Paul, 47, has lived by himself for 14 years with his cat, bird, and fish. He has additional health problems and lives on social security disability. He enjoys drawing, and he is an accomplished organic gardener.
Here Paul describes a typical day:
“I keep a journal where it says: I’ll wake up in the morning … [and have] coffee and cigarette, my normal addictive behavior of coffee and cigarettes. I keep a journal where it says: Function, Effect, Effort, Direction, Conduct, Behavior, Actions. I’ll feed the animals. I’ll water the garden. That’s my surrogate family: my fish, my bird, my cat, my garden…. Read the newspaper, listen to the news, listen to talk shows. I listen to two talk shows. They’re a radio station that’s predominately white conservative, and the other one is predominately African-American liberal. I listen to both. I’ve called both. I listen to both daily.”
Paul lives with mental confusion and chaos everyday, yet he has found unique, insightful ways to cope and manage. He may have trouble keeping track of time by the clock, yet he has devised this system:
“If you notice the prism, and the mirror prism … in the sunshine. I will put the prism in the east-faced window, and by the time of the day when the spectrum hits a certain size, I will do my housework, as spectrum hits a certain size, I’ll take my medicine.”
Paul lives in poverty and has schizo-affective disorder. Far from being someone who should be feared, Paul has had a positive influence on his neighbors with his gardening. Many neighbors have begun planting gardens of their own. Paul also developed a thoughtful moral and ethical system by which he lives, and it includes giving to others while protecting himself from exploitation:
“If I have something and I willfully withhold it, just because of greed or spite, that’s on me. That’s wrong. So if I have it to give, I’ll give it. … discerning, that if you give somebody …. to discern, to discriminately learn. I discern, … get this in my memory banks that this, this usually leads to that. If somebody is excessively, sociopathically, excessive, exploit, takes just for taking, that, that I stop. That I don’t do.”
Listen to Paul discussing the above mentioned points as well as how he copes with his symptoms here.
In spite of Paul’s good citizenship, he is aware of and bothered by what some others think of him and his situation:
“You have to overcome the beatings, the, the prejudice, the put-down. “You’re, you’re worthless, you’re, you’re on entitlements.” You know, “I work so many hours a day. I’ve worked, so … why … where do you just sit there and call the radio stations up, give your opinion” … second-class citizen stigma. A stigma of being second-class citizen. Hell, a lot of it’s true.”
Paul is managing his life amazingly well given his challenges. He manages his own needs, takes excellent care of his pets, and makes a positive contribution to his neighborhood. Yet, sadly, the last part of the above quote, “Hell, a lot of it’s true.” indicates his guilt and concern over his inability to hold down a job, something that he can’t possibly do. In his message, he asks the all-important question: “What would you do, how would you cope, if you were in the same situation?”