When 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.
After 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.
Hospitalization 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.
When 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?
I 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.
My ultimate goals in life, and they aren’t for all mentally ill people, are to get out of mental health, live independently, and let go of medication if that will ever be possible.
I am not diagnosed schizophrenic. I am emotionally disturbed. I have been experimenting with drugs, made suicide attempts and been in and out of hospitals. For the past four years I have been doing well with help of medication and am now able to live in a satellite apartment. I am thankful to Ian Adamson. He got me into the Mental Health System and looked after me and my family in a time of crisis.
Having experienced the horrendous pain and frustration of our eldest child’s serious mental illness and having felt so alone with no helpful resources to turn to, we are now committed to helping as many other families as we can. Studies show that 40% of families faced with problems of mental illness turn to their clergy first, yet ranked that source of support the least helpful. We are committed to changing this so that more families and people with mental illness can be aided by their place of worship.