Strange thing happened at McDonalds ….

craziness

Strange thing happened at McDonalds recently.

I popped in for a meal at a local McDonalds, and it was quite busy.  As I walked in I recognised this guy at the counter – the client side of the counter, not the “will you have fries with that?’ side of the counter.

It took me a few ticks to realise how I knew him.

I had spent a few weeks at a psychiatric clinic and he was a patient there at the same time as my “stay”.

He had some severe problems, and I chatting to him a few times.

+80% of the people at the clinic had issues that still allowed them to function in society – sure they may be a bit weird, and say all sorts of crazy shit, but who doesn’t?  Even in crazy land, you find people on your level of crazy and befriend them.  Then silently judge the people who are further down the scale in cray-cray land.

This particular guy was THAT guy.  His problems were severe in comparison to the “norm” of the clinic. {even crazy has a level of normal … who would have thought!}

I can’t recall what his diagnosis was, as it has been a few years, and really it is none of yours or my business.

Unfortunately psychiatric clinics are not dissimilar from high school.

The cool kids rule.  The kids who can’t keep their shit together get picked on.  Relentlessly.

My experience with psychiatric clinics is that there are a lot of young patients.  They form clicks. and make the kids who are on the lower rungs feel even more shitty about their existence.

Alcoholism and drug addiction trumps schizophrenia and depression any day of the week.  Much cooler stories with addiction than hiding under your duvet, and being too afraid to face the day.

Agoraphobia sufferers are clearly never invited to the cool kids table.

Let’s call this boy-man Roger for the purposes of this story.  He was ostracized and really “hated” by the other patients, and several altercations broke out at the clinic.

I felt really bad for him, and made a point of sitting with him at meals as no one else would.  I would sit with him at TV time, and then he would tell me the same story, word for word, over and over again.

I realised he had no memory past about three minutes when he was in a “bad state.”   When he was angry it was because he was confused or disorientated, and no doubt scared.

The best thing to do was speak to him, reassure him, and not get worked up when he got a bit “worked up” – many of our discussions followed this sort of format:

Him: “Nice pen”

Me: “Yes it is”

Him: “I have a pen just like that.”

Me: “Maybe, but this one is definitely mine.”

Him – searches through his pockets of his chinos.

Him: “I have lost my pen” looks at mine “it looks just like that” puts his hand out “give me back my pen….”

Me: “Maybe you have lost your pen, but this is definitely my pen – you can borrow it for a few minutes, while you are sitting here – but it is my pen, and you need to give it back, okay?”

… repeat conversation a few times …..

Though he really was very offensive when he was screaming rants, he was not a mean person.  He was just a young boy whose brain and chemical balance was just not right.  He really was struggling. His demons were far greater and louder than mine.

I could be him.  What if my son was him?  What if you were him?

Back to McDonalds.

Roger looks at me, and I can see his mind trying to place me.  I am silently begging him not to place me.

I can see he is agitated. I can see he is starting to do that body movement that is telling me that “all is not quite well over in Roger Land.”

Reunions are great, but reunions from the cast of “One flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest” are less so.

I just wanted my McRoyale Meal (with a Coke Zero, because that will cancel out the kilo joule count quite nicely.) I wanted to sit quietly, shove the chips in my pie hole whilst reading my book and try not to be pulled into this confrontation.

I order my food, and step back to wait for them to prepare the order.

Roger meanwhile is scratching in his McDonalds paperbag, and starting to get a bit twitchy.  I believe he wanted 10 sachets of tomato sauce, and they gave him 5.

He might have asked if there was 10 and the teller answered in the affirmative.

My guess is she is probably thinking “what NUTSO is going to eat 10 tomatoe sachets with one burger?”

Clearly she has never experienced quite this level of “please give me exactly what I asked for.”  She figured she’d just pop 5 sachets in the bag, and send him merrily on his way.

Teller at McDonalds did not get training in how to deal with a Roger customers during teller orientation week.

Roger went off – screaming.  Asking for names, explaining that no one should fuck with him and so it went on.  In full scream and going off at the counter.

He was beyond upset about the fact that he had requested 10 sachets, and he had received 5.  His mind just could not grasp how she had confused this request, and how she could not understand how 10 sachets were really really important to him.  Vital in fact.

I got my meal and went to sit down.  He screamed and ranted and used really really offensive language.  No amount of smiling and nodding was going to placate him.

He was really upset about the sachets.

I looked at him and realised that when you are all sitting in “morning ring” at a clinic of your choice you are all sorts of crazy.

Varying degrees of total whack-jobs being kept in check by close guidance of a medical professional and medication.  The reason you are there is because odds are you have either lost your shit at a McDonalds or are on the road to.

Roger finished his rant – and he was actually quite frightening.  I ate my chips and sipped my cooldrink.

I knew that by the time he got to his car, and drove home, he would forget that he had even been to McDonalds.  Let alone that he had screamed all sorts of shit at the staff and the random assortment of customers who stared at him slack jawed.

After the incident was over, the customers were talking, as one does when someone goes a bit shit faced in a crowded space.    One of the women who had been standing next to Roger came to talk to me and tell me how offensive he was, and that he was probably mad – not sure what is is about me that is inviting comment, when I just want to read my book and eat my stuff off a tray.

