Editor At Large/As I See It
A Column by Marvin Spieler
My Friend Nancy, As I Remember Her
One night Nancy arrived at my support group in Sunnyside, Queens, New York City and she became a regular participant. Usually, when the group ended, I walked her to the bus stop as the neighborhood was in transition, but not for the better. As a woman, she didn’t feel comfortable standing at the bus stop on a deserted street waiting for the bus. We had time to talk about the night’s group. I realized Nancy was easy to talk to as she didn’t pretend to be a hotsy-totsy. Also, as I got to know her, I learned that she wasn’t a Jewish American Princess either. Nancy was down to earth, not a gold digger, honest, and a good person.
Nancy, unfortunately, had schizophrenia. In a sense it was self-induced. Sounds like a weird statement, yes? Well “acid” was in vogue in the nineteen-sixties. Nancy took, I guess, her fair share of it. Many years later, she had a major side-effect from it. Up until I met Nancy, I never met anyone who had become schizophrenic from taking acid, but I heard of this side effect. Thank God acid is not as popular a drug now as it was then. It is a mind-altering drug. Different people had different experiences with acid, some good and some bad.
I never asked Nancy what her experiences were like. I was curious. Whether her experiences were good or bad, I had no way of knowing. She’s dead now, unfortunately. In my eyes, she died because of one major side effect of acid—schizophrenia. I had read about this potential problem, but never knew anyone who had it until I met Nancy.
We cared for one another and helped each other when we could because we were friends. Our relationship grew. We saw each other frequently as we both had a lot of spare time. She was unable to work as was I. We got to know one another. Basically, she was a kind individual. She never said a bad word about anyone. She was bright, had attended college and graduated. She had a good mind. She was no dummy. She especially cared about her friends and helped them when she could. She showered us with gifts of needed items we couldn’t afford or didn’t want to spend money on ourselves. In a word, Nancy was generous. She was there for her friends when needed. Nancy had a good soul.
Why she actually died couldn’t be determined. An autopsy was inconclusive. But I felt it was a suicide. Nancy was depressed a great deal of the time. This went on for weeks. The last book she was reading was on the afterlife. The book seemed to calm her. Unfortunately, none of her friends picked up on this signal, which lead to her eventual death. This is what I feel she did to herself. She’s missed greatly.
Her symptoms of schizophrenia were primarily of being paranoid. She also had low self-esteem and she may have heard voices. I really don’t remember for sure. She kept a journal, which was full of her weird thoughts and feelings.
But the cure that she did experience eventually, in a way, made her worse. Her sanity after being put on Clozaril really didn’t help. She felt miserable knowing how sick she was previously. She couldn’t accept who she had become—a sane individual. Is this a crazy statement? It sounds that way, but she was very uncomfortable with her new found sanity.
Another major problem developed that I felt actually did her in was Tardive Dyskinesia. She had a severe case. Her hands shook and her mouth movements were also very severe. It embarrassed her. Nancy kept a towel over her hands so they wouldn’t be seen. Her mouth movements she couldn’t hide. This in effect did her in. She couldn’t live with these involuntary movements. Eventually, this problem became constant. She was severely depressed as a result and spent a lot of time at home. Nancy was seen infrequently. She didn’t answer her phone regularly. At some point she must have taken an overdose and was finally at peace with herself.