GILBERTO, “Minds Interrupted” 2009
I was born in 1942 during the 2nd World War. My father was serving for the Navy in the South Pacific. My mother moved to Santa Fe from a Northern New Mexico rural area. I was to be the middle child of seven children. I can say that since early childhood I stood out as being different. An example of this was the use of a child harness when going to town.
As a child I always recognized my active nature. All this, I thought, was a part of growing up. As time went on my family life changed. I now had a step-father and step-mother. I was now part of a broken family. At this point in my life I started having difficulties in family life, school and social situations. I was six years old.
At ten, I met the police, later to become, the cops. I had been in trouble before but this time I knew it was serious. They wouldn’t let me go till my mother came for me. From others, I felt rejection, embarrassment and humiliation – this was the beginning of my rebellion. Although I felt myself being different, I never thought of myself as being sick or ill. Sickness and illness was what happens to your body. I never thought my mind could be sick.
I dropped out of school at age fourteen; then I hitch-hiked to California. There was an increase in my use of alcohol and by this time I found marijuana. I also found my way through jails. In jail I would discover man’s inhumanity to man. I started showing violent behavior towards everyone and anyone who got in my way. My hope had faded and slipped away, there now was only one role for me to play in life -- to be the very Best “Worst Person” I could be.
Fear and doubt were creeping into my life. I felt an invisible pain deep inside of me. This pain produced loneliness and indifference in. I didn’t believe, when I was told, “Don’t pour gasoline on the fire”. This is the time I started pouring alcohol on my problems. I was eleven years old.
I kept finding ways to get in trouble with drug use, alcohol and drug dealing. I chose this lifestyle because it helped me fit in. I was finding my way to the courts. The courts recognized that I might be having emotional problems. To fix my problems, the courts sent me to the Las Vegas State Hospital.
After a horrible experience there, they decided that what I really needed was to go to jail. Oh no, rejected again. That is what I had really been feeling most of my life. Losing all hope, I became helpless in my will to change. All of the bad things I had been involved with kept revisiting me. My life’s destruction was in full swing. It was a race to the bottom. My self-destruction escalated to the point where death would have been a welcome solution.
The only ability I had for coping was to react. No reason, no thought, just action. I had a total disregard for law enforcement and no sense of civil behavior. I would be unreasonable; feeling trapped, I would react with violence. My family didn’t know what to do, friends weren’t helpful, and it was hard to fit in to community life. There was no money for services.
At age twenty-eight I hit bottom and felt totally worthless. This was the darkness that had laid before me, before I could and would see the light. I had a bad experience with my girlfriend that caused me great shame. This shame was so awful I never wanted to return to that place of shame again. The only way to ensure this was to change my ways. I made a commitment to myself to do all in my power to restore myself to health and sanity.
Along the way, I was guided to where I could find help. I reached inside of myself for the life lessons I had learned. Life had taught me, there is good and bad, light and dark, up and down. I knew that recovery was beyond my ability to do alone. I needed help. I found that help at the Community Mental Health Center in Espanola. Renewing old friendships and spiritual guidance from the Elders in my life and the loving tender care of my mother, gave me the ability to start growing, developing and maturing in ways I had not known before.
My life started to come together; I started taking care of business. I was at a point where my dreams were becoming a reality. But just because I had changed, didn’t mean that the world around me had changed, and I still had difficulties in my life—my marriage didn’t work and I separated from my family. I became obsessed with the thought of ending it all. Fortunately, my children gave me the strength to overcome this obsession and with help I started to regain my emotional strength to fight what I know now to be severe depression.
I realize how hard it is to come back from the bottom and that there are “others less fortunate”, less able than myself. That didn’t matter, what mattered was that we had to improve things for us all. That is when I started speaking out about Mental Illness.
Although I have suffered many hardships due to my mental illness, I am grateful for the insights that have helped me to recognize the humanity in myself and others. I have been able be part of a lot of the changes that have happened in the last few decades
To those not knowing what to do, because you find mental illness a mystery, do all you can to educate yourself. Use your knowledge so that we can all join together to make a difference. From this day forward, let’s work to make this a better world for everyone.