Mental Illness? or - Salvation                                                               Copyright ©2014 Hazel Gay

Hazel Gay's To Heal the Broken-Hearted (Chronicle of a woman's 18 year journey through "mental illness" to healing, wholeness and transformation.)
Chapter 3 All quotes used with written permission.

February 1974
        Standing at the dishwasher, I started taking china plates out and slamming them on the floor till kids stopped me.  Another day that week I abruptly started throwing books into the fire in the woodstove, till kids stopped me and started trying to salvage books.  An armload of music was next into the fire, some of it music I had written.   
       I began hoarsely verbalizing to Jack who was just standing there, “You know what I’m doing? That’s part of ME burning there, part of ME in that fire.  You can’t enjoy my music, my books. You don’t want nice things like my china dishes. We have NO communication about ANYTHING. All right, to keep this home together for these kids, I’ll live without them.” 
       A few days later I stood in my living room, my back to the woodstove and thought, “I have to have an anesthetic to stay here.  If I become an alcoholic I won’t care about anything but I can still take care of the house.  What I really want to do is burn out part of my brain cells, to kill all those parts of me that nobody knows what to do with, or can’t understand, or doesn’t need, or doesn’t want.”  (Though I didn’t start doing much towards it.) 
       My feet turned blue, stayed blue for the next two weeks, stayed extremely cold and my toes were drawing down.  I noticed a change in bowel habits, starting to go practically every time I ate. It crossed my mind, “Like a baby.” 
       That winter we’d had the gasoline shortage.  I used what I could get going to sing once a week.  My son or I cut the oil line going from the oil tank to the furnace while cutting wood with an ax and two deliveries of oil had gone down the creek before we discovered it.  So I had stayed in a cold house day after day, going nowhere, talking to no one but my family, no mental stimulation to speak of, not even TV for that had been broken for some time, not that I cared. 

March 1974
       For the first time in a long time I was called for two days subbing at school.  I picked up a copy of I’m OK, You’re OK.  The quote on grace by Tillich raised some memories and feelings: 

        “..Grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness.  It strikes us when we walk 
       through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life…It strikes us when…our lack of 
       direction and composure have become intolerable to us.  It strikes us, when, year after year, 
       the longed for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us 
       as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage.  Sometimes at that 
       moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness and it is as though a voice were saying: 
      ‘You are accepted, accepted by that which is greater than you, and the name of which you 
       do not know.  Do not ask for the name now; perhaps you will find it later.  Do not try to 
       do anything now; perhaps later you will do much.  Do not seek for anything; do not 
       perform anything; do not intend anything.  SIMPLY ACCEPT THE FACT THAT YOU 
       ARE ACCEPTED!  If that happens to us, we experience grace.”   
                                       Tillich, Paul,  The New Being, New York: Scribner’s, 1955. 

        And I knew what he was talking about!  I’d never heard it or read it but I RECOGNIZED it! And it scared me.  Somehow, it brought back the feeling of summer ’71, that I was in the process of being “saved” so to speak. Yet it was highly unthinkable that anyone as famous and intelligent as I considered Tillich, could talk about something that I, little me, could have possibly experienced! 
       Friday night I started reading Fromm’s Sane Society before I went to bed…

Saturday, March 1974
        Woke at 6, had forgotten to iron Jack a shirt, jumped out of bed to do that, started thinking, unable to go back to sleep though I felt exhausted, was sleepy, my eyes hurt and I had a headache. I have to type it down before I forget it.  I guess the quote from Tillich got me partly off on this tangent. 
       The Idea.  OK, if we have a conscious, a subconscious, we have transmission of things through the genes and we don’t know where the soul is, if we have a soul, or even what or how the mind works or how memory works, why could there not be something besides conscious and subconscious? (Maybe I’m only showing my ignorance of psychology because somebody already thought of that and I just don’t know about it.) I don’t mean “mysticism,” (Though I knew the word at this time, I really didn’t know what it meant.) yet possibly it comes close to what some people mean by that. 
       The Origin of Life? The “Big Bang?” “Dust of ancient stars?” I start at the point of where the “ONE” divides. I contend there is something in me that KNOWS when it was part of the “ONE.” 
        I’m simply writing all these (and more) random thoughts down so I don’t lose them and can come back to it later and try to reconstruct my thinking so I can proceed from there.  My point is that, like “God,” the sacred, it’s not “out there” but somewhere in our physiological make-up. 
       I keep thinking about the first time I KNEW two different things at once. I KNEW that to think like I was I was schizo and this time it’s different, because I DON’T REALLY BELIEVE I AM and a little voice says, “That’s the way schizos are supposed to be; they don’t think they’re crazy” and I know it’s going to take more than a little to make me stop thinking about all those things.  I have no other mind wanderings or strange thoughts.  But it’s all so close to what I did before. I’d read something, it would start me thinking and I’d come up with some of the wildest ideas related to this one theme. 


