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The ramblings and observations of a kidney transplant recipient, although not necessarily for that reason.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I will finish the Mexico story soon, but the subject of today's post has weighed so heavy on my brain that sleeping was not possible last night. Also, since this seems to be National Every-Other-Person-That-Jerry-Knows-Is-Crazy Week, I feel I should do my duty to post a story of yet another highly abnormal person I'm connected to. My lack of understanding and patience for this person along with his ability to suck every amount of energy out of me (presumably with his lensless pair of glasses that he sucks peoples' souls with) will prove that I was not cut out to be a psychiatrist (so I may have saved myself a bunch of unnecessary schooling).

While I'm sure this makes for a boring read, who cares this blog thing is more for me than you and I need a place to vent, but I will try to make the long story as short as possible. Yesterday, my band's drummer, Don finally decided it was too tough for him to commute 3.5 hours for band practice each week. By "finally", I mean that he's only been with us for a couple months, but he should have decided this long ago, like before he joined our band. At the time he auditioned, he was supposed to be "in the process of" moving to the Bay Area from Mount Shasta. Literally, all of his shit was in his car when he tried out for our band. We would not have hired him if we thought he would be driving that long each time he came to practice. Though he's not really the topic of this post, I could probably give a couple thousand words on him, too.

Don's timing is not very good though. The band has scheduled two rehearsals this week (Tues & Fri) because two of our singers have been on vacation the past two weeks and we have an important gig on Saturday. Don, only telling us on Tuesday morning that he won't make Tuesday night rehearsal, was the one who most needed the rehearsals and left us in a tough position. He did agree to rehearse on Friday and play the gig on Saturday, but could we trust him to make it work? Will he be ready? Or do we try to find someone better that can step in and play the gig with two rehearsals? Who could we find on such short notice anyway? Eric, maybe?

Eric was the drummer (and once a fantastic one) that actually put the initial members of the band together. Right around our 7th or 8th rehearsal, on the day of practice Eric, while on a short trip to LA, decided he wanted to stay in LA permanently and that he couldn't make rehearsal, and he was quitting the band (anyone yet realizing that drummers are the worst kind of flakes?). He did this on the same day that Lisa (singer extraordinaire) tried out for our band. She showed up at her audition and got to hear how our drummer just called from LA and said he's never coming back. Only she could tell you why she doesn't think we were all a big bunch of flakes and why she joined our band regardless of the drummer situation (this is her first band, so I think we've got her fooled).

Eric was 5 years sober at the time after a tough battle with drugs as a teen and young adult. A battle that I had witnessed most of first hand as Eric and I had been friends since age 4. Somewhere in our early 20's, after witnessing the after effects of an LSD experience gone horribly wrong(of which Eric had either had too much, or bad stuff) and the schizophrenic episodes it had induced*, I had to distance myself from him**. After that episode, Eric began to ramble on about anything, was not able to maintain one conversation, throwing out random topics from one sentence to the next, and he was convinced that he had married Stevie Nicks. He had gone some place far inside his brain. His parents sent him away to his grandparents for some space and help. He turned to NA.

I reunited with Eric at age 33, right before the band was formed and Eric had been sober for a long time but was fighting with his sobriety, convincing himself he could have a beer here and there, be a normal person, and not be the addict that (x)A (12-step program x inserted here) tries to convince that you are***. Eric, at that time had managed to get rid of (or seemingly suppress from my current view) most of the psychotic ramblings from his past. He was still a little off (not the Eric before the drugs, but not psychotic either), someone who just met him would simply think him an mildly (maybe a little more than mildly) odd bird. He could hold conversations and keep his mind in the now. Sobriety had helped him greatly. On the trip to LA he would throw it all away. Eric gave up on the idea of the "occasional beer" and went back to his comfort zone. Pot, acid, shrooms, I can only guess what else. He may also have been doing coke, speed and the like, but where Eric is concerned I feel the hallucinogens have done him the most damage. Any mental illness that Eric may have had inside of him, was surely released by these drugs and I imagine they help to enhance and sustain whatever illness he has.

Our knowledge of Eric as of yesterday, when we were in bad need of a good drummer, was that he came back from LA, met a girl, and possibly got married. Those of us who knew Eric in the band had been tentative about calling him, unsure of his current mental stability and not really wanting to deal with it. Eric had managed to remain a great drummer throughout his worst of times and it seems that he always made sure it was the one thing he could do right, be professional about, maintain focus for hours at a time (even at his craziest), and be proud he owned that talent. Our thought yesterday was that if Eric had maintained that professionalism about drumming and was, at most, only mildly unstable, it may work out that he could be our drummer again. After all, he had been home for awhile now, near his family, the support that got him sober in the first place. Maybe they had done it again. Also, how unstable could he be if someone would actually marry him?

