I was 25 when I saw my first psychiatrist. The nextthing I knew, I
was learning about life on a psychiatric ward. It would be the first of
As a child I recall saying to my mother that Dad talked in circles.
I was about 10 years old. I don't remember much of what happened at home,
only trauma. It seemed like every night at the supper table there would
be a fight. The emotional pain pushed me to strike hack, and I did it the
only way I could I would stare at my father.
I don't recall how old I was when I had my first hallucination. But
it occurred when I stared at my father. I would see white flashes, which
I learned how to push away. But I couldn't forget the feelings that raged
during the nightly wars, so I learned how to ignore my emotions. I can
even remember a time or two when I realized that what I was feeling was
frightening or even irrational. I had to override those feelings to
My college career lasted two semesters. Despite the A's and B's I
got initially, my life slowly fell apart. I was 22 years old, in the
prime of my life, but I couldn't pull my act together. I didn't know how
to save myself.
I was 25 years old when I saw my first psychiatrist. He asked if I
wanted to be admitted to the hospital. I said, "Sure," and the next thing
I knew, I was getting indoctrinated into life on a psychiatric ward. I
was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It would be the first of many visits.
My parents were shocked to learn that I was in the hospital. But I didn't
take it too seriously, and after the Haldol hit me, I wasn't able to
react to much of anything.
When I was released, the social service worker got me a job working
with the handicapped. I then went into electronics. Things went well at
first, but as the work got harder, I couldn't handle the stress. My
paranoia and my ability to follow a train of thought were getting worse,
making it hard to stay focused.
During the ensuing years, I went in and out of school, sank in and
out of depression, met and married a woman named JoAnne, and sought to
improve my life. Schizophrenia still affected me, but I found drugs that
would dear my head, and I eventually graduated from college, got a job
and started writing.
Unfortunately, Joanne was heading in the opposite direction. She
began drinking, which tore apart our relationship. The divorce hit hard.
I had a job as a technician, but I began to hallucinate more and have
irrational thoughts. I tried to' live with these symptoms, but they got
progressively worse. My work suffered, and one day I impulsively walked
out on the best job I'd ever had.
I needed help and knew it. I went to see an old therapist. I was
given a form to fill out, but I was unable even to answer the first
question: the date. Soon I was back on the psych ward, and I was scared.
Nothing was going right, and I didn't know what to do.
I don't remember much about that time of my life. I was depressed
and on toxic amounts of medication. When a new, milder drug came out, I
took it. It was Clozaril, and while it had been used in Europe for some
time, the FDA had only recently approved its use in the United States.
The drug did have some drawbacks. Taking it meant a weekly blood draw to
check white blood cell counts. If it fell below a certain amount, I'd be
taken off the drug. But it helped me focus. A new chapter of my life was
starting, and Clozaril was part of it.
About once a year, I was still admitted to the psych ward. Off the
ward, I hung out at the local coffee shop and wrote. After five years, I
met Sue, a waitress at the coffee shop. Several of the regulars suggested
that I ask her out. I did. We grew close, and I grew happier and
It's now been four years since Sue and I met. The coffee shop has
since dosed down, but Sue and I are living together and planning to marry
in a few months. My medical diagnosis hasn't changed, and although I've
been through many medicines over the years, they are becoming more
effective, which means I can live a healthier and more normal life. I can
hold a satisfying relationship. And I can write.
Robert Dericks lives in Lincoln, Nebraska.