Seeing Roger made me remember how far down my “bottom point” had been.

How much it had affected me, and how afraid I am of ever hitting that “low” again.

I am lucky that the “bag of shit” that is my set of problems, are my problems.   I do not have to deal with what other people have to deal with on their average day.

And maybe before you/me/we jump to an assumption about someone losing their shit, you give some thought to what might actually be going on there.  Maybe.

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Chemist homework – done …..

{I just gave myself a gold star, because actually I deserve it}

I really do not want to confess that I have spent at least 3 therapy sessions discussing why I cannot go to the pharmacist to explain that he made an error filling my script and I had experienced a bit of a downhill slide.

{understatement on the bit}

My CBT doctor gave me a home work assignment last time and encouraged me to go to the pharmacist and explain he made an error.

We spoke for ages about why it was so difficult for me {I feel at fault, even though it was not my fault, I still do.}

We spoke about what was the worst that could happen if I spoke to the pharmacist. {I would feel embarrassed that I had done something wrong.  I would feel bad that I was making him feel bad.  I was scared he would make it appear that it was my fault … you know because everything always is}

We spoke about the ability to see a situation for what it is.  Facing your fears and appreciating that your perception of something is not always what actually happens/happened/is going to happen – your video feed of a situation is really laced with your own {warped} self-doubt.

Yesterday I went to the pharmacist because I had Dr CBT today.

The idea was to talk to him, and then say “It’s done, I confronted him, look how I roll – word to my hommies!”  {or something of that ilk}

I bought wet wipes and vitamins the size of suppositories I will never use.  I don’t buy vitamins. I do not buy wet wipes that cost R45.00

I did not speak the pharmacist, because I felt too embarrassed to.  I bought my bizarre assortement of items, and left the store.

I had an appointment with Dr CBT today and we discussed the pharmacist, and several other issues.  I did feel a bit embarrassed/annoyed that we were rehashing the pharmacist thing.

The vision I conjure up, the perception that it is all going to go so very badly.  My coping mechanisms that I employ to deal with situations where I think I am going to be uncomfortable, then the anxiety and stress those coping mechanisms create. {repeat cycle ad nauseam}

The issue is not whether I actually confront the pharmacist, the issue is why I won’t and how it is an illustration of what I do in my day-to-day life.  Over and over again.

I avoid situations – at all costs – as I am scared of feeling bad. I am terrified of embarrassing myself, drawing attention to myself.

I am scared of how the other person will react.  I am anxious to avoid the uncomfortable feelings that I imagine will occur.

The result is often that by the time I arrive at a place/space/situation – I am so stressed and anxious about feeling stressed and anxious and worrying I am going to say or do something that will embarrass or draw attention to me.  It is often a bit crippling.

My “coping mechanism” is to do something, or say something, that I know is inappropriate or not “socially acceptable.”  Then I can say to myself “there, done it, now you are embarrassed, people think you are an arse, now get on with your day already!!”

Works.  Not well.  But works. {basically the theory of “Out yourself before someone else does.”}

I did not say it was a healthy coping mechanism, I just indicated it was one I employed.

Anyone after Dr CBT appointment I was feeling quite wired, and wanted to just get this pharmacist confrontation over and done with.

I went in and waited at the counter.  When the pharmacist approached me, I explained I would like to talk to him for a few minutes.

{sweating bullets, thinking everyone is looking at me, feeling embarrassed and highly anxious – and overcoming an overriding need/urge to run screaming out of the pharmacy}

He said, of course.  Finished what he was doing and he led me into a separate little office.

I explained that I had been given the incorrect script in November and it had been repeated over three months, with the result that November, December and January were a bit more shaky than they needed to be.  He has swapped out the medication I was prescribed for a generic and then got the grammage wrong, so I was on the wrong stuff, and too low a level.

He apologised profusely, and then I had a bit of a cry.  And then he gave me a bit of a hug.  Strange pharmacist giving me a bit of a cuddle in the private pharmacy room – nope nothing strange going on here, move along, move along!

I explained to Pharmacist that I was getting better as the medication had been adjusted.  Mr Therapist writes out script, Pharmacist fills it, I put it in my mouth with a sip of water.  That is pretty much how it goes, I do not check and am {wasn’t – am now} not aware of what I am on or the grammage.

When the script had been filled, I had queried it twice, but I was made to feel {or I made myself feel} that I was being silly and should just take the pills, so I did.

He was so great about it – and said that if I wanted to scream at him, it was fine, I should.

He was really kind, really sorry, really apologetic, and really understood how I felt – probably helped he was holding my latest script, and based on the cocktail of drugs on the list he was quickly able to assess that “stability” was not my middle name. It is Lucille actually.

Nothing in this situation was horrible or bad.  Not ONE of the bad/world is ending outcomes that I had imagined and been ruminating over for the last few weeks had occurred.

I don’t feel all sorts of wonderful, but I feel good {well a bit good} and have a real sense of achievement — I realise it is a bit silly and is difficult to explain to someone else.  Who is sane.

I decided to buy myself a cow-patch straw basket that was for sale at the Chemist, it was my reward for being brave!