The answer is completely bonkers. Crazy to the gazillionth power. Eric is worse than ever, although he managed to hide it pretty well in the initial phone calls from both Paul and me yesterday. During these calls Eric explained that he was excited to hear from us and looking forward to playing with us again. He even convinced me to carpool with him to practice. When he picked me up, I knew almost instantly we had made a grand mistake. A mistake to the gazillionth power, if you will. The hour long car ride was interesting and painful at the same time. Eric was everything he was at his worst and more. Constant chatter, lots of talk about killing things/people, his love of Foghat, his hatred of dogs, his newborn son Abraham Christopher's massive cock****, 80's music, his brother, purple goldfish, his supermodel-esque wife, bongo drums, insects, coca cola, and his previous marriage to Stevie Nicks. All mixed up, like a big Conversation Gumbo. He stopped a few times to roll down his window and begin similar rants with people stuck in traffic next to us.

Though he is not exactly how I imagine schizophrenics. He's not disconnected or distant, rambling in his own little world, the way they are portrayed in movies and on TV. Eric is right there in the world with you and demanding you pay attention to him. Waiting for responses to ridiculous comments and if you ask him a normal question he will usually give a real answer to it. At times you feel like its an act and that he's doing it for attention. That's really how it feels, but when the act lasts forever, you soon realize there is no act. It doesn't stop and its unbearable after about 30 seconds or after the first comment about raping a pit bull, whichever comes first (and its usually a close race). The fact that he demands your attention is draining. I sat quietly most of the way to practice, just listening. I had actually not moved a muscle and I was physically exhausted by the time we got there. My blood pressure was about 235/150 and my brain was on fire.

I got out of the car and got as far away from Eric as possible. We proceeded to have practice and everyone determined within minutes of playing (probably beforehand even) that Eric was not going to work out as our drummer. His "Hello, nice to meet you, I hate peanuts, are you a slave to your TV?" introductions (or something similar, if not verbatim) probably lost him the job before he even hit a drum. Eric had flashes of brilliance last night, but the focus he once had to play drums which he held onto so tightly over the years was gone. Several times Eric got up in the middle of a song to walk around aimlessly, get coffee, or tell the dogs how much he hates their tails. After a near physical confrontation with James (the bass player) over the tempo of the song Tempted by Squeeze, Paul decided to call a break to let everyone cool off and get some fresh air. Poor Lisa was so scared of Eric, that when she stepped outside for break she brought all of her belongings with her. I'm guessing she was afraid that Eric, still inside, would either steal them or sniff them (the latter more likely).

Exhausted as I was before practice, the guilt of exposing my friends to Eric coupled with just dealing with him myself drained me of all I had by the time rehearsal was over. I had reached new levels of frustration and exhaustion. I wouldn't be surprised if my new kidney was actually damaged somehow from the experience. I hurt less after my transplant than I did last night after rehearsal. Paul, who lives an hour in the opposite direction from me, offered to drive me home to save me from another car ride with Eric and I somehow managed to fool Eric into thinking I didn't need the 35 minute ride home because I would be hanging out with Paul, Michael, and their (non-existent) friends "who live in Berkeley." We needed some excuse because Eric wanted to hang out with us after practice and he wanted to know if we "wanted to go to Denny's or something." We did indeed want to go get something to eat, but the time it took to cook and eat a meal was more than we could continue put up with him. He had worn out everyone. When I got home at 2 am I plopped myself in bed, hit the pillow hard, and then stayed awake all night thinking about it.

Not one bad word was said about Don (the usual focus of the band's bad energy) all night.

*I fully believe that mental illness may exist in someone but be triggered by drugs and that they are not completely independent of each other, as many other people do. I've personally seen it happen with two of my friends (Eric being one). My childhood friend Aaron Hull is another and his newsworthy story may be a topic for another post later. You can probably find stories of his arrest online.

**This would be the second time I chose to distance myself, guiltlessly, from someone in my life battling mental illness (drug related), Aaron being the first. For them, they already had better support group than I could offer, and it would have been inappropriate for me to be a part of it. I was not their family. For myself, I could not witness what they were going through, it was too hard. Also, I had my life, full of problems of its own, to deal with. If they had been family or friends with nowhere else to turn, my involvement may have been different.

***I'm not a big fan of AA, NA, OA and the like. I believe there are lots of people who need them and are saved by them. I also believe they are willing to tell anyone willing to walk through their doors he's an addict without responsibly assessing whether or not that is the case. Some people are not sure if they're addicts. AA makes efforts to convince those people they "definitely" are. I just don't think that's always the case. Although with Eric it was the case.