        With only two or three hours of sleep that night, I knew I was going.  I had called County Hospital during the week to find Dr. B . so Sunday night I called him. 
       “I can’t turn off my thinking, just keep thinking and thinking, working out all kinds of weird ideas and getting into ‘other world’ stuff.  Boy, have I got a headache!  And my head feels so hot. Somewhere I learned that thinking burns up energy so I guess that’s why my head’s hot.” 
       “That’s right…” 
       “I’ve been putting cold cloths on it, trying to cool it.  I’ve had Jack squeeze it between his hands trying to get relief from the intense pressure which does seem to help, but I can’t turn it off. For some reason I keep thinking about something LIKE an ‘Atlantis’ ‘out there’ or an ‘Atlantis’ on earth, and I know I’m not a genius, I know my IQ…” 
       “But you are intelligent.” 
       “I’m so afraid of not sleeping.  I’m afraid of the nightmares while awake, that’s the worst part. 
What if I don’t sleep tonight?” 
       “You can go longer than that without the nightmares appearing while you’re awake,” he reassured me. 
       “I have Haldol here in front of me, but I won’t take it.  I can’t stand the side effects, I’d rather be crazy but somebody has to do something…” I said as my voice started to break. 
       “I can’t see you but you do need to see someone, someone who can understand what you’re trying to say,” and he gave us the name of a doctor in private practice in Portland. 
       “I don’t know if it will do any good or not.  I went to a doctor in ’71 and told him I was schizophrenic and I needed something done and he just gave me a shot and sent me home.” 
       It seemed strange to me when he so quickly asked, “Who did that?  What was his name?” 

       The doctor couldn’t see me till Monday night.  I took papers on which I had been keeping notes, my very important papers, not only to me but I felt possibly for the future of mankind, wavering between thinking my ideas were real and allowing the possibility of science fiction. (I had periods of trying to make a written record of HOW my mind was working, not trying to censor my thinking or writing, something I would do during all altered states.)   
       Feeling very close to people that day, like seeing humanity for the first time. I felt love for everyone. 
       In NW Portland in a residential area, Jack could not find the doctor’s house so I drove and went straight to it.  When we couldn’t find the house because of not seeing any numbers, Jack sat in the car while I got out to find it, the first house I went to being the right one. (Reminds me of when my sister and two aunts took my mother to a sanitarium in OK City.  My mother was the only one that could read the street map to find it.) Delusions were flitting through my mind as we talked about an hour. He gave me a prescription for Haldol, which I knew I was not going to take. As I prepared to leave, the doctor looked at me very directly and said, “You’re going to have to do it yourself.”  I thought he was referring to me leaving Jack, getting my act together and I thought, “And oh, is my cross going to be heavy!” 
       Most of that night I was very delusional.  Again, I thought “the doctors” were reading my mind, through the electricity, and I was so tired.  To unplug my mind, I pulled the main fuses and threw them out the back door into the snow.  Grumbling all the time, Jack got out of bed, went outside, found them at last and put them back. 
       “Leave them alone,” he demanded as he started back to his warm bed.  “I have to get up to go to work in the morning.” 
       I threw them out again; Jack went through the same procedure and raved, “I have to go to work in the morning. I have to get up. The clock has to be running to wake me up so leave it alone. Just leave them alone, and go to bed…”  He started trying to manhandle me to take me to bed.   
       Violently, I knocked his hands off me while screaming, “Don’t touch me!  Don’t touch me!” I was hurting, oh, how I was hurting from the years and years of repressing and stifling my impulse to scream at his demanding, insistent, insensitive touch – from all the things that had happened to me in my life…I thought “the doctors” were filming me through the windows. “They” wanted ultimate pain so that’s what I gave them.  Jack was still trying to hold me, to force me to bed. I kept screaming, “Don’t touch me, don’t…”  Jerking out of his grasp, I fell into the divider between the kitchen and dining area, knocking it over.  I laid there, in agony, moaning and wailing. Then…..!!,
       “Girls, girls, wake up, wake up, right now,” Jack yelled, calling the girls by name. “Come down here, I want you to come downstairs right now, hurry up!” 
       My girls came running down the stairs and as they stood looking down at me writhing in agony on the floor, he hoarsely shouted, “Look at her, just look at her, look at your ‘mother,’ you see how crazy she is!  How do you like that?  THAT’s your mother’…” 
       My little girls got down on their knees, started hugging me, patting me, saying, “It’s all right, Mama…Don’t’ cry, Mama..It’ll be all right now, Mama..We love you, Mama..Please don’t cry…” 
       They calmed me down, helped me get up and everyone but me went back to bed. I left the fuses in. 
       Another night I wrapped the afghan I’d crocheted at Dammasch around me, put the unfinished blanket I’d knitted for my baby that had died over my head and wandered around out in the cold night wind and falling snow, trying to feel close to Jim through nature, experiencing my pain. When I came back in I lit the kerosene lamp, more symbolism, my subconscious. I turned off all the electric lights, my conscious.  I had decided to let only the lamp burn…. 

