Understanding a Roommate with Schizophrenia
by RI Editors
This essay in our Peculiar Minds series is written anonymously, with names changed for privacy.
I met Trudy for the first time when I got home from work and she was unpacking in my bedroom. Aisha, my former roommate, had turned in her mission papers mid-semester and surrendered her housing contract for the complex rental office to sell on her behalf. So when Trudy walked into their office, they were happy to offer her our apartment as her new home without so much as an advisory telephone call to us, her new roommates.
Trudy’s words of introduction to me seemed without segue or logic. She wasn’t a student; she was here to get the job God told her to find. She was getting married to someone who lived in our apartment complex; she had met him in the temple. Her sentences were peppered with non sequiturs and bold pronouncements. She had grand plans. She saw angels. She spoke with God. I was angry with Aisha for leaving me vulnerable to this new roommate. I hated going home and avoided it whenever possible. My roommates played jarring music that Trudy hated so she would leave.
The more time I spent with Trudy, the more unsettled I felt around her. We never met the person she said she was going to marry. She never got a job. After a while, with the help of a family friend, we learned that she was already married and had left after suffering a psychotic break. She would call the bishop almost daily and then he would call me at work and ask me what really happened. I got to know the bishop really well during this time.
Trudy often spoke of angels, of what God was telling her to do. She did a lot of research and made a lot of plans. Everything she said was unsettling and off-balance and feeling that way made me feel entirely disingenuous. Didn’t I believe in revelation? Didn’t I believe that God talks to His children? Why, then, did every visitation and revelation from Trudy’s mouth make me cringe? Why did I doubt so completely that she saw whom she said she saw and heard what she said she heard?
My roommates felt the same way. It was a surreal and disturbing ride whenever Trudy was home. We hated that we felt this way. But we all agreed that we felt this way. Our family home evening sisters called us uncharitable, told us we were downright mean. The bishop kept calling me to try and sort things out. He talked to family friends and gathered as much real information as he could and we all prayed.
Trudy’s lack of a job led to her rent check bouncing. Our paternalistic landlord called the bishop and asked what he wanted to do. The bishop, the kindest man I have ever met, felt that eviction could perhaps help her, so they did. Trudy eventually ended up sleeping on the couch of our more charitable family home evening sisters, who within days were begging for our forgiveness for their harsh judgments. They had her involuntarily committed. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. She called us at least once a day to talk of her research on the inappropriate uses of psychotropic meds. Nothing seemed to be helping. She was agitated now, because the voices had stopped and she seemed frantic for them to return.
She appealed her commitment hearing and they had to release her. She wasn’t of physical danger to herself or anyone else. She didn’t come back to us. She stopped calling. One day later that summer, I thought I saw her on the street and I nearly crashed my car. And then in the fall, my former roommate watched Trudy stand up in her sacrament meeting and sing a musical number. My roommate panicked and ran out of the meeting.
Why was our reaction so universally fearful? She never hurt us or even threatened harm. During the time Trudy was in my life and in my room, I deeply questioned everything about divine communication that I thought I knew. Ultimately, my only conclusion as to why I was certain she neither saw angels nor heard God was that the fruits of her communications were not peace. No one felt better for what she saw and heard, not even Trudy. She seemed disoriented, even in her certainty of angelic ministrations.
As much as she deferred to her voices — believing them to be angels — did Trudy have moments of lucidity? I don’t know. She seemed entirely given over to the delusions; she was lost and agitated when they were gone during her medicated stay in the psych ward. I wonder what I would have done if I were her family. They let her leave when she had her psychotic break and there were many days I was very angry they didn’t do more to keep her home and safe, if not for herself, for us. But really, what could they have done? I only know that we were ill-equipped to do anything.
I know more about mental illness now than I did then. I recognize the frenetic plans and research as likely how Trudy’s bipolar disorder worked with her schizophrenia. I imagine the disorientation of walking around with all those voices in your head all the time and I don’t know that I would have been able to choose the real ones either.
The Entire Series
- Forum – Is Mental Illness a Latter Day Plague?
- Resources (research)
- Resources for Help with Mental Illness by Paul
- Understanding PTSD by Robin Grosland
- Anxiety Disorders, Including PTSD (research)
- The Diagnosis by anonymous
- Understanding Asperger’s by Kathy Ward
- Understanding Dementia by Cassandra Jones
- Different Issues for Children (research)
- Asperger’s and Autism (research)
- Simply Depression by Jendoop
- How to Help Someone Who is Depressed: an LDS perspective by Sarah Hancock
- Forum – Does Committing Suicide Consign Someone to Hell?
- The Well of Depression by Cheryl
- Panic, OCD, Grandma and Me by NotMolly
- Understanding Panic Disorder, Agoraphobia, and OCD by Robison Wells
- Free at Last by anonymous
- Forum – No One Wants to Hear They’re Wrong
- Understanding P0rnography Addiction by Dr. Kevin Skinner
- What is Real? Living Without Diagnosis by anonymous
- A Reader’s Story of Hope by anonymous
- Understanding Bipolar II Disorder by Tresa Edmunds (Reese Dixon)
- What is Bipolar Disorder? (research)
- Choosing Treatment through Revelation by Bonnie
- Overcoming Anxiety and Depression Without Medication by Aaron Anderson
- How Do We Embrace Those with Mental Illness by Jendoop
- What is Schizophrenia? (research)
- Understanding Schizophrenia by Judy Hall
- Understanding a Roommate with Schizophrenia by anonymous
- Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder by Melissa Horsley
- My Path Down the Rabbit Hole by anonymous
- Mental Illness FHE Lesson by Jendoop
- Healing by Michelle