Before I met Alexander*, I didn't know much about schizophrenia. I had the same misperception as most people do. I confused it with Multiple Personality Disorder. I thought someone who suffered from it had two minds or personalities. Televisions and and movies often portray schizophrenia that way and people often make comments like "God, so-and-so acting so schizo today.."
When Eric and I initially came to Germany, the first news we received from his friends was that Alexander had been placed in a Mental Institution. Alexander was one of Eric's closest friends from childhood. They grew up together, went to elementary and highschool together and they were roommates for a year while Eric did Health service for the elderly.
I first met Alexander my during second month in Germany, We were having dinner when the doorbell started ringing in rapid succession. Eric pressed the buzzer and opened the front door. We heard yelling echoeing up the building staircase.. "Eriiiic...? Eriiic?! Hellooo!".
Eric recognized the voice right away and ran down stairs to greet Alexander (before our neighbors could come out and complain). When I first saw him I instantly felt uneasy, His eyes were bulging out of his head and wandering around the room, his hair matted to his forehead, his clothing stained and smelly and he walked in a jerky manner.
He sat down on the livingroom sofa and explained how he left the hospital because "they were giving him mind controlling drugs to suppress him and the government was against him". That the medication was making him sick and they abused him. He started crying. He insisted that he wasn't crazy and that the health care system just didn't know what to do with him after he lost his job.
As he and Eric spoke I watched him visibly calm down and he began to appear completely sane. He spoke excellent English and spoke that instead of German.. He had a good sense of humor, and actually was really intelligent. We offered him Dinner and he took a shower.
After the shower he sat talking to Eric and when I went into the bathroom, I noticed all the cabinets were open. 2 bottles of conditioner that I had just bought were entirely empty, along with my leg shaving creme, my bottle of perfume and my face wash! I thought that was strange, but I just shrugged it off.
Eric left to get a few beers and I was alone with Alexander. He started to become nervous and started whispering to his hand. It was as though his hand was speaking to him and he was trying to make it stop. Then he smiled, sat on his hand and said "sorry"
Then he suddenly stood up and declared that he had to leave. He leaned in close to me and whispered "Is it okay if I leave the evil spirit in the corner of your room? I don't want him following me.. Just ignore him, Okay?". He laughed and muttered something about how it was going to eat me later and then left the flat.
When Eric returned I told him about what Alexander had said. Eric just shook his head "He's just messing around, I think he was stoned when he came. It's horrible what he went through..I don't know how he ended up in a mental Institution..But he's not on medication anymore.."
"What was he diagnosed with?"
"Schizophrenia..but he's better now"
"Are you sure?"
"Yea. He's fine..He just needs some help getting on his feet again."
The next day, He came to visit Eric at work. He stayed all day, spinning in the office chairs and smoking cigarettes. He seemed fine most of the time, a little strange with his theories, but rather nice. He spoke alot about quantum physics, Aleister Crowley “Magick”, and metaphysical religious symbology..
Over the following days he started coming more and more often, At one point he rang the doorbell at 4:00 AM and was crying because he said that he was kicked out of a homeless shelter and he said he had nowhere else to go.
Eric was horrified "You were living in a homeless shelter?" and then he took me aside and asked me if it was okay if Alexander could stay for a few days in our flat. To be completely honest, I was uneasy about it. But I knew it was the right thing to do and I felt compassion for Alexander. I agreed.
Things went bad, He would take strange things from our flat, he ripped the stick off our broom, tied a scarf to it and ran up and down the street waving it like a flag. He took clothing, shoes, and random items were constantly missing. At night he would return and he didn't sleep at night. He just paced around the apartment.Once he entered our room while we slept, so from then on I found myself locking the bedroom door. At one point I woke up and he was cooking in the kitchen. I went to see what he was making..
He had thrown random things in a big boiling pot..there were noodles mixed with rice, peanut butter, jam and he was in the middle of adding a banana. I watched him in confusion..
The next morning it was still on the stove and he was gone.
I didn't like to be left alone with Alexander, that was when he became the crudest. He would say odd disturbing things such as: "You know Eric killed his mother.. Don't tell him I told you that.. He doesn't want you to know"
"Have you ever chased someone with a knife? I did"
"I could control your mind right now if I wanted to.. I can control anyone's mind: that's how I get what I want"
"There's a demon behind you..no don't turn around!"
He would laugh at weird moments, and say mean comments under his breath, as though he was talking to someone beside him that wasn't there. Then give me an strange wide smile. It woulds send an icy chill down my back. He also would tell bold face lies to Eric, that always shocked me.
I admitted to Eric how uncomfortable he was making me, and Eric told Alexander that maybe he should start looking for a new place to live. We didn't want to send him back to the hospital after all the torture Alexander had described, and we also didn't want to throw him out on the streets. Alexander was Eric's friend.
Alexander left and started living with other people, but they all would kick him out within a day or two. He was always coming back to Eric. We would see him sometimes twice a day, at all hours. Sometimes he would bring strange people to our apartment, People with sallowed cheeks, track marks running up their arms and glazed eyes..
