Thursday, August 24, 2006

Schizophrenia: Living A Nightmare Part 2

The Army doctors had evaluated Toni and found her unfit for active duty. She was to leave for the US in November, so she could get discharged and apply for disability. My military commanders felt that it would be in the best interest of the Air Force, for myself, and for my wife and child that we should be separated. Before mid October, the situation became worse than it had ever been before.
My wife's violent episodes were never, during this time, directed toward our daughter. She lived for Crystal, loved her and cared for her and was very protective. Any time she exhibited violence, it was directed toward a co-worker or me. She suspected me of having affairs with anyone I associated with, male or female, and this belief was aggravated by the fact that my NCO in charge of the shop in which I worked lived with his family in the apartment directly below us. Also, my job required that I go on the road several times a month, as I belonged in a mobile telecommunications maintenance unit. That meant that I had to travel to sites throughout Germany. Toni felt as though I was abandoning Crystal and her when I went on these trips. Once, when I returned home, I discovered that my wife was with someone else. I was totally devastated, but I still retained hope that things would get better. I loved my wife and my child, and I couldn't stand the thought of losing them, so I never got angry at Toni. I was in denial, and refused to accept that anything was seriously wrong.
The whole situation affected my work. My private life had been brought to the attention of my chain-of-command in the Air Force. I felt like the Kurt Vonnegut character Billy Pilgrim, in Slaughterhouse Five, being helplessly tossed around at the whims of time and Fate. I was going to therapy alone, and often slept in the car, rather than having to risk violence at the hands of my beloved wife. But my fear was greater that if Toni got in trouble with the law, we would lose custody of our beautiful child.
In spite of the violence directed toward me, the day Toni and Crystal departed for Stateside was an incredibly sad day for me. There was no feeling of relief, only that of loss. I wanted to fix things, I wanted for everything to be alright. I wanted to be with my wife and child. The Army doctors saw nothing wrong with Crystal going with Toni, and there was no reason to believe that Crystal would be in any danger from Toni.
Now, I realize that if I hadn't been so afraid for my own well being, that Crystal would still be alive. Because, when I neglected to tell Toni's doctors everything about her episodes, I was rewarded positively, to be able to live with my wife and child in peace, if only for a few days. Instead of seeing that there was a serious disorder, they treated the situation as simple incompatibility. If I could have told the whole truth, I still wouldn't have Crystal in my life, but she would be celebrating her 29th birthday in a couple of weeks.
There really is no one on whom to place all the blame. Toni wasn't aware that she was beating her own child to death. She saw and heard things that made her believe that the end of the world had arrived. The woman who bore my child, the wonderful, kind, beautiful person I married would never have intentionally harmed anyone. Her personality and even her very identity, were stripped away from her during her episodes, leaving only the most basic, primal being whose only instinct was the basic instinct of self-preservation.
My tour of duty in Germany ended in 1979, and I returned to Colorado Springs on a humanitarian reassignment. I visited my wife in the State Hospital as often as I could, and helped her as best I could with her therapy. She was released in 1980, and we tried to reconcile our marriage. There were too many bad memories, and I found that I was still afraid of her. We divorced in April of 1980. The last time I talked to Toni was Christmas of 1983, and I haven't seen or heard from her since. All I can do is hope she is living a safe and productive life.
Much of what I have learned from my experience is not all that positive. I am incapable of forming any kind of intimate relationship. I don't even try, and I go out of my way to avoid such relationships I sometimes doubt myself, my motivations, and my sense of reality. Sometimes, I still get that Billy Pilgrim feeling.
But there are important things to be learned. Most importantly, unless one is a trained and experienced professional in the treatment of schizophrenia, one should not take it on one's self to try to treat the affliction. Unfortunately, there are not many experienced professionals in the treatment of schizophrenia. It is only within the past five to ten years that the connection between schizophrenic episodes and brain damage has been made. As was the case of my wife, and, presumably that of Andrea Yates, often nothing is done to prevent violent outbreaks until tragedy occurs. I remain hopeful that pre-emptive measures can be taken, but the disease has to be recognized and treated, first.

1 comment:

yellowdog granny said...

oh my friend...how painful this must be for you...

I wonder...if it might not help to see if you can find out something about toni? just to close that loop?...maybe not..
may the goddess bless you..