The Day I Became Insane David Kanemoto

The first manic episode occurred while I was a student
at the University. I had no inkling of what was happening to me,
only that I felt extremely euphoric.

We were sitting in class, and the professor was going
around the room, asking students their names. The computer had
me listed as “George David,” although I have been called ” David ”
all my life. The professor glanced at the computer printout in
his hand, rose from his chair and with a teacher’s look of moral
obligation to enlighten, asked me: “Do you mean, you go by the
name David?”

Suddenly, I realized this was a kind of test. It was a
test I’d been giving to each teacher to determine if he cared, or
if he regarded students as merely faces without souls. The
class, as well, seemed to understand that it was a test and they
gasped. When I left the room, something snapped. My “trip” of
insanity had begun.

The next thing I remember was stopping at a newspaper
machine and being struck by the leftist-liberal ideas expressed
in the campus paper. It occurred to me that the paper must be
the work of the Proles in Orwell’s 1984. I could feel the
euphoria simmering, waiting to boil.

As I walked to my car, I could hear music pumping out of
the dorms. Moments later I was in an elevator in one of the
dorms, searching for the source of the music. I never did find
out who was playing the music, but I remember another student
who shared the elevator with me. He was older than I, and he
seemed to be as high as I was. I concluded he must be one of
Orwell’s Party Members.

Back in my car, I turned on the radio. The words of
the songs being played, I was convinced, had been written expressly for me. They spoke of my condition. The Beatles sang Michelle and my senses exploded. I was feeling and sensing everything. I was high and alive.

Back home, I turned on the television to watch the news
and was positive the anchorwoman must be talking to me. I knew
without a doubt that her telecast described my situation and
what I was feeling. I was sure she and I were exchanging the
same thoughts and feelings, even prejudices and sarcasm.

Restless, unable to concentrate I returned to my car
and drove around aimlessly. Pulling up behind an ancient
Volkswagen, I read a bumpersticker that said “Jesus Lives.” At
that moment it seemed obvious that I must be Christ. On the
radio they were playing New York, New York. I realized that
was actually on a mission to New York, and I had to get to the
airport as quickly as possible.

A gardener’s truck passed me by, filled with mowers and
shovels and other hardware. Exhilarated I banged on my steer-
ing wheel, thinking: Machines are dead, but I am alive.

At the airport I encountered two signs. One read, “All
other Airlines,” which i decided meant it was only for Orwell’s
Proles, whereas Party Members flew United. Now it was in disputable that I must be among the privileged ones, so I headed for the United Airlines gate.

Dashing past the security guards, I boarded a plane.
But I was no longer headed for New York. Because I am part
Japanese, and this has been important to me all my life, I decided
it was Japan that must be calling to me. I was already in
my seat aboard United’s flight for Tokyo when the police arrived .
They handcuffed me, dragged me off the plane and took me down
to the station.

This I couldn’t connect with. It was a criminal-type
situation, which made no sense to me. I stared at the police
officer and struggled to include him in my Orewellian scheme as
a Party Member. He had me sit in a chair beside his desk while
he typed up his report. I told him I wasn’t doing anything wrong,
but he coldly showed me what he was typing and said, “What do
you think this is?”

I waited for him to finish his report. The walls of the
station had been decorated with old police hats of different.
eras. I made the connection instantly and yelled, “Yes! ” It was
as if, dying of thirst, I had been offered a glass of water .
What I was thirsty for were Orwellian concepts, and the hats, it
seemed to me, were like the clear paperweights in Orwell’s 1984.
Minutes later, I was placed face down on a gurney and wheeled
out of the police station to an ambulance.

The ambulance ride was pure joy. I could see out the
back, through the glass, as we drove. I could watch the cars
and the signs and the pedestrians on the road. I was convinced
that society had a plan for me, and my destiny was to save the
world from the machines.

I was taken to Langley Porter Institute in San Francis-
co. A young man asked me about being depressed and about my
ex-girlfriend, and I was placed in solitary confinement, in a room
that could be nothing less than Room 101 from Orwell’s 1984. Now it seemed clear what was in store for me. After I had passed all the tests and requirements of Room 101, after I had fulfilled the provisions of the “involuntary conversion,” I was going to be promoted to Party Member.

Langley Porter is part of the medical complex at the
University of California in San Francisco. Learning this only
increased my frenzy because I, too, was a student at the University,
and it seemed obvious now that there was some sort of
overall scheme in this society, and I belonged to it. My trip had
begun –with euphoria and hope.

