Reaching out


This is the beginning of my fifth week at the women’s gym. I try to attend six times out of seven but it doesn’t always happen. Because my life is irregular I go at different times every day; my schedule depends largely on what others expect of me.

There’s an unhappy woman. She has long blonde hair, often stretched into a ponytail. Her arms are inked and she exudes a suffering which feels familiar. I sense her effort to do well,

to be well,

as she courageously fights what she sees as a shameful relationship with failure, and a lack of faith in success.

I feel drawn to her.

I always hope she will be there when I am, but she usually isn’t.

At first I felt intimidated by her presence because I naturally shy away from those who interest me.

One day a couple of weeks ago as I was walking along a quiet alley, our paths crossed. She glanced at me, then quickly looked away. I wasn’t offended. I regularly ask myself why anybody would want to know me, suspecting that if they took the trouble they would only be disappointed.

Reclusiveness is a habit that is hard to break.

Today she was at the gym and something I said made her laugh. The humour put us in the same place and in that moment



shifted, just a little, and I knew we could be friends.

I felt her hunger, her ache, although, for what, was not yet clear. I only knew that I must hold on, I had to strengthen the connection.

After the session I was in the changing room talking to another member about children, chocolate cake, and how successfully exercise stimulates the endorphines. Just as she was leaving the woman with the tattoos walked in, catching the tail end of our conversation, and joining in with a comment or two.

I had an inspiration.

The way the conversation was going made it easy to tell her that exercising had negated my need for medication. As I named the drugs I had been prescribed I could feel her heartrate increase. She opened up and told me about her difficulties..

She blurted out her diagnosis in a rush, as if it was the only way she could find the courage to tell me. Just three words:

I’m Bi-Polar.

I saw how she regretted the telling. I saw her spirit shrink from me, her body recede, then, fearfully, she added

You probably don’t want to know me now.

I felt like holding her, rocking her in my arms

as if she was a child,

as if the cure was that simple,

but you don’t do that to a stranger when you’re standing half-naked in a changing room.

Instead I tried to reassure her, but she wasn’t convinced. She said that because of her condition, her friends had all deserted her. She said

Now you know about me I don’t suppose you’ll speak to me again.

What humiliations had she endured to make her believe such a thing? I felt like crying.

When she said I won’t hurt you, tears mistedย  my eyes.

How must it feel to be terrified of the world, and at the same time to believe it fears and dispises you?

I know she is right; there are timid people out there who would be frightened of her, there are heartless bullies who like to victimise those at a disadvantage to themselves, and there are people who can’t be bothered with the complications of mental illness, but I am not one of them.

I can feel her worthiness, and I will get that knowledge across to her. I will even find out what her name is. For me, standing in front of someone and asking their name is a big step in a scary direction.

ยฉJane Paterson Basil


38 thoughts on “Reaching out

  1. This is one of those teaching moments for both of you. I’m 100% sure God or the fates or the Universe or whatever has put you in each other’s lives for a reason. Good luck with ministering to this gal. You’re an angel to her.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I enjoyed reading this post very much, I hope you write more about this person as you get to know her.
    It is good for the world to know how this (what can I call it) illness affects the people that have it, unless you know a person with it, you will never know unless other writers write about it.
    Yes, I looking forward to future posts about this subject.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ll try to keep you up to date, but there are no guarantees as I often go off on a tangent.
      I know quite a few people with this illness, and it can be devastating. Without – and even with – the right treatment people can end up on the sreets, in prison, or dead from suicide. Even those who keep it under control to some extent have low times when they are too depressed to get out of bed, and manic times when they overspend and get into debt, halucinate and fall out with their neighbours.
      There are a lot of Bi-Polar sites on WP.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I just want her to feel valued, and valuable.
      I have an uneasy feeling I may be trying to make up for my failure with Laura, but if I can do smething which makes her feel better about herself it will be worthwhile.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. If I see her again – you’ve read some of my very recent posts and I expect understand why I empathise with her. I suppose it’s time to admit (to myself and the world, apart from my psychiatrist, who already knows) that I have mental health issues. It’s all very boring.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I’d forgotten that – I’ve met a few psychiatric nurses and counsellors and the like, and I don’t fit into fit into their ideal of damaged humanity. They tell me they can’t help me because I’m too intelligent and self-aware. All I require is reassurance and feedback – without it I quietly crumble inside – and you give me that. I think you must have been very good at your job ๐Ÿ™‚

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Jane, I’m speechless. I can’t believe they would tell you that ! Working with someone like you would be a dream come true, there is so much that can be done. It makes me so happy to hear that my little humble offerings are helpful ๐Ÿ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

            1. They gave me medication – perhaps in the hope that they would dumb me down enough so I would fit into one of their boxes – it’s ok, I’m laughing as I write this – though it’s not funny; my home town is a mess, known throughout the country as adrugs blackspot, and our cure for mental illness is to hand out drugs, getting people addicted, and thereby making the unscrupulous pharmaceutical companies extremely rich. There are uses for many of these drugs, but they’re being handed out like sweets -and people have too many sweets.
              Oh dear, I’m ranting again…

              Liked by 2 people

              1. Not at all. We have similar issues here too. MH unfortunately is too medicalised. There is a place for meds, but it is never the total answer. I resigned as I got tired of the never ending restructures that never delivered what was promised and cut back in areas where there should have been increases.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. I suppose it’s the same everywhere – we can’t afford to keep our people healthy because we need to spend our money on armaments for something we call defence, while what we’re really doing is going into foreign countries and killing the those our friends in the schoolyard have broken friends with.
                  Oops! a little bit of politics slipped out…

                  Liked by 1 person

  3. Jane. I’m glad you exist. You’re the woman many in pain dream of meeting and being friends with because friendships when the world stigmatizes mental illness is really hard to find.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words. The woman I wrote about in this post is called Cath, and although our friendship hasn’t developed beyond the gym – where she spends a great deal of her time, because she feels safe there – I feel enriched through knowing her. The world’s loss is my gain. How boring it would be to fear this thing called mental illness.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very true. I agree. I fear mental illness but I try to face it. The world does not. Friendship is rare and as you say, the world’s loss is your gain. You would be a light in anyone’s life because you tell the truth, that’s so rare it’s unbelievable.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Nobody is perfect. Those who profess to be, scare me or make me laugh ๐Ÿ™‚ Definitely true if you have seen the worst it can get, the rest sort of dulls in compare, and to think some people have never even experienced this and have no idea

            Liked by 1 person

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