A Brief History Of My Ongoing Struggles With Mental Illness And Drug Abuse
There was a time in my life when I was a musician. Musicians are celebrated for their madness and self-destructive natures. Like many wannabe rock stars, I actually wanted to join the 27 Club, the list of artists that died at age 27 and became legends. As a result of what I now realize was extremely irrational thinking, I was wild. Buck wild. Completely out of control and trying to die, not unlike Bill Murray’s character from the film Ground Hog Day.
From overdoses to stints in rehab to firey car crashes to blatant and repeated suicide attempts, to this day, I can’t figure out how after all of the intense public scrutiny I have endured, that I managed to keep all of that quiet during the last 8 years of my film and activism career. Prior to film and activism, it was like a brand. After I became an activist, I realized that borderline psychotic past could be used as a weapon, used to discredit my efforts to educate the public about the Superfund.
Holding all of that in over all of these years has taken a toll on me. It’s left me with a part of my history that I can never talk about, pieces of my past that haunt me, like being held down and beaten by paramedics and hospital security at St. Thomas Hospital, after waking up from a suicide attempt, unaware of why I was there and trying to escape the hospital.
I’ve had nightmares for years about the security officer that placed his thumbs into my eyes and exerted intense pressure on them, to the point that I thought my eyes were going to explode, only moments before being shot up with Haldol and collapsing into a hot, sweaty, mound of limp flesh and bones. Even today, just thinking about it awakens unnamed feelings in me, almost a primal, deepest core pain that’s festered in me, since the day it happened.
The suicide attempt happened because my dad had bullied me, mocking me, laughing in my face, calling me “suicide boy” to the point that I grabbed a knife and showed him the meaning of those words. In this way, when someone becomes emotionally aggressive with me, I view it as a threat against my life. It turns out that I don’t hurt other people. I hurt myself and have to very careful to extract myself from bad situations so it doesn’t escalate into the types of incidents that occurred in my 20’s.
Last year, my daughter’s mother told me that I should tell my story but I still held it in, because I lived in abject fear of losing my activism career. Now that my career has been completely destroyed, I’ve been left with nothing, and I am now charged with a crime in Columbus, Ohio for allegedly threatening one of the people that destroyed my life, I’m being freed from that personal hell and I can finally talk about what I have survived.
I guess some people might view being charged with a crime as a terrible thing. For me, the ironic outcome is that the threat of being placed in jail has ultimately freed me from the prison of my own mind. I truly wish I could have told this story years ago. I think it really would have helped people understand why I should be left alone.
After Columbus filmmaker Peter John Ross, the alleged victim, and man making an attack documentary about me, posted a photo of his editing desktop, with the caption Mentally Ill Or Not, I think it would be best if I simply answer the question myself.
In my childhood, I grew up in an abusive home. My parents fought a lot. Obviously, from the story I’ve just shared about my father, he was a sick fuck. Around 4th grade, after having behavior problems in school, my parents took to me to a place that may have been called Akron Child Guidance. In my first therapy session, I was told that everything I said would be kept secret. I told the therapist that when my dad would go crazy and scream, I was often afraid he was going to pick me up and throw me through the front window. I had watched snap and smash my mom’s new wooden, table-mounted sewing machine into splinters, all over the living room, on Christmas Day.
After the first appointment, my Dad started screaming at me about what I had told the counselor, revealing that I had been betrayed. After this, I never went back because I refused to talk.
Later, in 7th grade, my father had picked my up by the foot and swung me around my bedroom, hitting my head on the metal bed frame. I was so upset by this that the next day, I went to my school guidance counselor, Ms. Becker, and told her what happened. Children Services was called. With a mother as a social worker and a father as a police officer, this report almost ended both of their careers. At that time, my father told me that because I tried to destroy our family, I would never be his son again, and I never was. None the less, those experiences taught me that would always be consequences if I ever said how I really felt about my father.
About a year later, my mother and father almost divorced and I was placed into a support group. I cannot remember how long that lasted but I know it had ended before I started high school. It wouldn’t be for another three years that I met with a therapist, one time, after I had admitted to my parents that I was using LSD. While this is no secret, I abused LSD for two years of my life, from age 16 until age 18, when I met my son’s mother. When I say abused, I mean that I had sheets of LSD in my freezer and would cut off a ten strip just to wake up in the morning. When one watches my film work, considers this information, it becomes very clear that I deeply explored mind-expanding psychodelia.
