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Out of It - An Autobiography of the experience of Schizophrenia
Out of It
Following is a draft of the first 20 pages of Michael's autobiography of his experience with schizophrenia. It provides a very good introduction to schizophrenia from a first-person's perspective. Michaeals's goal is to find a publisher for the book. If you know of a publisher that may be interested, please contact Michael at "michaelzshadow at yahoo.com"
This book is dedicated to the memory of Tony Coronado, who never lived to tell his own story about schizophrenia. God save those who suffer from the whispers and lies of schizophrenia….
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
Up until the last time change of 1997, near the middle of October, I was 35, heavily under financial pressure, working days and nights, and forlorn over having been able to find happiness in love from my past relationships. This moment in time was when the first episode happened, but back in 1993 was when it began. There were signs even then, signs that I was bordering towards a loss of reality, but the signs were always just thoughts I was either able to talk myself out of, or they simply remained in my mind as things that I could never figure out completely.
The first sign that I could remember was when my former employer was robbed. He was and still is quite wealthy, and the robbery has occurred when he was off on vacation. The robbers has gotten away with two metal safes that he bought linked together so that they would be harder to transport in case they were stolen. The first day back at work he was obviously very upset over the robbery, and he, I thought, was suspecting everyone outside of his family at this stage to be possibly involved. Due to the state-of-the-art security technology installed at his house, (telephone lines were under the slab of the house to prevent them from being cut, etc.) and since my boss hardly ever went anywhere, the idea of someone he knew could have been responsible for the crime was understandable.
My problem was that until these last six months of sanity and clear retrospect, I had believed that he always thought that I had been in on the crime. Three incidents began the paranoia that stayed with me right on into my first major episode, which didn’t happen until four years later. The first sign was when my employer decided to be a nice guy and let me have the old company microwave when he bought a new one for the office. When I was in the break-room, he just gave it to me, his expression I remember was simply one of anticipation to see how happy it made me, but at the time, that face of his only looked ominously hateful. I believed at that moment that the microwave was “bugged” with a hearing device, which surprises me even at the time that I’m writing this because this was four years early to my first full episode. A sentimental visitor who came by my house and said he just wanted to look inside the duplex because he used to live there caused the second incident that marks the beginning of paranoia. I believed that he had actually come in disguise. I thought that he was a private investigator looking for evidence of me stealing from my employer. He said that he didn’t want to come in at my asking so I figured he was secretly letting me know that he thought I was the thief.
Over the next few years, I began talking to the microwave that I thought was “bugged”, begging my employer not to throw me in jail or sometimes just talking about how sorry I was that he was robbed. Meanwhile, at work, I just acted like I didn’t think anything was wrong.
By this time, the paranoia and the isolation I had surrounded myself with for years were finally coming to fruition. Before I has started seeing Shari again, I was already believing again that not only was my present employer after me, but also that he was allies with my former employer, who was also a millionaire that I believed to have ill wishes for me due to his own suspicions about me being involved in the robbery. Every harsh word that I had ever had with fellow employees, every cold shoulder I passed at work, all the over-worked hours and fretting over bills had taken it’s toll. I was being set up by men with big money for a life in prison, and now everyone that I knew was making money or harboring vengeance by waiting for enough evidence against me, and enough time for me to fall into their trap.
One night, it began. I had stopped eating because I thought that it was going to be any day that They were going to take me into the police station, and when that happened, I wanted to have a head-start on starving myself so that I could die before They had the satisfaction of seeing me in prison. The next day, I was fully paranoid, and by the time I had got home from work, I fell on my knees and cried because I knew that Shari, my girlfriend, was in on it too. Then to reaffirm that, she called me, asking me as usual, if I wanted to come over and watch a movie. I was furious because I felt betrayed, and as time and time again would show in the future, I never made known what I believed or how emotional I really was. So I went to Shari’s.
When I got there, her and two roommates, one male and his girlfriend, were getting ready to watch the video, and Shari wanted to know if I wanted to get her some ice cream. Being sure that this was a trick to tempt me to finally start eating because they knew I loved ice-cream, I said I would go get it, but I sure wasn’t eating any. She picked up on this and asked why and I told her I was fasting. She and I went to get nice-cream, and I could see that she was beginning to be kind of uncomfortable with my mood. At the time, I believed that this was because she was only nervous because I was beginning to know about her horrible betrayal to send me to prison, which stirred my anger even more. When Shari and I went to the store, there was a brand new red dodge pick-up behind me on the road. It kept revving it’s engine loudly at the stop light and I imagined that it was Them or somebody working for Them. I didn’t mention that I was afraid to Shari.
When we returned to her place, she again teased me with the ice cream to see if I would succumb, which in an act of defiance I did not.
Days before this visit to Shari’s, I had called to see if I could come over, and Shari’s brawny male roomie had answered the and said, “No she’s gone out to Venture, (a retail store) but she’ll be back soon.” I heard him kind of groan suddenly, and envisioned Shari giving him fellatio while he was on the phone with me. I kept calling back after that just to agitate them, since I thought that they were having sex to enrage me.
Returning to the night in progress, we all sat down to watch the movie, and Shari politely asked the male roomie to pass her the ash-tray, since I was sitting between them, he handed it to me to give to her, (I took this as a joke on me for knowing about what they “did” on the phone days before), I said to the male after he handed me the ash-tray, “you can give it to her if you want, I don’t care…” This just brought a questioned look on his face (and a hint of anger when I thought he got my suggestion) but inside, I reveled in my brilliant gesture to anger him, (and the attempt to shame Shari). I continued through the evening’s movie making what I thought were relevant jokes and remarks to try to outrage them into saying something, but ofcourse, they had no idea what I was even suggesting, so it never amounted to anything but shrugs and questioning frowns.
When it was bedtime, Shari and I retired to her room I didn’t say anything, but I do remember sensing that she was becoming very uncomfortable by my actions. I laid down, while she tried to sleep beside me, although I think that she was too disturbed to sleep. I sat up and listened to the other tenants outside yelling and laughing, but decided that they were actually being proud that I finally knew about Their plan.
After about two hours, I just got up and started to get dressed, awaking and scaring Shari at the same time. She asked where I was going, and I said something like- “there’s too many jerks around here for me to sleep.”
As I left, Shari bitterly argued in confusion that I shouldn’t leave. I remembered a news story I had read as I left her apartment to go to my car. It was about a man who was raped by two men when the man had pulled over on the freeway to repair a tire. I began thinking that this story was actually put in the paper as a threat to what was about to happen to me as I crossed the parking lot. I prepared to think how I would kill the men who were about to try and rape me. Nothing happened as I got in my car, but I supposed that They were only letting me know that They could have if They wanted. I pulled out and headed for the freeway. I noticed a champagne suburban in a vacant parking lot and as I passed , I realized it was Them. The suburban pulled out and followed me on the highway. I started singing to the radio at the top of my lungs, being adrenalized into action by the underground pursuers. I sped at least 85 on the road, believing that if I made it home, I would be safe. When I finally closed my front door behind me at home, I ran and jumped on my bed and screamed, “Thank You, Jesus, Your heart is white!!” After crying and praying for what seemed a long time, I fell asleep.
The next day, somehow I didn’t feel the fear like I did the night before. When I got to work, it was uneventful since I never talked to anyone there anyways; I finished the day and went home. Shari called again, and I went over again, anxious to see what would happen next. Her female roomie was getting ready to move out and there was a box of assorted appliances, junk, and books in it. I rummaged curiously through it because the roomie said she was going to through it all out.I noted enough in the box that I felt was worth saving, and agreed t o take it home with me.
