|Chapter 28: One West and All the Rest
Experiences of a Mental Health Client
by Peter Hermann Joseph Wuscher
Stories of Medicine in Athens County, Ohio
a multi-authored anthology compiled and edited by
Gary E. Cordingley, M.D., PhD.
Editor’s note: The author presented a condensed version of this essay, entitled, “A Tale of Two
Athens State Hospitals: one patient’s experiences,” at the March 2004 annual meeting of the
Ohio Academy of Medical History held in Columbus.
As a schizophrenic and addict in Athens County, I have been invited to tell my story. One thing
that might be of interest is that, because of my problems, I was treated in both of Athens’ state
hospital buildings—the one located south of the Hocking River that opened in 1874 and the one
north of the river that opened in 1993. Therefore, I can offer impressions of both facilities and
what they were like from the patient’s point of view.
Aside from about a year in Massachusetts and three years in Zanesville, Ohio, my entire
experience with schizophrenia occurred in or near Athens County. Before I moved to Athens in
1981 at age 15, I lived in Manhattan, Kansas, which was the only hometown I knew, because I can’
t remember Sweden, where I was born and spent the first three years of my life. When I was
about 13, I started doing drugs and behaving rebelliously. Soon I was in trouble with the law. The
situation at home was deteriorating, too. My mother’s second marriage was at an end. While she
was changing jobs from Kansas State University to Ohio University in Athens, I was sent to the St.
Francis Boy’s Home near Salina, Kansas. Upon release from the boy’s home, I moved to Athens.
I suppose I was a fairly common product of the sixties’ and seventies’ “sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll”
culture, and I brought it all with me to Athens. I never thought for a moment that there was
anything wrong with me. I blamed “society” and “authority” for all my troubles. I surrounded myself
with peers who had similar attitudes and behaviors, reinforcing my belief that I was not only
normal, but quite special and fashionable. I was as high on self-righteousness as I was on booze
and drugs. I had no idea what mental illness was. If anyone had suggested that I was mentally ill, I
would’ve likely had some choice words for him or her. In fact, this very scenario played itself out a
few years later.
My schizophrenic symptoms began when I was 18 to 19 years old, and really bloomed between
the ages of 20 and 22. I had paranoid delusions, hallucinated voices and unusual bodily
sensations. My first hospitalization occurred in 1986 after I “drunked out” of Ohio University. I was
incarcerated in the Athens County Jail in the center of Athens, next to the courthouse. I don’t
remember why. At that point I was also no stranger at the Athens City Jail.
I hatched a brilliant plan to get out of jail. I told the officers that I was going crazy and needed to
be placed in the mental hospital. My primary motivation was quite simply to get out of jail. I
thought, “Well, the Athens State Hospital might keep me for a short time, but because I’m not
really insane, they’ll let me go and I’ll be free again. It beats the hell out of being in jail.”
My plan to escape this dreadful situation went perfectly—or so it seemed at first. They took me to
the hospital in a police cruiser. I arrived at the front steps of the Athens State Hospital in cuffs
and shackles. Once inside the hospital’s main front entrance, I remember being led down some
steps just off the grand and echoing lobby for an intake process. If it were not for the bright lights
and busy desks that awaited me, I would have thought I was being led into a dungeon. I don’t
remember who the doctor was I sat down to talk to, but it might have been Stephen Klein, D.O.,
(1) whom I remember as being my first psychiatrist. He asked if I were hearing voices or receiving
messages from the radio.
“Of course I do,” I said. “Doesn’t everyone?”
I remember how the intake conversation felt. I was self-righteous and angry—in complete denial
that this whole situation really had anything to do with me. After it began to appear that my plan
wasn’t working too well, I confessed that I had only wanted to get out of jail. Thus, against
everything that I believed about myself at the time, the conversation concluded with a diagnosis
of “paranoid schizophrenia” for me, and a middle finger in the air for the good doctor.
My brief sessions with psychiatrists back then were nothing but heated arguments—them trying
to explain what schizophrenia was, and my angry defense based on delusion. I gave Dr. Klein an
especially hard time and it had nothing to do with him. It was the position he was in. I remember
one conversation in which he was trying to explain brain chemistry to me. When he said the word
dopamine (a brain chemical important in mental illness) to me, I thought immediately that he was
really saying, “Dope…I’m mean!” In my drug-oriented mind this meant he had a military clearance
to smoke dope because he was mean.
