems like the greenest and lushest grass you’ve ever seen, after tramping unrelenting tar for so long.