We all have bad days. I think we’ve all sat around with our friends or loved ones and said “Well you think you’ve had a bad day…”
Neil is pretty sure he hasn’t had the worst of all bad days. If that were true, the world would be a better place than he know it is. After all, he has a family that loves him, friends that support him, a place to live and more than a fighting chance at a future.
If there is one thing that schizophrenia has taught him, it is that he is lucky to have so much going for him. Few people have the advantages he does, and for that he hopes he has shown proper gratitude.
Still, the phrase “bad day” does pass his lips from time to time. He has them. He used to have more of them. For more than a few years every day was a “bad” one.
And that is his reference point. The phrase “bad day” refers to a day when he cannot keep his illness in check. When that private sea of pain and misery, too indescribable from words, is forced (usually by stress) to be (at least in Neil’s view) public.
The fear that Neil feels is raw and real and makes it so much worse. Neil walks a life where the word “schizophrenia” is associated through ignorance with words like “unstable” or “violence” and even “serial killer.” If on a “bad day” he even shows a hint of instability, if he lets his illness show too much, will the people in his life still accept him as a person?
This is the beginning of what Neil means when he says he’s having a “bad day.” People have wondered why Neil’s scale of days seems to start at OK rather than anything lower. He did seem a bit “off” after all. But those days are welcome, because while he may be sad or lonely or frustrated or angry, it wasn’t a “bad day.”
What you need to know: Bad days come few and far between. It isn’t a breakdown but it is serious. Neil should go home as soon as possible or if that isn’t possible, go to some place where he feels safe and won’t be stressed.
What you should do: If you wish to help Neil, encourage him to go home. He needs to make sure he eats and make sure he sleeps. Remember even on a “bad day,” tomorrow is a new day. As the wisemen who supposedly were charged with finding a truth that applies in all places and all times apocryphally said, “this too shall pass.”
What you shouldn’t do: Basically agitate him or expect anything from him today. Just let him be. Remember, on a good day he’ll more than make up for it.
Neil may have used pointed you to this page because he used the phrase “bad day” with you and you didn’t understand what he meant. Or you might be curious about what Neil’s bad days are like. Regardless, this description is used very infrequently, but it is very serious from Neil’s perspective.