Once home, I found an antique book, hand-dated in eloquent penmanship that it was offered to a friend in 1920-something. Immediately I remembered that my employer collected writing pens, and presumed it to be actually his writing. I turned to the microwave as I saw this and said, “thank you, Keith.” Just to show him that I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. The book was a classic called “Kim”. Later I theorized in belief that this actually spelled Mik backwards, therefore proving that it was indeed for me, since that was what I went by at work, and my boss always misspelled Mick, as Mik and now I was sure why. As I read the book during the next day and a half, I kept making connections and theories over the story line that I don’t remember now, but I do remember that it was the turning point from paranoiac to euphoric delusion.
Tonight was the time change, and I saw this as a portent of good will for me from them. They were letting me know that this new time change was for me, finally being let in on their secret. This was due to the fact that I deduced that the man “Kim” was well respected and liked; therefore, I was also liked in my employer’s eyes. The next day was Friday, payday.
I went to work feeling like it was a whole new world, and I had no idea how new this world become, yet. As I sat with great renewed relief to work at my desk, I wrote a note to my boss in huge letters on the desk, “thank you Keith, I have always loved you too” so that the hidden camera that he had would over me would read the words. A half and hour I got his reply.
I had been waiting for a raise almost a year and a half and asked more than a few times for a raise but was always denied. When I came back from getting coffee in the break room, my check was on my desk, face down. I turned it over just to make sure that there wasn’t an increase, (a ritual that I did without real hope, but did always) and there was an “increase”, thirty-five cents an hour. I bowed my head and sobbed as silently as I could. My employer did love me.
I became so euphoric at this point, that for the rest of the day I could barely stay at my desk, always going to hide in the back rooms of the office to cry with relief that I had been so wrong. My employer noticed this after several hours. After giving a man a raise, he was wondering why I wasn’t hard at work to show my gratitude. I just told him that I was overwhelmed by how pleased I was and I’m sure he didn’t understand that. Nobody knew yet just how delusional I was at this stage, and six months later when I was fathoms below the surface of reality, no one would know either, until I was ready for them to know.
I remained in the back room for the rest of the day, smoking and crying when I could, and at one point, I said out loud “you got to be kidding me?” to the hidden cameras. This was the second question I asked that day to Keith. It was also the one that sent me into the heights of euphoria when I would get my answer later that night.
This is the nature of how I understand schizophrenia, for every new question, there was always an answer, and for every answer there is a new question, and this was mental quid-pro-quo process is the staircase that descends into madness.
That night, I went home to my sister’s house to visit her family, and relayed my ideas to her and her husband about how crazy I felt, and even though they later told me that they suspected something was happening to me, they didn’t say anything then after talking to them. I believed everything was going to be fine now, and during that last visit with my sister and her family, it was. After I left there, the episode soared away from reality like an eagle that is told to fly to the sun.
On my way home that evening, I was almost to the city, and there on the west side of the highway, lit up in purple and gold, was an answer that I didn’t ask for. It just was. It was a huge billboard that said “No Kidding.” There wasn’t anything else on the billboard, and to this day I wonder why someone would just put those words on a paid ad without any relevance to anything else. I slowed down to make sure that there wasn’t anything suggesting the sponsor of the message. Nope. Nothing. I drove home knowing that this was bigger than just my employer liking me, the whole world loved me. I went home and got busy on trying to figure out just exactly how and why this was happening to me, and I could stay up as late as I wanted, it was Friday. I didn’t sleep until Saturday night.
I am a musician, and most of my free time, although scarce, has always been used by either listening to music, or playing it, and tonight was no exception. As soon as I got home, I started thinking that if the world truly did know all about me, they would especially know that I loved music. That meant to me was to start reading lyrics to songs. All night and all through the morning of the next day, each album cover I read pointed out in everyway that I was right. They were not after me, They knew every secret issue I had hidden, wanted me to face them with a counselor, and then it would be time to celebrate. All I had to do, according to my interpretation of the songs, was confess to some authority that I had issues inside that I should confront and work out. This secret or secrets, had to come out, if I wanted to be let out, or rather let in. To do this, I realized that it would be easy since everybody already knew everything about me anyways. But then I did something that showed me just how hard it really was when everyone in the world knows your secrets. I turned on the TV. The party had begun.
In one of the inside covers of the CD’s I had studied the previous night, there was a picture of the back of an obese man in what looked like pajamas; pajamas that looked hospital issue. There on the TV screen, as I turned it on to an arena full of people, behind the curtains of the stage, was the same man slowly as if he were in a trance. I changed the channel. One of the music channels was having an all day tribute to love songs. Every song was about the deepest love. A love that was long since over, but one that still burned in memory of that person who wrote it.
I suddenly knew why I had found the box of old things at Shari’s. The box was from my past. The box over wrought with love and grief over a woman I had loved in 1989. The things in the box were Amelia’s.
Back in 1989, Amelia and I were living together at the time, and I had just found out then that she intended on leaving me before she returned from college in Costa Rica, where she was finishing her degree. Being the only one living in our place, I took it upon myself to pack up her things and kick her out. She heard of this news from her friends. I never spoke to her again, even though I desperately tried to reach her. I still love her to this day.
Back in 1997, I flew off the couch and ran and kneeled at this now precious box. Everything was as it was then. Blue glass plates that we had ate off together, her old electric mixer that she so proudly used to make her buttermilk pancakes, more plates and glasses of ours, and silverware. All the old feelings of our times together in the kitchen were here. We loved to cook with each other, always complimenting each other on our prowess. ( We met in a restaurant where we worked as cooks.) I grabbed the box and ran into the kitchen and arranged all of the items onto my table. It was all so very clear, Amelia had been waiting all this time for me, waiting for this very day to come back into my life, our life. I shouted to her as loud as I could, “Where are you?? Amelia!? Amelia!? I love you damn it! Get your ass in here NOW!” I ran to the door, waited minutes, and started crying. Why was she waiting when she knew that I finally knew? Why was everybody waiting? The TV reminded me. I had to still unbury my past and come forward into the light of the world.
I was ready. Almost. There was a strong wind storm outside, and I had been smoking cigarette butts all night because I was too excited to take the time to do anything but search for answers. Now that I knew the answers, I needed a smoke. I knew that I was out of cash though, and hoped to use my credit card to obtain some. I went out into the new world, scared to death of seeing anyone, since I was still not used to anyone knowing me that well, especially since I had only known few people for the past 6 years. I got to the store and there were two Vietnamese girls waiting insides who told me that they do not accept credit cards. They kind of saw my desperation and laughed nervously. On the way home, I realized that this was because they were in awe that I was starting to realize what I needed to do.
As I pulled into the driveway, too scared to go anywhere else for cigarettes, a long white car violently turned the corner next to my house. There was a white-haired man in a cowboy hat looking at me as he went around the corner in the car. I went inside, gathered my courage, and began to call friends. My friend in Tulsa never knew exactly what was going on, but I thought he was just playing dumb. I noticed that while I was on the phone with him, the live audience on TV was getting more excited. I knew that I was supposed to act fast, since everyone was waiting for me to get this over with, so I hung up with my friend in Tulsa, and decided to call the one friend I had that had experience with how to find a psychiatrist.
After 30 minutes of pleading, the friend I called agreed to come over and see what I was talking about, and yes, she would bring some cigarettes.
