Okay I was new to everything as you would have it. I was a new seminarian. I was newly married. It was my first professional job. I worked at a place called Schizophrenic Foundation Inc. They had one group home for those with manic depression and treatable schizophrenia. It was a huge success and had garnered national attention. I did not work in that home. I worked in the new radical cutting edge home that was taking people who would have been institutionalized for life if not for this new home. These residents were paranoid schizophrenics in whom treatment had little if any effect. This was where I worked.
When interviewed for the job the boss had asked if I knew about Freud and Jung. I said proudly I was an amateur expert on the two. He nodded then said forget them and join the world of pharmacology and bio-chemistry. Although I was confused I pretended I understood. He said for the most part the residents I would be working with had no ‘psychological’ issues but had a clearly defined brain ailment. Then because I think the pickings were slim and my referral was strong I got the job. I was the lead house manager for this home for eight to ten men who were paranoid schizophrenic. As part of my job description I was to supply social outings for the men. This part of the job description would be the cause of the “incident.” At least that is what I called it; I talk as little about it as possible.
The people were harmless and needed protecting more than they needed to be kept from society. But I quickly saw how they were a ‘problem’ for society. One of my first outings was to the movies. Now I took with me rocking Sam (called this because he had the side effects of the medication which caused him to rock back and forth when seated), Jim who would hear of some far off catastrophe on the news and break into tears as he was convinced something he did had caused it, Mike who was just so close to having a recording of his go international in which the governments would all be exposed and by the way you may not see it but they are recording me right now, and the list could go on. They all had tragic lives all belonging to the finest families of Louisville, Kentucky (thus where the money came for the program) but in their late teens or early adulthood schizophrenia had stolen all their hope and promise. So as they all stood in the lobby of the theater I saw the very uncomfortable and fearful people maneuver to the other side of the room. The manager even remarked could I do something about their unusualness. Which I replied they were customers just like anybody else. But I learned outings were not good for them because they felt like everyone was looking at them. Which regretfully they were.
This was the nucleus of a very bad plan. One of the parents who was a founding partner of a major law firm in Louisville stated he had a fishing cabin in the woods that could house everyone if ever we needed or wanted to take the group there. I did not think much of the idea until his son a resident began to regale the other residents of the great times he had had there as a child. Because of the pressure and my thought how it might be good to take them into the woods to experience the healing of nature and away from the nervous onlookers wherever I took them to a public place. Little did I know this was the start of the very bad plan. Now I am proud of my planning skills. I have even been praised in a book for my planning skills. But these great so called skills took time to develop.
When I suggested it to the boss, the trained therapist, he did not think it such a good idea. But I persisted and the resident and his father would prod the boss and he gave a very reluctant maybe. He began to put stipulations I am sure he thought would prevent the trip. Everyone in the house would have to go because the budget would not afford staff for both places. We had never had a hundred percent participation in anything even meals. Their illness often made them seclude themselves and it took a lot of effort to make them unseclude themselves. But even those who had never spent a night in the woods were coached to enthusiasm by Mike the resident who had been there as a child. This hurdle cleared the boss said they could miss no appointments and their families had to agree with the trip. Securing these things, he required that two staff had to be there. Now the rest of the staff were looking forward to a weekend off. Jackson told me he did not do nature and if he did nature it was not with men who were _________ unprofessional term placed here. And besides have you not watched any horror movies about trips to cabins? The black man’s the first to go and any staff are goners too. Jackson was one of my hopes for a successful trip. His strong firm hand helped a lot around the house when arguments rose. This was the first sign unheeded. The only other staff who I had a chance of convincing to go was Doc. Now Doc was a peculiar animal. How Doc ever got hired was beyond me. He did not believe in mental illness. It was all an act that gave the residents a reason to check out of life. When I told him I was a new vegetarian he said he knew of someone in order not to kill anything lived off of only the microbes found in the air. I reluctantly asked if he would come. He thought it was a great idea and knew it would help the residents normalize and be ready to join the world again. That he was the only staff interested was yet another sign unheeded.
So we were on. The day came; we were to leave that afternoon after everyone had met their required doctor’s appointment. In the morning though before we left we got word from the local mental institution that a resident who had been hospitalized because his psychosis had increased to a level that he was not functional was being released. It was Friday, a typical day for hospitals of all kind to release their patients. Now we had a problem; we had no one to supervise him at the home and we had not seen him in two weeks and did not know if he would or could come. It was then my noble self came forth and said he should not be the only one in the house who missed this opportunity. So I told them I would come pick him up. So off to the hospital I went.
Although I had been on the hospital grounds before, I had not been on any of the wards so when they said I should meet him in his room so he could pack his belongings I was intrigued. After getting my visitor pass I walked to the ward. There was a button on the outside to press for an attendant to come. They did not immediately respond so I peered through the square window in the steel door. A patient saw me and put his distorted, menacing face in the window and screamed, “You are ugly go away.” He startled me and I fell back a step. Ugly you are ugly he continued. At last the staff arrived, told him to step aside and let me in. He glared at me and yelled, “ugly.” By this time I was more than ready to get Terri and leave. I went into his room and said hi and asked if I could help with anything. He shook his head no. We made our way down to the car and drove to the home. He did not speak more than three words the whole trip back. Terry was usually reserved but not quite this much. But in my head I credited his lack of communication to the medication and the place we had just left.