The lobby inside the hospital’s main entrance was a cavernous place, much like the center aisle
of a cathedral, except that it was seriously lacking the color and beauty normally associated with
a church. At the back of the lobby were dual sets of stairs, one to the left and the other to the
right, like one might find in a European mansion. Then there was a partition with an archway,
behind which the hallway continued, among more stairways, to the back portion of the main
building. I had two very conflicting feelings about the lobby. One was of the architectural
“fanciness” of the arches and stairways that I found temporarily amusing. The second was of the
senseless way it was all presented, with bland paint and bright fluorescent lights. The floor really
said it all. It was black and white, not quite precisely checkered, but far too boring to be called
I could describe the lobby as being like a train or bus station, with chairs scattered here and
there. There was a woman who sat silently all the time at the foot of the right-hand staircase. She
never spoke or acknowledged anyone. She never seemed to move. The other patients said she
had killed all her children with a kitchen knife. But I thought she was the sanest one of all, not
talking. She just sat there, absorbing the emptiness and sadness, waiting for trains or buses that
would never come.
At least the lobby had a bit of character. When one went past the reception desk and turned into
a little alcove on the left, one came to the locked metal door of One West. One West was the
“tough guy” ward. The ward lacked any features at all except for its width, height and endless
length. But for a place that totally lacked any physical character, I was soon to learn that there
was no shortage of other “characters” in this giant, fluorescent shoebox.
Although I am using the real names of doctors and other hospital employees, for the other
“prisoners” I will use fictitious names.
I met my first real crazy person before I even got through the door. He was staring at me through
the small, wire-meshed, perfectly square window set at eye level in the metal door. To my relief
he was asked, of course, to move away from the door. I thought, in my delusion-filled mind, that
he was somehow purposely placed at that spot. Perhaps this patient, whom I’ll call “Guitar,” was
my ultimate rival. Maybe I would have to fight him. But as it turned out, much to my relief, he was
one of the most gentle and kind people that I ever remember meeting. Eventually, I learned that
Guitar and I had a great deal in common, particularly music. I call him Guitar, of course, because
that’s what he played. I didn’t even mind that he was better at it than I was. Guitar and I were
occasionally allowed to use the phone room for playing a nylon-stringed guitar. As long as no
one needed the phone, we could play. For me, it was a high that was rare, but much needed. So
despite all my initial fears about Guitar, we became the best of friends.
The first time I walked to the far end of One West to get a drink of water, I met a chap I’ll call
“Soldier.” Soldier was not shy. He walked right up to me and asked, “Do you want to fight?”
This freaked me out. There I was, my first day in this strange place, and this guy wanted to fight.
Maybe he was wearing something that gave away his identity as a service veteran, but I had
enough wits about me to reply, “I’ll fight for my country.”
Then, as if to make sure, Soldier asked, “Which country?”
Fortunately, he didn’t seem to mind my hesitation as I briefly thought about Sweden, where I was
born. Then I said, “America.” That seemed to satisfy him enough that we got along reasonably
well from that point on. Later, I learned that he was a combat veteran of Vietnam who had severe
post-traumatic stress disorder. He wouldn’t talk precisely about what he had been through, at
least not to me, but often, as he sat or paced the floor or retreated into his room at night, he
could be heard recounting his nightmares in a way that only he understood. Sometimes he
whispered. At other times he shouted. Often he just wept. No one knew whom he was talking to.
Sometimes, as if in defeat, he would repeat just one word, “Atrocities!” over and over.
Yet there were other times when he was happy and friendly. He had the power to change the
mood of the whole ward. He frequently stood at the desk and argued, usually in a lighthearted
way, about “cigarette time” or about the quantity of cigarettes he was given. He was my cigarette
The desk was the central feature on One West. To my mind, it was more like a bar. This is where
our faithful “bartenders” served up the medication, the smokes and our evening snacks. The
desk also served as the divider between the busy normal people and us. I often wondered what
exactly the distinction was.
