The Raging of the River of Despair
Part 1: Personal Poems by Ken Simmons
Almost twenty years ago I was diagnosed as having schizophrenia. Before this my life was anything but normal. Starting at a young age, my stepfather subjected me to physical, emotional and psychological abuse. Then, when I was 14 years old, a friend of the family raped me. I generally had a tough time accomplishing anything.
As an adult I joined the Marine Corps and excelled at that, yet even there it seemed bad luck still rode on my shoulder. A stupid fist fight over a bus seat with an African-American led to me being assaulted by three others. They attempted to throw me over a railing to the cement floor thirty feet below. Luckily I fought my way loose of two of them and was in the process of freeing myself from the third when by hanging onto my wrist; he spun me around and threw me through plate glass windows, cutting me severely in several places.
The unfortunate part of this was that those three men ended up doing twenty years. Then a close friend of mine, who was mistaken for me, ended up dead as the result of being beaten to death by entrenching tools, (a fold-up shovel). Unbeknownst to me (as I was out on maneuvers in the Kahuku Mountians), some friends of mine got together and jumped a guy and beat him up pretty good, but he had no broken bones and was left alive. This started a racial riot with the African-Americans on one side of the street and the Caucasians on the other.
Upon returning from maneuvers I learned of the situation and also heard that there was a thousand-dollar contract out on me. Now I was no slacker, but even so, I started working out and everywhere I went three of my friends went with me. However, this game of hide and seek day after day was getting to me and I started drinking more and using more drugs. I knew I had to get out and was informed on how it could be accomplished. Now with a severe addiction problem, I made my first geographical change and tried to run, hoping to leave all the heartache behind. I know now no matter how hard or how far one runs heíll still be the same person wherever he ends up, unless he changes.††††
To attempt to cope with the worthless person that I thought I was, I used more drugs and alcohol. Even marriage didnít seem to calm the inner turmoil. Because of my addictions, I inevitably became a burden to my own wife and children and I was asked to leave.
Many times I made what is known among addicts and alcoholics as ďgeographical changes.Ē This is an insane attempt to run from what you are. It was during my last geographical change when I was attempting to run from myself, that my life really did make a change - one for the worse.
I thought I was so low and I didnít think I could go any lower; however I didnít have any idea of just how deep the bottom really is when one thinks they have nothing to lose. During this journey I was tortured by a group of people that I didnít know and who are still unknown to me today. This torture lasted for most of one night and was extremely psychologically severe at times. I canít recall exactly everything or when each thing happened, but something inside me snapped. From that point on I lost contact with reality and the last act I remember was a sharp pain in the back of my neck at the base of my skull and all went black.
Upon waking the next morning, I woke up to a New World - a world filled with severe paranoia, voices, hallucinations and overwhelming anxiety attacks, leading often to panic-driven delusions of needing to escape. For the first time since I left my step-dad behind, I felt fear. Not just any fear, but an actual fear of life itself as my mind screamed at me at a hundred miles an hour, ďYouíll never be able to cope like this.Ē I was rescued by a female police officer whom someone must have called. I was sitting there with my back to a wall of a building so no one could sneak up on me. When she got out of her car, if I could have climbed up that wall with my back, I would have. I was totally terrified.
She finally managed to get me to enter the vehicle on my own, and I crawled into the foot well in the back floorboard. She drove me to some kind of psychological recovery unit where a doctor told me if I would admit it was all a delusion, then he would be able to help me. I refused to confess such and insisted it was a real occurrence. He then informed me, with the cocktail of drugs I had in my system, it must have been a delusion. It was then that I remembered the burning sensation at the base of my skull. Needless to say, I was bluntly put out on the streets of a town I didnít know anything about, with all these things swirling around in my head so fast I didnít know which way was up, let alone where to go or what to do. They didn't even tell me there was a Veteranís Hospital in town.††
As time went by these symptoms only got worse and worse. I tried without success to overcome these ailments by sheer willpower, but to no avail. Slowly at first, then with more increased lengthy periods of psychotic depression created by an overwhelming fear of life, I withdrew more rapidly from society.
No longer knowing whom I could trust I lost the very concept of trust itself. I turned to drugs and alcohol in hopes that they would offer me some relief. This proved to be a grave mistake as the drugs just intensified my suffering. Having failed at finding a solution, I turned to what I thought was my only avenue of escape. I attempted suicide, not once, but six times in the first year of my illness.
