The stories of apartment life

The background:

We moved into our apartment about a year and a half ago to escape my crazy mother in law. God love her...I do not exaggerate. She is certifiably crazy. We tried to make it work, honestly but it got to be too much.

We love our new home. It is close to the kids school. It is close to downtown (and the streets roll up at 9pm around here so noise isn't an issue either). There are parks and stores and, most importantly, a Dunkin Donuts all within walking distance. Lately I have even been walking to work.

The apartment we live in is in a building with 5 other apartments. There are only two on our side of the building, we rarely see the other residents. In the past year and a half we have had 4 different tenants in our side of the building. We have been relatively happy with them all and whenever we have gotten frustrated just reminded ourselves that we live in an apartment building. We can only expect so much. We are sharing space with these people.

This summer a single, older gentleman moved in downstairs. He seems nice enough. He has never once complained about the noises "from above" (us) and I know for a fact that my children are rarely, if ever, light footed when walking. He chain smokes on the front porch and, often, fall asleep there (which only totally freaked me out the first few times when I thought he was dead). He plays his music VERY loudly (because he is deaf as a doorknob, but again, that works in our favor) and, usually, turns it down by 8pm when we put the kids to bed - so I never complain. He has his son over every weekend and even he seems like a nice enough pre-teen (and we all know how rare it is to find a nice pre-teen).

I know he has mental problems. He has been candid sharing his issues with us. He doesn't work because he collects disability. And lately I have noticed that he has been acting more "manic" than usual....

The story:

About a week ago he informs me that he is looking for a job. Something part time to help make ends meet. I tried not to discourage him but reminded him that, in our small town and with the economy, there wasn't much out there.

After an afternoon of looking he decided that he couldn't find anything and instead was going to write a book. "A book about what", I ask. "My life, my mental illness". Again, trying not to discourage I tell him it sounds like a great idea, that I am sure there are many people out there that can relate.

The next day he informs me that he has about 16 or 17 books he can write with everything that has happened in his life. He tells me that he has hundreds of pages from the state mental hospital that his PCP is getting for him...I stifle a laugh and encourage him again. I even went as far as telling him to start a blog of his own, that if he got enough advertisers that he could make money that way (knowing that he is more likely to make money with a blog then by publishing an actual book). He tells me what he is planning on doing with his first million...I start to wonder how stable he is.

Please know that I do not make fun of people with mental disabilities. You have to admit, however, his behavior is humorous. There are funny things that happen. It is not like Kirby and I blatantly make fun of him...although we have enjoyed a few laughs at his expense in the comfort of our home, behind closed doors.

The next evening I go out to the front porch and he is sleeping. He wakes up as soon as the door closes and starts talking. He tells me that his PCP got his medical records from the state mental hospital, asks me if I want to read them. I (have a really hard time saying no to people) tell him sure, I would love to read them. He runs inside and grabs a stack of 20 or so.

And then I get scared. Not scared for my life, but nervous about what I am reading and, again, nervous about how stable he is. He has been diagnosed with both bi-polar and schizophrenia. The most recent document was from June of this year. I do the math. He was released in June and came right here...I tell Kirby to lock the door every time he comes through it from now on.

He recently had a friend move in. The music has gotten louder. There is fighting all hours of the day. The music plays well into the night. I have contemplated calling the police but I don't. Again, I rationalize that we live in an apartment building. You can't expect to have peace and quiet all the time. He has never complained about us - I don't want to complain about him.

Last night, as we are sitting down for dinner, there is a knock on the door. "Merry Christmas" he says handing me a bag. I open it and find two lobsters inside. "Where did you get these", I asked, knowing that he is tight for money but more in shock that he is giving me lobster when all I planned to give him was a $5 gift certificate to the local convenience store to buy a pack of smokes. "I bought them," he said, "what did you think...I STOLE them." I gave him a hug, thanked him and brought them upstairs where the kids enjoyed playing with them while we boiled water. I DID NOT tell him that his stealing them was the EXACT thought that had crossed my mind.

At 11pm I can still feel the pulsing of the bass from his music under my feet. I ask Kirby if it is "bad form" to call the police on the neighbor that just gave you lobster. He says it probably is and we should let it go for a little while. Eventually, about the time Kirby and I head to bed (around 11:30pm) the music has quieted down. But as I am lying in the bed (willing the sleep to come) I hear lots of banging, a few slamming doors, a bit of arguing (and we are on the third floor- he is on the first). I ignore it and eventually fall asleep only to be rudely awoken again at 3:30am.

At first I couldn't figure out what woke me up. I thought it was because I had to pee and made my way down to the bathroom...where I feel the pulsing of the music, again, beneath my feet. I can clearly hear what he is listening to (Nickleback for anyone interested). I am beyond annoyed. Again, I contemplate calling the police. I decide that if I am unable to fall asleep because of the music that I will - but I do, peacefully.

This afternoon Kirby is talking with a few of our neighbors friends and realizes that he has been taken back to the state hospital. He had become so manic that he was ordering thousands of dollars of electronics, furniture, wine and, ummmm, lobster.

Ah, crap. Now I feel like a jerk. I accepted lobster from a man that I know is not living within his means. I took lobster from a man who will probably never be able to pay off the credit cards that he used to buy the lobster. I took lobster from a man who was taken to the state mental hospital the very next day...


Connie Weiss said...

That is so sad.

It is really very nice of your to be so kind to him. Other people might not be.

At least the Lobster didn't go to waste....

WheresMyAngels said...

My FIL has schizophrenia, I always watch my husband to see if i see sign of it with him.

Mental illness is so hard to deal with, and so misunderstood. I had a friend whom was bipolar and she would fall asleep at work all the time because of her meds. So then she would go off of them and get scary. I know she got put away and I hated it because she had two young kids she loved. While most of the people that my organization serves have developmental disabilities, we have several with just mental illness.

You were good to him and that is what mannered. If you didn't take the lobster, then that would of been rude.

Jessi said...

That is really sad. Poor guy.

When managed properly, people with schizophrenia AND bi-polar can lead relatively comfortable (I never use the word 'normal') lives, although the medications can have nasty side-effects.

It sounds more like his bi-polar was unmanageable rather than schizophrenia. Making purchases like that is very typical of a classic "manic" episode.

And for WheresMyAngels, your husband is probably "in the clear." I'm not sure how old he is, but while schizophrenia has some strong familial cross generational transmission, it usually appears in early adulthood (college years 18-27ish) if he hasn't shown signs by now, then it's not probable a new dx would arise.

Okay, out of psychologist mode... was the lobster at least tasty?

And on a nicer note, you probably made a differece to him. People with mental illness' often see it as their identity, not a part of it. So seeing and dealing with him as a person and not a diagnosis (whether you had a good laugh behind his back or not) was the right thing to do.

People hear schizophrenia and freak out, only because of those who fall outside of the bell curve who do something to land themselves in the paper. Many people live with it, and people hardly know, unless they have physical manifestations (hallucinations, tics...) All very interesting. Personally, I'm more frightened by the axis II dx (antisocial/personality disorders)