When she arrived, she wasn’t any help. She could not agree with me on anything, or believe anything either. This only made me silent after a while, knowing she was just playing the role like everybody else in the world, waiting for me to give up and go to the shrink. So, she called her doctor for me and found out where I could go to get help. Since I was too scared to drive, she escorted me to the emergency room. On the way there, I just read signs and billboards to ease my anxiety on the way to finding Amelia and my world-known fame. I had a vision of people standing on both sides - of the road, cheering me on as I got to the hospital. I wasn’t sure if I was really here suddenly. Maybe I was the fat man at the arena on TV. There were many lyrics which referred to myself being in a comatose condition, where for years they had been trying to bring me to speak, but nothing was working, they were reaching me through some sort of dream—state, where they constructed all of what I saw and experienced as part of a self—sponsored project, meaning that without me knowing, they were allowed to use my wealth from fame to financially support this magnanimous psychiatric company that has been trying to revive me. Who gave them permission to use my money, since I was incapacitated? Then it came to me, it was my love. It had been Amelia who gave the go-ahead.
While being interviewed by the emergency room psychiatrist, the white-haired man in the cowboy hat that I had seen earlier looked inside. He was handsome, and even though the man looked older, I knew that it was my step-father.(but it actually wasn’t) After the brief interview with the doctor, I was allowed to leave with my family for several days. I stayed with my family, explaining and joking about how I knew that the joke was on them, and that I was onto everything they had been doing. Then I took on a more depressing state, as I realized more and more that I might not ever get out of this. Since I was in some sort of coma, it was clear that they didn’t know how to get me out. Of course Amelia was waiting to be in my arms, but she couldn’t do it while I was in this dream-state world, then I wouldn’t want to leave it. She was only trying to show me that she was standing by my bedside, crying and holding my hand, and overjoyed that I finally knew at least that she had always loved me.
The reason I believed I was so rich was because the whole world had been inspired by Amelia so bravely waiting trying to save me from my coma, that they had made movies, and songs, and used many of my own designs that they had somehow gotten from my subconscious mind, and I made millions from all the publicity from all the countries of the world. While home, sitting in my dream-state body, I wrote my last will and testament, in case I really didn’t get out alive. I donated 97% to Billy Graham, to help the world with the money, since he is the only man I trusted to use all that wealth without corruptly using it for his own gain. The rest I left to Amelia and my family. (3% of my estate, I estimated to be worth near the sum of 300 million.
When I was alone at night, before going to bed, I would talk to Amelia in a whisper, telling her that I loved her, and our children, (who were born by embryo transplant) and that if I didn’t make it out of the coma, that I wanted her to go ahead and let me die, and to go on with her life. I was scared of losing all this new life, but decided it wasn’t even worth living if I could never see the woman who had already wasted 6 years of her life praying and crying over me by my bedside. With this beautiful woman waiting, and millions of dollars and world—wide friends sitting beside her, I would laugh one moment, and then cry uncontrollably the next, over and over, walking back and forth and lamenting to my family, “what if I don’t make it out?”
The Rolling Stones were coming to a town very close to mine, and they were offering free tickets on the news and I thought that the Stones themselves were here to welcome me to my new dynasty.
The day before I was to be admitted for observations, I called my employer and proudly announced that I appreciated everything he had done for me, but now that I knew how wealthy I was, I didn’t need his money. He seemed quite accepting of this, and said good luck. I asked him if he would allow me the honor (even though I considered it be honoring him, since my genius of design was already well-known) of working together with him on designs for houses in the future. He at first became very annoyed that I had said this, but then later, probably realizing I was not sane, said that it might be possible.
The next day, before I was taken to the psychiatric ward, I was to see one doctor at another clinic before going there. On my way inside I passed a woman going out, and for some reason, she looked as though she were dead, she was well groomed, and had a decent body, but her face had the look of post-mortem. I gestured a hello by nodding to her, and she replied, much to my horror, in a morbid sounding low voice.. .“Hellooo”. Whether she was a patient I’ll never know, but now I think she was just a stroke victim or something. I never thought of this woman again until late in the second episode when walking dead women and other ghastly thoughts were more common.
After this, we went to the psychiatric ward and I was admitted. I was elated to go in, since at least it wouldn’t be long now before I got to see Amelia. Group sessions and single observations began immediately. I was diagnosed with schizo-effective behavior. (my current doctor’s diagnosis is paranoid schizophrenia) The doctors couldn’t understand why this had happened so late in my life, and continued to ask a complete retrospective to exactly what had happened in my life in the past that might explain why I was here. They still don’t know why. The only theory that seems to be the answer to all of us is that schizophrenia can happen at any time in a person’s life, if that person has any hereditary history.
The first mental ward I was admitted to was very nice. The interior was lush with furniture and aesthetic lighting, and the nurses and doctors were extremely attentive and caring. I don’t mean to say that the doctors and nurses in the other wards I visited were not, but I do believe that since this ward was not state-funded, but an actual place where the doctors are paid by insurance or family funds. The care was indeed better. One perk of this ward was that once admitted, you received a small plant with a little name card included. I had been looking for more clues ever since I got there and the main ones so far had only been the way the news—people and commercials were still continuing their encouragement for me to hold on and that help was coming. Two things I remember specifically as clues was that CBS or NBC, I don’t remember which, had a new way of inviting the viewer by having movie—stars saying “Welcome Home” with a sincere smile on their face. The other clue was that the views of the morning traffic were announced as being from the top of the hospital that I was staying in. This was because the world wanted to see exactly what I was seeing from outside my own window.
I was walking by the front—desk and a nurse said “Hey, you got something here.” I was given the plant, said thank you, turned away, and read the card. It was my name, but the penmanship was Amelia’s... I stopped, turned around, and with what must have been a surprised questioning face, peeked slowly around at the nurse who handed me the letter. She was grinning to the point of almost laughing because of my obvious surprise, and said, “You like that, huh?” I said, almost crying, “Thank you”~ and sprinted to my room to lay and stare for the next two hours crying and dreaming over my new message from Amelia.
Then it was time for what the ward called “quiet time” and all of the patients were taken to a media—room where we watched a nice film that was just footage of nature and animals in the wild. While I watched this, I noticed that the piano playing in the soundtrack of this film was played well, my dad played the piano well, and it occurred to me that this was the new role my dad must have in his own secret life in the real world, he was a well—known composer, and they were letting me hear it so I would know. I hid my emotion as usual and after the film I asked for one of the radios you could get at the front desk and went to my room (which at the time, I was the only occupant) to listen to the radio.
THE (live) RADIO
Inside the cassette player of the radio was a tape. It was unlabeled and I played it just to see what was on it. It was more piano playing. It was dad again. I listened to both sides and then turned on the radio. The first thing I heard was a DJ commenting on how weird it would be to be to find out that you had a baby ~ and that the mother and baby showed up knocking at your door. I turned off the radio, and sat excitedly to wait for Amelia to show up knocking. After a short while, I decided that it still wasn’t time for that yet, and turned on the radio again. The song was from AC/DC, a hard—rock band. I had heard the song many times before, but something was different. I listened more intently, and then I knew what the difference was, the music was slyly being played note-for note, the musicians were playing this music right now, just for me. I suddenly imagined this large studio with the bands lining up on a circle of stages, preparing sound—checks before being the next ones to play on the live broadcast. Other songs from other bands kept playing that I don’t remember now, but then a band played that had always been one of my favorites. The band was the Beatles, and John Lennon was singing the lead part, he was alive after all, and he was playing for me. Imagine that.
During this first episode, I continually tried to add sense to how and why all this was happening to me, because even to myself, I knew it seemed far-fetched by a long shot. To answer these doubts, I started looking deeper into the past. 1990 was the point in time when I had lost Amelia, and the beginning of all this must have been then. After I had left her, I had graduated from architecture, and began my career.