By my second or third day on One West, I was getting a feel for the place. The fear of uncertainty
was on its way out, and in its place an immensely pervasive boredom was settling in for another
day under the annoying fluorescent lights. My mind couldn’t comprehend what I (and all the other
patients, for that matter) were supposed to do, or what exactly we were being punished for. Paul,
Bob, Suzy, Debbie and Susan, a few of the staff I remember, just wanted us to take pills and do
everything that they told us to do—“Relax, you don’t want to lose your privileges, do you?” or
“You want to get out of here, don’t you?” Those were two of the most common and stupid
questions, and were prompted by our own common and stupid questions—“Why are you keeping
me here?” or “What is this medication?” When they really got fed up with us, it was simply, “Get
away from the desk.” That’s exactly what we did. In fact, we got as far away from that desk and
those spying eyes as the physical structure of One West would allow. Behind their friendly talk,
those behind the desk were the enemy, and “we” were hopelessly trying to find a way to conquer
So, just a day or two into my career as a mental patient, I discovered the most distant place from
the desk as well as a very quiet and extraordinarily generous fellow whom I’ll call “Weed.” The
setting was the laundry room, often unlocked, located at the farthest end of the ward.
Weed was a guy who seemed numb to the whole situation. The fact that he was on a psych ward
seemed to mean nothing to him. Occasionally, he talked, but very rarely about himself. Most of
the time he was quiet and impervious to everything around him. I was very eager to meet him
because it was rumored that he possessed a bag of weed (thus the nickname). My whole outlook
on being in a mental hospital was about to change for the better!
We made a plan that involved several of us slipping into the laundry room one at a time. There
were three great things about the laundry room: It was about as far from the desk as one could
get. The door could be pulled shut. And because it was at the end of the hall, there was a grand
window to the outside. This window could be opened just a crack, maybe an inch or two. Four of
us patients safely gathered for the “smoking of the joint.” We debated about whether the wind
was coming in or going out, while trying not to burn too many matches in finding out.
At last, the bag was produced and the rolling began. I was struck by the size of the bag of buds
that Weed had managed to obtain. It was at least a half an ounce. For me, there was nothing
more valuable in the whole world than a few good tokes. I still remember thinking, “If this is what
being in a psych hospital offers, I’m in! I might not want to get out!” Of course, it didn’t occur to
me that, because of the adverse effects of marijuana upon my psychosis, this was probably the
worst thing for me to do. So as I stooped to blow smoke through a window crack, I also, very
effectively, blew my first opportunity to get into a program of recovery.
To make a long “pot story” short, the more stoned we got, the more careless we got, too, until we
got busted and watched our heavenly herbs wander off in the shirt pocket of the guy who nailed
There was a television room, but I hated TV and, additionally, it was located directly across from
the main desk. TV made me paranoid and, besides, they blocked out the MTV (music television)
station. The dining room was usually locked unless we were eating or meeting for group therapy.
It provided nothing anyway, except for a different window to look out of. The only other things to
do were to sit out on the ward or in the bedrooms arranged around the edges of the central ward-
One of my hallucinatory symptoms from schizophrenia was “acoustic sound manipulation.” I
attributed it to some fantastic technology that was present in One West. The “tap, tap, tap” of
shoes walking on the hard floor sounded like actual words of a sentence, such as, “What, the,
hell!” or, “What, is, thought?” This was especially true for very sharp sounds like the tapping of
silverware in the dining room, but also happened with very subtle sounds such as those made by
clothing on the body.
Once, when Dr. Redding was my doctor (likely because I didn’t hit it off too well with Dr. Klein) I
was called into the little nurses’ station behind the front desk to sign some kind of paper. So there
I was, in that room with Dr. Redding. I don’t remember what the paper was about, but it had to be
signed by both the doctor and me. I was listening hard to the sounds of his pen as he signed the
paper. I interpreted these sounds as something to the effect of “You, must, die.” I also thought
that these words came directly from the mind of the “sound maker.” So, of course, I hesitated to
sign what I thought was my death contract.
I tried to think of a way out of it, but he was a doctor. Not only that, but he was also a world ruler. I
thought, “I could kick this guy’s puny ass.” Dr. Redding was a small man, barely five feet tall, but I
knew what trouble would follow if I did, and, besides, I’m not violent. I just couldn’t think of how I
could save my own life, so I reluctantly signed the contract authorizing my death to further the
cause of this strange little man whom we knew as Dr. Redding.
I cannot write words that would accurately describe my obsession or passion for music at that
time in my life. In fact, music was the fundamental thing that got me through. No one could take it
away from me. When everything else in my life was a crap-heap, I had music.
I now know how lucky we were to have a woman named Gay Dalzell(2) as our music therapist.