The final straw occured about a few weeks later, Everyone was at a press conference and I was alone in the office watching the phone. Alexander came and started banging on the window. I had felt my stomach drop and a feeling of uneasiness filled me. I unlocked the door to the office and explained that Eric would be back in an hour or so.
He asked to come in and explained that he just wanted a quick glass of water. I let him in. He was always drinking water. Sometimes he would go through two water bottles within 5 minutes.
He said he needed hot water. I filled up the tea kettle but he ripped it out of my hands angrily. "No! not like that!".
He went to the office kitchen, filled a mug with water and then placed the mug into the oven. He turned the oven on high. I reached to change it to a low heating and he shoved my hand roughly away from it.
"STOP it!", he snapped "It has to be done THIS way!"
That was when my uneasiness turned to fear. I was completely alone in the office with him and I didn't like the situation that was developing.
I tried to remain calm, we sat in the staff room. He offered me a cigarette, I was feeling nervous and needed to do something with my hands, so I accepted.
"So how are you ?", I asked trying to start a normal conversation.
"Shut up", he snapped lighting my cigarette.
I stared at him.
"Just..SHUT up..", he repeated. He started pacing "Shut up.. Shut up.. Shut up.. Shut up.." Then he started laughing.
My heart started pounding and I honestly didn't know how to handle the scenario I was in. He appeared really unstable and his movements were irratic..
I tried to just focus on my cigarette, I didn't want to do anything to set him off. I tapped the ashes into the ashtray..unfortunately, that triggered him
"I hate that", he said " tap tap tap tap..why do you do that? why do you do that?! I hate people that do that..my mother did that"
Then he picked up a yard stick and started tapping it on the table, over and over.more and more violently. Eventually he was whacking the table with extreme force. I started to get up to leave and then he blew up on me. He started to say how I was trying to seperate him from Eric, that I was the reason they couldn't live together again . He told me to tell Eric when he returns that he could live with us again. He said I should learn when to shut up and that I was getting in his way. He said he had tried being nice to me but he's finished.. There was so much rage in his eyes and he was twitching.
I was so afraid of him at that point, I couldn't breathe. I just stared at him..I was trying not to cry and trying not to do anything else to trigger him. So basically I was just frozen in one position. Just remembering that day makes me feel uneasy and queasy in my stomach, it brings back all those feelings.
Then I heard the upstairs door to the office open.I can't describe the rush of relief I felt.. Eric came down the stairs within a minute. He was with some co-workers, they started to describe the conference. Someone peered in the oven at the boiling cup of water inside and shut off the oven. I felt like sanity had returned.
I told Eric I had to leave, I was still shaky and wanted to get as far away from Alexander as possible.
Alexander asked Eric "Is it okay if I walk Clarity home?"
When he asked that, I felt this prickle of pure terror. Eric told him to ask me. I told him "no" but he didn't want to take no for an answer..finally Eric interrupted and said "Clarity doesn't want you to walk her home. Case closed"
I rushed out of the office and Eric chased after me. I had started crying at that point. It was too much for me, the whole situation. I couldn't handle it. I understood that he was schizophrenic, that it was a disease in his mind and it's not Alexander's fault. I know that he was a good friend to Eric for years and years..but it's was too much. I just broke down. I told Eric that I didn't want to ever be in the same room alone with Alexander again, that they would have to spend time together without me. Afterwards I had frequent nightmares and I didn't like leaving the house alone in fear of seeing him.
Apparently I wasn't the only one that Alexander had frightened, just about all of his former friends had similiar stories. He had attacked some of them, banged on their doors for hours, screamed at them, chased them with sticks. He had been in and out of the institution for 2 years and he was never voluntarily let out. Later on he was arrested for attacking a customer in a Turkish Cafe and was put back into the hospital.
That was the last we had heard of him.
Afterwards I read up on Schizophrenia, the symptoms, the medication..etc. According to Eric he was pretty normal when they grew up together, He started changing after Eric left for college. His friends said he had started doing alot of psychedelic drugs and afterwards he wasn't the same. I read that sometimes acid can bring on the onslaught of schizophrenia symptoms earlier in life if you're genetically inclined to get it. This whole situation was hardest on Eric, to see his friend deteriorate and change.. For Eric it was as painful as watching his former bestfriend die and not knowing what to do about it.
Now one year later, he's back. Just a half hour ago, I was working on the computer and I saw his face pressed against the office window. His head is shaved now and his eyes are still protruding. Eric is talking to him right now outside. I hadn't told many people about that day with Alexander in the staff room, or the whole situation. But in a way it helps to write it all out. To be completely honest, I'm really afraid of him. I don't want to be, but I am.
*I changed his name (for obvious reasons)
UPDATE: a few months after that entry was written, I had another encounter in with Alexander. He followed me down the aisles of an department store. I escaped into the elevator and ran home. Eric warned him strongly to stay away from me. A month after that he caused another public disturbance which led him to being arrested once again and put in the hospital for another year. Last we have heard is that he was released, is taking his medication on a regular basis and living in another city with his new girlfriend.