Lost In A Hat

Her oversized, fur-brimmed hat, pulled down below her chin and neck, made it impossible to guess her age. But with her tiny body, fragile and waiflike, I tried anyway: a teenager, early twenties, perhaps? And more significantly, what was she doing on a downtown street lined with expensive gift shops in the tourist mecca of Newport, Rhode Island, a city known for its opulent mansions built in the ostentatious gilded age?

I sat on a bench, watching as people passed her huddled form with barely a glance. Expensive trinkets, soon to be bought and ignored, were far more important than this nobody. I wondered where she slept at night. This wasn’t a city with a homeless population, after all; this wasn’t a city where people with mental illnesses congregated. She appeared to be the sole representative of both worlds.

Like everyone else, I went about my touristy business, cruised along the harbor, smelled the ocean, visited Rosecliff with its 80-foot-long ballroom but couldn’t stop thinking about her. On the spur of the moment I phoned the police, not to have her picked up, but merely to have someone check that she was all right. When an officer said no one else called expressing concern, I went back to her bench, but, by now, she was gone. I admit I felt relieved; relieved because I was afraid of this light-as-a-bird woman with her blighted malady, which I presumed to be schizophrenia. Silly to be afraid of a bird.

The next morning, when she returned to her spot, I sat on an adjacent bench, determined to speak to her. First, however, I went into a nearby shop and asked the proprietor if she knew about the lady outside—“The lady with the hat; the sick lady.”

“Oh, you mean the one with the shopping cart?”

“Yes,” I told her. “I just want to make sure she’s okay.”

The sales lady assured me she was. In addition, she told me that she was quite nice.

With that information, I swallowed my foolish fears and walked up to this enigmatic pixie, with her head far down in her lap. “Are you hungry?” I asked.

She moved an inch, her hat still totally eclipsing her face. “N-no, I’m fine,” she said in a voice sounding older than the girlish one I had imagined.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m fine, but thank you.” She lowered her head back to her lap and disappeared.

I left her there, a solitary figure among the throng of passersby, but at least assured there must be someone watching after her.

And why did I care? If you think about it the answer is obvious: I have a son, similarly afflicted, who has been in her situation and could easily wind up that way again. And if he does … I hope at least one person will stop for a moment and feel concerned enough to ask, “Are you hungry?”


About waywardweed

I am a consumer and parent of two sons, one with a mental illness and the other a third-year law student.
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8 Responses to Lost In A Hat

  1. Justine-Paula Robilliard says:

    Hi Waywardweed,
    That is truly a sad story, for a very long time I was in the same position, “lost in my hat”, although for me it was a fog. Life in the fog to be honest was better than life without fog.

    I wonder for her, is she happy being lost? She may at one point been totally unaffected by mental illness and now she may be better off, the MI is a way to cope, she may not be aware of her situation.

    For me, I found that the fog I was in was a comfort, I had no idea what was going on, totally blissfully unaware of my life, just reacting to a situation, forgetting about my problems, years went by and I was so not aware of the passage of time…

    Then one day the fog lifted and suddenly I became aware of the brutal coast I had landed on, and I so wish I could go back into the fog.. I want my fog back… I miss my foggy comfort… I would love to drift back into my foggy world.. I loved my foggy life..

  2. waywardweed says:

    Hi Justine,
    The times I’ve been in the psych unit, it was apparent that there were two types of people: those who are depressed and those who are psychotic. Since I basically fall into the first category, I’d often wish I was in the second, too, and be oblivious to everything. I understand where you’re coming from. Still, I doubt if most people with psychosis are happy.
    Nancy (Waywardweed)

  3. Justine-Paula Robilliard says:

    Hi Nancy..
    This blog post has been bothering me and I did not know why, and suddenly at 4.25am I understood why…

    You asked her if she was hungry and she said she was fine…. She is not fine, dammit, she is asking for help and is too afraid to ask it… Maybe she is too uncomfortable asking…

    I know that if someone asked me if I needed something, I would say no… I am using my blog as a non verbal way to express my thoughts… 99.99%, sorry 100% of the readers of my blog could do something and choose to do nothing…

    Of course there is something that can be done.. there is always a solution, and ignoring someone is the better choice, every time, it has far fewer risks… No reward, but fewer risks..

    Yet there are people that do risk everything, and for them their reward is not here.. It is where we go after we shuffle off our mortal coils…

    I have asked, begged, pleaded, justified, emailed, facebooked, tweeted, blogged… What more can I do? Sky write?? Write it in my blood??

    She needed someone to do something, she may not even know herself the help she needs, maybe she does not care…For me.. I have lost the will to care about my life, my health, what comes, comes.. be it good or bad.. Will I care..No..

    All I want is the pain to stop… Life has no value.. It is now just getting through each day, hoping it is my last…

  4. waywardweed says:

    Yes, of course she was not fine, and the best I could have offered her was a sandwich. She was not asking for help. She, like many others with schizophrenia, don’t even know they are ill and help is not available even if they wanted it. Hospital beds are closing at an alarming rate, and the $$$ that was supposed to go into the community to help these people never did. There is no “happily ever after” for anyone, and that includes the “mentally sound.” As for the mentally ill, the immediate prospects are not promising. The only hope I have is with science coming up with better treatment, but that will not be in my lifetime.

  5. Bob Wilkinson says:

    I love your caring heart. I too have a heart for others I suffer from bipolar myself. I originally came across your blog for when you stood up for Granite Pathways clubhouse which I am a member of. It’s a constant fight particularly here in New hampshire to get support both financially and otherwise. I strongly believe when we reach out and let people know we care and there’s hope we truly make a difference. Im also a former drug and alcohol abuser. People who gave me a chance believed in me and have befriended me have made a difference in my life. My own family has nothing to do with me. So it’s others with a heart that reach out that can and do make a difference. It’s too bad everyone cannot see this instead of looking at money issues and or labeling without understanding. Our own goverment is guilty of such things and that alone frustrates me to say the least. Thats why i continue to fight the good fight.

  6. waywardweed says:

    Hi Bob,
    Welcome to the world of blogging. It’s too bad your family has nothing to do with you. I must admit, having a son who is very ill, I know how difficult it is to stick by someone who is dealing with issues beyond the pale, especially when I’m not doing so well either. As for our government, I understand that we are in a recession and money is tight. The best we can do is make sure our voices are heard. See you at GP.
    Nancy (Waywardweed)

  7. Thank you for the work you are doing. Your site has provided me with some valuable information and insights.

    I have nominated you for the Beautiful Blogger award. Please have a look at my blog to find out more about the award and how you can share this with your readers.


  8. waywardweed says:

    I have been on your site and will go back ASAP. I am very bad at computers and need help (my husband’s) to do anything but the basics. Thank you for the nomination. I am honored.

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