After that, nothing helped explain why, the doubt was growing, until I remembered a lyric I had read about myself before I was admitted to the hospital. The lyric told of a man that had found a head in a trashcan. It all came back to me, I had read in the newspapers about the police finding body parts being placed all over the city, and then one morning I went outside to take out the trash, and there in the trash-can outside was a severed head and attached arm laying inside. I puked, ran inside, and called my employer and told him to call the authorities for me because of what I’d found, and waited for them to arrive. (All of this was not true, but I believed it.) Once the detectives got there, they apprehensively looked into the trash—can I pointed to, took a puzzled look at each other, and then looked at me. “What’s the idea of all this?” they asked. “I don’t know, I’m afraid that I might have done it.” I said. “Did what, son? Look in here.” They said pointing into the trashcan. I looked into the can at the head and arm inside, and began getting sick again. “Why is a pile of left-over spaghetti so hard for you to look at?” the detectives asked. “Maybe you ought to come with us.” they said. They took me to the station for questioning. News of this arrest traveled nationally and that’s how Amelia had found me again. She called to the station and reported that she and I had endured horrible break-up years ago and that she had hired private investigators to keep an eye on me in case I had ever tried to hurt her. They asked her to come in. Then, as they kept asking me about the real body parts that had been found, something happened to me. I had suffered some sort of collapse that put me into a coma. Amelia arrived at the station just as this was happening, and started crying that she loved me, and that she knew finally that I had never meant to hurt her. Two weeks later, the police had found the murderer and all charges were dropped against me. This is when all of the publicity had started, cause. The doctors found a way to communicate with me through hypnosis, and when they did, they discovered that I had an amazing capacity for inventing and designing all sorts of things. The profits from these popular inventions, along with the daily inflow of contributions from people who wanted me to return to consciousness, amassed to billions of dollars. Amelia married me while I was unconscious when the doctors had found that most of my emotional content under hypnosis was surrounding her. This convinced her of how essential she was to my survival. Amelia and I had inspired all popular movies. Powder, Apollo 13, etc.) Amelia and I inspired all songs. The whole world was waiting, but most of all, Amelia was waiting.
One attempt to bring me out of the coma had failed, sending me into deeper coma, and endangered me even more. Anyone in my world, the world where I lived consciously, was part of a state-of-the-art technology computer world. This world of mine was costing millions a month to keep running, and the company which kept it running employed thousands of the world’s greatest minds. It reminds me now of lust a glorified version of Humpty Dumpty, give or take a few million details.
I knew that since I had given the go-ahead to unplug my computer-life if this next attempt failed, I was possibly going to die this time, but before I died, I was going to give back to Amelia, and the world, all that I could. My mother had brought me an art—paper sketchpad, my guitar, and at my request, my radio, since the radio at the front desk had to be shared by all the other patients on the ward. She probably wouldn’t have done this if she had known that the radio was so important to me. Actually though, anything in a schizophrenic’s surroundings affects him/her, so it doesn’t really matter.
I began writing songs, and designing Amelia and I’s dream—home. I never wrote down the lyrics to any of the songs, because I knew that anything I said, thought, and did was recorded as I went along. The sketches for the mansion I began designing were grandiose. The floor plans included secret rooms, huge circular rooms, and a 40-foot fountain in the entry parlor.
(the fountain had a glass floor below the water that was
connected to a cylindrical aquarium in the lower level which was the huge entertainment room below) There was also a below-ground garage that could hold up to 200 cars for visitors.
In the group sessions still being held at the ward, I met another guitarist, who started trading stage-space with me by playing for the patients, I that this man was actually. Vince Gill, because he always played Pure Prairie League songs, and Vince had at one time been a member of this band. Every time this man would play one of the band’s hits, I would have to run back to my room to cry. I was becoming more impatient with the whole ordeal of waiting for Amelia to finally appear and be with me. I had done my best to reveal the issues that I denied from my past, and still everyone was just playing along like they didn’t know what was happening. I decided to lust keep dealing with their cruel pretending of not knowing who I really was, and enjoy my journey leading to the road of success, and true love. One new way I savored to punish them for keeping me from Amelia from me was to begin eating so that I would become fat. Surely, this would discourage their folly, and allow me to finally be taken out of the stupid ward. I began eating double-helpings of all meals, and constantly pleaded with the nurses to let me into the ice—cream that I knew was stock piled in the kitchen. The longer that they ignored my ordeal, the more I ate.
Since I was living inside a cyber-world that was controlled by laboratories, whenever I received new ideas, the scientists were entering much-needed messages in the form of movie—clips of things that I didn’t know, into my memory. (Although these were only delusional “retracing” from desperately needing to believe my own ideas) The next two data inputs were the only ones that followed after the first one about when I found the head in the trashcan. (During that one I didn’t know that it was from the dream—men.) The following two movies—clips were the only remaining that I had during the first episode, but during the second and most traumatic episode, these data—inputs became constant.
I was lying on the floor in a house where I used to live, and was on pallet of blankets I used for a bed, (which was accurate, I had no bed then) and I awoke to find two men whispering and working to strap me inside some kind of trolley-stretcher. When I asked what they were doing, they both looked up startled, one of them reached over and touched something on my neck, and I slipped into sleep again. This is how they must have been able to move me to the design—centers without my memory of it. The dream—men transported me to the design—centers for weeks at a time, so that I could help solve difficult problems to help mankind, and then be returned to my regular life until the time came to bring me out of the coma.
It was in the fall, and someone knocked at the door. I looked outside before opening the door. Amelia stood there looking at me through teary eyes. She had come back. I opened the door and threw my arms around her, laughing and crying and kissing her. We went inside and she told me she had a surprise for me. She brought out a package from inside her coat wrapped in purple and gold paper, with a yellow ribbon tied around it. Inside the gift box were little dead flowers and autumn leaves. She said to look deeper. Farther in was a picture of Amelia, a baby girl, and me. I looked up with surprise Amelia was smiling.
She took my head in her hands and in her lovely earnest voice she told me that this was her baby, our baby, and that I should never ever forget that. She made me promise, and I did. Then she told me that for awhile I will forget, and putting her finger on my lips to keep me from speaking, she whispered, but someday, you will remember this, and I will return and be your wife, but for now, all we have is now. Then the phone rang, she answered it and said something, and then she stood up and put on her coat again. I begged her not to leave, and she said that she had to, and that she loved me. Then she was gone.
I never told any of the doctors who tried to help me about these visions, they were mine and I knew that the doctors would only try to say that this was not possible, which would only infuriate me more, so I never said anything.
After I had started believing that the guitarist I started playing with was actually Vince Gill, I began trying to figure out who everybody else was in the ward. All the actors and musicians, and anyone else that wanted to enter my computer—world had to put on a different face on the real outside-world so that it would not be so shocking to me when I met them. Faces that even resembled even slightly someone I liked in movies or music, became those people in my mind. Fellow patients started catching on to my belief that they were actually disguised celebrities and started helping me believe it even more. One old sweet woman I had befriended when I had first been admitted, started telling me that she was mother Theresa, (although I think that she believed she actually was) and this almost brought me to tears in relief because I had been grieving on mother Theresa’s recent death for weeks. (Princess Diane’s too.)
Over the next few days, I found out that Tom Petty, Dwight Yoakum, Nicole Kidman, and many other stars were in my ward. Everyone I met was a new star, or actor. The nurses, the patients, the doctors, everyone was here, but Amelia.