There were those who did well to bang two wooden blocks together or to puzzle over how to play
a tambourine, but some of us were a step up from that. Gay recognized that and went out of her
way to help us with our musical goals and dreams. The happiest moment of my many days at the
old hospital came one otherwise boring day when Gay walked onto the ward and reported to me
that we had a set of drums. They weren’t anything fancy, but with prompting from me, she had
requested a bit of money from the hospital to buy an old drum kit. Drums! Yes! Real drums! And
boy, did I have some pent-up anger to take out on those things. I didn’t get to play them much,
but when I did, I was in heaven.
Every time that Ms. Dalzell walked onto the ward I approached her and excitedly asked when we
could practice. But on one visit, she wasn’t showing her usual smile. “It’s over,” she said.
“Why?” I asked. “Are you leaving?”
“It’s more than that,” she said. “There won’t be any more music therapy. The hospital cut us out
of the budget.”
“What?” I choked. “Will we still have art?”
“No, that’s over, too.” She was always good at keeping her composure, but I could tell she wasn’t
The music and programs were ending, and the people who ran them would no longer work in that
capacity. I felt completely crushed. This setback was worse than all those probate hearings put
together. They could sit around and talk about how crazy I was—I cared not. Give me another 60
or 90 days! Meaningless to me. But this! It tore out my soul and trampled it. That one thing they
couldn’t take from me, by golly, they were trying to, really trying!
Although some memories of the old hospital are very clear, there were many other events of
which I have no recollection at all. While I was preparing this narrative, my mother informed me
that I was there, at least once, for only a few days (probably the legally required three days) and I
“signed myself out.” This meant that they felt I was not a danger to myself or anyone else, and
they had to let me go. As I remember it, I was probated (held past the three days) to longer stays
on three occasions at the old castle on the hill. Most of what I have written so far is about that
first, lengthy stay on One West. That time, I was there for over a year. Subsequently, I took off to
Massachusetts and wound up in a psychiatric hospital near Boston. Shortly after I returned to
Ohio, I was back at the Athens State Hospital for a six-month stay, and then, about a year after
that, for another two-month stay.
Around the time of my second stay, I started referring to the hospital as “my winter retreat,” as it
seemed that my pattern was to be there for lengthy stays during the winter months. This was not
by accident. As the harsh Ohio winters approached, life got harder for a guy living on the streets
of Athens. Then, when there were signs of spring, I would make every effort to convince my
keepers that I was well enough to go. It was difficult, but not impossible, to manipulate the system.
It came with practice and experience.
I spent most of those days of “incarceration” on One West, but I also remember being on Two
West, directly above One West, and AIT (Acute Intensive Treatment) directly above Two West. I
was also in the “newer addition” part of the building for a while, Two South perhaps? But with my
having spent so much time on One West, this narrative divides readily into two parts—hence,
“One West and All the Rest.”
I think it was during my second stay at the Athens State Hospital that I was transferred from One
West to Two West. I was upset at first because I had to gather all my belongings, but then I was
hopeful, too. I had been on One West long enough, and any change of scenery was welcome at
that point. As it turned out, physically Two West was almost a carbon copy of One West. I
expected as much, but it was still disappointing to me as I carried my worldly wealth onto my new
ward. But then, I noticed that there was something there that was sorely missing on One West—
women! My excitement was not only due to sex drive, but also to the fact that by this time I was
much more comfortable around women than men. In fact, I was quite fed up with men. So the
friends I thought I would miss from One West were soon replaced and I got along well on Two
West. Two West was for those patients who were considered higher functioning. This was a
welcome designation, but it was still a drag to be anywhere in that institution.
There were jokes around the old hospital about “moving up in the world.” There was One West
on the first floor, Two West on the second floor, and then AIT on the third floor, all stacked
directly on top of each other. If Two West was a comforting relief, then AIT was a luxury
accommodation. When I went to stay on AIT for the first time, I noticed some big differences right
away. There was carpet on the floor and the walls were much darker. The lighting, which had
been so annoying on One and Two West, was more absorbed by AIT’s deeper color tones. The
place had a more reddish and “wood-type” feel to it. It was also much more relaxed. One could
keep sharp objects like soda cans. Bedrooms were private and were furnished with actual
furniture and real mirrors.
This patients’ paradise was set aside for the highest functioning or at least most trustworthy
clients. I don’t know why they put me on AIT. It must have been at a time when I was doing pretty
well. Perhaps the staff realized that I really didn’t mean to harm myself or anyone else. They
could trust me with a pop can.