       Again, much going with “instinct,” “feel.”  To see what would happen, I opened my Webster’s the same way I had the Bible in ’71, to see if there might be anything meaningful. My eyes fell on “Rosetta Stone.” During this episode I doodled my first adapted Star of David and in my notes I wrote “Inner Perception Dimension.” From those original notes: “I picked up a green metallic scarab beetle and put him in the fire.”  (The only time I saw one in our house.) 
       Main fuses in the electric control panel started blowing – for no apparent reason.  The individual circuits did not blow, only main fuses, every two or three days, progressively increasing in frequency until I went to the hospital at which time they stopped and never did it again. I couldn’t keep from thinking that somehow my thinking was interfering with the house current. 
       With all the delusions, it was very hard not to create another one when Jack and some of the kids excitedly said, “We saw a light in the sky that came down into the woods out by our house but we didn’t see anything else!  What could it have been?  We saw it, a light!” 
       Tuesday morning, a week and a day after he’d taken me to the doctor, Jack went to work as usual but came home to take me to the hospital.  We had just started out when I looked into the rear view mirror in the car and it was “as if” I were seeing my reflection for the first time in my life so clearly.   
       “I can see myself!” I said, somewhat astonished. As if both eyes were converging on the same image, working together instead of split; it was like my reflection was in better focus. Course all Jack and my oldest daughter could see was how “crazy” I was. Everybody knew one could see one’s reflection in a mirror.  But it was such a clear image and in that instant, I could not remember having seen it so distinctly before. 

       At the Crises Unit at the Medical School, I wound up on a 72 hour “hold,” was put on 6 mgs. of Haldol and some Cogentin. 
       The next morning my feet had normal color, in fact, my toes were a bright pink, not blue like they had been for two weeks and not drawing down.  I could even turn them up!  I’m sure the attendants thought it only another symptom of my “mental illness” when I walked down the hall, looking at my bare feet and remarking in a surprised voice, “They’re pink!  They’re pink! And they turn up!” 
       The old mountain man patient NEVER talked, though I talked to him. (A result of working with deaf children?)  Seeing a harmonica in his pocket I asked, “Do you play?  Will you play some for me?” 
       He played a little, I asked him to play more.  And he played and played.  He started talking to me.  He saw me trying to fix the sustain pedal on the piano and wanted to help, so there we sat, me and this wild looking mountain man, under an old upright piano looking at its insides. He fixed it. I started wrestling with the feeling he was really my father… 
       Before I left I was put in touch with the County Mental Health Department and my first contact was made with Dr. C., a psychiatrist, for an appointment after I got home.   
       When it was time to go home at the end of eight days I told Jack, “I can live with you as sister and brother but not like husband and wife, I want you to leave.”  I was not able to get help from any agency.   I tried. 
       He left, for one night, came back the next day as if I had never said it and though I objected, refused to leave.  After a couple of days, I stopped pushing it. 
       Two weeks after I was released another first happened.  I woke up one morning in severe depression, almost as if I had to think, “Now, put your right foot in front of your left, now your left in front of the right,” even to walk.  It scared me.  I went to talk to Dr. C. and described what was going on. 
       “You’re in depression,” he offered. 
       “I know that! What do I do about it?” 
        He couldn’t tell me but we had an intellectual discussion.  When I got home, for the first time in two weeks, I automatically started cleaning the kitchen. I didn’t pull out of the depression but I wasn’t in quite so deep.  I was to remain in depression for the next year. 
       My visit with Dr. C. was my monthly excursion into intelligent conversation.  We never “did” anything, just talked.  

