When I was in high school, I remember there were a lot of orang gila or mentally ill people roaming around my house. Most of them talked to themselves, laughing, crying or screaming, oblivious to their surrounding. All of the them walked barefoot with torn and dirty clothes. They slept under bridges or pedestrian street and ate food from garbage bins. Kids and tukang becak used to make fun of them... some even bullied them by asking them to dance or open their clothes, revealing their private parts.
I used to be afraid being near them as some can be quite violent when they were upset. One of my friends was chased by this orang gila when she was walking to my house. She was traumatized badly. I still remember the name of that particular orang gila.. Her name was Kenoh. Actually nobody really knew her name but we called her Kenoh.
At that time I didn't know about mental illness or schizophrenia.
When I was in college, I watched A Beautiful Mind, a movie based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in Economics who suffered schizophrenia. Quoting from wikipedia, schizophrenia is a mental disorder characterized by abnormal social behaviour and failure to recognize what is real. Symptoms include false beliefs, unclear or confused thinking and auditory hallucinations.
The movie talked to me and opened my mind about orang gila. I started to think differently about them. I started to understand how they feel. I started to have a special place in my heart for them. I felt guilty when I thought about how I used to feel about them. I felt angry remembering how people made fun of them. I was angry at the family members who neglected them and let them roam the streets.
Thirteen years ago, I had an unforgettable experience with a schizophrenic man. He was my staff who worked for me in a supermarket that I ran with my husband. He was a hard working and honest store supervisor who I could rely on. I had no idea of his illness when I hired him and he didn't show any strange behaviour for the 2 years he worked with me. His name is Z.
One fine morning, Z came to me and asked if he could talk to me in private inside my office. Initially I thought he would like to talk about his work or staffs. But he told me everything was fine with the store. He said he wanted to confess about something. I had a mixed feeling when he said that. Did he steal something? Was he not happy working with me?
"I was instructed to kill you," he said.
I was speechless. It took me a good 2 minutes trying to digest what he just told me. Thank to Allah, I was calm. Instead of panicking, I asked him who asked him to kill me and why.
He started to cry. He told me that for the past few years, he had a friend who followed him everywhere he went. This friend looked exactly like him and told him to do a lot of things. This friend made him smart. This friend helped him doing things that he thought he would not be able to do. This friend was invisible to others. He loves his friend so much because he made him stronger. But the friend was very possessive. He got angry very easily. When he was angry, he could be very violent.
"Lately my friend asked me to burn your supermarket and kill you because I spent too much time here," he said. "I told him that I can't do that and he was very angry. He pushed me and knocked my head to the wall. He has done that several times. When that happened, my wife locked me in the room alone."
"He always came at night when I felt sleepy. Now I am scared of him. I have not slept for the past three days because I was afraid he would come and drag me to kill you."
"You have been very good to me. I care for you and I don't want bad things to happen to you. That's why today I come to tender my resignation. To save your life."
I had a long talk with him. I told him about this movie A Beautiful Mind. I asked him to watch it. I also asked him to go to a psychiatrist.
To cut the long story short, I accepted his resignation and I didn't see him any more. One year later, he came to the shop to see me. He looked healthy without the blood-shed eye. He told me that he went to a psychiatrist at a government hospital. They managed to shoo away his friend in a friendly goodbye. He lived a peaceful life selling fruits in a small village. His wife and children were very happy because he never hits them any more.
Tears streaming down from my eyes... I was so happy to see him living a normal life. I thanked Allah for saving me..... and for the beautiful experience with a schizophrenic man.
This experience has enriched my life in a very special way. I see orang gila with a different light now. I wish their families understand and treat them. I hope people will stop harassing and making fun of them. They suffer enough battling with their inner voices. They don't need more suffering from other people.
I think everybody has a bit of schizo in their mind. Sometimes we do have false beliefs and get confused. Sometimes we hear voices in our mind.
I am glad to know that someone set up an FB page on Komunitas Peduli Skizophrenia Indonesia. I joined the page today hoping I can help them in one way or another.
I dedicate this blog to all the schizophrenic out there. You are not alone. You can live a normal live too. Don't give up.
PS : Last year, my lady masseur told me that her 24-yr old son had an imaginary friend. He started hurting himself by slashing his hand with a knife. I told her to seek a psychiatrist treatment but sadly, her husband and her believed that he was possessed by jinn (supernatural creatures) and brought him to a dukun/bomoh/ustadz (shaman, a traditional healer believed to have spiritual power) instead. He is not healed until now, getting even more violent. She confines his son in a room to avoid hurting his siblings. They still refuse to go to a doctor as they believe doctors can't communicate with jinn. It breaks my heart but I can't force them to do things they don't belief.