Recovery Story - Kevin Bush

In throes of psychotic delusion, community provided help that was needed

Kevin Bush
06/22/2008

There is real irony in my praise of so many pillars and institutions of the Augusta community.

Irony because the same institutions I had criticized for so many years helped me out in a very real time of need. For in my effort to rid myself of prescription psychiatric medication, I slipped into a psychosis that led to several days of delusions, a night of bizarre and violent behavior and six weeks of hospitalization.
With heartfelt thanks, I commend the Augusta Police Department, River-view Psychiatric Center, Kennebec Valley Behavioral Clinic and the Bread of Life Mission for keeping me safe, stabilizing me and getting me back on my feet again.
I have never had much good to say about the police.

My troubles with police go back to when I was 18, when I got into an altercation with a member of the police force.

My grandfather had trouble with the law, my father exhibited little respect for the law, and that had a real effect on me. I saw myself as a tough guy, a kind of educated tough guy with an attitude.

But when I was psychotic on the night of April 19, breaking every dish in the house, walking all over town looking for a fight and nearly finding one with the arresting officer, all I know is that I was taken to the hospital without damage to myself or anyone else.

When you consider my state of mind, that is a pretty amazing feat. Now that I am functioning well again, I want to publicly acknowledge that.

I have never had much respect for Riverview. That attitude has to do with old stories of psychiatric care 100 years ago, unmarked graves, the medieval architecture of the old AMHI building and the attitude toward state mental institutions created by the movie "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest."

I was at Riverview until June 6. It was like descending into Minos' labyrinth, from which there is no exit. Doors lock all around you, the potential for violence is always present, there is more denial than gratification and there is virtually no privacy.

But one does find ways to express oneself. I found my way through writing. I spent quite a bit of my free time writing letters to family and working on fiction.
Fortunately, you stay busy at Riverview. You take medications, you eat meals, you go to classes, you see psychologists and psychiatrists, they supply you with essentials such as eyeglasses and clothing.

I found the time spent with psychologists to be particularly valuable, as I learned a lot about myself. I remember the details of what I was thinking when I got delusional this time and the first time it happened 12 years ago. I learned how not to let it happen again: take my medications and talk about the things that bother me.

Leaving Riverview was indeed like exiting a labyrinth or a great cave. As the sunlight streamed into my eyes, I was filled with a great sense of wonder of the possibilities in the free world.

Doors would no longer be closed to me, no more locks and keys, no more feeling like I was being herded through a tortuous system like an animal in a stockyard. But even as the world opened up to me, I began to have a premonition of the challenges that lay before me.

I was broke, my job situation was tenuous and the future looked bleak.

I had been critical of Kennebec Behavioral Health for some time. But staff there are assisting me now in a variety of ways.

They are making sure I get my meds, assisting with counseling, vocational rehabilitation, rental assistance, helping me to pay my overdue electricity bill and a whole host of smaller items too lengthy to delineate. Coordinating all these tasks is near to impossible for someone with my learning disability, so I am thankful to the contact person for what seems to me a monstrous task.

Bread of Life Ministries has been assisting the Augusta community for many years and it would seem difficult to say anything bad about them. Right? Wrong! It was formed by area churches, and it was its affiliation with the Catholic Church that has given me pause over the years.

I don't know exactly what my gripe with the Catholic Church is or where I got it from. It is sort of like the barber who advises his customer against visiting the Vatican because the pope is so evil, and when the man comes in for his next haircut wants to know what the pope said to the man on his trip to Italy. The pope, said the man, wanted to know where he got the lousy haircut.

But when I headed into the soup kitchen day after day, when there was nothing in my refrigerator, I was given a plate of delicious and nutritious food. For a guy who loves to eat, it was perhaps the blessing that I appreciated the most.
Now I am getting back on my feet again. My employer has been gracious enough to put me on sick leave throughout this personal ordeal. It didn't have to. Local businesses have reduced late charges incurred through extravagant and reckless behavior. They didn't have to. Even the town library reduced by two-thirds the amount owed to it, an amount brought about by the same behavior during the same time period.

Mentally ill people are going to make mistakes that are costly to themselves and the communities around them. In this case, there is a happy ending on both counts. One, I am getting back on my feet again, better equipped with how not to let it happen again.

And the community got lucky that there was no collateral damage on the night of April 19. I thank the community for its help and understanding, and I promise that I will do everything I can to make sure that it never happens again.

Kevin Bush is a writer who lives in Augusta.