Best Friend Luke

When I was growing up my best friend was my cousin Luke. He wanted to start a pickle factory, and find fraggle rock. He was a sweet guy. And then he started changing. And then when he was fourteen he got hospitalized for the first time, ended up homeless during most of his teenage years, went in and out of institutions, and now lives in a group home and gets a shot in the butt once every two weeks. He’s been on heavy neuroleptics for so long that he blinks a lot, he gets really tired when his shot wears off, and he’s never gone back to school. And as soon as he went into the hospital, I just knew, that’s where I was going too. It was creepy to get such a horrible premonition, at least fifteen years before it happened.

I’m actually a second generation psych survivor in a way, I have an aunt who survived rounds of ECT and several involuntary admissions. She’s pretty open about it, and I remember growing up around her sometimes her siblings would start talking about something they’d done in their childhoods and she wouldn’t remember it at all. There’s just wide swaths of memory that are gone. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would feel, to have huge chunks of childhood missing. She was, and is, a fun auntie. I remember one time she was slightly hypomanic and had just gotten a deep fat fryer, and for an entire weekend she just made donut after donut. It was truly a sight to behold. Luke and I ate so many donuts. Sugar and cinnamon donuts. I don’t think she used the fryer again, she just wanted it for donut weekend.

In fact, way in the distant past, my grandfather had a brother who had a manic episode during the Second World War, and was convinced Nazi’s were coming to Little Pine. It’s funny to think about Nazi’s attacking a reservation in the middle of nowhere Canada, but it probably did feel really scary for him, god that would be a suck ass delusion to have.

So it goes, generation after generation. Most of the people in my family with bipolar disorder are doing decently well though. It makes for ornery family gatherings, but whatever.

One time when Luke and I were kids we pissed each other off in this, well, yeah, we were crazy kids. We were canoing with my grandparents and the lake got some whitecaps so we had to hunker down on an island. And I was really bored so I started collecting lichen, because I collected stuff as a kid, like rocks and neat sticks and stuff. And Luke started chasing me around yelling “She’s itchin’ for lichen!” and then I got mad at him and then he threw my lichen in the lake and I cried. It was, that was typical of our relationship. One time I was trying to ignore him by reading an illustrated copy of Heidi and he started singing “She’s got the heidi heidi ho!” and then he pointed at the picture of Heidi’s grandfather and said “The old man is down the road!” God he said the weirdest things. His diagnosis is schizophrenia by the way. He was so fun. It’s different between us now. We ended up both going to Coast when we lived in the Lower Mainland. He went to the Port Coquitlam Coast and I went to the Vancouver Coast. Coast is a clubhouse for people with mental illnesses. You can use the internet, do laundry, watch a movie, drink coffee, and get fed. HUGE plates, of terrible food. I’m sorry, but it’s true, mass cheaply made food is usually not very good. Thanksgiving dinners there were nice though.

That’s where we started meeting our crazy friends I guess. I mean, the ones in the system. Most of my friends are slightly crazy to varying degrees. But that’s where I started meeting consumers who were more politicized, or who weren’t consumers at all.

Once when we were kids Luke gave me a haircut that made me look like I had a lobotomy, we still have the pictures.

If it hadn’t been for Luke I wouldn’t have been immersed in the machismo of boyhood. He and his brother were supposed to take me to see Santa Bear Saves Christmas and instead we ended up at Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I also saw V (a show about reptilians who ripped off their human skins), Knight Rider, all the Star Trek and Star Wars movies, and the Aliens series. My mom didn’t find out until much later, she was so upset, she was trying to do feminist media savvy filtering and I got corrupted anyway.

I wonder oftentimes how come he ended up where he is and I ended up where I am. Sometimes I think it’s because he’s a dark skinned aboriginal man and I’m a light skinned aboriginal woman. Race plays a HUGE role in how you’re treated in the psych system. I don’t know that he is schizophrenic, but he’s a brown man so he has a statistically higher probability of getting the schiz label over the other ones. It’s not that men of color are really more commonly schizophrenic, it’s that psychiatrists just label them more often. I know he’s been on experimental drugs more than once in his life. I also know that the aboriginal community in Canada is routinely used in drug testing.

The other day he called and was really upset, he had some microwave popcorn and someone else has to microwave it for him and they weren’t doing it for him. They were just sitting around ignoring him and all he wanted was some popcorn. God that pisses me off. And it’s the little things really, little crap like that that can be so abusive. Fuckers.

He and I aren’t best friends anymore, but we still have a lot in common.

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