All this happened more than 20 years ago, but I recall
the events as though it were only yesterday. After more than
20 years of psychotherapy and medication, I often have difficulty
remembering things that happened yesterday or last week,
but that first day stands out in my memory. I guess I have
learned to love Big Brother after all. In a way, I too have become
a Party Member.


David I want you to know there is more to life than concentrating to stay out of hospitals – I want you to know that your SELF wasn’t drowned by your illness and you can recover all that makes you special. Most of all I want you to know you are not alone. – Mom

LISA KANEMOTO devotes her passion to the homeless of Pacific Beach, while she completes Final Season of my Life, reflecting on experiences. Concerned with social justice she has been documenting stigmatized groups such as the mentally ill, drug addicts, ethnic minorities, gays, the homeless and needy. In 1984 she published We Are, a documentary monograph about San Francisco’s gay community. The project Against all Odds became a travel exhibition, it focuses on the stigma attached to mental illness. Dark Mirror was published in 1997. It is her self- analysis in photographs, surveying her life. A verse play ” Lisa’s Dark Mirrors” is produced by the poet Stephen Tuba.  Her work has been exhibited and collected internationally.


lisa_statementThirty-five years ago, with a sudden onset, David, our handsome, intelligent and promising son was stricken with mental illness. Schizophrenia……it felt like a blow with a sledgehammer when we were given the diagnosis. We could not accept this verdict. We were certain that with our love, our care and the best doctors he was going to be all right. For years we lived in denial, in fear, hope and despair. Helplessly we watched him suffer and wrestle with this most cruel disease of the brain and with the side effects of the potent medicines. We started isolating ourselves from all our friends. We kept the illness a secret. Often my rage against God, fate, indifferent psychiatrists, bureaucracy and a flawed system kept me only an arm length away from leashing out at unfairness. My heart is shredded, but my burden has become more bearable since I was led to the Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Here I find enormous support, much needed education and the fighting spirit to turn my sorrow into advocacy.



We are facing a crisis in the provision of services to the mentally ill.  Most visible is the proliferation of services to the mentally ill among the masses of homeless Americans – an occurrence so clear that not even the most determined of ostriches can deny it.

The homeless problem puts in bold relief our priorities as a nation in the care of our most defenseless citizens.


davidkanemotoWhen I am manic I am in heaven. I feel as if I am above all the games people play, as if televisions sense my thoughts and the way I look; as if radios specifically talk and sing to my own ears; as if newspapers, books and magazines are written for me personally – like letters from a lover. I always want to believe that there is something else besides reality. I know that God exists, or did exist. I want to find him now.



david_wilkensoAfter the death of my parents while I attended college, I plunged into a life of drug dependency. The addiction led me to sabotage my marriage, a promising career in music and many friendships. Repeated failures to quit using drugs totally destroyed my self-esteem. I became psychotic and manic. Between hospitalizations I lived in the streets. Realizing my self destructive behavior was killing me. I made a determined effort to achieve sobriety. After going through detox I secured a bed at the Tom Smith Program at General Hospital. I began volunteer work. The more I worked, the better I felt about myself. I am totally committed to the idea of vocational rehabilitation as a way to help people feel better about themselves.


guitarHospitalization and halfway houses has been my way of life since the age of 14, when I first was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Independent living failed. I was suicidal. Strong suicidal voices commanded. But things changed when I moved to Chateau Agape. I responded to the warm environment and loving care I receive here in this unusual board and care home.



joiWhen I look back at my youth, I was always sad and crying. The breakdown came as a surprise and shock. I started to think it was some sort of punishment for something I did. When I was hospitalized I lost everything, including my home and possessions. It was incredibly sad when I had to give up my cats also. All of a sudden my whole life had changed. I had always been independent. Now I was totally dependent on other people for my livelihood. At this time I live in a family co-op household with four other women with psychiatric disabilities. When you are in the mental health system only, you live in a bubble. You are isolated. I have questions about my illness. Will I ever again be the person I was years ago?



peterI was hospitalized twice for psychotic episodes, followed by a six month stay in a halfway house. I was already lucky enough to be deeply politicized as a gay man. The pain of stigma had taught me to be vigilant against allowing others to name my experience for me. Rather to look at this time as sickness, I came to view it as a period of spiritual crisis during which I experienced a natural albeit frightening aspect of human capability. I was crazy, psychotic, grandiose and paranoid. I was also closer to the center of mystery and miracle of my life than I had ever experienced.




Bruce Bronzan staunch Assembly advocate for the mentally ill.



Reed Kaplan, MD, Neurologist, Psychiatrist and former Medical Director of Inpatient Psychology at Stanford University, surrounded by parents looking for answers.

© Lisa Kanemoto 2015