Laroy: Faith got me through

What followed was a very long series of hospitalizations, medication changes, diagnoses and misdiagnoses. I was in and out of several different facilities until December 1991 when I was placed on clozapine and began to rebuild my life all over again.

My first experience with the mental health system was the last week of June 1980. I was at a church camp on top of Grand Mesa outside of Grand Junction when I unknowingly ingested a small amount of PCP (Angel Dust). I had a severe reaction and was in and out of psych wards for the next three months until I was placed on Thorazine and recovered quickly. I went on to graduate from high school and attended college and graduated with a BS degree.

My next experience was – oddly enough, I remember the exact date – Tuesday, April 19 of 1988. I was employed by what was then Adams State College (now Adams State University) as a computer programmer. On that day, I was visiting San Diego for a telephone users convention. I had just eaten lunch and had returned to my hotel room for a nap. When I woke up, I knew immediately that something was going on but did not know what. There is no good way to describe it except that a lot of religious thoughts were going through my head. I initially thought that maybe I had been drugged but could not believe that because I didn’t know who would do that or why. Then, some days later, I realized I had felt this before – back in June 1988 when I was on the Angel Dust. But I still could not believe that I had been purposefully drugged.

On the last day of the convention, I was late getting to the airport – still in this altered state – and missed my flight. I didn’t know what to do so I just sat down in the airport, thinking perhaps I could catch the next flight out. But then – I do not know why – I began standing up and sitting down over and over. This eventually caught the attention of the airport security guard, who came over and asked if I was alright and if I had been drinking (no) or doing drugs (no). Then he asked if I was having a religious experience and I nodded yes. He took me to the police station where I stayed for a while before they transferred me to a mental ward. I was restrained and sedated and spent the night.

I made it home safely the next day but was still in the altered state. I got into my pickup truck and went for a drive. As I was winding down a gravel road going a bit too fast, I lost control and ended up off the road. I went to a nearby house with a corral and sat on the top fence log. A short time later, a sheriff’s deputy picked me up and brought me to the local mental health center for evaluation. During the course of the evaluation, I agreed that I needed treatment and consented to have myself admitted to the state hospital. That was the biggest mistake of my life.

What followed was a very long series of hospitalizations, medication changes, diagnoses and misdiagnoses. I was in and out of several different facilities until December 1991 when I was placed on clozapine and began to rebuild my life all over again. This medication has been helpful to me. I am currently employed and have been with my current employer for over 19 years, soon to be 20 years this November. I also live in my own apartment and have for over 24 years.

So how did I get through my Angel Dust experience? And how did I survive the mental health system? I can say with absolute certainty that it was only through faith.

–Laroy Van Rizley