S3: Fine Line - Episode 2 - John

Episode Information

Fine Line: Mental Health/Mental Illness – Episode 2 – John

[Intro Music]

Narrator:  Welcome to Season three Fine Line narrative histories about mental health and mental illness, a traveling exhibition and weekly podcast edited and hosted by Michael Nye, supported by Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. May you find insight and understanding in these voices. Episode two, John.
John:  During one summer in my youth, my father gave me a task of cleaning out all the dandelions in the yard. It must have taken me about three to four weeks to get ’em all pulled. And I worked hard hours every day, just getting out in the sun. I wore a hat and my dad gave me a dollar for every basket full. And we would shake ’em. I mean, there was no dirt. And I must have filled about 40 of ’em. <laugh>. I don’t remember the actual breakdown. Uh, I do remember I’d gone to school locally, then I transferred to college at Purdue University and I was living away from my parents for the first time. And I could not make a friend. When I was in, in, uh, at the school, my, my roommate decided not to live with me the next semester. He thought I was too weird or something.

And I was also struggling in my classes with logic and advanced physics classes. And this was very difficult for me. During that time, I was searching for answers in the Bible. They said that six men tackled me to, to bring me out of the church ’cause I was resisting. And afterwards, I do remember being in the hospital, but I was not functional. I was not able to be the person I was. Living with schizophrenia I was unable to function almost totally. I was unable to think. I was unable to move. I would be under impressions that people were trying to hurt me. I would hear voices and the sounds of machines, sound of air passing through the room. You feel like you’re a waste. You lose your sense of purpose. You see other people not want to be with you because they don’t want what your illness is. It is so intensely painful that makes you desperate for some sort of recovery.

So many years ago, I would attempt things that most children would not attempt and people respected me when I was a child even. But when I’m non-functioning, that’s the way they see you are. It was very difficult for doctors to see my potential. They saw me as an invalid. They didn’t see me as a normal human being. In 1995, when I first started this medication, I realized that the switch was on again. I started having hope again. I started thinking abstractly. It gave me a patience that I never found in my life before. It was like coming out of a blizzard into a warm room. I have a dream in my life, and I think I do not wanna fall short of that dream first to go to college and get a bachelor’s degree. The second step is to get a very good job. The next step is to find someone to have a relationship with.

The fourth step is to have a family. That’s the order in which I’ve been trying to live my life. Right now. I am going to the University of Texas at San Antonio. I’m in my junior year, and the fear is there that the medication will stop before I accomplish even my first goa. Over the last nine years when, when I close my eyes and let the darkness resolve itself, I see like looking at a very dark room with these various children running around and a few adults watching the children. I feel like I’m part of a family, although there’s no one here. Before I fall asleep every night, they like to say goodnight to me and then I fall asleep.

[Outro Music]

Host: Fine Line. Mental Health, Mental Illness is a series of narratives and portraits from the point of view of those that are living with a mental illness. These stories are not intended to summarize or explained anyone’s life. We all carry a thousand stories. There are so many ways a voice can turn. Mental illness is too wide and mysterious to define. Psychiatrist list over 300 different manifestations of mental illnesses. It’s painful to be labeled and to be misunderstood, every experience of mental illness is personal, private, and uninvited. Mental illness is treatable and is not caused by a weakness of character. John and I stayed in touch for two or three years after we initially met. He graduated from the University of Texas at San Antonio with a degree in physics. John said many times, I think everyone wants the same thing, to be respected, to count, to stand for something, to have made a difference that you lived at all. Thank you, John, for your grace, your wisdom, and your presence. I’m Michael Nye. You can go to my website, michaelnye.org/podcast for John’s portrait and transcript. Thank you for listening.