****that was for you Paul.
posted by othur-me @ 11:52 AM  
  • At 5:21 PM, Anonymous Lisa said…

    Oh no! You shouldn't feel terrible about exposing us. How could you possibly have known he would be so out there? But I laughed out loud when you mentioned me taking my belongings. Since he spent 15 minutes asking all of us if we owed him money, I was thinking that he may just convince himself that I *did* owe him money and just help himself to my bag. It is really sad and scary what happens to people from either taking the wrong drugs (acid) or not taking the right ones (something for schizophrenia/mental illness). I just hope he gets better.

  • At 6:26 PM, Blogger mjd said…

    I tried to post earlier on the quilt story, but blogger or possibly my computer or possibly a combination of the two had other ideas. (Belated Happy Birthday)

    I read your story here about Eric. Even if a mental illness is not drug induced, dealing closely with someone with mental illness can be very difficult. I think that even the most compassionate among us tend to have difficulty in coping with the mentally ill especially when you have to live or work with the patient. Protecting your own sanity is a priority so that you are able to live the most productive life possible.

    Thank you for your encouraging words on my blog. Take care. I am looking forward to visinting from time to time.

  • At 11:02 PM, Blogger Killer said…

    Crazy people are funny only if you have a solid out when they go over the edge. Since he knows the name of your band and could eventually start showing up at all of your future shows could make things difficult. Maybe you should have a name change and start doing all your shows in disguise.
    Kind of like the Insane Clown Posse.

  • At 12:19 AM, Blogger othur-me said…

    Lisa - when you first came outside I thought you were going to leave. I wouldn't have blamed you.

    MJD - thanks for the late birthday wishes, but your REALLY birthday was in May. The birthday quilt was a present from a couple years ago, I guess that wasn't clear. My bad.

    As for Eric, I had to consider for a long to time my standing as a "good friend" by distancing myself from him. I was willing to admit that I wasn't one, but not feel too badly about it. You're right that it is by no means an easy issue to deal with. Many people spend great effort to support friends with mental illness only to be let down hard when their efforts don't do much, if anything to help. Many people are beyond help, and and any rate, I know I'm not a person qualified to help.

    I will keep your link on my blog for awhile in case you decide to keep posting. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    Killer - as I've known Eric since early childhood, we went to the same preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school, he knows where I live, he knows where my parents live, he knows all my friends, my sister, where I work, where I rehearse, what I'll be doing on Friday and Saturday, I'm thinking changing the name of the band may not be enough to help me escape him, but its worth a try. When it comes to crazy people, simple diversion can be very effective.

  • At 1:01 AM, Blogger Jester said…

    So... yeah... it was just as much my fault that Eric was at rehearsal last night (if not more).

    While I didn't go through the original meltdown with him... I can attest to his seemingly normal recovery period when I met him. He was indeed odd, but nothing compared to the freakozoid that joined us yesterday.

    I've had some experience with mental illness, back when I did my clinical rotations as a paramedic. While I don't doubt Eric's chemical problems are probably a catalyst. I firmly believe he is probably undiagnosed mild schizophrenic.

    His ramblings were so incoherent, it was physically painful to my brain to follow along. "I have one question, do you like the Grateful Dead? I hate dogs. Let's eat the rich people. My son needs vocal lessons. Do you guys play any Clash?"

    I was trying my best to keep him focused last night. I realized about an hour into the rehearsal that my neck and shoulders were extremely tense so much so that I could barely turn my head this morning.

    Hopefully the rest of the band will just forget this little foray into madness. NO one questions that Eric had talent as a drummer. It was obvious. However, the antics between songs, and even in the middle of a song were too much to deal with. I'm just glad that we weren't at the wedding.

    There's no way I would have let you ride home with him. I was flabbergasted that you agreed to ride with him in the first place. I will gladly drive you a half hour the wrong direction to save you any moment of torture like that.

    Oh.. and thanks for the shout out to Abraham Christopher's cock. And for attaching my name to it. Priceless.

  • At 1:06 PM, Blogger othur-me said…

    Jester - You're welcome. Anytime.

  • At 5:46 AM, Blogger Jane said…

    The picture cracks me up!

  • At 12:09 PM, Anonymous fringes said…

    I am visiting. Hello! Commenting on the post I know most about. Otherworld ramblings and waiting for serious answers to the most nonsensical questions. Downing Depakote with a shot of vodka followed by 2 or 3 lines of whatever. Argh. I'm glad I'm away from that person. I was going crazy right along with him.

    Thanks for visiting me today and for your comment. Hope you get this since it's like on a week-old post.

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