January 30, 1975 
       I went back to work at the clothing factory where I had managed to work for six months the previous year. By the end of two weeks I was thinking about suicide, the first time since 1971. It was time to decide once and for all if I were going to kill myself but I wanted time to be sure that’s what I really wanted; I knew there wouldn’t be any changing my mind later. I went for a “retreat” in central Oregon, to a place that reminded me of “home” in Oklahoma, giving me time to think, to fast, clear my mind to make a conscious decision.  After getting my car stuck in an isolated area, I waded through the foot of snow that ended some of my plans.  After a few hours in  that primeval stillness, to my astonishment, I got “homesick!”  I hadn’t been homesick but maybe twice in my adult life but I got “homesick” that day. It reminded me of how I felt as a child when I woke up in my grandmother’s house in that second between knowing I was not in my own bed and not knowing where I was yet.  So I followed my feelings and went home, another long story. 
       The next morning I was making a real effort to pull out of the mental and emotional abyss into which I had fallen by not going back to bed after the kids got off to school.  Reading a child’s book about a little girl getting her dream, Blue Willow, about 9 ‘clock, with the day undecided whether it wanted to rain or shine, I glanced out the window to the west, across the yard, across the meadow to fir timber a couple of hundred yards away.  Against the trees there were colors, a rainbow arching above them in the sky; I’d never seen a rainbow that close.  A little later I looked out again, and, I saw the end of another rainbow in front of the trees, a little to the north of where I’d seen the first one, the rainbow arching above.  Hurrying outside, I stood in the rain and wind and sunshine till it disappeared.  Going back in to the book, I was so tired!  When I looked a little later to see, a few feet farther north, another rainbow, I bolted out the back door and across the meadow.  I would stand in the end of the rainbow!  The closer I got the less I could see it till it was gone to my perception by the time I got where it had been. 
       When I went to see Dr. C. the next day the first thing I said was, “Ask me what I’ve been doing.” 
       “OK, what have you been doing?” he asked through a wide smile. 
       “Chasing rainbows,” I said, somewhat proudly. 
       “You know most people wouldn’t understand you,” he said, the look on his face changing, I thought to sadness. 
       “I mean literally.” 
       “I know,” he said quietly. 
       When I told him how I felt about my job he asked, “Why don’t you just quit?” 
       That was all I needed it seemed to help me make that decision.  I had felt a complete failure since I couldn’t do what most people had to do – work at a dull, boring job. 
       “I can’t give you an anti-depressant because of your reactions so I want you to go to the hospital and have shock treatments.”  (Months before he had pointed to a book and said, “That book right there says there are some people who can’t take an anti-depressant; it makes them psychotic.”) 
       “No,” I protested, “as I understand it, shock unselectively blocks out chunks of memory. With my luck it would knock out all my good memories and I’d still be left with the bad ones. And I don’t want my memory interfered with, anyway.  All I am is my memories; they help make me ME and I don’t want my brain messed with and I don’t want to go to the hospital.  They won’t let me go outside when I want to; they’ll make me take Stelazine and I’ll get the side effects and I will NOT live with those side effects again; I’d rather be crazy.  I won’t even be human in the hospital.” 
       Even though he said, “I’ll talk to them,” there was no way he was talking me into going to the hospital.  So he INSISTED I start going to Day by Day House a few days each week; I did as he wished. There was never any hint I might change the way I was living.  It’s like, “Save the marriage even if you have to have shock treatment.”

       Marriage counseling –  after talking to us about 30 minutes the physically blind therapist said, “You two don’t have enough in common that I have anything to work with.  This is a waste of your time and money. I don’t know how long it will be but you will get a divorce.” and refused to see us again.

April 1975      (about the night on the mountain, 1971) 

        Cold mountain wind whining through the trees 
        sharp taste of juniper 
        deserted, jagged rocks 
        at the edge of a winding dirt path 
                Infinity found me huddled 
                around my breaking heart 
              Time stopped on the breath of a whisper 
        I felt the face of God
        with the tips of my fingers 
        as I talked with 
        the rocks 
        the wind 
        the trees 
        the mountains