One morning, as I was looking out the lobby’s large windows onto the parking lot of the hospital many stories below, I saw Amelia. Our girl was with her. Her hair was braided and folded on top of her head just as she always used to wear it. She took the girl the hand, and knelt beside her. They talked below in the parking lot for a few minutes, while I struggled to keep composure around the other patients where I was standing. She looked up directly at the building, and then walked her child inside. I went silently back to my room and laid down, crying and praying in whispers to Amelia to release me from this hell and reunite us again. I fell asleep, and when the nurse came in to tell me it was dinnertime, she noticed my depressed state. “Don’t be so sad, if Eddie Vedder showed up for lunch, would that cheer you up?” I sat upright immediately; Eddie Vedder was one of my favorite singers. The nurse laughed, “ See? I knew that would perk you up.” I got ready for dinner, but I never did recognize who in the lunch room was Eddie, so I figured that he must have lust been watching me from some kind of camera somewhere.
THE VAMPIRE NURSE
The next morning, I was lying in bed and thinking of how and when Amelia would show up, and there was a knock on the door. I answered for them to come in and an attractive blonde nurse entered carrying a package for taking my vital signs. She asked me to sit up in the bed and take off my pajama top and then began taking my blood pressure. She smiled curiously at me as she did this, seeming amused as she noticed how I had decorated the walls of my room with my drawings, and commercials that I had cut out of magazines that I thought important to my mission. “You been here long?” she asked. I said no and that soon all of us will be out. (By that, I was saying in signal-speak that all of the people involved with the project will be able to stop visiting my computer-world whenever I finally got out of the cyber-world or died.) “Well, that would be really nice wouldn’t it?” She smiled again. I nodded and waited for her to finish so I could go back to my thinking.
She set up her blood-work equipment on the desk by the bed, and began tying up my arm to bring up a vein to probe for blood. As she prepped the needle, she remarked, “ohhh, this is gonna be fun...” and began filling up vile samples of my blood. “mmmmm, I love seeing blood.” she said. I asked why. She replied. “ It makes me thirsty...” I looked at her and laughed and asked her if she was a vampire. She said “I could be..” We laughed some more a little and then after she was done, she left the room and I never saw her again. The words we had never frightened me because the first episode was completely euphoric (the thought of dying in a coma never frightened me except for the fact that I would never see Amelia) but once inside the second episode, she would haunt me near the end of the episode again. In after thought, I really question if the woman nurse was only trying to be light-hearted, or that she really was trying to mess with my head. Possibly I just remember this in a distorted manner, but I think it happened. Since it was a psychiatric ward, it did seem a bit unprofessional to me, but it really doesn’t matter though now. I only hope that nurses aim to encourage healing their patients in mental sickness, and that they are attentive in every respect to the sensitivity of the schizophrenic mind.
A FRIEND MOVES IN
About noon, after the vampire nurse had visited, I was informed that I would be getting a roommate that day. Since
I believed that the circumstances of already having to stay in a mental ward was bad enough, I went to the front desk to complain that I did not want a roommate.
Amusingly, they did not think that having a roommate to share my room was not such a bad idea. One hour later, he arrived.
Randy at first impression to myself was no more than a cowboy with whining complaints when I first met him, and I went to the front desk again to ask if I could be moved so that I could have my own room. Nope, sorry. I resigned myself to the table with color books and crayons to inwardly suppress my own whining complaints. (My grandiose delusion was making me quite the spoiled brat by then) As Randy came into the lobby and recognized me sitting there, he immediately sat down and started talking to me. (the poor man was scared then, but I was oblivious to it, something I wish I hadn’t been now) He was asking questions, and spouting his anger that he didn’t belong in here, and more comments about he belonged at home. I told him that it wouldn’t be long and then all of us would be out of there. He said he hoped so. Randy lived in a small town, and his family had put him in here, and he sure as hell didn’t know why, because he wasn’t crazy. (And to the best of my knowledge now, he really didn’t show any signs of mental illness) and was a loud person, which only made me not like more.
After he went back to our room, I quickly went and talked to my favorite male nurse, Jerald, and told him that I had to have my own room. Jerald, a large black man with a wonderful sense of humanity said, “Give people a chance, Mick? He’s not so bad, you’ll see.” I suddenly remembered that all the people I came in contact with were only people that wanted to be close to me. Randy must be somebody. I play banjo and love bluegrass music. It was obvious. Randy must be a famous bluegrass musician. I went back to my room to see Randy with my new perspective. He was sitting on the bed and smiled when I came in. “So you decided to come talk to me huh?” he said, shrewdly aware that I had at first avoided him. I apologized and remarked that sometimes I forgot how grateful I should be for the company of people. He accepted the apology. I began talking about how much I loved bluegrass and he seemed to perk up almost immediately, especially when I mentioned that I play banjo. He began to feel more comfortable.
The more I talked with him, the more his sense of humor began to blossom. He was full of funny stories and jokes, and we quickly became inseparable. When Randy and I returned into the lobby acting as old friends later that day, Jerald walked up to me and whispered, “See? I told you.” I smiled back and felt deeply happy. I hugged Jerald and thanked him for his wisdom. Jerald just smiled and said, “You’re welcome.”
The next morning, the nurses were giving Randy the full slate of medical testing and physicals, more than I had ever received. After being gone~ most of the morning, he entered our room, angry as ever. “Those god—damn nurses have been poking and sticking me with needles all morning, and guess what I got to do now, Mick?” He held up a plastic container. I guessed that he had to give a urine sample. “No... They want me to shit in the god-damn thing!” I began laughing uncontrollably. He started being infected with the laughter himself.
“I get up in the mornin’, they won’t let me eat breakfast, and poke me so much I feel like a pin—cushion, and now I got to shit in a god damn box!” We both started howling with laughter when he said that until we were almost crying.
HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE
My constant thoughts were beginning to focus more and more on my little girl. I had not seen her grow up. I had never told her that I loved her she only knew me by seeing me asleep in bed; .I began to try to remember nursery rhymes, and other things that I might need to know when I finally got to see her Out of the blue, I asked Randy if he could help me figure out the rest of the rhyme to hey diddle diddle. He got stuck when it came to the part about the little dog laughed. So did I. We started asking around the ward if anybody knew the rest of the rhyme. Nobody did. Finally, when I had given up hope to finding the rest of the words, old Mother Theresa came up to me with her walker. She whispered, “hey, diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon, the little dog laughed to see such a sight, and the dish ran away with the spoon.”
I thanked her gratefully and went back to my room to cry. I don’t know why I felt so moved by the rhyme, but I think it must have been because I felt so helpless that I had never been able to say the rhyme to my little eenfk1 I have always wanted to be a father, and now that I was, I couldn’t see his or her mother. This was probably the closest thing to suffering that the first episode would deal me. I had no idea at the time that the mental illness that afflicted me could deal out much worse suffering than this.
MY DESIGN ROOM
Every other day, the patients would be allowed to go into the arts and crafts room to paint, glue, and create little projects for recreation. This, in my mind, was just a ploy that the engineers of my world had concocted to get my genius mind working on a creative level. I wasn’t going to let them down.
