Memoir

Vincent — Flying too Close to the Ground

I had a lot of respect for these people who had not chosen to suffer with mental disorders, but I did manage to put boundaries in place…

May More 💜 Tales
The Memoirist
Published in
7 min readJul 27, 2022
Paintography. Double exposure profile portrait of a young, attractive man.
Copyright Deposit photos standard licence Victor_Tongdee — adapted by author

In this memoir, I want to look back directly at a time when I was working in the mental health sector, and I met Vincent.

Many years ago, I was studying for a degree in abnormal psychology. Thinking I would eventually find a career in the area I took on a voluntary job a few evenings a week. It involved working at a drop in centre for those with mental health problems such as Schizophrenia and Bipolar disorder. I thought this would provide me with solid experience, which I needed to include in my curriculum vitae.

After Vincent, I changed my career path.

Quite a few of these drop in centres had sprung up as a support network since care for those with mental health issues had been moved from state help to community groups. The umbrella in the UK was — and still is — Mind. Supplied with the necessary information, my job was to offer advice regarding housing, form filling, or medication. But mainly I simply sat and chatted with the members over a cup of coffee.

As the weeks went by, it was difficult not to care personally about these people. I remember one experience when I was talking to someone who was at that moment having a delusion in which he was a royal prince from the Tudor age. Another guy was a very talented poet. On my birthday, he gave me a wonderful gift of a poem he’d written especially for me. I still have it to this day.

They all had such individual stories and I cared about their welfare, did my best to help them but was advised to keep a professional distance. I had a lot of respect for these people who had not chosen to suffer with mental disorders, but I did manage to put boundaries in place.

That was… until Vincent.

It was Autumn and I had been working there for about six months when he popped in for the first time. I noticed him immediately. He was very handsome. Dark good looks with an amazing smile. Vincent had quite a few friends who attended. I couldn’t work out how or why he knew so many. He himself seemed level-headed, stable, beautiful.

Rather than the distinction between normal and abnormal, psychologists focus on the level of distress that behaviors, thoughts, or emotions might cause.

Very Well Mind.

By chatting on different occasions, I learned about his journey…

Vincent was twenty-five and not on any medication. He rented a small flat in the nearest town and cycled to work each morning. He was a toolmaker and grateful for his life because it had nearly turned out very differently.

One evening, aged eighteen, he went out with a group of four friends. On the way home, the car was involved in a dreadful accident. I can’t remember the circumstances precisely, but I know he wasn’t driving. He never drove.

After a few days of being sedated in hospital because of his injuries, Vincent woke up. He began to recover and ask questions. It was then they told him — everyone involved in the accident had died, apart from Vincent.

He couldn’t compute. His brain would not accept this massive load.

Why had he been saved when they were all dead?

Getting out of bed he began to literally trash the ward. He was having a breakdown, probably caused by post-traumatic stress. Consequently, he was sectioned and spent the next six months as a patient at the local mental hospital. Here he first met the people who later attended the Mind centre.

After therapy and time, Vincent was able to leave and get on with his life. His illness had come on because of external events. Many people suffer from mental health problems that are triggered by internal circumstances — an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, for example. Most of those I worked with at the support club did, and their medication helped to level out the disparity.

Luckily, once Vincent had managed to work through much of what had happened, he was able to get on with his life. But he never forgot those friends he made in the hospital.

Christmas came upon us at the centre and we held a disco social evening. There was music and a few people sneaked in some beer. Vincent and I spent the entire night deep in conversation. He wanted to know all there was about me. We danced, and later sat outside holding hands. He told me he liked me. Because of my position at the group, I really didn’t know what to do, even though I cared about him.

We decided to remain just friends. My work there was due to finish in March, before my final studies and exams. He kept popping in, and once we went to the pub on the corner together. But then… he stopped coming.

After a few weeks, I asked around. But nobody knew why. These were the days before mobile phones. He couldn’t afford to have a landline, which meant our contact point was the club.

On the third week, one of his main friends came in. As I handed her a coffee she said,

“You and Vincent were close, right? He told me.”

I nodded my reply. And smiled at what he’d said to her. But then, it felt like I’d received a sharp bang to the head when she continued…

“Have you heard he’s dead.” Abrupt — but her precise words.

It had happened just a few days after I had seen him for the last time.

Vincent had been cycling to work and pulled up on the curbside of a lorry at the traffic lights. Apparently, the cab wasn’t indicating, so he would not have been aware of the vehicle’s intention to turn left. Also, the road itself was sharp, narrow and oblique — going back on itself.

The driver didn’t even notice a cyclist was there, even once he had gone under the lorry.

Vincent was unrecognisable. They had to put an advert in the local paper to find out if anyone knew who the young man may be. I still have the news cuttings.

I took this very hard. Retreating into my head for a few weeks. I couldn’t focus on anything but Vincent and kept bursting into tears. Looking back, it’s clear I was mourning, but more for what could have been than the past.

I wrote to his Mum and got a heartfelt reply. Thanking me for being his friend. He had told her all about me. This in itself felt like a blessing and a curse. It was way too late for any admissions to be made regarding my feelings.

A few months later, there was an inquest. Determined to attend, I had to walk out of an exam early. We all knew the result would be declared as accidental death. Thankfully, the road was blocked and deemed not safe to enter from that side. It became a one-way street. Still is to this day.

On completing my studies, I was offered a position in the mental health profession. I turned it down. After Vincent, I doubted my ability to cope in such an environment.

Instead, I entered a computer-based profession…

where it would be harder to collide with angels travelling too close to the ground.

Over the years Vincent has never been far from my mind. Because of knowing him I completely changed the path my life was taking.

I remember him being joyfully grateful for another chance at living. When he actually died, it seemed massively unfair to me his life had been snatched from beneath him. Particularly as he was full of youth, beauty and vitality — too good for this world, some may say.

In 2007 my own family survived a serious car accident. After, I had this impending doom the reaper had come for us and been denied, but would return … I likened the situation to my lovely friend surviving the first time and then being taken to heaven seven years later. I needed counseling to work through these issues.

However, I think Vincent had been watching over me as nothing grim happened. Nowadays, memories of him always remind me to actually live my life, rather than sit on the sidelines and watch it pass me by.

I thank the universe I knew Vincent, even if just for a short time.

Tagged for the Memoirist Idol. Please read the amazing memoir below by Patricia Hodge, which also involves vehicle accidents…

This is my 1st for The Memoirist but I'm looking forwarding to getting involved in more of their prompts & challenges.

Another Memoir by May More:

May More Editor: Tantalizing Tales & Redemption Magazine. Four times Medium Top Writer. Twitter @more_matters. Likes individuals, chickens, food & Italian wine.

--

--

May More 💜 Tales
The Memoirist

Passion for transgressive fiction & life stories. Ed Tantalizing Tales, Redemption, Teaser Tales, Lipstick & Powder. Like coffee, individuals, animals & wellies