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Monday, March 25, 2013

Back at the end of November 2005, in addition to tackling the subject of radioactive otters and their alien captors, I mentioned in passing that I'd spent an evening at the Mill View psychiatric hospital. It was as a visitor, not a patient, although I think the differences were minor. We were actually there to visit an old school friend of Lisa's who had fallen on hard psychological times, and in the seven years since, those times have become arguably tougher. She's been in and out of hospital, and mostly out of contact.

Lisa's seen her a handful of times over the last seven years, but I've not met her since 2005. Until late last night, that is, when she turned up on our doorstep. It was 9:40pm and I was in my onesie on the sofa, about to get ready for bed, when the doorbell unexpectedly rang. Lisa answered it, and with barely a word, her old school friend walked straight past her, into the living room, and sat down next to me on the sofa.

I could base a stage play on what happened over the next hour. Although I'm not sure I could write tension that palpable. It soon became apparent that the lady was more unwell than we feared, was acting very strangely, and refused to leave our flat. She lit up cigarette after cigarette, stubbed two out on our carpet, and another on the TV, behind which she appeared to think something was hiding. Lisa gently encouraged her to go home, but she insisted it was too cold, and remained where she was.

It was one of those tense situations I prefer to watch on TV. With a history of unpredictable outbursts and occasional aggression, we were terrified of provoking her emotions and ending up in a dangerous situation, particularly with a sleeping baby in the next room, so we were being as low-key as possible, unsure whether to phone social services, the police, or a taxi.

Gentle reasoning seemed to be getting us nowhere, and by 10:40pm Lisa was becoming genuinely scared. The lady might not have turned to violence, but she was in danger of burning down our flat, her behaviour was getting more erratic, and we couldn't persuade her to leave.

So I took decisive action. Whilst my instincts told me to hide in the kitchen with a large supply of chocolate, I forced myself to put on my shoes and coat, and firmly offered to drive her home. And to my great surprise, she agreed.

That journey is one I'll never forget. Sharing my car with someone who won't wear a seatbelt, is clearly in a state, and who opened the door while the vehicle was moving. And I was driving with no underwear, in a onesie I never usually leave the house in. But I successfully got her home in one piece. Although she walked in front of my car as I tried to pull away, and narrowly avoided being run over.

I arrived home shortly after 11pm, to find Lisa trying to remove cigarette ash from the sofa, and picking at the burn marks on the carpet. She'd already phoned her Mum, who was convinced I'd probably been knifed by that point. Lisa had to confirm my survival with another call.

But all's well that ends well. The lady should be getting the care she deserves, our carpet's got some interesting new markings, and the fag-end we found wedged in the sofa didn't ignite all the cushions. We eventually made it to bed around midnight, with the flat smelling like a 1980s bingo hall, and Lisa's nerves ripped to shreds. Much like the carpet near the sofa. I don't think we'll be answering the door late at night again.


Phil's Mum said...

It could only happen to you! You really should turn it into a play, but no-one would believe it was based on fact. I fear you won't get another pay-out from the insurance company for the damage to the furniture and carpets, so soon after the flood.

Phil's Mum said...

You could do with one of these, says Phil's Dad.

Phil's Mum said...

Phil's Dad says, there was meant to be a picture- but try this link:

Zed said...

Crumbs. How scary. A couple of years ago, a friend stayed with us for a few days and it became apparent that she was mentally ill - I'd always known she was none too stable, but not that she was bipolar, and she had become paranoid. We were in no danger and I tried to reassure her and reason with her, but eventually she was taken to a psychiatric hospital. Anxious as we were for her, it was nothing as bad as your experience. I'm sure you're now Lisa's hero. Well, even more than before.

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