I’ve seen the same guy on the train for the last few days and he looks a lot like my friend Troy. He’s always on his phone and wears a brown jacket and dark grey jeans. I wonder where he goes? Maybe to work? He must be a creature of habit like me because we sit on the same seats facing each other on the second-last train carriage every morning.
When I look at him (I hope I’ve not been staring!), my heart breaks a little because I think “this is the other life Troy could have lead”. If Schizophrenia hadn’t destroyed and deleted my friend Troy in the last 5-10 years…maybe he’d be on a daily commute to work too?
At 18, Troy was quiet but cocky. He was softly spoken and a deep thinker, but once he felt comfortable with you, he would say a cheeky comment here and there; like a reward for breakingthrough his barriers almost. Troy loved going on long walks back then – for hours. He used to wear a brown corduroy jacket which really suited him. Troy was tall…maybe 6 feet? Had golden/brown eyes, a straight nose, nice lips and dark, wavy hair that often hung over one eye – like Elvis. He had a trim, fit young man’s body.
Troy was a handsome guy.
Troy had the spirit of “an old soul” and listened a lot more than he spoke…but when he did talk, Troy was filled with riddles, rhymes and words of wisdom.
Troy was part of the Youth group I went to; about 20-25 of us in our teens and were really close friends. We were all so excited, cheeky, giddy and nervous; all tripping over our words and figuring out what to say and when – so at the time, the occasional “weird things” Troy was starting to say in our early 20’s slipped quietly under the radar.
It was Troy’s first hospital admission that made so many of us suddenly aware that our friend was suffering with a mental illness. Something wasn’t right and we needed to band together and support him, so we’d visit in little groups and make a big deal of Troy when he came back to Youth group.
Over the years, Troy was admitted more often to the Psych ward of a public hospital. “Graylands” is a place of desolation and despair. I think if a person went there who was “slightly depressed”, just being there would make them 10 times worse. It was hard to visit Troy in there during the 90’s and early 2000’s because he’d often be in a “locked ward” that was more like a grey prison cell than a patient ward. It hurt to see him like that.
For about 15 years, Troy tried really hard to get well and to manage the increasing control schizophrenia was gaining over him. He took his meds “I hate them, Janet – they make me feel numb” and went to hospital many times, each stay got longer and longer. In spite of Troy’s efforts, he wasn’t getting better.
So I get why he just gave up in the end. Troy stopped taking his medication and turned instead to cigarettes and coke. Having so much sugar in such huge amounts every day made Troy triple in size.
Troy’s schizophrenia quickly took over him. Now Troy not only looked different, he was no longer quietly spoken, sweet, thoughtful and kind…now he was angry, menacing and filled with awful, evil sayings about murder, blood, evil spirits…it was scary to listen to him.
When Troy jumped our fence and pounded on the door demanding to be seen, it was the last nail in the coffin of our friendship.
As I write, I’m sad to know I lost my friend. Troy is now living almost permanently in a locked psych ward in Bentley hospital. His parents told me that Troy is happy there, benefits from a strict daily routine and likes the staff.
What makes me sad is to think of what could have been. Back in the day, I had a huge crush on Troy. He was a pizza delivery guy then and I remember I spent all my savings ordering pizza one night just so I could see him. I think I had 4 different deliveries before I finally answered the door to Troy. Haha. Young love.
Troy could have been a carpenter or plumber or electrician. A tradie because he liked working with his hands. Troy could have been married with kids; tickling his son on the lawn on a summer’s day as they played catch, wiping dishes dry while his wife washed them…side by side, happy and content at the kitchen bench.
In another universe, Troy doesn’t have schizophrenia. He’s successful and happy.
In another place in a different time, Troy is taking a seat on a train to work. He’s scrolling on his phone and chuckling at stupid cat videos.