Furtively, I sought the opinion of Gary, my drinking buddy and best friend of nearly twenty years. I asked him what he thought of my entering a place called Morningstar, a North County treatment facility for people afflicted with schizophrenia. I had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and Gary had a dry and irreverent view of my disorder. When I am not taking my antipsychotic medication,
I have florid delusions about very imaginative subjects. After telling Gary about my elaborate Bigfoot delusions, he offered to take me out to the woods, turn me loose without my medication, and collect me a few months later so I could write down all the things I believed had happened to me. He figured we'd be able to sell the stories.
We met over a beer, and I probed for Gary’s opinion of the program. I would have to be in the facility for a year or two, and they wanted me to go off my medication. There was no guarantee that the program would work. Yet one of the Morningstar therapists told me that if it did work, I would not only be normal, but super-normal in my ability to deal with stress. I would need neither medication nor therapy ever again, he said.
Gary mulled it over. “Well," he finally pronounced, “at least when it’s over, it would be a good adventure."
That clinched it for me. I was going.
So it came to be that on October 20,
1980, I joined the program’s five other residents in a red-tile-roofed, upper-middle-class house in an Encinitas neighborhood.
I settled into Morningstar quickly. I became friends with the other residents and got to know the therapists. However, I was mystified by the jargon and the method of treatment. I enjoyed the curious attention I received from one of the female therapists whom I will call Andrea. By the time I left a year and a half later, I was a true convert to the central idea of the program, which was that we were to become actively aware of our feelings and so learn to respond to them appropriately. '
Some of the people in the program weren’t so appropriate in how they dealt with their feelings. One woman would “escalate” frequently and demanded tremendous energy from the staff and residents. Being off medication, she was actively psychotic and extremely paranoid. She would become hostile and violent and needed to be restrained. Both the staff and residents would hold her facing into a comer in a room until she settled down.
I was terrified of “the corner.” A person who did something inappropriate was forced to stand in the comer until he could “deal." The person had to ask permission to deal, then the assembled therapists and residents would decide if they would give permission. If permission was granted, the person was allowed to turn around and had to tell what had happened to get him into the comer, what he was feeling when the misdeed occurred, and how such a situation would be handled differently in the future.
Morningstar therapists told me that the antipsychotic medication I was taking damped down my feelings and that to work out my problems, I needed to stop taking the medication altogether. I was frightened about doing this, but they gave me emotional support. At Christmastime of 1980, I went cold turkey, and it wasn’t long before I was as wild and irrational as the woman who had been escalating so frequently when I First arrived.
By then Andrea and I had formed a close bond and had decided that she was going to “re-parent” me. Reparenting was a vital part of the Morningstar treatment. It was based on the premise that schizophrenia is a sane response to an insane situation. We were supposed to have learned to be crazy due to the treatment we received as children. We needed to unlearn this craziness, and to do so we needed to be reparented.
I didn’t think it was such a bad idea.
Shortly after going off my medication, I developed severe insomnia. I would lie in bed awake till dawn; I would then get up and go through the daily routine of therapy and household chores. Then I would go to bed, only to lie awake all night again. After four days of this, I was extremely irrational and terrified. I thought I was going to die.
I don’t remember what happened, but I am told that the consulting psychiatrist prescribed some Valium for me, and I finally fell asleep. I have only fragmentary memories of the next several months.
During the period I was off medication, I was actively psychotic, paranoid, wild, and irrational. I was confronted, put in the corner, and taught communication skills. Some of the residents responded to this, but I was completely out of control. I was in treatment to get to the bottom of my childhood experiences and repair myself. At the time, however, I thought that the outer-space invasion had started.
The first hint I had of the invasion came while I was listening to the stereo in an alcove of the house. I noticed that there was something peculiar about the chandelier. Hanging from its arms were cut-glass crystals. I realized that it was a steering mechanism, some sort of navigational device for plotting a course through the galaxy.
The summer before, I had taught nature lore at a camp, and since then I had tried to learn more about astronomy.
I have a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of California and had a pronounced interest in anthropology. These natural interests became distorted over a period of months into a complex and amazingly coherent picture of the invasion from outer space.
I, of course, was one of the local Earth leaders who was to mobilize the population to resist the invasion. We were in an intergalactic war, and Earth had been informed of the invasion only because of the seriousness of the situation to the rest of the galaxy. In my delusions. Earth was a backward civilization just entering the space age.