© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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Taking the Medicine

My parents again began to notice something was wrong with me, and took me for an emergency appointment with the psychiatrist. I had not been taking the medication he prescribed. I think he knew this was the truth. He insisted that I take the medication-a type of atypical antipsychotic called Geodon. Although I previously had fears about taking the medication, I thought that thousands of people had been involved in following me and observing me, and I thought it was about time they gave up. I thought if I took the medication, then THEY would be convinced that I was crazy, and THEY would stop following me. Of course, this would probably ruin my chances for ever being recruited into the CIA. But I thought it was for the greater good of everyone. In August, I started to take the medication.

The medication did not work immediately. It did prevent the recurrence of any major psychotic episodes, but I continued to believe my delusions for many months afterwards.

Near the end of September 2000, I developed a deep depression. This was the lowest point of my life. I had no mental energy whatsoever. I laid in bed for most of the day for several weeks. In October 2000, I tried to go out into the yard to rake leaves. I could not even rake up leaves within a small radius of 2 meters. Any physical action seemed to require a huge amount of mental energy which I didn't have. I began to dread facing the rest of my life. I could not imagine living my entire life in this state. Part of this depression was obviously due to a chemical imbalance, but I also believe some of it was due to realistic ideation. A few months earlier, I had thought I was a candidate for a fantastic job with the CIA. I realized that now, I would never be given that opportunity. I also realized that I had failed to develop any mathematical theory of fractals, which had been my dream for ten years. I was not a genius. Probably, I would never develop such a theory. I had wasted ten years of my life thinking about it. I began to understand that I had been placed in a mental institution due to mental problems. I had not done any significant productive work for nine months. In my depressed state, I could not imagine that I would ever be able to do any productive work again. I felt inadequate for life. I believed that I would never again achieve anything significant. I thought my best years were behind me. I also began to think that I would probably never get married. After all, who would marry a crazy man? Probably the first time my date found out I was schizophrenic, that would be the last time I saw her. I felt I had no future. I spent several months doing absolutely nothing.

I continued taking antipsychotic medication. Slowly, very slowly, I began to have insight into my mental illness. At first, I simply decided that I had had poor judgment about some things. I should not have gone into that house in Montana. That was poor judgment. Gradually, as time passed, I began to see that I not only had poor judgment, but my perception and thinking was faulty. The cat that scratched me was not sent by the CIA. I began to understand that the horns I heard were not real, that the glowing light I saw did not exist. These realizations came slowly over a period of two to three years. The longer I had a particular delusion, the more time was required for me to let go of it.

A good friend of mine began to encourage me to become an Oracle Database Administrator. I had written a database application for Woody to keep track of his mutual funds. I thought I might be able to apply some of this knowledge to learning Oracle. By January 2001, my depression had abated and I decided I needed to do something with my life. Perhaps becoming an Oracle Database Administrator was something I could do. The only problem with my plan was that Oracle classes were very expensive. A one week class cost $2500. I had no money. I had no working computer. My mom was skeptical that I could succeed in this career. However, Woody was not. After talking with Woody one day, he told me he would buy me a computer, and pay for the first Oracle class I took. I accepted his gift and I was extremely grateful. I took my first Oracle class the following month and I passed the first certification exam. After this success, my parents decided to pay for the remaining classes.

In general, these classes were very difficult. The instructor presented much more information than I could absorb during the class. I developed a pattern where I would take a class, and then I would study independently for one or two months before taking the certification exam. Eventually, I completed all the courses and I passed all the exams -I was certified as an Oracle Database Administrator.

Looking back at my behavior, I think my core personality did not change while I was mentally ill. If I was someone else, I might have reacted violently to some of the perceived incidents. For instance, when I thought people were following me, I could have turned on them and attacked them. Or, if I was a fearful person, I might have decided to carry a gun. However, I am not a violent person, I am not an aggressive person, nor am I a fearful person (in general). I think someone with a history of violence would become violent if they were mentally ill. Someone who is not violent probably would not become violent.

Sometime during the spring of 2001, I decided that I wanted to get involved in community service. The best way I knew how to do this was to become a member of my local Fire Department. So, in April of 2001, I joined the Fire Department. I went for Fire Fighter training that summer. It was very difficult for me. However, I graduated with 12 other cadets out of an original class of 28 people. After this, I started to volunteer as a firefighter. I found that I was not a good responder. When we got an emergency call, I was always the last person ready to go. I went to a fire once and I found that I was wondering what to do all the time. I did not have good instincts for emergencies. I decided I should not be a firefighter. Instead, I became an administrative member of the department. I am now the building and grounds committee chairperson. I am also chairperson of the budget and finance committee, and I am Vice-President on the Board of Directors. I find that I can do these jobs well, and for the most part, no one else wants to do them.

