When the voices stopped
Of the 30 or so people bundled up outside the food van in North Surrey Monday night, it’s estimated the vast majority are dealing with some kind of mental health issue.
But almost none waiting for the nightly meal provided by NightShift Street Ministries are willing to admit it to a stranger.
An exception is the 55-year-old man with the red ball cap and clear chestnut eyes standing back and watching over the crowd.
Clayton is here for the food, but more than that, he’s here for the fellowship.
The long-time sufferer of schizophrenia finds people in the line-up with similar conditions who accept him the way he is.
Clayton is stabilized now, but he remembers with frightening clarity the hallucinations that forced him into a life of isolation.
At age 21, he began hearing voices of demons and angels, while feeling ghostly hands patting his body down.
It wasn’t until he was 42 that he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and it’s only been the last few years that he has found relief with the right medications.
It wasn’t easy getting here.
He was afraid to seek help because of his tremendous fear of medical professionals. He was worried he’d be heavily drugged or locked up in a psych ward.
Asked to elaborate on what it was like for him living with his disease, he stops.
“I don’t want to relive that nightmare,” urging an end to the line of questioning.
Now that he’s stable and able to fit in with the community, he’s been trying to help others on the street.
He thinks the province needs to spend more money and resources on outreach for those who are sick and counselling for people seeking help.
It’s those things that helped Clayton ignore his demons and finally reach out to medical professionals for help.
About 20 metres in front of him, David Hempton (pictured at left) shuffles back and forth with his last bits of food from the truck.
The lanky 45-year-old suffers from anxiety and depression. He manages to hold down a mascot position with Church’s Chicken, but the rest of his life lacks control.
A relative called the police on him for stepping foot on the family property Sunday “because I’m a Christian,” he says.
Like Clayton, Hempton says the worst manifestation of his malady is isolation.
Most days, he prefers to stay inside rather than face the public.
And living in isolation, they both say, is not a pleasant way to live.