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By Philip Morton

I first met Sheila whilst staying at a guesthouse in Kendal, in the Lake District. The establishment was run by a charity called 'Making Space' who own a number of flats and homes for the mentally ill. I was on holiday, at the time, with a friend named Steven. Steven and I were residents in a residential hostel in Ellesmere Port, Cheshire.

I had just unpacked my suitcase in my room and afterwards, as it was a fine day, I was sitting in the garden of the guesthouse smoking a cigarette when Sheila came outside for the same reason. She introduced herself and I did likewise. We talked for a while and then parted.

That evening I met Sheila in the lounge and we talked again. Steven and I were planning to go by 'bus to Keswick next day. Before very long I invited the girl to go on the trip with us. She accepted my invitation and, after a little while, we parted to go to our respective bedrooms.

The next day was dull and rainy, which is not unusual in the Lake District. However, Steven and myself met Sheila at the 'bus station and we boarded the coach to Keswick. I sat beside the girl and the conversation flowed easily between us. I discovered that, like Steven and I, she suffered from schizophrenia. She was on holiday away from her home in Manchester.

Although the weather was rotten, the three of us enjoyed ourselves in Keswick. We had a meal in a public house and we all got on very well.

Steven and myself were returning to Ellesmere Port the next day and, before taking our leave of Sheila, she gave us both two envelopes not to be opened until we arrived at the railway station. When we duly opened the envelopes, we found that they both contained the girl's address and telephone number.

A few days after returning to the hostel, in Ellesmere Port, I wrote a letter to Sheila. I also telephoned the girl and we arranged for her to travel from Manchester to see the two of us.

These visits became a regular occurrence and, in spite of the age difference between Sheila and myself (I am twenty years older than her) we found that we were growing fond of each other.

I also saw Sheila at her home in Manchester for, apart from a brother, who shares my name Philip, she lived alone. Her home was spotless.

Eventually, we decided to both get homes in Chester, in order to be close to each other. We were lucky to obtain a flat each and we now live within two minutes' walking distance from each other.

Sheila's illness is not as well controlled as mine, as the psychiatrists cannot seem to find the right medication to treat her problems. She bears her suffering with great courage and is to be admired because she nursed her late mother, who had cancer, in spite of her other troubles.

At times, I feel quite helpless to comfort her, as she cannot quite get over her mother's death---in spite of the fact that it is ten years since the tragedy took place. Sheila's late mother was the only real friend she had.

Sheila was also sexually abused as a child and this is largely responsible for her illness. This fact has left her quite like a small girl in many ways, which I find appealing. For it brings out my paternal instinct.

The girl is very gifted and, as I am suffering from the effects of a stroke, she looks after my flat, seeing to my paperwork and other domestic chores--like making curtains and the like.

She has great faith in God, which, I can only admire. I support her by talking, to the medical team who look after her. I do hope that, some day, they will really be able to help her to become well. That is the story of my Sheila. God Bless Her!


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