Someone always found me or in a semi-conscious state I myself reached out of my bodies desire for its self-preservation would take over and I would reach out by calling someone telling what Iíd done.
Today Iím grateful to God that all these attempts were failures. About a year of suicidal turmoil took place in my life. The last attempt at the end of this period put me in a coma for three days and the doctors said maybe I would and maybe I wouldnít come out of it. It was at this time that my mother decided it was time I seek more structured professional help. She had me commit myself and thatís where the long road to recovery and the light of hope for control of this disease began.
In the beginning the doctors didnít really know just what the real problem was. I was diagnosed as having a SchizoAffective disorder with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). I became a guinea pig for all different types of medications. I was on again and off again with my medications because of the side effects and they would hospitalize me and increase the medications. It finally got to a point where I was so sedated I really didnít care too much about what was going on. I felt very little concern towards what was happening to me and I just struggled on in limbo for about five years.
Then about ten years ago, as I was hospitalized with severe depression and audio hallucinations and was again contemplating suicide, I talked with a new doctor. He took me off all the heavily sedating medications and started me on one that could control the depression and one to help with hallucinations with limited side affects.
It was during this stay in the hospital that I was seen and informed by a person (unknown to me at the time) from the State Hospital that I was to be committed for an indeterminate time. I refused to go and she said I had no choice in the matter. It was then that I asked what I could do to stay independent.
I was told in order for me to continue to live independently, I would have to be medication compliant and be assigned a personal case manager. This person came to visit with me weekly to insure I was taking my medications and to help me deal with the everyday problems.
Slowly I started to improve and as time went by, I realized that I was coping with life on a more level basis. At first maintaining these improvements was quite difficult. To help myself continue to maintain a sense of balance, I rarely left my home. I was living in a self-imposed prison by isolating myself to avoid dealing with people, (I continued too slip into periods of deep depression, often compounded by anxiety, leading to severe paranoia and panic attacks). The voices and hallucinations were mostly under control, but the other ailments were a constant reminder that my illness was still in full control.
Itís been many years now since Iíve been hospitalized. This is a great achievement for me, considering I went into the hospital seven (7) times in the first three years of treatment. It is still a daily struggle for me, but Iíve found the way to help me deal with my problems on a continual daily basis.
My case manager brought a student to my house during one of her regular visits. My uncle was dying and I had written a poem for him in the hopes it would lift his spirits and remind him of the promise made available because of Christ. I let my case manager read this poem and she in turn passed it to the student (With my permission), who was with her. She then promptly suggested that I should express my feelings, emotions and problems in the same manner. I had never thought that writing could alleviate the great amounts of anxiety-driven stress that I dealt with daily. Laughingly, I told her that it was a fluke, but I would try.
That very night I sat down and started to write. It came slowly at first, then with greater and greater ease. I must have written five or more poems that first night, and it was then that I discovered that this seemed to ease my tension. So I committed myself to writing at least one poem a day. I did not limit it to just one however, as the more I wrote, many more things still wanted to come out of my mind, heart and soul, causing me to start to write furiously.
The poems youíll read in this book are only my opinion of how I felt and the different anxieties and symptoms I suffered from. Hopefully they will inspire you to search out ways to understand and cope with the daily challenges you may face in your own lives. My wish is that your eyes will be opened to an understanding within you, to the knowledge that youíre not the first person who has experienced these debilitating symptoms of parental, substance and sexual abuse which eventually led to my mentally challenging disorder of schizophrenia.
Schizophrenia is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as: to split, a mental disorder marked by the loss of contact with reality, personality disintegration, and often hallucination. This is a very aptly put description of how I was feeling and behaving.
Today, after attending group, writing poetry and being found again by my Savior Christ Jesus and through rededicating my life to His purposes. He has won for me victory after victory for me and I have been lifted out of my pit of darkness and despair by Him to heights I myself never could have achieved. Iíve reached a place of stability with Christ that I would have never thought possible even just a couple years ago.
He has given my life back to me and He has kept every promise He made concerning what He will give to those who come to Him with a broken and contrite heart. For Jesus loves those who have been broken and battered by the world. When they come to Him totally willing to do whatever is necessary to find and receive from Him the blessings of an ďabundant lifeĒ and a ďfreedomĒ that is not known by any men, except those whom belong to Christ Jesus.
I pray the Lord Jesus will Bless You with Understanding as You Read,
††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††††† Ken S.††
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