I had arranged for a large passenger van to take the whole crew to the cabin. I wanted one vehicle for everybody to help create an esprit de corp. We loaded up and away we went. Excitement was in the air. Everyone was chatty but Terry. He looked out the window the whole time. Doc gave me his “we are doing a great thing here” look. They have lost all signs of their illness. After a two hour drive we finally arrived. It was more in the woods than I thought. I had not noticed any cabins or other signs of civilization for quite a few miles. But there waiting for us with a huge smile was the lawyer which assuaged any fears I may have had. We started unloading the van. He took us around the place; it was large and not too primitive, more like a lodge than cabin. He was proud of the place. It was close to a lake and he had a pier and he told me of a couple of trails we could hike. After he gave us the grand tour he slowly made his way out to the car. I asked, a bit puzzled, where was the phone, this was before cell phones, he replied there is no phone here but if I needed one there was a store about thirty minutes-drive away that was open during the day. It was already past five. I asked if it was open on the weekends. He said no. Bad planning on my part I thought.
We bid him farewell and after everyone had settled in we decided to take a walk to the lake. Everyone was excited about this. As we were walking to the lake I noticed Terry had disappeared. He is a grown man and probably decided he preferred to stay at the cabin. We skipped rocks and walked out on the pier and sat awhile and then began the trek back to the cabin. Terry was not there when we arrived. Fifteen minutes later after starting a preliminary search for him, he came marching out of the woods with a solid walking staff in hand. I thought: a real woodsman. I went to greet and tell him he needed to let us know where he was going. But before I reached him I noticed the look. He was not well. He took one look at me and pointed his finger and said Satan. Now I am not known to be an alarmist but Jackson had planted the seed of horror movies in my mind so my mind was off to the races. When I told Doc what happened he said you know these guys are not sick, it is all a show. I thanked him and wondered how did he get hired again.
I decided to open the file box that had everyone’s case file in it and read Terri’s file. To my dismay I read for the first time about his delusions. He believed himself to be some kind of Demon/Satan slayer and would often go into the woods for days in his deranged state in search of Satan until he was hospitalized. I decided I needed to talk to him. Doc was not bothered by this at all. So I started up to the cabin; as I reached the steps into the cabin Terry stood at the top of the steps with his chin resting on the substantial walking stick blocking the way. He had a queer smirk on his face that said do not come in Satan you are not welcome. Doc looked at me rather dismayed. I looked at Terri, told him to put his stick down and let me pass. He looked disgusted at me and threw his stick to the side and let me by but not before muttering under his breath Satan.
I immediately went to the lock box where the medications were. On the other side of the room Terry eyed me carefully. I took out his medicine. Now if we had a second vehicle Doc could take him back home to the hospital while I stayed with the men. But I had planned for camaraderie not emergency. Bad planning. But even if we had two vehicles could I trust Doc to handle the situation? As much as I liked Doc I had my concerns. The other idea was we could call our boss and let him help us but there was no phone for at least thirty minutes away if not further. And we would be left with Terry and the others no car and no phone. Bad planning. So I decided what any other person would have done; I would medicate this problem away. I called him outside and gave him a healthy dosage of thorazine. We checked his mouth to see if he had indeed swallowed the medicine; all indications were he had. But he was so calm about my request I knew something was up. But now all I had to do was wait for the meds to kick in. He would fall asleep or be in such a stupor he would not be a bother.
Two hours later as we all sat outside around the fire talking and making s’mores, Terry sat across the fire with his best creep face glaring at me. He held one of the smaller logs in his hand and patted the log in the other hand all the while not averting his gaze from me. Kumbya might be a good song to sing at this time. Strangely the rest of the residents had not noticed and were having the time of their lives. I could see though in Doc’s eyes a little concern, maybe? I gave Terry two more pills before we went back in the cabin to eat and go to bed. No man could stay awake with the amount of medicine I had given him. I knew also this was the most I could give him in good conscience.
As we ate and people laughed Terry’s gaze never left me. He would mouth a word over and over which seem to be Satan. It was time for lights out; I placed my bed against the wall and Doc’s bed between me and the rest of the room. Doc was acting his usual it was all a big show self although I noticed he had secured a steak knife from the kitchen and placed it in his pocket when he thought no one was watching. Terry laid in bed for about five minutes before he rose and began pacing around the room and making gestures toward my side of the room. The medicine never kicked in. He was literally up all night as I in turn was. It was the longest night of my life but morning came. Exhausted but realizing we were heading home in the afternoon I was relieved.
We were on the van on our way back home when Mike the resident whose family owned the cabin said to me how much of a good time he had had. He said he hadn’t been up here since his illness; his father and mother did not think it was safe to be alone with him up in the cabin because there was no phone or neighbors close. I thought, yes it’s true, only someone with a very bad plan would come up here with so many medically needy people without a good plan.