I can’t remember exactly how it unraveled. It wasn’t one event but many over time. I had struggled with mental illness since I was 13. At the time I was living in San Francisco, CA I had not dealt with any major mental issues for many years. To the outside world I was fine. But I was slowly losing it.
I was seeing a therapist and psychiatrist and it helped but not enough. The difference between what I imagine was happening around me at work or with friends was getting foggy with my paranoia and delusions. I thought everyone was out to get me. A huge conspiracy theory. Classic schizoaffective disorder. But I didn’t know it.
I was a high functioning addict. Juggling different personas to different people. Trying to make something of my life. The kid who was in special education in high school had accomplished so much by the time he turned 30. A success by many accounts. But my internal demons were taking over.
It came to a head when I was let go by my job. I wanted to quit but couldn’t find another job. They were kind to give me time to find another job. In truth I was not happy with my choice of profession. Graphic design and web design. I was disheartened by corporate America. I felt trapped. I felt a huge weight off my shoulders on my last day of work. I was free. But SF is very expensive and the fear of running out of money was like a giant gorilla on my back. With unemployment I was able to get by for a bit but I had no clue what to do. Then it happened.
One night after convincing myself I was being watched in my apartment I took off in my car at night. I just drove around stopping at some places around SF. The internal dialogue getting louder and louder. I thought I was being followed. I drove around till the sunrise and then rushed back home. I went inside and paced in my room then I said fuck it. I grabbed my laptop my Stratocaster and my acoustic and put them in my car and proceeded to leave San Francisco. As I was crossing the Golden Gate I started weeping. A part of me knew I would not be coming back.
I had no plan. Little money in cash but no idea where I was going. One idea was to drive to Canada. Somehow that seemed like a logical plan. I just drove. All the while seeing what I thought were signs to keep going or people after me.
One example I started following a black truck and thought they were part of the Mexican mafia. They stopped at a house and got out. I got out my car as well. They didn’t say anything and I just stood there for a second and then got back in my car and left.
I was listening to music and it seemed as every song was directed at me and telling me things.
I kept driving. I only made it to Redding or nearby and decided to get off the highway. I stopped at a small motel and checked in. I brought my laptop with me. I paced the room and just out of my mind. I didn’t stay long. I left my laptop there with the battery taken out. Because “they” were tracking it. Ha. I left my iPhone there too.
I took off not sure which direction then parked my car at a office parking lot. I grabbed my acoustic and left my Stratocaster in the trunk. I started walking. I threw my car keys away into a bush.
I started to put my thumb out to catch a ride. A green truck stopped and a kind woman took me to the next town.
I walked around and decided I should get a room again. But somehow I lost my drivers license and they wouldn’t give me a room. So I just walked around some more.
It was getting dark and I was hungry so I got some subway to go.
I kept walking talking to myself and just in shock how I screwed my self over. Every person I saw, sign or building was some kind of sign to me. I was overwhelmed with thoughts.
I walked to a pay phone to try and get in touch with family but couldn’t remember anyone’s number. Two Hispanic gangsters were close by and laughing at me. I slowly just walked away.
I first tried to sleep behind a Target next to the dumpsters. But couldn’t get comfortable or sleep. I saw a black car drive by and park in the empty lot and again I thought it was the Mexican mafia watching me. So I decided to find another place to sleep.
I found one place but because it was cold and I had no jacket I just paced around playing my acoustic.
Then I found another place to sleep hours later. I found a piece of cardboard and used it as a bed. This helped keep me warm. I got some sleep.
I woke up in a daze and panicked. I remember going to a Jack-N-Box and then some nice citizens helped me get a ride. A dude gave me a ride to try and find my car but that was useless because I lost the keys and couldn’t remember where it was. He dropped me off at the bus station. I remember asking him if he was a undercover cop.
I was able to get a ticket to Sacramento where I’d meet up with my Dad was the logic.
I got on the bus and it was sensory overload. I thought everyone was looking and talking about me. I remember having a conversation with a dude about how I was going to start a falafel place as my new job. Then one time I got up and went toward the bus driver and he told me to sit down.
The bus made a stop at a gas station and we got out to use the bathroom or get snacks. I saw another car and two women and thought I was supposed to go with them. But I didn’t. I was rambling outside the bus and the bus driver said, “I warned you, this is two times now”. I just said yes sir and got on the bus. That’s how I remember it.
We made it to downtown Sacramento. I was so lost. Even though I grew up in Sacramento area I felt so out of it. A women handed me a briefcase luggage, why I don’t know, I think they thought I was homeless, as I waited for my acoustic and bag. I walked out the station and got a taxi to my dads house in Citrus Heights.
My dad wasn’t home so I climbed his gate and slept on the ground waiting for him. I remember him walking up to me and smiling. We didn’t say anything really. We then got some food and then went to Chico, CA where my mom and brother lived.
I felt like I had been through a war. I was shocked and disoriented but happy it was over.
My laptop, iPhone and car were returned to me and no permanent damage was done. Just one hellva story.
I would stay in Chico till today. I couldn’t even go back to SF to get my stuff from my apartment. My mom and step dad were kind enough to get my stuff for me. It was too traumatic. I didn’t say goodbye to any of my friends who were worried about me. I went to the mental hospital and started to get treatment.
I wish I could say that was the last time I had a mental breakdown but it wasn’t. It took 2 years to get disability. During that time I went to the mental hospital at least twice and at least three more times since then. I lost count. Each time my mind is stretched and twisted leaving permanent scars.
Today I am taking my meds everyday at the same time and am relatively happy all things considered. Like the ending of A Beautiful Mind John Nash was better but he still saw his imaginary friends. They just didn’t control his life. That’s how I see it. I will always struggle but with medication I can be “normal”.
I don’t write this for pity but to share my experience and maybe help me let go of the past.
Mental health is no joke. There is help out there. It’s ok to trust. People genuinely want to help. There is hope.
Thanks for reading.