Another thing that helped my recovery was that there were periods of days, weeks and even
months when alcohol and drug supply lines dried up. Even when we did score a bag or a bottle, it
was hard to obtain, and even harder to get away with actually using. It might have been during
those “dry” times that my medication could actually work to some extent. But, back then, that
thought never entered my mind.
For a long time I didn’t know why a huge portion of the “old main building” (mostly the wards to
the west of the central entryway and lobby) were abandoned. It must have been something major
if it was cheaper to make a huge, new extension on the eastern end, toward the hill that slopes
down to Richland Avenue. For an institutional building, the extension we knew as the “new
hospital”(3) was perfect. But as a place to live it was miserable. Everything was white—floors,
walls and ceilings. Although they did try to make it tolerable to the eye by putting a painting here
or there, or by using some of the space for lounges, it was all clinically clean and fluorescently
drab. It lacked the occasional charm of an old window grid or carpeted staircase that could be
found in the original building.
If one walked through the tunnels (the basement of the old side) and through the new hospital
part (there were a couple ways to do this without going outside), there were a few distractions
along the way. For example, one came to some vending machines and a couple of tables. We
were allowed to smoke there, which was nice. The end result of providing these lounge areas,
unfortunately, was that the lounges were constantly inhabited by those who always seemed to
need a dime, a dollar or a cigarette. Even if one managed to get in a peaceful puff or two, or a
candy bar, it was never very long before a bum showed up. I tried to afford these people a bit of
financial sympathy, like a quarter or two. It was a strategic thing, because I was often the bum
My memory of being on one (or even two) of the south wards in the newer part of the building isn’
t very clear, but I do remember one of my admissions. I think it was my third, and final, rather
lengthy stay on the hill, my winter retreat. They took me to the new portion of the building and up
the elevator to the ward. It might have been Two South. Inside the secure door, there was an L-
shaped hallway. To the right, a short hall ended in a dining area, and to the left was, first, the
front desk, then the seclusion room, and then all the other rooms.
When I reluctantly approached the staff at the front desk, they informed me that I was to take
some pills that were already prepared for me in a little plastic cup. I refused. I imagine now that by
this time the treatment had been ordered by the court and I had no right to refuse the medication
that they thought was humane and necessary. I found quickly that there was not even liberty to
protest about it. This time, they were serious about medicating me. So, before I could blink, there
were several men shuffling me into seclusion where I was held down and injected.
I mention this event because I think it was a real turning point for me in my progress toward
recovery. When they were holding me to the floor, I think I finally gave in. Of course, when I went
into that room, I was in an absolute rage, but it took experiences like this to get me to think, “I
can’t fight these bastards anymore.” Then, as the anger gave way to the chemicals, the
emptiness of this small room and the emptiness of my life, I gave up. I gave up, not just to the
hospital people, but to the police, the doctors, everyone who obviously had authority in my life. In
my mind, I was still a rebel. They had not convinced me that I was schizophrenic or that I needed
their help. I still despised them. However, they did solidly demonstrate—and I finally accepted—
that I was truly defeated. From then on, to a large degree I cooperated with them, at least when it
came to handcuffs, doors, buildings and medications.
I think it was this third stay on the hill when I successfully applied for Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) for the disabled. This was a gift from heaven! (Or from the government, to be more
precise.) This was truly to change my life, or so I thought. It meant that, when released from the
hospital, I could actually rent an apartment and have a little money left over to live on. Of course,
“live on” meant to blow the rest on parties, which in turn got me a steady stream of evictions. In a
way, my life became even crazier than when I was on the street. “Pete’s Place” was a location
where anyone could bring their beer or dope, crash out if they wanted, damage the property, etc.
This went on for years. I hardly even noticed what I’ll call the “burned bridge effect.” Each time I
pissed off a landlord and got thrown out, I burned one more bridge. Athens is a small enough
town that after the word was out, I ran out of landlords who were willing to rent to me. It got to the
point that when I called to talk to them, upon hearing my name they immediately hung up.
