I don't live in the locale I work within so don't often see folk out of work. Although last time our team went out and I was rather the worse for drink I did meet a few patients' relatives who came to chatter with me, but they could hardly stand up either, so I don't think much embarrasment was held by either party. Phew.
Got me thinking how some time ago I did meet an elderly patient, when I'd popped out to the shops at lunchtime to buy a sandwich. I was in the shop, in the queue, when a patient marched over and very loudly shouted out, "Ooooh, hello doctor!" and came over to give me a tight hug. I said hello and 'cause we were in a busy place didn't really want to ask her anything personal so simply opened with a polite and genuine enquiry, since she's a friendly chatty woman who the whole team hold a lot of warmth and affection towards, asking whether she was enjoying the great weather we were enjoying, that day.
She then shouted out, she has such an incredibly loud voice, that she wasn't doing too badly at all and had just had her hair done, having to get out of the house 'cause she'd seen childrens' faces in her walls leering at her and voices from her smoke alarms telling her that her (dead) husband's, "A mean fuck who should burn and die."
I stood in silence, aghast, pondering how to respond. Everyone paused, the world stopped. The shop stared at me, waiting for the doctor to deal with the crazy lady.
You could see everyone around her taking a few steps back. For some perverse reason, that really irritated me. She shouted at me, "Ah, but I don't bother with that today." She paused and grinned at me and told me the same thing she tells me each and every time. "It's my schizophrenia!" She's always been a straight talker with me and my, do I love her for that.
I couldn't do anything but laugh, hug her back and loudly say something along the lines of, "Well it's cracking that it's not upsetting you today, you're feeling bright and cheery, and all's well with the world!" Maybe it was the utterly banal chatter we shared and the manifest lack of concern I showed. Probably it was the total lack of worry and the gesture of hugging her. Who knows. The shop let out a collective sigh, folk realised they weren't about to be axed, the world turned again.
She probably did more there to challenge views of schizophrenia and stigma than I ever could.