In August of 2002, I was ready to go back to work full-time. All of my symptoms of schizophrenia were under control with the help of medication. My mental state had been stable for more than a year. I started to tell people that I was looking for a job. My dad met Rudy at the bagel shop one day and he happened to mention that I was looking for a job as an Oracle Database Administrator. Coincidently, Woody had already been talking to Rudy about job opportunities for me as a Database Administrator. Rudy told my Dad, "I think my wife needs an Oracle Database Administrator at her office." I called his wife, and she arranged an interview for me. I was hired shortly after the interview.

During my first year in this job, I would occasionally get severe anxiety, perhaps once a month. At these times, I couldn't function at work and I would have to go home. I made my boss aware that I was schizophrenic, and she was very understanding when I had to leave. Beginning in the second year, I started to have another type of anxiety. I would get this anxiety almost every morning, and it would last for several hours. It made me restless and nervous. I couldn't sit still. The anxiety was very intense. This anxiety was like nothing else I had ever experienced in my life, and it was by far the worst feeling I ever had. It had a much different quality than the common anxiety most normal people experience. I wanted to escape from existence, to leave this experience behind. At times, I would have preferred to die instead of continuing to experience this feeling. It was awful. Horrible. I could not work effectively at my job. However, I did not leave work, because I was having these attacks every day. I certainly couldn't take every day off. My doctor said I was experiencing akithisia, a side effect of the anti-psychotic medication. He gradually switched me to a different anti-psychotic medication, and this anxiety went away within two months.

The more I understood my illness, the more ashamed I became of myself. It took a long time to admit that I had been mentally ill and that I have a mental illness. At first, I wanted to hide this fact from other people. Eventually, though, I decided that I wouldn't have done anything differently in my life, and so I couldn't blame myself for my illness. Finally, I accepted it and could talk to other people about it.

Looking back at some of my experiences, I can now re-evaluate some of them with a clearer mind. When I found the letter in my hotel room, when I heard a thousand car horns in Montana, and when I saw the glowing light at my home in Maryland, these were definitely hallucinations. There is no other logical explanation for them. But, they were not simply part of my 'imagination' in the usual sense of the word. I did not imagine these events in the same way you might imagine you are on a desert island, or you might imagine you are flying in the sky. These events were real to me, just as this text you are reading seems real to you now. These events were not 'ideas' in my mind. When they occurred, I had absolutely no conscious thoughts about them prior to their occurrence. They were unexpected and surprising. And they seemed real. Absolutely real. In the case of the letter I found in my hotel room, I picked up the letter with my hands, I crumpled it up, and I threw it in the trash can. When I heard a thousand car horns, I heard them as if they existed in the real world. When I saw the glowing light, it existed in one corner of the room, and it did not move when I moved my eyes to another part of the room. It was as if there was actually a light source emitting the light. If these events were a reality invented by my brain, then there was a very sophisticated neural process going on in my head to generate them. These experiences were produced by some part of my brain that had never been activated before.

I cannot say if any of the other events I experienced were hallucinations. For instance, some of the conversations or voices I overheard may or may not have been real. I have no basis for evaluating the truth about these other events.

I have been at the same job now for three years. It is going very well. I have been able to do everything that has been asked of me. Several people at work know that I am schizophrenic (because I have told them), and they hold this information in confidence. I think the rest of my co-workers would never suspect that I ever had a mental problem.

I want to thank all of my friends and family for staying close to me during my illness. No one ever abandoned me. This was truly a blessing. I am grateful to know so many wonderful people. Special thanks go to Mom, Dad, Alex, Patrick, Woody and Judy. You're the greatest!

Lastly, I have found that the longer I take psychiatric medication, the better it works. I now have virtually no symptoms of mental illness whatsoever. I no longer feel or think that people are watching me or following me. In public places, I no longer feel exposed. Security cameras do not bother me. Every month, I continue to notice small improvements in my psychological and emotional state. With the help of medication, I hope to experience a normal existence for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, not every schizophrenic person responds favorably to medication. Let's hold out hope for these people that better medications will be invented some day.

(This is the end of my story.)

© Copyright 2005 Kurt Snyder

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