The patients were allowed one hour in arts and crafts. I worked furiously and agitatedly the whole hour, not wasting one minute. The counselor that was in charge of this room and art-hour encouraged me with true interest and compliments. She was always amazed how much I accomplished in one hour, and after several sessions of this prolific drive that I had shown, she offered to let me come into the arts room anytime that I wanted. I accepted gratefully, and took her offer to mean that I must be pleasing the engineers, and Amelia. During the first solitary session in the room, I painted a small rectangular piece of wood with the scene of a Holstein cow jumping over a full moon, with large child-like stars above. It was an inside joke at the engineers to make them try and figure out that the stars spelled Amelia. I waited for the right moment to release this secret. The counselor saw
the painting after I had finished, and adored it. She asked if I thought I could paint one exactly like it for her sometime. I agreed that I could indeed. Instantly, I assumed that she didn’t actually want the painting for herself. Somewhere, on the real outside world, I had touched Amelia’s heart with the painting, and she wanted one for herself. I told her that I would in the next session. The next day, when I came in the arts room, there was a new counselor helping. It was Brian Setzer, one of my favorite guitarists. I finished the second copy of the cow—over—the—moon painting in record—time, and sat it on the counter to dry. The two counselors regarded
the painting for close study, and Mr. Setzer looked over at me as I rested, waiting for the last minutes of extra time of the arts hour to finish. “You really are talented, you know that?” he asked. I thanked him and replied that I thought that he was a lot more talented than myself. He looked amused and said thanks. “I did the painting for my wife that is waiting for me.” I said. He smiled. “The stars spell her name.” I added. His eyes seemed to widen, and he darted his gaze at the painting to see if he could discern the name. When he turned back around to meet my smiling gaze, I believed his eyes were teary. “That is so cool, man.” he said, “No man, you are the one who’s cool.” I replied. The woman counselor that I did the painting for bowed her head and didn’t speak for the rest of the hour. I think she knew that I didn’t have a wife.
There was an old black woman that had been in a solitary locked cell the whole time I had spent at the ward, and now she was being let out on terms that she would behave. I had been curious several times and sneaked a look when I could to watch her, because I wanted to see if I could figure out what celebrity she might be. She screamed constantly inside this cell, and I was always immediately told to get away from her cell window when I was caught peeking.
Once they let her out, she must have been heavily medicated because for a long time she just sat and dreamed at the walls, never saying anything. After a day or so, she never screamed anymore, but would babble and laugh constantly. I soon decided that she must be the only real crazy patient in the ward. Those who controlled my cyber—world were seeing how I would relate to Mary, the laughing black woman. She walked with a shimmy that reminded me of a child, scooting her feet on the floor like she was enjoying the sound her feet made.
One day I was passing her in the hall and she heard me coming beside here and asked me to please help her to the lobby. I ignored her, and kept walking. A nurse ran to her and helped her to the lobby. I asked her why she was babying her, and the nurse looked at me sternly. “ Because she’s blind, that’s why?” I jumped out of my chair and went to Mary and apologized and told her that I hadn’t known that my hand and said that it was airtight. I felt bad and went and sat down ashamed.
SURFACING TO REALITY
My delusion of my computer-world and world—fame, and Amelia waiting for me was still as strong as ever in my mind, but my caseworker informed me that my stay at the ward was about to end. This confused me and scared me because this didn’t coincide with what I had understood was supposed to happen to me. Amelia hadn’t shown up, and I had done everything that I was supposed to so that I could see her. I began to feel very agitated and cheated, and my once—euphoric dream was becoming a frantic hangover of reality. I told myself when feeling the biggest doubts attack my mind that they were still just testing me, so all I had to do was keep playing along.
My friend Jackie came and took me home. She was the only one not at work at the time, and was quite depressed about my being in the hospital, and dropped me off without coming in. Once back in my living room, everything had been cleaned and put in order. Sally had come and cleaned the whole house and took care of my two dogs, Kenji and Kaylee. (I was closer to these animals than I was even to my own family.) I sat on the couch for hours in silence, no TV, no music, nothing. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the name-card that I believed Amelia had written, and just stared at it. After a long time, I started crying, laid down on the couch, and went to sleep.
As the days went on, and the medications began to finally work, I began to come aware that I had been deluded after all. I didn’t believe my doctor’s diagnosis that I was schizo-effective; I told myself that I had just had a nervous breakdown, and now everything would be fine. I believed schizophrenia only attacked people when they were in their late—teens, early—twenties, and I was 35. Unfortunately, I didn’t believe my doctors, and to make matters worse, I didn’t believe I needed my medications either. (Schizophrenia, I have since discovered from doctors, can happen to anyone at any age, and the only way to hold back the disease is to always take your meds.) The new reality I had would be fleeting. In just three months, I would begin having my second episode of schizophrenia. The first episode was euphoric, somewhat uncomfortable, but nothing compared to the horror and torture of the second episode. The first episode was also short, only lasting 3—4 weeks... the second episode lasted 7 months...
After a few days of resting and thinking about what to do, I called back my former employer and asked if I could have my old job back, and he agreed to let me come back, on the condition that I work in the very back room of the office, because the other co—workers were afraid of me. I didn’t want to work back in that secluded room, but I felt I had no choice, so I went back. After about two weeks, I began feeling different about working. Before the first episode, I had a fervent work ethic and never doubted it, but after thinking for the last month that I was the beloved genius of the whole world, I had become deeply aware that now I didn’t even care if I worked or not. The credit—card debts that had put so much pressure on me to pay before, didn’t matter to me. The hospital bills had arrived, (almost 12,000 dollars worth for the two-week stay) I had no health insurance and I didn’t care if I paid that or not either. I wasn’t a millionaire, I wasn’t beloved, I was just a mentally ill designer that lived alone in a small rent-house with his two dogs. I decided to just quit my job. I packed up my tools, didn’t say anything to my boss, and walked out the door.
When I got home from work, I went in the back yard for the rest of the day, only going inside to get another beer from the refrigerator. After the sun had gone down and I had finished two six—packs, I went inside and lay down on the couch. I didn’t wake up until the next morning.
For the next two days, I felt free. Free from everything that had ever bothered me... taxes, work, love—worries, everything. The third day I got a call from my landlady who wondered where the rent was. I told her I’d get the money right to her, and that I had forgotten to pay it. (Which was true) I got in my checkbook, and wrote the check. I had 300 dollars left in my balance after I paid the rent. I went and looked into the bill drawer; I had a car payment and a student loan payment that was over-due. I had thrown out all of the credit-card bills, along with the hospital bills, but I couldn’t lose my car, and the only pride I had left financially was that I vowed to myself that I would finish paying off my student-loans. 300 dollars left. Worry set in with a flash.
I went to the phone and called my ex-boss, and humbly asked if I could have my job back. No, I had left without even saying good-bye, no, I could not have my job back, he said. I thanked him for giving me all the experience I had gained, and said good-bye. 300 dollars... what now?
I had called my friends and told them what I had done, and decided that I wasn’t going to worry about it. I still had a couple of months before the finance companies could threaten me with taking action against me, so I would just live on the 300 dollars until I found a new job.
One of my closest friends called me from Tulsa and said that he had decided that if I wanted to, I could come and live with him until I got a job in Tulsa. I jumped at the offer. I loved Tulsa, and I loved my friend Matt. My other good friend Paul also lived in Tulsa. I started packing my things. Anything too big or too heavy to take to Tulsa, I gave away. After two weeks of packing, my brother—in—law helped me move to Tulsa.
When I was two blocks away from my new home, I thought I saw Amelia pass me in a mini-van. Tulsa was where Amelia had grown up. She was here, in her home—town, welcoming me home. I never told anyone that I thought I had seen her. I still wasn’t taking my medications, but that thought wasn’t important to me. At that moment as I watched her pass by, the only thought I had was that I was right all along. Medications were for the insane, and I was not insane. At least I didn’t think I was. Later that night, I somehow convinced myself that it really wasn’t her in the mini—van, said my prayers, and went to sleep.
Matt lived in a one-bedroom garage apartment, so I stored his garage full with everything that I had brought with me. I slept in a sleeping bag in his dining area along with my dogs at night. I still daydreamed about Amelia, and I still prayed at night for a miracle that somehow I would be reunited with her someday.
