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The Mentally Ill Issue

Shove The Dove

Electroshock therapy shoots your short-term memory to hell.
Κείμενο Tom O'Connor

Photo by Tim Barber

You know that Pink Floyd song that goes, "The memories of a man in his old age are the deeds of a man in his prime"? I sort of feel that way thinking back on my life. I've had electroshock treatment and been diagnosed depressed, bipolar, and schizoaffective. I have sort of a delusional system of identity. If I'm in a group of people, I'll think things are going on that aren't, like I can sense unspoken communications between the other people in the room. Electroshock therapy was pretty scary. You wake up and try to sit up and just fall back down. It shoots your short-term memory to hell. Then I was on Haldol for a while. We used to call that Hell-dol. Haldol can break anybody—it's like a tool of the secret police. When I was younger, I got really into fisticuffs. I had a problem with violence and substance abuse. Now that behavior is gone, but sometimes the thoughts are still there. The other day, I had this vision of punching out my roommate, just because he was eating. I guess he was chewing kind of loud, and I had this idea of knocking him out. Psychotic behavior for me came along with paranoia, but let's not forget there's a grain of truth in every paranoid idea. I was worried about paddy wagons coming to take me away. That's the classic paranoid thing, right? It was my psychotic behavior bringing that out. I was thinking about psychosis last night. The headline of the Sun-Times was "COP SLAIN." To me, that's psychosis. I can't help but see "COP SLAIN" as a psychotic thought. Sometimes I find myself thinking about that cop's gravestone, like with snow falling on it in the winter or with dandelions coming up in the spring. It's such an urgent feeling to see that headline—you grab the paper like, "Aaahh!" My dad was a cop and he served in the Navy. He was a real J. Edgar Hoover type. So when I quit football and turned to marijuana and stuff, it wasn't viewed too kindly. He came in to talk to my psychiatrist once and he said, "Tommy used to be the apple of my eye." I'll never forget that. He was disappointed about me being against the Vietnam War. I was a real dove (that's a protestor for peace) back then. Now I've come around to a totally different way of thinking. I used to think that things like "COP SLAIN" were a capitalist conspiracy or something! I don't think like that anymore. When I read the paper, I'm most interested in the business page. The 50-year-old mind works a lot differently than the 18-year-old mind. TOM O'CONNOR