From about 1988, when I was released from the Athens State Hospital, until 1992, when I left
Athens again, was not an easy time for me or for those who had the arduous task of managing
my case. Although I succeeded in staying out of the hospital, I still suffered, primarily from my own
denial. As time went by, my avoidance of hospitalization gave me a positive feeling that I was
making progress. I think it was partly due to receiving a monthly check with which I could at least
postpone disaster—evictions, arrests, etc. I didn’t realize until years later that all this occurred
during a time of great change within the mental health system. It was what we know today as de-
hospitalization, a great shift of treatment from hospitals and big treatment centers to the
communities. So what all this meant for me was that I could live in my own place (until I got thrown
out), and carry on my own affairs (until I got in trouble), and instead of going to the hospital I
would go to jail. My life and I, both, were still quite a mess.
But I was starting to give in a little. I went to Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services
(outpatient clinic) on Stimson Avenue in Athens for my injection of Prolixin every two weeks. I did
this, not because I wanted to, but this was one of the things that everyone was screaming at me
to do (also, Prolixin was a med that I could tolerate to some extent). And, of course, I had to see a
psychiatrist every so often. I had several doctors during that time, but I remember only Harold
Brown, M.D.,(4) whom I saw for quite some time. Tri-County Mental Health at that time was very
small—a few corridors and offices connected to a small entrance and waiting room. It was actually
on the second floor of a hardware store. It was quite humble. It seems that when the higher-ups
in mental health tried to make this great treatment shift from hospital to community, someone
forgot to alert the community that we were coming.
Several significant things happened during these few community treatment years. While I lived
this chaotic, fearful and intoxicated existence, it became increasingly more difficult to deny that
there was something wrong with me. Despite being psychotic and burned out from too much
weed, I wasn’t a fool. It wasn’t as if I were really seeing the light—not yet—but I was wising up a
little. I remember seeing a drug and alcohol counselor on Richland Avenue, probably from Health
Recovery Services (HRS). I knew I had a problem. I just couldn’t make the big leap to quit. Still, it
was good to have someone to listen to my endless problems and urge me to think about
treatment for substance abuse.
Around that time, I discovered other Athens-based services. There was Advocacy and Protective
Services, my payee. Because I was in constant trouble from handling my own money, I gladly
agreed to sign up for this program. They received my check, paid my rent and bills each month,
and sent me weekly checks out of the remaining money. I can’t remember all my payees, but I
remember Jodi Jones,(5) who handled my check well into my early years of recovery. I bounced
in and out of the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation Services (BVR) a few times—it was way out
on East State Street then. But my greatest discovery was a very friendly and homelike place
called “The Gathering Place” (GP), which has continued to be a rock of support for me to this day.
I didn’t understand what the Gathering Place was at first. But I knew that if I were sober, I could
visit this grand old house on Congress Street in Athens, drink a cup of coffee and get off the
street for an afternoon. They even had a nice acoustic guitar that no one seemed to mind if I
played. It didn’t bother me that the Gathering Place was a drop-in center for those with mental
illness. They promoted recovery, of course, but not in a pressuring or intrusive way. It was laid
back. The other clients and staff were friendly. I already knew some of the “gatherers” from the
hospital and other places. I had learned the importance of socialization and support.
One day, I was at the GP and a small group was having a conversation about a book called
Surviving Schizophrenia by E. Fuller Torrey. This book turned out to be exactly what I needed. It
explained in clear and understandable language what schizophrenia is. As I carefully turned the
pages of the book, I discovered myself. And just like that, I went from almost complete denial of
having schizophrenia to 100 percent acceptance that I indeed had schizophrenia of the paranoid
But another of my problems was being an addict. I accepted that to a certain degree, but I was
still not ready to deal with my addiction. I was still in a purgatory of latter-stage addiction in which I
was looking for a way to stop drinking and using, but without stopping my drinking or using! So
once I finally accepted that I was a schizophrenic, possession of that fact by itself was useless
because I continually relapsed with drugs. Over and over, I invited psychosis back into my life
with pot, alcohol and other drugs.
Around 1990–91, when I reached the end of the “burned bridge” problem with landlords I
mentioned earlier, I found myself living in roadside motels around Athens. This was not good
financially. It took almost my whole monthly check to pay for a small room. However, it was great
for parties, which eventually burned another set of bridges. I was responsible for property
damage at The Sunset and The Highlander, and they threw me out of The Athens Motel. I found
other places to live in Chauncey and The Plains, but I always got thrown out eventually. I lived as
far away as The Route 50 Motel in the boonies of Vinton County, just a few miles from McArthur.
