Home > bipolar, fear, psychosis, side-effects, stigma, symptoms > Today I Was a Coward

Today I Was a Coward

About 15 years ago I was extremely out of shape and my husband and I were walking around downtown Ottawa. I had charlie horses in both legs and I could barely walk. A gentleman went by in a motorized wheelchair and he stopped me and said his legs had come out of place and he asked if I could put them back for him. I did so, of course.

Later I wondered why he had asked me out of all the people on the street and I realized that because of my charlie horses I looked like a physically handicapped person. Either the man in the wheelchair was more comfortable asking me for help, or else he thought I would be more comfortable giving help. We (even if only apparently) handicapped people have to stick together. It just goes to show how artificial unease over handicapped people is.

Of course, it turns out I am handicapped in a different way.

Today in the supermarket there was a man having problems. He was wandering aimlessly about the store, putting random items into random carts, and saying vaguely belligerent things to people. The store staff hadn’t seemed to notice. When I was checking out, he went up to the woman behind me and took her cart from her and started unloading it. The woman was horrified.

I put myself in the man’s shoes two ways: 1) if it was me I would like to have someone point out to me that I was being a nuisance (and maybe even that I had lost touch with reality); and 2) if it was me and I was out of touch to that degree I might make a scene if confronted. As a mentally ill man I do not assume that crazy people are harmless. I also thought about the poor woman, of course, who was like a deer in the headlights.

In the past, I have been stupidly fearless. Recently my emotions have been out of control. Today I felt fear for the first time since I could remember. If I crossed this man in the supermarket, what would he do? What would be pull out of his pocket? Would he follow me home? Basically I was a coward.

I told the cashier I needed to speak to the manager right away. The manager was a tiny woman, but I told her the man was harassing the other customer. She went to get someone physically larger to talk to the man. Meanwhile, he was putting the poor woman’s groceries into boxes, presumably to take home. The woman actually had her wallet out to pay.

I packed up the last of my stuff and went outside and put it in my car. By the time I was ready to leave the man had not come out of the store, so I hope the store staff had intervened. Nevertheless, I don’t know how it turned out. Today I was a coward and I walked away.

First, I failed the man, who needed to be led back to reality, or at least removed from the situation where he was a nuisance. We handicapped people have to stick together, right? Second, I failed the woman, who needed any other human being to break her isolation. Someone to let her know she wasn’t alone in the situation and to make her feel safe again. I don’t think it was enough to simply tell the manager and then leave as if it wasn’t my problem any more.

I wish I had my stupid bravery back.

  1. March 20, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    Well, you did more than many people would have. And it sounds like you rose to the occasion as best as you could in your emotional state.
    That’s pretty courageous. I think it’s a testament to your character that you even give a damn.

  2. March 26, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Don’t create such horrific scenarios in your head or you’ll end up not even getting out of bed! Wow I just create a rhyming proverb 😛

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