My Friend Patrice.

Part of my job duties is delivering pagers to local medical professionals. Apparently they are so busy they don’t have time to send one of their office assistants to our office to exchange their pager after they’ve flushed it down the toilet, so they call it in, I provision a new pager for them and bring it to their office with a smile on my face and a song in my heart. And a contract in my hand.

Today I had to deliver a pager to a doctor (the third pager in 60 days, by the way, he needs to stop reading his beeper in the crapper) in a home health care facility. Being a beautiful sunny day, the staff had wheeled a couple dozen of the residents outside to enjoy the fresh air. It appeared to be a wonderful attempt to lift their spirits, but some of them looked scared out of their wits. Others looked bored. Many seemed to be enjoying themselves.

It must be hard to live in that type of situation. I worked for ARC (while not the same, it is a similar situation) for a number of years back in my 20s and it’s not an easy job. Whenever I think of these facilities, I think of my friend Pat.

I met Pat back in 1987. She was a close friend of my first boyfriend and lived next door to us in Jamestown. She was always included in our little adventures, including driving to Florida in a ’82 Dodge Omni. Patrice, as we liked to call her, has an interesting past. She is an extremely intelligent woman and a gifted piano player. She is also manic-depressive. While in college in the early ’60s, Pat was misdiagnosed as schizophrenic. Her parents, with nowhere to turn, installed her into various state institutions, where she was given all sorts of drugs and lived in hideous living conditions. Years went by, I’m not sure of the history of this part, but she ended up living on her own, in her little apartment, working for the local hospital in the billing department.

I haven’t spoken with Pat in about a year. I really should give her a call. Anyways, the reason that I think of her when I’m in these health care facilities, is not because she once lived in a state institution. But rather because she spends her free time going to these types of facilities to entertain the residents by playing the piano and bringing friends along to sing and to entertain the folks. I find this a little amazing because at one time, the world turned on Pat. It dehumanized her to a point. It took away her confidence. It shut her away. Now that she’s part of the world once again, she is taking the time to give back to the community.

The world needs more people like my friend Patrice.

Pat has written a book of essays about her experiences through her life dealing with her mental illness. It’s called Blooming Is Tricky Business and is required reading for a graduate course in on the psychology of disability at the University of Texas. One of these essays can be found here. Her book was featured on Amazon and is published through Waldenbooks.