• Just three weeks after the scene I posted here from my memoir, Left of the Dial, I had a breakdown.  The truth that I could possibly lose my Grandpa, the one person who truly understood me and loved me without limits, was too much to bear.  As you’ll see from this excerpt in the two-part series, my mother drove me to the hospital within 24 hours of my episode.  Years later I marvel that I trusted her enough to get in the car.  What follows are true and actual events.  To this day I can never forget.  To remember is to understand.  “Only silence is shame.”  I tell my story because there is hope.  
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    The Hospital

    Friday night I’m overlooked.  I run through the wild bazaar of my mind with racing thoughts, paranoia, escalating emotions, unable to trace my steps back to their origin.  I even lose my shoes.

    This is how it happens.  This is the end of everything.  I lose all hope of a life worth living.  It’s so easy to slip.  Nobody’s looking.  They aren’t watching you.

    It’s a freak show, and you’re the star.  Welcome inside the velvet ropes of insanity.  “Congratulations, you’re a winner!” It begins Friday night.

    Maybe I tell Mom and Dad the government is after me.  They don’t believe.

    “Please, please!” I whisper, taking them into the backyard because the house is bugged. “Someone is coming!”

    The late afternoon is turning to that elusive time called dusk.  I shake in my limbs.

    “No, no,” Dad tells me. “You are safe, I tell you, safe.”

    Mom sighs.  “It’s okay.  Just go inside and rest.”

    How can I?  My brain is electric, charged up with thoughts.  It’s like I have enough energy to walk from New York City to California in ten minutes.

    “Mom!” I shout. “That person in the house in back is watching me!”

    “No,” she says. “That’s not true.”

    “Help!  I run into the office where my father is. “Charlie’s friend is a secret agent.  He’s coming to get me!”  

    “The radio station manager is a Nazi.” I telegraph aloud each new thought as it comes into my head. “He’s going to kill me!” I tell Mom.  It has to be true because his teeth are pointy white.

    “No.” She sighs.

    “Please, it’s true!” I continue.  How can I get her to believe me, doesn’t she see my life is in danger?

    “Just go rest,” Mom repeats.

    I dash into the bedroom and throw my collection of journals onto the floor, messy up the place so I won’t be found out.  Do I eat dinner, then run back in?  I’m afraid, I must hide in the closet, no, I place a shoe behind the door so whoever comes in will trip.  I cue up a Siouxsie album and settle in bed.  Then I must set the alarm for 3:09 a.m. because there will be a fire I have to put out.  I sprint down to the basement and hide in the dark, until I decide to come up for air.  I take up a camera and go in my room.  Mom and Dad’s voices are low in their bedroom.  I lie awake, and when I’m about to be lulled to sleep, I imagine someone is cutting my hair.

  • A smoky red figure burns out in front of my eyes, before I’m able to pretend to drift off to sleep.  “No, no!” I scream.
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    “Just go to sleep.” Mom climbs into the narrow bed, lifting the quilt over us, as she takes my left hand in her palm, our arms knocking.

    Too soon the sunlight interrogates my eyes.

    “I’m going to make breakfast.” Mom gets up and pushes the velvet cover away.

    Easing out of bed, I get dressed in black pants and a tee shirt.  At the bathroom sink I barely wash away the remains of twilight eye shadow.  I go in the kitchen to see Mom.

    She hands me a plate of scrambled eggs and toast.  The breakfast tastes like glue.  Mom tells me to come with her in the car, she’s taking me someplace.  I get in the front seat.  Then I stare in the side view mirror all the way there.

    The car speeds towards the South Shore and pulls up in the curved driveway of a building.  The Emergency Room.  I get out and we go in and Mom talks to someone.  I’m lead into an office.  She waits in a chair in the hall.

    “How are you?” the interviewer asks.
    The man sits at a desk and I’m in a chair across from him.
    “Fine.”  Who is he?  Why am I here?
    “So, you graduated college?”
    “In June.” I look away.  What’s he getting at?
    “What’s going on?” the interviewer continues.
    “Going on?” I ask. “Nothing.”
    “I hear you’re looking for work.”
    “Maybe.” I say.  Why is he asking?  Is this a trick question?
    “What kind of work would you like?”
    “Maybe teaching.” I begin to see that this is serious.
    “How about research?” he hints.   
    “No.” I can’t trust him because he’s a spy who’s going to try to get me to engage in dangerous operations.  I don’t want to do research for the government.
    “Come with me.” The interviewer leads me into a room with concrete walls. He takes off my shoes and replaces them with foam slippers.  An ID bracelet is locked around my wrist.  He leaves.

    So begins the terrifying descent that leads to a three-week stay on the psych ward.  Join me in the coming weeks as I talk about everything that happened after I got out.  My next SharePost entries will focus on those first 10 years of my recovery.

Published On: February 15, 2007