As soon as I could, I began sending out resumes to places that I had found in the phone book or in the newspapers, but for about two weeks, nobody responded. Finally, I heard back from a residential designer that said he might have some use for me, and I went in and worked a couple of days for him. He was kind of an old hippie, with strange cloudy blue eyes. He loved Harleys, and rock and roll, and loved to talk about his hey-days in the sixties and seventies. When I came in the third morning to work, he regretted to tell me that there just weren’t enough houses at the time to work on, and that he hated to get my hopes up and then let me go. I thanked him for the 100 dollars he gave me, and went back home.
After about a week or so later, an ad appeared in the paper, it was exactly what I wanted in a job. The company designed and built clothing fixtures for retail stores nation-wide, and I had done this type of millwork design for a company when I had first got out of college, so I mailed in my resume. As I expected, I got an answer from them in a couple of days. They called and told me they needed me to come in to take a written exam to test my mathematic aptitude, and they also told me I had to come in within two days to take the exam. I agreed to come in and hung up the phone. One minute later, I hurried out the door to go to the library to start cramming on algebra and trigonometry.
The old pressure that I had once been so accustomed to was back. I needed this job, not because I really needed to pay bills, but because I needed to feel that I really could start over after what had happened to me. Before the first mental episode, the thought of losing my job had terrified me, but now that it had happened, I felt positive that getting this job would set me free. This was a very large company, and from working in the past for large companies, I knew that this meant big benefits and a chance for fast—track advancement in positions within the company. I had to pass this test.
After two days of studying day and night, I went in as scheduled for the exam. I hid my calculator, and they had not said that I couldn’t use one, but I was not taking any chances. Once that I had been shown to my cubicle at the testing room, I pulled out my calculator and went to work. I could hear the man next to me in the next stall cursing and erasing. He hadn’t brought a calculator, and I knew once I saw the exam that there was no possible way that I could get these answers right within the time allowed without one. I also noticed immediately that the exam was written to test for manual addition and subtraction of stacks of large complicated numbers, causing me to hide my precious calculator even more. I scribbled the equations on my scratch paper to feign the appearance that I was doing the problems in my head, finished the exam, and handed it in. The man who was observing the testing asked me to follow him back to the waiting area while they graded my papers. A short while after, he asked me to follow him to the engineering department for an interview with the supervisor. The halls were very lengthy, and six-foot high panels only divided each department, so I could hear the din of all the busy workers everywhere. I was in, I just knew it. The exam was difficult, but I knew that I had done well.
We walked past the receptionist in the main engineering department and the man handed me my test papers and pointed towards a glass-walled office. “This is where I leave you Michael, good luck.” he said, and then walked away. I opened the glass door and walked in to greet a stocky little bald man. His name was Gary, and he was very warm and business—like. He commented that my architectural lettering was the best he had ever seen, and that I had passed the test. I asked how well I had passed the test, and smiling, he said that he couldn’t tell me that information. Gary and I cracked jokes and went over some of my construction documents that I had brought with me, and then he shook my hand and said that I should report for work tomorrow at 7:30 sharp. He stopped me before I walked out the door and said that I should read carefully the dress code of the company, and gave me a smiling disdainful look at the denim shirt and jeans that I was wearing. I laughed at his little joke on me, and said that I would. He added that I needed to stop by the human resources department on the way out to fill out the W-2 and other needed contracts. We shook hands and I left. I walked back through the huge department and made an effort to find my way back to the human resources area. In one try I got there, another glass-walled office, but much larger. I told the receptionist that Gary had just hired me in the engineering department, and that I needed to finish the paper work. She asked me to sit down and that someone would be with me shortly. i sat quietly and pleased. i had started over, and with a company that I could be proud of. I couldn’t wait.
A woman came and asked me to follow her back to her office, and we sat and talked about the forms. She asked me if I did any drugs, and I confidently said no. She asked me if I was on any medications, and I said no, which was true unfortunately. Then she said that it was mandatory that all employees take a drug—test as soon as they were hired, and I suddenly felt a subtle alarm go off in my mind. Just one month ago, at a New Year’s Eve party I had been drinking heavily and someone started rolling joints. At first I kept passing them on when they came around, but the longer I smelled the smoke, the more I wanted some. I hadn’t smoked pot in years, and it was too tempting. I never thought about getting tested. I was sure thinking about it now. After she had given me my paper—work to complete, she told me to just drop by sometime tomorrow after I had completed the forms, and that she would let me know when my drug—test appointment would be. I left for home, completely deflated that there was still another hurdle to cross before I got the job. The worst thing that bothered me was the possibility that it would now be a shameful rejection from the company if I tested positive for drugs, much worse than failing a written exam. I came home, went upstairs to the apartment, and waited for Matt to come home from work. The marijuana shouldn’t be still in my blood by now? It had been a full month since I smoked and I knew from the past that even heavy pot—smokers could pass a drug-test after approximately a month. I started thinking about buying one of those cheat-kits that would help you pass a drug-test; I knew I could get them at the local head shop. Thoughts started to consume me with worry. I began to get angry at myself for being so stupid, smoking pot before I tried to get a job somewhere . . . foolish. Matt finally came home and I told him the story. He told me I had nothing to worry about, and that I was over-reacting. Matt didn’t smoke pot, but he was right, I knew it. In logic I knew it, but I believe that at this time the subtle beginnings of schizophrenia were starting to cause me to not accept that I was safe. After dinner, I read through the company rule—book, and discovered what Gary had been talking about. All male employees were to wear long sleeved business shirts along with dress slacks and a tie every day, except Friday, then informal attire was allowed; denim jeans, etc. All women may only wear dresses of suitable length, except for Friday, same exception. I jumped up and went to spend my last 200 bucks on work-clothes. After returning home, I felt exhausted from worry, and retired early. I slept fitfully and was still exhausted when I awoke for work the next morning.
When I arrived at the company, I had to pass through the security crossing at the front, where all the employees checked in as they entered. The uniformed guard asked my business, and raised the cross—guard after I explained my being a new employee. The ordeal of talking to the security guard heightened my fears again about failing the drug-test. This company was scaring the hell out of me, and I hadn’t even started working yet. I went straight into the human resources department and handed in my paper work.
She told me that my appointment for the drug-test would be at 11:00 and all I had to do was tell my supervisor, and I would be allowed to go take the test while on the clock. I thanked her and went to see Gary. He shook my hand and showed me to my drafting board cubicle. There were around 30 board draftsmen in this area, and about 15 computer-aided draftsmen in another area. After he gave me my first assignment, the other co—workers started coming by to welcome me to the company. I was so pleased with everyone’s friendliness that I started to loosen up and enjoy my first day on the job. If I failed the drug-test, well, then I would just find another job. I went and told Gary the time that I was to leave for the drug-test, and then set down to work. Before I knew it, it was time to go. I left for the clinic without talking to anyone, and got there right at 11:00. I was told to take a seat, and sat in the waiting area.
The nurse handed me my urine—cup, and showed me the restroom where I was to perform my duty. I did my duty, handed the cup to the nurse waiting in the hall, and went back to the company to finish the workday. Gary came by later in the day and teased me about the drug-test, and then apologized for the company by saying that even he had to take the damn test. I began to really like Gary. I began to really like all the co-workers, and I started to worry that the drug-test was going to take all my new happiness away. At 5:30, we all went home.
Matt was already home when I got there, and I told him that I was still worried about the drug-test. We began discussing it for the next hour, mainly because I wouldn’t stop talking about it. He told me to call Tubby, a friend of his that smoked pot on a daily basis. I called Tubby and talked to him for another hour about the drug-test, and he begged me to just stop worrying about it and be happy about my new job. I decided that at least he was right about that, there was nothing I could do if I did fail the test, so I hung up the phone and drank a few glasses of wine to settle down. Matt and I played a few games of dice, and then I went to bed, worried.
