The Soloist – Part II


He did it. A book club of 16 women, all in their 70’s (three of which were his friends’ grandmas!) He wasn’t alone in not reading the book, others had just watched the movie as well. It was a big group, unusual for us, people were interested. They were delighted to have a young man want to be part of the discussion.

About half the room felt that, if the mentally ill would just take their medicine then they wouldn’t be homeless. The other half recognized it wasn’t that simple.

Then there was my son. He was the only person who related to Nathaniel – a 50-year-old paranoid schizophrenic & Julliard music prodigy.

Part of the controversy of the movie is, at what point do you force an adult to take medicine?

Can you force them, just because they choose to live on the street? Violent? Uncommunicative? I imagine there is a lot of undiagnosed autism among the homeless. My son said, if he was offered medicine to “fix” his autism he wouldn’t want to take it because he wouldn’t be himself anymore.

The other part of the story is, why is it so hard to get the homeless to come inside?

My son reminded us that Nathaniel had the opportunity to be inside but didn’t choose it. Nathaniel didn’t want to leave his routine and his possessions. My son explained the extreme need to keep his own room in a certain order, that not being able to have his writing supplies and comics would cause too much anxiety. He got it. 

He got what none of us understood. Living your best life isn’t defined by others, it’s about being allowed the freedom to make your own choices in your time. Living on the street wasn’t a bad thing. It was the only choice that Nathaniel had to be himself.

As a few women shared that they battle mental illness, I noticed they didn’t identify with Nathaniel. They didn’t group themselves with the mental illness that causes homelessness. My son though, did. He recognized that his autism could take him there, but he didn’t view it as less than.

I am a fixer. I want to swoop in and get things solved. Create meaningful outcomes. That is not how time works for the homeless, or the paranoid schizophrenic or the autistic.

School gets in the way of my son’s real life. In his real life he creates intricate stories. His desk drawers have always been filled with stories on paper and now my excel program is filled with flowcharts. Mapping, it is called.  And when he’s not drawing or typing he’s telling me stories. Constantly talkIng.

So, what about The Soloist sparked such passion for him? I think it was watching a story of a person like himself. Someone who fits in until he can’t anymore. That being yourself looks different from the rest of the kids.

As the rest of us felt called to action, to donate money, work at a soup kitchen or even just say hello to a homeless person, my son felt is was important to share Nathaniel’s side of the story. Nathaniel wasn’t looking for help. Help meant change and change meant not being allowed to be yourself.

Do we – meaning those of us with homes & linear brains – do we have the right to “fix” ?

4 thoughts on “The Soloist – Part II

  1. What a hard question.
    I have always worked hard to ensure I fulfilled my role as a successful part of society.
    But as I came to accept my actual compulsive behaviour, episodes of severe depression and anxiety, and continued work on mental health, I see it differently.

    I can see myself in the homeless person. Perhaps if I hadn’t had the support (or pressure) of my family growing up. If th ended for approval had been a little less strong. That might be me. It could still be me.

    And that is a scary thought. I am a 43 year old professional. I have 3 university degrees. I have a house, a family.

    Yet I could see an alternate path that could happen.

    Your son sounds like an amazing man. Allowing ourselves to feel our truth is a difficult thing. He does it. What a gift.



  2. Untipsyteacher

    I think Anne is right.
    If I didn’t have support of family and friends, with my anxiety, depression, and later alcohol problems, I could have been homeless, too.
    We all need to feel we have some control over our own lives, and I know what it feels like to be numbed out on prescription drugs. It’s yucky feeling.
    Your son is quite a young man, to go to the book club and help other people understand.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s