Humorously, and believe me, I’m laughing about this, there is a camcorder video of me that opens up with ten hits of acid on my tongue, as I go, “Auuuuuussggsgsgsg.” I know exactly who has that tape. How it’s never leaked, I do not know. The video is two hours long, it shows me at age 18, sitting at a kitchen table, taking acid, selling drugs, and consuming excessive amounts of alcohol. It also features quite a few other guilty parties, as well, which I why I think it’s never made it out into public.
All of that ended the day I met my son’s mother. For her, I quit all drugs, cold turkey, and started a new life. Only a month into my new life, I experience my first psychotic episode, picking up a knife and cutting my wrist, leading my first involuntary commitment. We’d had a fight. My son’s mother told me that if I wanted to stay with her, I needed to commit to mental healthcare.
I will never forget the day I got out of the hospital because as soon as I got in the car with her, she said, “I’m pregnant.” Only two hours later, I was fired from my job at a screen printing shop because they didn’t want a “psycho” working there. This was the first time in my life that I had ever experienced discrimination. It did not feel good.
From that moment on, a support network formed around me, consisting my son’s mother, my own mother, my psychiatrist, and roughly a dozen therapists I’d went through, just like the movie Good Will Hunting until, finally, I met David Brown, MA, the therapist I would have until my psychiatrist died from the brain tumor, in 2005. If one looks closely at my criminal record, there is a period of time when I was 18, when I got in trouble a few times, there is a ten-year gap, and then all of the sudden, a few more charges. It’s like that because that decade represents the years I was receiving mental healthcare and was holed up in my house or instituionalized.
The reemergence of the criminal charges occurred when I was cut cold turkey of 8 different psychiatric medications after Dr. Moskovoitz died. All these years, no one has known that the last disorderly conduct charge on my record occurred at Portage Path Community Mental Health.
With my doctor dead, Portage Path transferred me to a new therapist, and somehow, they’d lost my file. With no file, I ended up being bounced from therapist to therapist, who would all begin our first meeting with, “Tell me about your childhoood.” Obviously, after ten years of therapy, it didn’t help me in the least bit to start over.
I ended up fighting with Portage Path for almost two years, trying to get back into treatment and to get David Brown back in my life. Barberton Portage Path director, Avery Zook, decided I was not allowed to do this. The last time I walked into Portage Path, I asked to speak to a patient ombudsman. I was refused this right, which wasn’t legal. As the staff fought with me about denying me my patient’s rights, I was slowly surrounded by their security, immediately causing me to flashback to the man with his thumb in my eyes. Terrified, I pushed the security guy into another one and ran out of the building. I was charged with disorderly conduct.
That ten year period of mental healthcare saw me become a disabled, dependent adult, who spent time partially in institutionalized in a “day program.” I was a non-functioning adult. My son’s mother kept a close watch on me. Any time I was starting to have issues, she would take me to a hospital, where I would voluntarily check myself in, for weeks at a time, so I could get better. That woman kept me alive but at the same time, the hospitalizations always seemed to occur after we had a fight.
Those years also saw me repeatedly guinea pigged on every psychotropic drug every created. I was a lab rat. None of it ever worked. No one could explain why. Being on that level of psychiatric medication, eventually caused me to develop a condition called Parkinsoid Akithesia, or medication-induced Parkinson’s Disease. Because of this, I cannot take any psychiatic medication without an intense adverse reaction. I can describe it as Restless Leg Syndrome, but in your whole body. It’s awful.
At age 22 that I started experiencing physical health issues, a mystery illness that would last years, and eventually take me to over 30 specialists who were trying to figure out what was wrong. When the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong, they started giving me opiates, landing smack in the middle of the Oxycontin craze. In the years since I was turned into an addict, almost all of my doctors have either been deported or have gone to prison for insurance fraud related to the distribution of narcotics.