Besides having to deal with the headache of transportation, it took all my money to live there.
What little cash I had went to the nearest beer carry-out about five miles away. I had to do that on
foot, of course. The only person in the world who would transport me was my Tri-County case
manager, Glenda LeFebre,(6) and she obviously wouldn’t support my beer habit.
In 1992, while I was living in Chauncey, I was smoking pot every day and drinking a lot. I tried to
prevent the wild parties that would get me thrown out, but they happened anyway. I remember
about 10 police officers arriving and breaking up a party there. I was getting sick and burned out
again from too much pot. But I knew exactly what I had to do. I set out on foot for Athens. While
walking down Route 13, I had the sudden notion that I wasn’t just a bad person, I was the very
devil. By the time I got to Athens, I was convinced I was Lucifer himself.
I knew I had to surrender. Because Athens had residential, drug-abuse treatments for only
women (Rural Women’s Recovery Program) and children (Bassett House), Glenda arranged for
me to go to Good Samaritan Hospital in Zanesville. While in treatment there I did well. I learned
more about how to combat addiction, and took a good, hard look at myself. I was staying clean
and feeling good.
But then I relapsed again—first beer, and then pot. After that I even ventured into crack cocaine,
which I had never done until then. I ran out of money and started getting into trouble again. In
1994 I got arrested again, for petty stuff. I should have seen the psychosis coming, but I didn’t.
Finally, in early 1995, I snapped. I was living in Zanesville’s worst neighborhood. There, my
friends were all active alcoholics, too. But when I snapped into psychosis, even they were puzzled
about the weird things I said. They didn’t understand about schizophrenia and they pulled away
from me. I retreated into my apartment, where I hit bottom. The paranoia became unbearably
intense, and then the false body sensations made it even worse. I would wake up, drink beer and
chain-smoke cigarettes until I passed out, and then, upon reawakening, start over again. I lost
sense of night and day, space and time, reality and delusion. I had done it again.
In mid-February my brother Yngve, who still lived in Athens, showed up, as if in shining armor. He
said it was time for a little family get-together in Athens. My family must have been absolutely
terrified of my condition. But Yngve knew a thing or two about recovery himself, and knew me like
the back of his hand. My brother was willing to put me up for a while in his apartment. My mom
and her husband came from Columbus. Even the Europe clan came—my father from Sweden
and my sister from England.
It didn’t occur to me at the time, but this was not just a “family get-together.” I was in really bad
shape. My psychotic delusions made me frightened to move at times, for fear of invisible bullets,
or killing people whom I thought were physically living in my heart. I was also withdrawing from
alcohol upon which I had become physically dependent. I’m sure it wasn’t by accident that there
was not a drop of alcohol to be found at my brother’s apartment.
Without a penny to my name, I walked uptown to find a way to relieve my jitters. I strolled, as
casually as possible, into The Pub and ordered a beer, hoping I could drink a few gulps before
the bartender demanded money. But I barely got to taste the foam before the man pried the
glass from my hands. I never would have imagined, in all my years of drinking, that my last drink
of alcohol would have happened in such an unglamorous way, but that was my last drink—
My family did not stand by to watch me self-destruct again. When I had left Athens for Zanesville
in 1992, there was a new hospital under construction, near O’Bleness Memorial Hospital. When I
returned to Athens in 1995 for a family gathering, that building awaited me.
So there I was, being admitted to the psychiatric hospital again. But this time it was not that huge
building on the hill. The new, greatly downsized hospital was a brand-spankin’ new building. The
psychiatric hospital was not the building’s sole occupant. The hospital was on the first floor of the
western end. HRS, the addiction agency, was above it on the second floor. Tri-County Mental
Health and Counseling Services, the mental health clinic, had relocated from the hardware store
to the new building’s single-story, eastern end.
The hospital had just 20–22 beds on each of its two wards, a very small affair compared with the
old castle which used to have nearly 2,000! My family was determined to get me in. This time the
admission process did not take long. I could not hide or disguise the fact that I really needed to
be there. Still, my predominant feelings were of that old familiar anger and denial. I hardly noticed
the far more pleasant architecture of this new place as I very cooperatively allowed myself to be
led onto the ward. There I was again, defeated. I was glad when my family left the scene. I just
wanted everyone to go away at that point. I was given medication, and yet another opportunity to
By this time, I knew what recovery required—staying clean and sober, taking medication and
following orders. If they asked me to stand on my head for four hours each day, then, by golly,
that’s what I would do. I had to start somewhere, and this was finally it. The doctor prescribed a
newer medication that had fewer side effects. This was a blessing, especially because of how
sensitive I was to the old ones. This was also my first real “dual treatment,” meaning I was able to
deal with my addiction and mental health issues simultaneously. The group therapies I
participated in while in the hospital continued after I got out.
