Thursday, October 9, 2014

‘Many of the weird things I said and did were logical and made perfectly good sense to me’

I refused to leave the building and began 
to scream: "Foot! Foot! Foot!"

 When I would become “sick” many of the weird things I said were logical, and made perfectly good sense to me all the time. They may not have made sense to anyone else, but they did to me. I would also develop a sense of pure honesty, like that of a child, perhaps. If someone had an eggplant growing out of his head, I would approach that person in order to ask him, “Why do you have an eggplant growing out of your head?” Nearly everyone else would pretend not to notice the eggplant.

Anyway, it was not very long after the downtown episode that I wound up in Houston International Hospital with Dr. Jaime Ganc as my treating psychiatrist. I remained at the hospital for one month, was released and returned home. I went into a relapse after about one week and returned to the hospital for another month. This would turn out to be my cycle for over six years. Counting this cycle as two different hospital stays, I was admitted into the mental hospital eight times between the years 1976 and 1982.

As good and nice of a hospital as Houston International was, it was no fun being confined there most of the time. I was locked up and without my freedom, so it still was like being in prison. Talking about prisons, let me tell you about the two brushes I had with the police because of mental illness. The first time I became sick and not long after my downtown escapade, I wound up in my doctor’s office to receive treatment for torn ligaments in my left foot (which had happened at Crown). I was dissatisfied because I felt the doctor was not helping me get rid of my pain. I refused to leave the building and began to scream, “Foot! Foot! Foot”

I wandered to the drugstore next door where the cops caught up with me. About eight policemen had eventually gathered there. I soon had them in row, standing at attention. I then commenced to conduct an inspection. “Straighten up that tie, officer,” I would say. Or, “I can’t see my face in your shoes, sir.” And to another, “Suck in that belly, flatfoot.” The policemen soon tired of my little game and forced me face down onto the floor that was covered with indoor-outdoor carpet. One of them pushed the back of my head down and rigorously rubbed my face against the brush-like carpet—this caused a pretty good carpet burn on one of my cheeks.

Another police officer handcuffed me very tightly. My wrists began to hurt right away. They hauled me off in one of their patrol cars to Ben Taub Hospital. Rita and some of my brothers-in-law came to see about at Ben Taub. I remember messing with a janitor in a hall there. I must have told him something he did not like. The old man started shouting at me and chasing me down the hall with his mop. The janitor had almost caught up with me when Rita and my brothers-in-law stopped him. I had good medical insurance with Crown so Rita had me transferred to Houston International Hospital.

Bagging groceries at 7-Eleven led to my arrest

David Delahoussaye's graphic of himself
My second encounter with the law was in the summer of 1979. I had been wandering the streets of Houston all night. I pulled in at a 7-Eleven to buy cigarettes. It was about 7:30 a.m. There was an unusually long line at the checkout counter. To expedite things, I decided to give the cashier a helping hand. I went behind the counter, next to the cashier, and began to place customers’ items into bags as I handed their sacks to them.

The clerk did not appreciate my assistance. The clerk began to scream and flail his arms wildly. I tried to explain I was trying only to be of assistance. Unfortunately he could not understand what I was saying, and I could not comprehend what he was screaming as he was screaming in Vietnamese. Because of my failure to cooperate with him, due to our lack of communication, the perplexed grocer went to the rear of the store to phone the police. It appeared he also was having difficulties getting the police department to understand him. The clerk still was screaming and flailing his arms.

In the meanwhile, customers had grown impatient. They began to leave the store without paying for their merchandise. I still was assisting those who wanted me to bag their non-purchased merchandise. Needless to say, I was arrested right on the spot at the establishment for bagging groceries.

I spent three days in jail. When I was first placed in the holding cell, I took a twenty dollar bill out of my wallet and set it on fire with my cigarette lighter. I then took the burning bill and threw it into the middle of the floor, inside the jail cell. The guys who were seated next to me leaped up and found different seats. It had worked! I wanted to demonstrate how “bad” I was so that no one would mess with me.

At hearing I could not see much of what was happening as I had lost my eyeglasses. The judge wound up dropping the charges against me, probably on the grounds that I was mentally ill. I stood and spoke these words toward the judge I could see: “Your Honor, I had been looking forward to this weekend, I would have off for a long time. I would like to press charges against my accuser for running my long weekend.” Loud, hysterical laughter erupted throughout the chamber. The judge growled, “Clear this courtroom!”

Reflecting on my experiences

As I reflect upon my experiences while plagued with manic depression, I have mixed emotions. I can recall the agonizing mental chaos I experienced and the feelings of utter despair and worthlessness. I pray to God that I will never have to go through such misery again. However, during the short-lived intervals at the opposite peal of the mood swings, I can also recall the wonderful emotions of intense joy, complete freedom and self-confidence and anticipation with excitement. I clung desperately to these friendly sensations which I knew would soon be shattered by an inevitable downward crash. I remember not being able to sleep because of child-like excitement of anticipation of what the next day would bring.
Unfortunately for me, the unfavorable feelings lasted a long time. Sometimes they lingered for years at a time. The lengthy periods during which I suffered left me feeling bad and not knowing why. It seemed like an eternity and always left me feeling like a dirty, lifeless, limp dishrag.

I could write a book about the many agonizing sessions I spent locked up and sometimes bound in those awful seclusion rooms during the eight times I was hospitalized. Minutes passed like hours, and hours like days. I recollect convincing other patients who were on the freedom side to throw cups of water through the small crack underneath the seclusion room door. Like a thirsty animal, I would bury my face into the urine-stenched carpet and suck up the water.

I remember what taking 1, 200 milligrams of Thorazine a day felt like. My tongue has peeled so badly that it hurt too much to eat. My eyes are shut but I am not sleeping. I hear other people around me but they appear to be far away. When they are saying has no meaning to me. My bottom jaw is very heavy and some force is perpetually pulling down on it. I no longer have the energy or will to exert any effort into holding my jaw up. And so, I simply allow my jaw to hang down. A steady stream of saliva flows down my chin, leaving a dark pool on the entire front of my blue hospital top.

My mind is in slow motion and my body will not respond to it. It is as though my mind and body are separated. They are not working together. They are not synchronized. I feel very frustrated and I do not have the courage to attempt to put my mind and body back together at this exact time, maybe tomorrow.

I am very tired but if I allow myself to fall asleep now, I might never awaken or something awful might happen to me. I must fight this urge to sleep so that I can keep my eyes on everybody. I must continue to battle this annoying drug—Thorazine. I struggle to my feet and join other zombies in doing what is known in such hospitals as the “Thorazine Shuffle.” Step by short, slow step, without any purpose, we (the patients) shuffle up the hall, and then we shuffle back. I now am one of the zombies, one of the walking dead. In a dazed stupor, wee shuffle all day long. We shuffle. We shuffle. We shuffle.

Those are the painful memories. Yet, they are a part of a real life experience. They are part of me. No matter how unpleasant those memories are, I feel compelled to exact some benefit from them in some way. And, I have. With the grace of God, I have lived and prevailed through those seemingly never ending years of adversity! I have weathered the fierce, perpetual storm and I have emerged a fortunate and grateful survivor. I have been emotionally stable for over 10 (15 now) years. I feel that going through this most difficult period in my life has served to make me a stronger and better person. For it is in dealing positively with adversities in our lives that we grow both spiritually and emotionally.

Excerpts from “The Extraordinary Life of An Ordinary Man” by David Delahoussaye (the book is no longer in print)

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