11.  Model mental patient

 The drugs took affect at once. I hardly remember anything about the week I spent in Glenside mental hospital. It was a locked ward. The hardest thing was to get along with all the other mental cases. A man in his late 20’s told me he was going to shoot people so they don’t have to endure Armageddon. A very vocal lady, possibly 50 years old, but looking more like 70, kept asking me to visit her at her farm. I don’t know why she was locked up, but we all had our own story to tell.

There was a small outside courtyard with a high fence around it. When I looked out the window one day five male nurses and staff was wrestling a young aboriginal man to the ground. He tried to slash his wrist. It was an ugly scene. I felt in an alien world.

Boredom was a great enemy. Due to the drugs I couldn’t read for long. The mind just switches off. Even my speech and vision were slightly affected. Mealtimes and visitors were a welcome break. One of my biggest problems was my wife not understanding my reasoning. I kept saying to her, you will be famous, get ready for it. I wrote in my diary on 3.5.99: … it may take longer than I think. How prophetic this turned out to be.

Being a mental patient robbed me of all my dignity. I was not allowed to keep anything, no shoelaces and even my comb was taken from me. Every time I wanted to clean my teeth I had to ask for toothpaste.

But even at such a time of distress my faith in God, this unseen powerful friend that was beside me 24/7, was unshaken. I prayed to God for wisdom. I had time to think things over. What was it I really wanted, I asked myself. The answer came via TV. A famous interviewer stated during a program that main stream religion is dying out. How sad, I thought, people are turning away from God? I wrote in my diary that I wanted God and Jesus to be trendy again. That people will say, “God bless” or “Praise the Lord” or “I pray for you”. This is possible. It can happen. Deep down this was my heart’s desire.  

Even before my hospitalization I had developed the pattern of waking up very early in the mornings or at night with thoughts that sprung to mind without warning. In the years following I would receive dreams or thoughts with such frequency that my life became dominated by them. One thought latched onto me and would not let go. It was about my family doctor. He had been charged with misconduct, fondling two female patients. I never believed he was guilty and became suspicious. This doctor once gave me time off as stress leave, after I had been mistreated at the MCA. Perhaps he was framed by revengeful elements for doing that? This is how I reasoned.

Another friend of mine was dismissed as a long time school teacher, a Christian family man. He worked at my children’s Christian School. It was clearly an unfair dismissal; one of my friends agreed when I spoke to her, saying that he was done in. Later I realized that I had listed this teacher’s name as the first one under “Acknowledgements”, in my road safety book. He had encouraged me to go ahead and write the book. Did this rogue element target not only me but my friends?

Incidents like this fuelled my conspiracy theory. From the time I was admitted to Glenside Hospital I was never again taken seriously by anyone for years to come. As soon as I had been diagnosed as bi-polar, another name for manic depression, I was branded by the medical profession, by friends and the community as simply a mental patient. In the end I believed that I actually was ill.

After a week in the lock-up ward at Glenside I was transferred to a “low security” unit closer to home. It was embarrassing having my friends visit me in a mental institution. What did they really think? From conversation I could tell, whatever I said from then on was always seen as coming from a sick mind. The downward spiral of the roller coaster was in full swing.

After two weeks in the open ward, I was discharged. At home I studied about bi-polar illness on the internet. I did show all of the signs listed for manic depressives, except that I did not play around with other woman: Spending money? Yes, but thankfully not to the extent where I lost my house.

Dreaming up grand schemes? Yes, but they were for the good of mankind not for myself. Feeling important? Yes, but I was about to learn the lesson that true greatness requires a humble spirit.

Despite living on social welfare I thought Isobel and I could afford a short holiday in Cairns, North Queensland. We flew up for a week, leaving our youngest son with Isobel’s mother back in Adelaide. I was not yet well enough to really enjoy it. To recuperate from a serious mental crash like I had been through would take longer than a few weeks.

One moment stood out clearly during that time. We had rented a car for a week. Listening to the radio on morning as we were touring along, I heard a police officer talk about “Crimestoppers”. He stated quite clearly that any informant can stay anonymous, if they wished. Knowing that Crimestoppers is a national organization I queried why there would be different rules in different states.    

Back in Adelaide I did query this point with Jeremy Cordeaux on his talk back program. He said he would find out and to keep listening for an answer the next day. Well, I was unable to listen for the answer and am still puzzled to this day why I had to give my full name and address before Crimestoppers would take information.   

Following the short holiday I was hoping to get back into normal life. Instead I totally crashed. Depression struck overnight and spiralled out of control within a few days. I felt there was no future. I worried about everything especially about finances. Boredom was the biggest enemy. There was nothing go get up for in the morning. I had to force myself to do things; just weeding the garden or helping my wife clean the bathroom became an effort. She enjoyed me being around and helping with the housework. It was a struggle to pass the endless hours from breakfast until about 5 pm when I would turn on the television to occupy the mind. I had developed a fear of my computer, which I did not touch for many months.  

The worst time I experience was after coming of Stelazine tablets. My mind went berserk for three days. I could hardly imagine that I would be able to survive the next hour. It was a terrifying experience stirring thoughts of suicide. Luckily, it settled after the three days and I was rid of Stelazine tablets. Isobel wanted me to keep on these tablets as well as the mood stabilizers I took. It gave her some comfort to know that I was under medical supervision and looked after with tablets. I hated taking them. The stigma would stay with me for years.

During this time I temporarily lost my manhood. It was devastating to not feel a man any more. I really thought I had lost it for good. I left the meals half eaten because my appetite had gone. To make me feel like my life had totally finished I had a very bad back for some months. It just developed after some work in the garden. At one stage I could literally not get off the floor for 3 days. The visits to the psychiatrist helped only marginally. It was nice to be listened to and understood by another person, but the problem, I knew, was still mine to carry.

Chapter 12

Index

1. More in number      2. A sound mind       3. Now I'm found       4. Candle and the Wind

 

  5. Realm of Nature      6. All in his Hand        7. The Wonder of it All     8. To Think God loves