One thing that was really sweet was that almost every major mental health and addiction entity in
Athens was in the same building. Once I had my privileges to go off the ward, it was only up a
flight of stairs to HRS to see a counselor or attend a group. Then at the other end of the same
building there was Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services. I would come to know Tri-
County very well after my release. This whole arrangement, with all these agencies in one place,
serves me well even today. I often spend a whole day, evening included, in meetings and
appointments within the various agencies.
This new building, although much smaller than the old castle, was by far more eye-pleasing.
There were many courtyards that served as smoking areas, all of which were adorned with
plants, trees and even artistic sculptures. Some were fully enclosed by the building, but much of
the window and door work was glass (very heavy glass, of course) from floor to ceiling. There
were curved walls and nice color tones. I could go on at great length about all these details that
made the hospital and the outpatient agencies more attractive than their predecessors. To sum it
up, I could say that someone finally decided that beauty and ambience actually mattered in a
Thus, this is where I began recovery. I really had no choice. The transformation has been no less
than amazing. I am not the same person I was before 1995. I have been blessed and proud to be
very active in the mental health and addiction communities since then.
There are many faceless and nameless mental health systems in Ohio and the rest of the
country (especially the larger and more urban). I am eager to say that the system in Athens is not
one of them. Although we struggle with a lack of proper funding and the woes of being a small,
rural system, the people are awesome. Perhaps this is because in Athens we have a major
university and a once-large mental hospital. Athens has always been a progressive place for
anything, and there are many over-qualified professionals in the mental health system here. We
are now, and always were, on the cutting edge here. Here we seem to have faces and names.
I offer a sincere “Thank you!” to all those who have stuck with me in my illness, and encouraged
me in my recovery. You know who you are. Now I am able to see things much more clearly and I
continue to grow, learn and change. Currently, I enjoy being a professional drummer at the First
Baptist Church in Nelsonville, and making a career for myself in the same mental health system
that I credit as having saved my life.
A few years ago, there was a vanload of us passing by the old hospital on the hill. We were
taking the shortcut from Route 682 to Dairy Lane. A woman who was with us became disturbed
as we passed the old buildings (which are now owned by the university). She began to describe
some bad memories from her past. I tried to reassure her. “Don’t worry, Barb. We’ve conquered
that old castle!”
And everyone in the van agreed.
1. Stephen Anthony Klein, D.O. (1946– ), was born in Ironton, Ohio. He graduated from the
Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (Kirksville, Missouri) in 1975.
2. Gayetta Mae Gehres Dalzell, R.M.T. (1954– ), was born in Columbus, Ohio. She attended the
Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in 1972 and 1973 and earned a bachelor’s degree in music
therapy at Ohio University in 1977. She was a music therapist at the Athens State Hospital
between 1986 and 1991. She is currently employed as a music therapist at Arcadia Nursing and
Rehabilitation Center in Coolville, at Kimes Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Athens and at
Pine Hills Continuing Care Center in Nelsonville.
3. The so-called “new hospital” consisted of the Geriatric Center, newly constructed in about
1972, and “Center Hospital,” constructed in 1950 as the Receiving Hospital and renovated in
4. Harold Tway Brown, M.D. (1927– ), was born in Bucyrus, Ohio, and graduated from the Ohio
State University College of Medicine in 1954.
5. Jodi Jones (Hull) (1968– ) was born in Athens and graduated from Alexander High School
(Albany) in 1986. She worked at Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services, Inc., from
1990 to 1994 and from 1999 to the present. She worked for Advocacy and Protective Services,
Inc. (APSI) from 1995 to 1998. She is enrolled in Ohio University’s doctoral counselor education
6. Glenda LeFebre (1955– ) was born in Gallipolis, Ohio. She graduated from Eastern High
School (Meigs County) in 1973 and earned a bachelor’s degree at Rio Grande College in 1977.
She worked at Tri-County Mental Health and Counseling Services, Inc., from 1982 to 2002 as a
certified child-care provider and intensive case manager.