Infamously, during that time, I was not only in an atrocious high-speed car accident, which left me incapacitated, a year later I was assaulted by. by a police officer who had beat me half to death in the street, after he claimed I threatened him; the Aggravated Menacing charge. Obviously, even if I did threaten the cop, which I didn’t, it would not justify him running up behind me and whipping me violently with an asp, which is believed to have been the incident that caused the fracture in my spine.
I pled no contest to that charge, to make it go away, and because by the time I made it to court, I couldn’t walk and was losing the use of my hands. When the two police officers who saved me from him approached the stand with me, the judge, Annalisa Williams, heard the story, encouraged me to take it to trial, but I told her I was so sick that I could not possibly endure a lengthy court case. She responded by issuing no fines, no fees. The two police officers made statements that I did not threaten him and that he’d detained me, after beating me, and spent two hours digging through an Ohio Revised Code book, searching for something to charge me with so he could protect himself. I’m certain that both of them would testify to that fact.
This was also around the time of the dismissed telecommunications harassment charge, and another disorderly conduct charge. A woman I had met had demanded that I share my Vicodin with her. When I refused, she told me she would have me arrested if I did not hand them over. I refused. She called the police the next day, claiming I had called her and texted her hundreds of times. The next morning, unaware she had actually done this, she called me and asked her to meet her at her work, in Chapel Hill Mall. When I entered the mall, I was immediately surrounded by police, one of which who jammed his fist into my back, injuring me. When I was injured, I screamed “Fuck” really loud, and was charged with disorderly conduct, for doing so.
There had been one small flaw in her plan. I didn’t have a cell phone so couldn’t send texts. And since I was on the Federal Lifeline Program, I didn’t have long-distance service to call her number. It turned out she had presented the cops with no evidence. They responded by arresting me, injuring me, leaving with a disorderly conduct charge that I received over a crime I didn’t even commit in the first place. I remember the day of court, the prosecutor looking over at the cop, saying, “Are you serious?”
So what is really crazy is that of those last four charges on my record, there 100% confirmed evidence that I was actually victimized by the police, in each case. Years later, numerous Akron cops were arrested for framing people for crimes. I had not been the only one.
The reason they coincided with the death of my doctor, and the loss of my mental health care, was not because I needed mental healthcare, it was because, for the first time in many years, I left my house, coupled with the fact that my history of mental illness made me a walking target for police looking for someone to fuck with. I could be accused of anything and no one would believe me.
From 1995 to 2005, I experienced dozens and dozens of voluntary and involuntary hospitalizations for mental health, almost always for wanting to commit suicide or because people around me noticed the beginning of what they knew would become a psychotic episode. I was protected in that way. But at the same time, because I was taken care of by everyone around me, I became weak and dependent. I was told, almost every day of my first ten years of my adult life, that I would never be able to function. I believed them.
Over the previous ten years, my son’s mother – who I adore to this day, for all the sacrifices she made for me, taking me to doctors appointments, taking me grocery shopping, talking to me on the phone every day for a decade just to make sure I was OK – became more and more successful as I became poorer and poorer, living on a total of $400 a month after rent and child support. I started to become sad that I could not provide for my son in the way she was able to. She gave him the world as I was lucky to be able to afford to buy him a $5 pizza. This hurt me, immensely.
It was one night when I was at my Uncle Bill’s house, watching him smoke crack, that I looked at him and realized that if I didn’t do something with my life, I was going to end up like him, forty-years old, living in a one-room apartment, smoking drugs out of a glass pipe. It’s not hard to find his obituary in my search results.
Only my mother knew, by this time, I had been in rehab, several times. All of this was kept a secret, from everyone in my life. But even my mother was never fully aware of the amount of drugs I was using, because ultimately, I was sequestered away in my house, by myself, living with my dirty little secret.
My son’s mother may have known but even she found it more useful to blame all of my problems on mental illness, rather than drugs. I always assumed that for custody battle purposes, mental illness was a much better weapon than drug addiction because an addict could get sober and be reformed as a mentally ill person could not. I actually think her lawyer had more to do with that than her. Obviously, I hold no ill will towards her at all.
