Laroy: Faith got me through

The views and opinions expressed in following story are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Mental Health Colorado.

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

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