I brought this site up to my pdoc, and told her that I am considering sharing my story with you guys, and she thought it would be a good thing for me to do. So without further ado, I present to you My Story, packaged up into something readable.
When I was 9, my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I knew not what that was all about, just that Mom was ill. I was a quiet kid. I didn’t interact with others much, and was content to sit back and watch other children play. I wanted no part of it. I was “the observer.”
As the next couple years wore on, we took our annual trips around the world, but Mom was in the hospital having surgery almost every 3 months, on average. First one breast was removed, then a bone marrow transplant, then the other breast, and on and on. The cancer never seemed to go away. By the summer of 1993, she had been in for 11 surgeries. It wouldn’t quit. No one told me that this was a serious matter. It seemed par for the course. The late-night vomiting, the hair loss, the weakness…it all seemed to be an unfortunate life but in no means potentially lethal.
The late-spring of 1993 sprang forth a new challenge: separated parents. My dad and mom had a big fight one evening, and I was caught in the middle of it. My mom called me into the kitchen and told my dad to tell me what was happening. He told me he had been seeing another woman at work, and that he was moving out. My mom kept interrupting, saying “Tell him! Tell him Joe!!” He told her to “shut up,” words I had never heard to each other at the time. In anger and confusion, I turned to my mom and said, “Yeah, shut up mom.” She was stunned and I instantly regretted it. I looked at my dad, and he told me that he didn’t love my mom anymore and that he was moving out. Then my mom began saying, “Please! Please don’t leave me! Think of Greg. Think of what you’re doing. You’re ruining our family.” He wasn’t hearing it, and I ran outside to play with the dog, tears streaming down my face. My mom came out, and we hugged each other, and cried together.
Dad moved out, and I saw him a couple times a week. Mom seemed just fine, but I was internally conflicted; I was going to be one of those kids in school who had divorced parents. I never thought it would happen to me. I thought I was immune to it.
School started up on September 4th, 1993. I came home the first day, and mom was not home. I was confused, so I walked a few blocks to my friends’ house, and they let me make a few phone calls. I called my dad, and he told me mom had fallen down, and was taken to the hospital. That was all I knew. She would stay in the hospital for a month.
The next day, a Wednesday, I went to visit her, and she was paralyzed from the ribs down. My uncle (her brother) had made an emergency trip north to be with us. I was left in the room with her and my uncle. She began to cry and asked him if she would ever walk again. He told her (he worked in a hospital as their chaplain), “You know, Eileen, I’ve never heard of anyone being able to walk after something like this.” She began bawling her eyes out, and the emotion, the raw emotion, still chokes me up to this day. We ALL began crying, and I was quietly ushered out by a nurse.
In October, around the middle of the month, she came home. I learned they had performed emergency surgery on a tumor on the inside of her spine, and the surgery was an entire failure. They removed only a sliver of the tumor. The mass crushed her spinal cord, resulting in paralysis. I still didn’t get the picture. Call it denial, call it a lack of information, call it whatever, but I had no idea of what was to come.
Her parents (my maternal grandparents) came down from New Jersey to stay with me and help run the house in my dad’s absence. My uncle came up on weekends from North Carolina (we lived just outside of Washington DC). One night, she began screaming. She was panicking because she couldn’t breathe, and “it feels like there’s a rubber band around” her chest. The paramedics came, and got her stabilized. Finally, my uncle (the chaplain) had had enough, and took me into my room. He explained the tumor situation, and told me that my mother was bound to die within the next 8 weeks. I looked blankly at him, and said “Oh. Ok. I’m gonna miss her.” I had no outward reaction. I was like a slate of granite.
At 12:55pm on Sunday November 7th, my mother died in the home. She had 24-hour Hospice care. The nurse came into the living room and said, “Greg, I’m sorry, but your mom just died.” I was fiddling with a pencil. I flung the pencil at a chair, and called my dad. He was there within 15 minutes and whisked me away. It STILL hadn’t hit home.
The wake was held 2 days later. I walked into the room in front of my father, hands on my shoulders, and I saw my mother lying in the casket. I physically felt someone hit me in the chest. Like someone had punched me, and I took a step backwards. It hit home, finally. I went over to her, and laid my hand on her arm. It was hard and stiff. I didn’t understand, and withdrew in horror. I asked my dad if there was something on her, and he said, “No, I think that’s just her arm.” I was mortified. I didn’t understand rigor mortis. She looked sunken away…like she was a million miles away. She didn’t look to be at peace. We had the funeral on the following Sunday, the 14th, and I don’t remember a damn thing about it. It was well-attended.
The next few weeks were spent with my father and I discussing the “other woman” in his life. The one that drove him to leave my mom. I learned her name was Joan, and that she “was very nice.” Around the middle of December, I met her. 6 weeks after mom died. I was sitting in the back seat of the car, and she happily said, “Hi! I’m Joan!” I squeaked out a “Hi,” and said nothing the rest of the day. We ended up getting lunch that day, the 3 of us. I didn’t like her. She wasn’t my mother, and I just wanted my mom back.
I need to interject something here, something I should have said sooner. My mom was my world. She did everything in the world for me. She was an amazing mother. My father and I were close also; we would go fishing together, played baseball together, and went looking for fossils. But it was really my mom who mattered most to me, and was my favorite of the 2.
Things began to happen quickly. In early 1994, we sold the only house I had ever known, and moved into Joan’s townhouse. My dad told me they would be getting married soon. Sure enough, in late-April, they married. I was overwhelmed. It was a whirlwind, and it was too much for me.
