I had a very strange experience tonight. My family was driving down a major highway near our home and we noticed a woman standing on the corner of a busy intersection, pacing, twirling...acting strange. My daughter said "look at that lady....and used a derogatory term for a drug addict". We all assumed she was "on something" and kept driving. About 45 minutes later we were back in the intersection turning into the shopping center to get dinner. My daughter went inside to pick up the food and my husband and I noticed the woman again, pacing on the sidewalk in the shopping center. She was yelling, to herself, twirling in circles and seemed to be in despair. Still assuming she was high on something, I grabbed my phone and got out of the car. She was clearly in another world. She was talking fast....very disheveled.....thin as a rail.....bruises on her face. I wondered if she might be a drug addicted prostitute. I kept my distance way back and observed her. People walked by, she tried to talk to some...they glanced and kept walking. A few shop keepers stood in their doors with arms crossed. I got closer to her and realized she really needed help. She didn't seem to know where she was...her eyes were darting everywhere and she looked like a caged animal. I called the police and told them "this woman is high on something.....she needs help". I followed her through the parking lot, she was going nowhere. she sat down, and started saying "Oh God!" over and over. At this point I couldn't just stand by. I knew the police were on their way. By this time my daughter went to a bench to observe from a few feet away. I approached the woman and asked her if she was ok. She replied "no!" she was rocking back and forth and saying she was sick, and scared. She started to gag several times. She was almost hyperventilating. I asked her her name and she told me. She was holding a cellphone. I asked if there was anyone she could call and she just glanced wildly at the stores, people and cars. I asked if I could call for help and she said YES! She started to cry and said I'm so embarrassed....I don't know whats wrong....I asked her if she had "taken anything" and she said just my medicine. I thought....oh yeah, I'm sure. .I called the police again and said HURRY! They were there but couldn't find us. She had her cellphone on her lap....her dad was on speaker phone yelling WHERE ARE YOU....she kept saying I don't know! He sounded frantic. I kept leaning over the phone saying "It's ok...I've called for help" but I don't think he could hear me. Finally the police came, four officers. As they approached me I asked them to get her phone and speak to her father....one of them did. I pulled one off to the side and said "she's very erratic, I'm sure she's on something, she's gagging, hyperventilating......maybe she OD'd on something....the officers told me, "no, we know her very well....she's schizophrenic.
A person diagnosed with schizophrenia may demonstrate auditory hallucinations, delusions, and disorganized and unusual thinking and speech; this may range from loss of train of thought and subject flow, with sentences only loosely connected in meaning, to incoherence
I felt so horrible. I'd judged this woman as being so many awful things. Mental illness never once crossed my mind. Drug addict yes...prostitute maybe....but to see her so scared and confused and frightened, and crowds of people walking by IGNORING her......I just couldn't believe my eyes. I wondered what would have happened to her if I'd just gone on my own way.....would she have been hit by a car? would she have become lost in the dark and froze? When I left the scene I felt like I'd saved her. I also felt like crap for judging her.
Don't assume you know the story. Stop and ask. and listen.