At the end of the Ohio years, I was ingesting at least 1000mg of morphine a day, popping up Oxycontin in my skin on my stomach, with a needle. That was the closest I’d ever come to becoming an intravenous drug user. To this day, I cannot explain to anyone how I am alive. It makes no sense. I used enough drugs to make Hunter Thompson, himself, step back and say, “Whoa there buddy.” Then I met Kelly.
After my little epiphany that I’d experienced at Uncle Bill’s $20 crack party, for some reason, I got sober. One day, I just stopped, got a job, and started working. Suddenly, I had money. I bought my first high-end watch. I bought a car. My life had changed for the better. But the crash was coming. For I had no idea how dependent I really was and how selfish I had been about it, never realizing what the people around me had really done for me to keep me sane and alive.
One night, there was a fire at my apartment. My closest friend and neighbor was basically burned to death in front of me. My son and I had saved his life, but he died from a stroke as soon as they got him to the hospital. This incident, and my ill-informed thought process that I could just walk away from the past I just described, and be a normal, functioning human being, caused me to move out of my house for the first time, or what I now refer to as the day one of the Rats of NIHM escaped from his cage. It was a month before I ended up homeless and living in Allegheny National Forest, at Jake’s Rocks.
One day, after I had driven out of the woods to get supplies, I checked my e-mail, in Warren Public Library. There was a message from Kelly, “Where are you?” I told her I had lost my home and I was living in the woods. Over the next few months, Kelly and I fell in love via e-mail. I would see my son at my mom’s house.
To me, Kelly represented a much better life. I viewed my relationship with her as my opportunity to be able to provide a similar lifestyle for my son as his mother could. On the day I left to move to West Virginia, I had no idea that I was basically never going to see my son again.
My son was my rock. My son was what kept me truly alive in the moments where I laid on the floor bleeding to death. My son was a central figure in my life, the only stability I had to gravitate around. Losing him was when I finally snapped.
Kelly was not like my son’s mom. I spent months warning her about every single thing I have shared here. She had no surprises. I have never been more honest with a single human being than her, in relation to this story. But she simply wasn’t prepared to deal with a dependent adult. In the moments when my son’s mom would have driven me to the hospital, Kelly would exacerbate the situation and I would snap. In the moments where my mother would have taken me to rehab, she’d leave me in the other room, half-dead from an overdose. She bought me the drugs I eventually started using to cope with our poison relationship.
For years, people have harped on that one incident at her house, when I violated a restraining order, using it to suggest a lifelong history. Yet, when put into perspective and framed into how that all went down, it reveals why, suddenly, at age 32, my M.O. changed. It changed because the people around me that were protecting me were no longer around me.
It was only a few years ago when I realized what I had lost when I left Ohio in search of a better life. I never realized how truly dependent I really was, or how much my mom and my son’s mother really meant to me.
Eventually, I woke up in jail for the first time ever, in 2009. I realized that something had to change. That I had to learn how to live. It was my first jail sentence in my whole life. Prior to that, I’d never made it past a holding cell. The day I left that jail, I returned to Ohio for one week, then I got in my car, started driving, and accomplished everything you see here on this webpage, today. I guess people might not get it, but I started that road trip eleven years ago.
I only got back from that trip three weeks ago and I got my son back.
James Holmes Massacre
I’d spent a week at the site of the James Holmes massacre, in Aurora, Colorado. I was traumatized. When I left Denver, I flew to DC, eventually ending up at the homeless shelter directly next door to Camp Lejune. At that shelter, I met a psychologist. I told her what I was dealing with. She said, “Have you ever been told that you have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?” I had only thought that was something that happened to soldiers. I said, “No.” She said, “Well you have it.” She formally diagnosed me and explained what it was.
When this happened, it was like the twist at the end of a Hollywood movie. All of a sudden my entire life made sense. It made sense why every single episode I’d ever had was triggered by aggressive emotional behavior. There had never been a single time in my whole life where I had woken up and had a psychotic episode for no reason. It explained why the medication never worked. Then a dark understanding of my own life became present, that I had just spent my whole adult life diagnosed with the wrong mental illness.
Only months before, after making it out of this story alive, that’s when Peter John Ross and his group of friends found me on the internet and started wrecking my life, to pay me back for being what Peter said in his interview was, “Not a good guy.”