Clayton: My Story


After President Nixon resigned, he was saying good-bye to his White House staff. He told them that you cannot know how majestic the mountains are until you know how deep the valleys are. that’s how I feel about mental illness.

When did my journey begin? Did it start when I was a child? Did it start when my father would yell and tell me that I wasn’t his child because I was too dumb or stupid? or would it have been when he would get my four and eight year old brothers drunk, and announce the winner as “Daddy’s Boy” for the day. or maybe it was when I was a teenager and three of my friends and I took our first hit of acid and only three of us lived. I think that it might have been when my father died at my wedding reception. Could it have been my grandmother dying the day after my birthday and leaving me her part of my father’s estate? Maybe it was the car accident that I was in where I spent a year of my life bedridden and was told that I would never walk again. or could it have been when my six-month-old daughter was in the hospital and I walked in to find the doctor praying that she would make it through the night? It might have been when my wife sent the police and medical personnel to my place of work to have me committed to a mental institution in front of sixty of my employees. It might have been when I had to sign over custody of myself to my wife so I could be released from the mental hospital. or maybe it was her emptying my bank accounts, taking over sixty thousand dollars, and then fleeing with my children. Perhaps my journey began the day that I started drinking and stayed drunk for over seven years. or possibly after marrying my second wife after knowing her for two weeks, who became abusive and beat me in my sleep and hit me with a meat cleaver across the face. She would have me arrested and say, “Who do you think that they will believe, a big brute like you or a little girl like me?” they believed her. Most of all I think it was the night before I had open heart surgery, when I lay in bed reflecting about all of these things. My wife felt that it was more important to stay home and drink than to be with me. over the last twenty years I would go to community mental health, tell them what they wanted to hear, get my prescriptions filled, and then go home and throw them away. I learned quickly after my first hospitalization how to play the game. I learned to tell them what they want to hear, tell them that I was taking my pills, and then do what I want.

After my last attempt at suicide when I was hospitalized, it was like all the previous hospitalizations, except this time I met five ladies who were also patients. We all had the same thing in common, we would all go to the groups and after them we would get together and talk about how we wanted to change. All of us wanted to improve our lives, and we have worked together and kept in contact to do so.

Club Cadillac has been a big part of my recovery, especially Betty Clark. Betty was the one that got me to start talking in public. I am now a member of the speaker’s bureau, which goes to college and high school classes to educate and inform others about mental illness. Betty has also given me courage to speak out on the radio and tV, which has helped my self-esteem. I feel that I have gone further in the last two years than I did in the forty-nine previous years.