I laid in bed while Matt sat in the living room watching TV. For the next two weeks, I thought any day the boss was going to walk up and say I had to pack my things. During this same two weeks, I was watching TV alone, and a young black girl came on a talk-show as a high-spirited gospel song and sang to just believe, keep on believing what you believe. I knew at that moment that the magic world I had left just one month ago was calling me back. Work was suddenly something to look forward to again. Everything was much better.
My friend Matt had a lung condition, and tried not to smoke a lot. I on the other hand (especially when excited about something) smoked like a chimney, so we decided that all smoking would be down in the garage below the apartment. Most of my time after I became euphoric again was spent in the garage. Matt had stored a wonderfully comfortable rocking chair in the garage, so I could relax in comfort and think, which is the worst thing that a schizophrenic can do.
Amelia started obsessing my thoughts, and I began talking out loud in a whisper to her and the people who helped us communicate as in the first episode. Where was she? Tears only answered my pleas to see her again. One of the days while I was sitting at my desk at work looking for signs of her, I imagined that a beautiful mantel of bound red roses descended upon my desk and surrounded around me. I cried inside horribly, but no one ever saw my expression, I was determined not to show them how incredibly sad I was. I smiled outside when I cried inside, and could carry on conversation while feeling this sadness without any expression of the pain I felt. Amelia was now showing herself in my computer—world as someone only I could see, although the workers around me knew that she was there. She began sitting on my counter space, and leaning back against my divider wall of my cubicle looking right at me. I would stretch my hand out towards where her hand was, and her eyes would fill with tears as she squeezed my hand, and tell me to stop making her cry. I began feeling stronger for her, and only would stay happy with the thought that finally she was at least still here.
The next morning after I had the vision of the roses (which I could ask for at my request to come and cheer me up when Amelia wasn’t sitting with me) the co—workers near where I was sitting came up and started chatting. Before they sat down, one of them fixed my collar and straightened my tie for me lovingly. The other one held out a bag of cookies that his wife had made, and said, “Take one, my kids love these, these cookies are what we make for when Santa comes.” I took one, and sat down at my desk. The workers were trying to bring me out of my depressive state, so I believed they did see how sad I was. Now I could finally let one of my true emotions out to them. I still had to stay happy for Amelia though, so they still didn’t see how sad I was, but it let off a lot of pressure anyways.
All holidays up to Valentine’s Day since the beginning of my episodes in October had been always highly anticipated events, since I always saw them as days that Amelia could definitely reveal herself. Now I was upon the highest steps of euphoria I had ever been, and it was the worst possible holiday. (Meaning best or my euphoric state) The night before Valentine’s Day, I laid down praying and crying quietly, and encouraged myself to just go to sleep. Someone earlier in the day said something to the effect that one day I’d wake up and my robin would be singing in my window. (Used to incite hope that one day I would find love) This helped me sleep I think.
The next morning as I got up, I looked towards the awninged window above my bedding . . .no robin. I happily jumped out of bed, figuring that of course they would want me to wake up first before they put the robin in my window. Matt had stayed at his girlfriend’s house because of the holiday, so I had the apartment all to myself. I sat listening to my albums, interpreting the lyrics to the songs, and being lavishly happy that it was Valentine’s day. About 1:00 that afternoon, still alone in the apartment, my robin showed up. I was looking out at the top of one of trees in view next to one of the windows, (waiting) and a little singing robin appeared, flitting and hopping on the branches. Tears of joy ran down my face, I leaned my head back on the couch and closed my eyes, listening to the robin singing. Simultaneously, footsteps starting walking down a tile floor on the album I was listening to. I turned up the volume on the stereo. The footsteps were feminine in their gait and I imagined Amelia being the one walking in the recording. This was definitely the trigger-sign that I was supposed to receive from the real world outside my coma-induced world of programmed life. I replayed the last song on the album and listened to the segment where I believed Amelia was being recorded walking for about 20 minutes; rewinding and playing out the excerpt of only her. Finally, it started to depress me, so I turned on the radio. Pearl Jam was playing the song “fly” which made me wonder if maybe I should buy this album, since it had just come out in stores. This band had been very lyrically important to my beliefs during my first episode. Within minutes, I got into my Jeep wagon and headed for Target to buy the CD.
I bought the CD, stopped awhile to inspect the significance of titles and pictures on all the other CD’s I could take the time to study, (anxious to get home) and went home. After listening and analyzing the lyrics for about 2 hours, I couldn’t find one thing to help me in finding any more information about when or how I would see Amelia again. The song, “fly” meant something, but I couldn’t make it out yet. I turned off the stereo, and told myself that all of this wasn’t real. There could not be any truth to my beliefs. I began trying to dismiss any new thoughts that would lead me to think about Amelia anymore. This actually worked for about two more weeks, although I still missed her terribly.
The main reason I think that it was possible that I was able to come close to forgetting about Amelia is that there was a new and more powerful resource to occupy my mind. I had begun working closely with a devoted Christian at work. This Christian, Chris, had been inviting me over for bible-studies and he mentioned that I could move into a small utility room that was not being used and I said I would have to think about it. After I went back to Matt’s, I went to the laundry mat. There was a pinball machine in the back.
SLASH AND THE PINBALL MACHINE
The pinball machine was themed to be Guns ‘N Roses, the rock and roll band. The more I played this pinball machine, the more sure I was that Slash, the guitarist for the band, had designed it himself.
While my clothes were washing, I looked over my shoulder between games at the other people in the laundry—mat. There was a young Hispanic-looking family standing and talking, they had a little baby girl walking and babbling around. I dropped my quarter in the pinball machine and started playing again. Almost half—way through the game, I sensed someone watching over my shoulder, turned and looked, and there was Slash.
His face was right next to mine, he nodded his head in a gesture to say hello, and then he said, “Play on.” I turned my astonished gaze back to the pinball machine, and continued playing. Slash had cut his hair back so that it was only to his shoulders, but it was still that curly frayed hair of his. I had only seen Slash’s face a couple of times, but this man had his eyes and face. I decided since he knew that I loved his guitar playing so much, that he was visiting my computer-world just to let me know that he appreciated my adoration. He watched for a couple more minutes, and then began playing the video game next to me while I finished my game.
My clothes in the washers were done, so I left the pinball machine and told Slash (not daring to say his name) that I was done if he wanted to play on it. After I was done loading the dryers, I watched Slash play on the pinball machine. He was really skilled and scored much higher on the pinball than I could have ever dreamed. After his first game was over, he gave me a wise smiling expression, and slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a large pocket—knife. In one swift move, he kneeled down and jimmied the quarter-slot with his knife, and the pinball machine started another game. This impressed me but didn’t really surprise me; I already knew that Slash was cool. His little girl came up and was holding on to his leg, and I started to feel a little overwhelmed, so I went outside for a cigarette.
Outside across the street there was a bulldozer doing demolition work. A new Sears was supposed to go up, and the dozer was tearing part of the old one down. This seemed kind of sad to me, and I wondered if it was a message meant for me.
Suddenly I noticed the pay phone and remembered that I still needed to call Chris to tell him that I was ready to move in. Chris answered the phone, and said that he would be there waiting for me for the rest of the evening, and that whenever I got there would be fine. I hung up the phone and sat on the curb of the laundry-mat porch and watched the huge bull-dozer do it’s destruction. The dozer was tearing down something old, so that something new and better could be built. This was the message; I was leaving Matt’s so something better could happen for me. Something closer to Amelia, something better. I finished my cigarette, went inside and folded up my clothes, then went back to Matt’s to pack up my few belongings.