Saturday, 28 July 2007

Costa-conscience books

I have been thinking today about a good friend who has very serious psychological problems caused by barely treatable chemical processes in his body. He is obsessive/compulsive and depressive and occassionally books himself into a local mental hospital for his own safety when things get too much. Medicine can do nothing more than give him drugs that achieve some degree of stability but bring him nowhere near the ability to live a relatively 'normal' life.

I haven't seen him for a long time because he simply disappears from the radar then one day there will be a phone call or something and he is back. I know if he is around however because of a peculiar 'arrangement' we have that he knows nothing about but from which we both benefit in a strange way. You see, his obsessive/compulsive character makes him buy books, books on the sciences (especially mathematics and physics) and books on the Christian faith (especially theological/apologetic) and philosophy. These are not good for him because, rather than simply interest and inform him, they make him worrisome and distracted. Nothing I or anyone else can say will distract him from this obsession even though it would do him good to put the books down and go out more.

Occassionaly, however, he impulsively decides to dump a load of books, giving them to a local charity in the name of his late wife (a wonderful and long-suffering woman when alive) as a sort of bequest. He benefits from this inasmuch as it does him good to clear some of this stuff out of his life. I benefit inasmuch as I happened upon his charitable treasure trove and have been able to purchase at charity shop prices almost new books that I could not otherwise have afforded to think of purchasing. The charity also benefits, which is his intention, he benefits, which his friends are glad to see, and I benefit too, both in having the books cheap and in knowing that he is around and making some right decisions for himself.

So why do I feel the need to justify this happy exchange to myself? Maybe I should call him and have a chat.

3 comments:

EDUKAYTED said...

Maybe you feel guilty that he is giving and not getting the monetary value of his gifts. However, it may be helping him to have some control and order in his life.

Do you feel their is a need to have to 'control' him for him to get better ?

Maybe as you say being there as and when is all he needs. Have you tried asking him how he sees your relationship ?

Mike's 4 Tea said...

Thanks Edukayted

I think perhaps I feel uncomfortable more than guilty. It is weird to understand so well a situation whose existence is not even known at all to the other person.

You are right in saying that a level of control and order helps him, so long as he is in control. He certainly would feel good about giving, making decisions, and commemorating his wife in a way that would please her.

I don't feel there is a need to control him for his own good. Apart from anything else it wouldn't be possible he is so driven by his inner demons.

One Christmas I remarked jocularly that he might make a good Santa. He went quiet but it took a time for me to notice. Some time later he asked, "Do you think I am fat Mike?" I felt so bad I kept reassuring him and vowed to be more careful in future.

I haven't seen him for some time and this makes things even more strange for me. Its like he is there when I pick up a book but not there in reality. I don't mind or fret about it but it is odd and thinking about the experience helps me deal with it I guess. Maybe I should call him but, though this is a normal and acceptable idea for most people, for me I have to consider beforehand how I will do it and how I will back off if there is any reluctance on his part because I know that after I put the phone down he will think about it a lot.

BTW I loved your idea of a Plimsoll line for stress. My wife works in computers in local government and the pressures can be incredible. She is becoming involved in a working group for disabled people in the workplace. Maybe I should suggest they consider this aspect.

EDUKAYTED said...

Thanks Mike for being prepared to show my post.

'Plimsoll Line'idea relates to me coming to terms with having had a 'break-down' myself and trying to investigate a way of preventing others going as far. If it is possible.

On a personallevel just for the following headings it is a challenge :-
Physical
Mental
Emotional
Social/Relational
Volitional
Spiritual

And thats before you even involve
'vocational.

That's how I can relate to your friend's situation.

I used to be told I only came to visit 'my friends'(my friend's books)rather than my friend.

However, when your mind is active it is often easy to have a private conversation with a book, rather than engage with people.

(Would be willing to post any relevent links with regards to stress-related issues etc unless you wish to add comments to my blog.)