I’ve woken at about 2:30 in the morning and I am not tired. I might have forgotten to take AM medication yesterday. This morning I’m taking the pills very early to be sure I don’t miss them. I have chronic schizoaffective disorder, or at least that’s my current diagnosis. In my past, I was pegged with “Schizophrenia: Paranoid-type.” My diagnosis was changed because the presumption is, if you are intelligent and able to do things with your mind, you are not schizophrenic. The other possible reason for the change in diagnosis is the fact of my recovery. I haven’t been re-hospitalized in about 30 years. This is because I’ve been medication compliant all of this time. 

The treatment professionals I’ve been dealing with for the past two decades don’t really understand the severity of my condition because they have not seen me relapse. Yet not relapsing requires a lot of diligence and a lot of effort. I don’t take it for granted that I won’t relapse. It takes vigilance. 

After medication, I want to eat, smoke, and drink iced instant coffee. The difficult part of this is trying to get in my smokes. Where I live, the rule is “no indoor smoke.” And I won’t violate that rule—it would be remarkably foolish to do so. 

It has been very hard on numerous levels to adapt to living alone at this place. More than six months ago it seemed urgent for me to leave my wife. I was in denial for years. I’m speculating it was an unsafe situation for me. I assert that from cumulative observations and a gut certainty. 

There are a lot of good people here. I would like to get to know some of them better and form more of a bond. 

I go out to my car, and I smoke. Both cigarettes are welcomed by my brain with its addiction to nicotine and to the thousands of other substances that make quitting such a near-impossibility. The cigarettes go down well, and I come upstairs, and I eat breakfast. Additionally, I have my coffee. 

I’ve badly missed how I lived before I came here. I often wish I could go back. But all indications are that it won’t happen. Off and on, I hold the belief that it was a grave mistake and misjudgment to abandon my wife. At other times, my mind wanders and I ponder about some of the unexplained things, and suspicious things, that played into my paranoid thinking. Was it a bad idea to leave? I don’t know. 

It is 4:00 a.m., and I go downstairs for more smoking. I’m locked in my car and there seems to be no one around. But then a very bright spotlight is all over the little bit of street where I am parked. It is a cop car.

I have no way of knowing whether the police are specifically looking into me to see what I’m up to, or whether they are responding to something entirely different. In the past, an officer had informally said the only two kinds of people who are out at such hours, “are cops and crooks.” 

When in an encounter of any kind with police, I am always worried, and I should be. And I decide it is a good moment to get out of my car and come back upstairs. And then it occurs to me that I could write. 

I have a hard path ahead. Trump will very likely return to the White House in less than one year. This could impact my life in many ways. The Social Security Administration will change. It may become harder to collect essential cash and health-care benefits. 

At the same time, I am getting older. And with how the economy has been, what I collect in benefits is becoming decreasingly survivable. I go down a third time to smoke and it is somewhat after five in the morning, which probably qualifies as commute hours. There is no sign of police on my street. The air is cold but not unpleasant. The car windows are loaded with condensed water. I smoke, and I realize I’m smoking too much too early. It feels outrageous that police need to show up because of someone having insomnia and a nighttime smoke. I have rebellious feelings. 

That’s the perspective where I can identify with “defund police.” I can’t agree completely because we rely on them for too many essential services. But we need to find better ways of holding them accountable. And they should not get away with bullying people. 

I leave off this paper with the thought that maybe I was meant to be here doing this and writing this. I am cautiously optimistic. My life, with some rough patches, has continued thus far, and maybe I’ll do better than I think I will. The smart and the kind just need to hang on a while, and we will get beyond whatever nonsense the U.S. Government wants to dish out. We’ve done it before, and we can do it again. 

Jack Bragen is author of “Revising Behaviors that Don’t Work,” “Instructions for Dealing with Schizophrenia,” and “Jack Bragen’s 2021 Fiction Collection,” and lives in Martinez.