A Voice for the Voiceless: One Man's Saga
A Call for Mental Health Advocacy
I was born at the Flower Hospital in New York City in 1936, the only child of older parents. There were questions as to whether my mother, whose health was unfavorable, should have contemplated childbirth at the age of 36, but she found a way. My father was 57 years old and didn't want children.
I was otherwise a healthy baby boy born into a life of privilege. My mother ensured that I would be afforded every opportunity to succeed. I attended kindergarten at Friends Seminary and in 1946 joined the St. Thomas Boys' Choir.
After moving to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, I attended the Lawrenceville School where I played soccer and became an All-American swimmer. During the summer I held various jobs as camp counselor and lifeguard. I attended Brown University, majoring in Classical Studies. I became captain of the swim team, and set a number of swimming records. After graduating from Brown, I attended the Institute for Classical Studies in Athens, Greece, then returned to Lawrenceville to teach Latin. I also became a Housemaster and coached Lower house athletics.
I was married in 1960 and earned an M.A. in Latin from Columbia the following year. That Spring my wife and I had our first child.
In 1961, I began teaching Latin at a private school near Toledo, Ohio, where I also coached the Greek and Chess Clubs and was involved in community-based classical associations. Our second child arrived in 1963.
In 1965, the Toledo Blade published a story on our propitious expanding clan entitled, "Family Puts Fun In Learning." I began working that year toward a second Masters degree at the University of Michigan. We moved to Ann Arbor where I obtained an M.A. in Greek in the spring of 1966.
As I started work on my doctoral thesis, our third child arrived. I was now 30 years old and looking forward to a promising future in academia and ongoing roles as a coach, mentor, and community leader. But my proudest and most important responsibility would always be the one which carried me home every day, as a loving husband and father of three.
Then I started finding Satanic messages hidden in the works of Cicero and Virgil. Then came the voices. My wife and I argued. I became violent, threatening her and the children. I grew withdrawn and became complacent. I paced, began smoking, and gained weight. Needless to say, the family was thrown into a collective shock, confused, helpless and terrified.
In November 1966, I was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Thus began an odyssey of torment and disgrace which I have now endured for nearly half a century. The out-of-pocket cost of my care over this time is well into the millions of dollars.
By the early 1970s, as the situation became increasingly volatile, my wife filed for divorce. Paranoid schizophrenia decimated my family, which has since, for all intents and purposes, ceased to exist.
I had no contact with my children for nearly 20 years, until one day in 1994, my son came to see me. By then I was known as "Sir" and insisted on being called "Sir." Later I changed my name again. To this day my caretakers refer to me as "Pete."
Prior to her death, my mother set up a charitable trust naming me as its life beneficiary. She was well-aware of the severity of my condition while reserving the hope I would someday improve. Nevertheless, medical understanding of schizophrenia was still in its infancy. By all accounts, she had arranged to provide for my care for as long as I lived, if necessary.
Thus far, the courts disagree. After 29 years' residency in a long-term psychiatric facility (which does not accept Medicaid) I am now 77 years old, in ill health, and at risk of eviction as the result of nonpayment of expenses exceeding $220,000. In pursuit of a resolution to my legal dilemma, my son and guardian has learned firsthand that the mentally ill have no voice in mainstream society and little influence in our courts and legislature.
The severity and progression of my disease has left me psychotic and utterly incapacitated, unable to manage my own life and affairs. Consequently, my story has been provided by my son who not only assumed the responsibility for my care but in so doing became a voice for all victims of mental illness and their caregivers who seek justice and peace of mind.