Hi, my name is Dave and I have a friend who is mentally ill. More than one, but one that is relevant to the theme of this post. He's probably going to read this, so I should probably be nice! This is a friend who I consider part of the 'inner circle', that is the group of friends who's time I value the most. Time is a big deal in this relationship because the nature of his illness is to deprive him, and those around him, of time to spend with him. For a number of reasons, and quite contrary to his preferences, he becomes unable to interact healthily with the rest of the world. This in itself is frustrating for an intelligent, entirely lucid, and rational man, who's is entirely aware of the affect as it happens. It is my experience that most mental illness can be painfully subtle, while the media often portrays insanity that raves and babbles, most mental illness simply undermines your coping mechanisms; taking away your confidence and your will. I digress.
So time becomes a problem. This person, I know, does not value his own time as much as myself and my partner value his time. In fact, from his perspective the one thing he always has in abundance is time. Time to fill, time to waste, time to wait. It's a little ironic then that his friends have the opposite experience. We opportunistically wait for available time and try to snatch it up whenever it surfaces. To us, those windows, sometimes vanishingly short and sometimes abundant, are precious. We allow him leeway that we would not quickly forgive our other friends, allow him to dictate the schedule and take no offence when plans are broken and cut short. Behaviour that might under other circumstances become rapidly frustrating. It is special treatment.
This isn't for his benefit, at least not directly; we're not being charitable because he's unable to meet some standard. Really we're selfish, we are simply applying very basic economics: the time is valuable and so we actively promote the conditions in which available time is maximised. We all invest in people for the benefit of the relationships we have with them and I have been wondering today if he is aware of why we invest in him.