I finished out the school year, and I finished 6th grade with average grades for the first time in my short life. I had B’s and C’s, and not straight A’s for the first time, and no one even cared. I was disappointed with myself, and promised to bring them up in 7th grade. We moved in July about 45 miles south to a little town rife with Civil War history. My dad was no longer interested in baseball, fishing, or fossil hunting, which hurt my feelings. Now he was into finding Civil War relics, something I didn’t care about.
I started a new school in September, 1994. It was awful. I didn’t like having to change classes 7 times a day. I made new friends, but they weren’t good friends. I alienated everyone except my 3 friends. I got into drinking. My grades plummeted. I was fighting all the time with my dad and Joan. All. The. Time.
November 7th, 1994 - the first day of the rest of my life. The one-year anniversary of my mom’s death. My dad and Joan got home from work (where they met - at the IRS) around 5pm. 6, then 7, then 8-o’clock came rolling around, and not a single mention of what that day meant. I exploded. I screamed hateful things at my dad, and didn’t really spare Joan either. I was so angry that no one acknowledged what the meant, I went into a blind rage. My dad broke my Walkman (my new passion - listening to music), and I erupted. I cursed him in Italian and put the “evil eye” on him and Joan. My dad, an ex-Catholic, started barking back, and I ran out of the house with the intent to run away. I got 2 or 3 houses down the street, and I heard an evil, commanding voice say, “Go back. Kill them both. Do it. DO IT NOW!! KILL THEM BOTH” I turned around, and headed back, determined to commit two counts of murder. I blew past Joan and went upstairs to where my dad was. I tried to force my way past him, and get to the 2 rifles we had and I knew how to use them. He repelled me, lucky for him, and I grabbed a baseball bat and went into the finished basement, my “room.” I destroyed everything I saw…furniture, the TV, put holes in the walls, broke 2 doors, and smashed a plastic table. My dad eventually came downstairs when the noise had subsided. I began crying like a baby, and told him why I was so upset. He assured me he was going to say something about the day, but I didn’t believe him.
The next few weeks saw the development of 3 more voices, and they tormented me relentlessly. I got into fights at school, got suspended 4 or 5 times, and lived in the principal’s office. He sent me to the counselor, and she got in touch with my dad. Not long after, I set a fire in my room after disabling the smoke alarms. That night, Dad and Joan glossed over the fire, and I was told we were going out to dinner. We weren’t. We pulled up to the psych hospital (I had no idea what it was until they started interviewing me), and I went inside two locked doors. That was the first time I’d be hospitalized.
In the hospital, I went apeshit. I didn’t appreciate the counseling, therapy, or medication that made my tongue thick. I rebelled, and they pushed back. I wasn’t used to resistance, so I pushed back harder. Then I found out they had these needles they would hold you down and shoot this stuff called Haldol into my butt. Then they would tie me to a bed. These things were new to me, but I didn’t like them. I heard voices 24/7 telling me to fight back…to do anything in my power to resist.
One morning, I was given liquid Thorazine. It tasted good, so I drank it happily out of their little cup. I sat down, and about 30 minutes later I noticed I didn’t feel like myself…that I was drooling and hardly aware of myself. A few hours later (it must have been, I had no idea where I was or what I was doing), the psychiatrist came to the unit and began his rounds. He saved me for last. I was starting to come out of my haze, but my head was quiet. He sat me down in the corner office, and told me I have this thing called “Paranoid Schizophrenia.” I got the low-down on what it is in the 90 minutes he spent with me that morning. I was relieved. I asked him what can be done. Can it be treated? Will it ever go away? All the usual questions. He told me there would be no more Haldol shots or cups of Thorazine. He told me he ordered Thorazine for me that morning special because he wanted to have this talk with me. He told me I would be taking Haldol twice a day now, as a pill - no more jabs. I was all for it.
The hospital suddenly became a lot more tolerable. I stopped fighting within the first day of taking the pills. My head went quiet. I was no longer fighting staff because the hospital was cooking up special food just for me to poison me. After a few weeks, I was released. I made my first girlfriend in the hospital (and even got a kiss!! She was smoking hot, and I thought I was hot stuff), and made a few other friends. Unfortunately, the progress was short-lived. Within 15 days of discharge, I was readmitted.
This went on for another 5 years. In and out of hospitals. One four year confinement in there - from the beginning of 1996 - the end of 1999. All kinds of med cocktails.
I’m gonna wrap this up because my brain is turning to mush.
In summary, I began to recover when I was 19. At the end of 2001 (I was 19), my dad killed himself. I came home from a vacation, and found him dead from a shotgun blast to the head. His head had been vaporized into fine droplets, scattered all over his bedroom in his apartment. All that was left was the lower left jaw. No head. That’s what spurred the PTSD I have now. Dad and Joan divorced while I was away, in 1998. So long, bitch! She broke my hand one day in early 1995, shortly after my second hospital discharge. Both her and my dad would go on to physically abuse me…especially him.
I would go on to buy my first house when I was 23, and got married at 24. I’d go on to get a divorce from her, but I would remarry in 2010 to my current wife, who is a substantial “upgrade.” I was recovered from 2001-2008. In late-2008, things began to slip again, but I have avoided the hospital since 2000.
Thank you, dear reader, for mucking through this with me. This was written free-hand, just for this occasion. There is no copied-and-pasted text. This is all written from memory.
With med compliance and a desire to improve, recovery is possible. I’m here; I’ve done it. I was in a back ward for 4 years…forgotten. I fought to get out and make a life for myself.
Hang in there, fellow warriors. If I can come back from the abyss, so can you. I thank you for your time.