Geraldo, “Minds Interrupted” 2008 Santa Fe, NM

When I was a child, I liked to hide; not hide in the hide and seek kind of way, but hiding as far as I could get away from everybody else. I wanted to keep people from seeing me.

I felt safe in the attic where I fixed myself up a little spot with pillows and blankets in the dark. I would hear my parents calling for me, but I wouldn’t answer… and later, I wouldn’t tell them where I had been. This is what lured me; the smallness, the quietness, the darkness. That’s where I felt safe…..

I was born in Memphis Tennessee. Our house was on a hilltop overlooking the beautiful Mississippi River. I had 13 aunts and uncles who all have died. I had one uncle who I loved who couldn’t talk- but he loved playing with the little kids. When he died it was a deep loss because he was a special person. He couldn’t relate in a way we call “normal” but he was always there playing with the smaller kids.

He used “motions and signals” and couldn’t talk. It was a deep loss for me when he died because he was such a special person. Being so close to death, so early in life was very traumatic for me.

In 1979, I graduated from the University of Oklahoma and became a school teacher. I taught music to elementary school students. I loved teaching, it was a great source of happiness for me for over 20 years. I always felt badly when I missed a day of school because my presence and especially the music seemed to mean so much to my students.

I was an only child and when my parents got older, I had to stop teaching to take care of them in the last years of their life. I felt resentful; like I was being cheated out of something—my own life and my students who brought me so much joy.

I had problem with drinking since the age of 18 when I was still in high school. It turned from weekend drinking to daily drinking pretty fast. Sometimes I would drink the night before and go teach the next day.

After my parents died, I was invited to come to Santa Fe by my step-sister. She thought I had inherited a lot of money from my family. But there was no money because of their bills. They hadn’t left me any and the alcoholism had already taken over.

My sister threw me out of her house for drinking a week later when she found that there was no income to be had from me. I felt at such a low point in my life and I became homeless for 5 years. Sometimes, I lived with friends or friends of friends for a while. I had my own apartment but lost it because I couldn’t stop all my drinking. It took so much away from me.

I walked around a lot by myself during this time. I would think to myself “something’s not right in my head and I would just start crying….I became very depressed. I would only act out if somebody said something to make me mad and I would stomp my foot and storm out.

I also heard voices in my head for as long as I could remember. The voices would tell me “you’re no good”, “you’re ugly”, nobody wants you”, and” you’re in everybody’s way”.

Finally I was arrested and put in jail for a month for my homelessness. The judge said to me “ Since you have a history of alcoholism, do you want a referral to get some help from Lifelink” I said yes.

When I got there, they did some tests and found that I was not only depressed, and alcoholic but schizophrenic. They gave me some medication to calm down the voices which helped me a lot because they were loud and sometimes I’d yell back at them to try to get them to stop.

My life is so much better today than how it was before. I wanted to tell my story to you in a way that you might understand. I want people to know that you can be a “normal” or “average person” like the school teacher I was for all those years and not know what’s underneath the appearance. I heard voices all those years and really thought it was “normal” because that’s just the way I’d always been. Sometimes I tried to tell people in my family about the voices and they’d say “Oh, you’re just drunk” And I just really didn’t know why I wasn’t like other people for so many years.

Today, I feel fulfilled and grateful much of the time. I love Lifelink and I have a sense of community. I feel needed and I’m able to share my music. I feel like I’m worth something and I do have something to offer. And, now, I can speak freely instead of always being ashamed.

It’s not like I don’t still have a struggle sometimes. Recently I had a relapse for 3 weeks with a deep depression. I couldn’t get out of bed because the voices were telling me “you have nothing to get up for”, “nobody wants you”. But I got through that and I am so grateful because the people at Lifelink do care for me. When I was growing up I always felt that my parents just thought I was in the way.

For the first time in my life, I have a place I can call home. The Lifelink is where I live. The Clubhouse is a place for me to go and I don’t have to sit alone and think about how ill I am. I am happy when I go there. I have friends. I am so thankful that I have a place to go where I don’t have to walk the streets.

After 54 years, I have finally found home.