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The Day My World Changed

In my last year of high school, after I had turned seventeen, my life situation was a little odd,
without being fantastically different than others. As a family, we had grown up in a standard, for
the times, WASP community. Pretty much everybody I knew lived in a typical three or four
children home, with a working father, and their mom as a housewife. The exception was seen as
an oddity, but not perversely so, just different from the norm.

That year our nuclear family was split in a somewhat unusual way. Our dad, a high school
Industrial Arts teacher, applied for and received a two year posting from the Canadian
International Development Agency, (CIDA), for Nigeria, West Africa.

I was in a similar situation as perhaps your son is now. I was just a typical teenager. I had my
friends, my sports, my part-time job, and just my interests that revolved around the community I
grew up in. I had no well defined goals, but just expected to complete high school and go on to
university. I was a mediocre student, doing only the least possible to pass. I didnt particularly
like high school; it was just something you didwhere your friends were and where the girls
were too.

My dads posting to West Africa intervened into that halcyon phase in life. The family situation
divided out plainlymostly. My older brother and sister would not be accompanying our parents
to Nigeria, while our younger brother would be. I was on a cusp. While still at an age when it
would seem likely I would stay with my parents, my life was replete with my interests and
activities in the community I had grown up in and I didnt particularly want to leave it all.

I dont recall the particulars, but it was agreed that I would stay in North Vancouver and board
with a close friends family in the same neighbourhood. So, I began my last year of home school
in what was essentially a parentally unsupervised situation.

Like most teenagers then, I had no definite plans for the future. However, my high school was on
a semester system and permitted early graduation with a minimum amount of creditsI went for
it. My thinking, as ill-defined as it was, was to finish high school early, have about eighteen
months off, and then resume my education when my parents returned from Africa.

In my last semester of high school, (fall 1973), another remarkable thing occurred. While I was
no high school Hugh Hefner, I had the typical romances for that period of life. However, since
Junior High School, there was one it girl for me. While we were friendly with one another, we
had separate circles of friends; and as is typical for that age, she had an older boyfriend. Then
somehow, with my impending graduation, we hooked up. For me, it was the absolute epitome
of first love. There is likely no clich about first love that does not apply to me then. It was
marvellous beyond any expectations and beyond my ability to articulate. I was just living a
dream.

However, as I was soaring emotionally, I was blindsided by a harsh reality. When I completed
high school, in January 1974, I had planned with a friend, who had already graduated, to go on a
two week holiday to Hawaii, in early February. Then, in the interim between finishing high
school and going to Hawaii, I was informed by the father of the friend I was living with that my
parents had only arranged room and board for me until the completion of high school.
Completely unknown to me, I guess my host family wasnt really pleased with me and the
living arrangement.

Anyhow, he told me, rather bluntly, that upon my return from Hawaii I was expected to live
elsewhere. He wasnt asking or suggestinghe was telling me I was no longer welcome in their
home. Undoubtedly, this development spoiled my vacation. I left for Hawaii knowing that in two
weeks time Id be returning homeless. Concurrently, I was experiencing the exhilaration of love,
while having to face an unexpected, bleak living situation. I was a surprised teenager in a mad
scramble. Welcome to the real world, Dan.

My older brother, then nineteen, (my sister had moved to Victoria), was working in a sawmill in
south Vancouver and renting a room from an uncle in the Mt. Pleasant area of Vancouver, near
where Broadway, Kingsway, and Main St. converge. Upon my return from Hawaii, on a typical
rainy mid-February Vancouver night, with nowhere else to go, I took buses from the airport to
our uncles house in hopes of finding a place to stay.

Our uncle was a bachelor, though with a steady girlfriend. He worked as an Engineer on the
large, coastal tug boats, and usually spent two weeks on the boats, and then two weeks in town,
mostly drunk during that time. He owned the house that had been our grandparents, on East 11th.
He rented out a room to a young man from the tugs, (maybe late twenties), and one to my
brother. Realistically, there was no room for me, but I needed some place. Our uncle spent very
little time at the house, and the other fellow had been living there for awhile, so assumed
authority for it.

Our uncle was not there when I arrived, and the fellow was clearly displeased with my presence.
Although intimidated by the situation, my brother intervened strongly enough so I could
temporarily stay on the couch, but from the outset, it was a tense, unworkable situation.

Then another unforeseen circumstance: my priority wasnt the discomfort of an unwelcome


couch, it was love. I was a seventeen year old boy madly in love with the girl of my dreams.
When I returned from Hawaii, my main concern was my burgeoning love. In that respect, simply
within a personal context, things were proceeding magnificently. However, quite typically, my
new girlfriends parents were not pleased with the situation of their high school daughter dating
someone who was essentially homeless in east Vancouver.
Another factor: although the process wasnt well organized, now further complicated by my
living status, arrangements were being made for me to visit my parents and brother in Nigeria,
during April.

Although I hardly knew my girlfriends family, having not even met her father yet, as he
travelled regularly on business, I was invited to spend the interim, before leaving for Africa, at
their home, a typical upper middle class residence in North Vancouver.

Talk about a shift in fortune! From a bedraggled homeless waif, I was given a rollaway bed in a
small basement room, in the heart of love. I couldnt believe it, but so it was. The arrangements
for my trip to Africa were completed, and while it was fascinating, my experience was blurred
with love sickness. All I wanted was to be with the love of my lifeeverything else was
secondary, inconsequential.

With the brash naivet of youth, I convinced my parents my situation in Vancouver was
manageable. I dont know how, the communications between Nigeria and here were extremely
poor, but it was arranged, with our uncles consent, for me stay on the couch there until I found a
job and a place of my own. In youthful exuberance, it seemed plain enough. I just wanted to be
near my girlfriend.

Fortuitously, once back in Vancouver, I found suitable accommodation. A good friends parents
owned a small war time house, which they rented out. Somehow, despite not even having a job, I
was able to convince them to rent it to me and a couple of friends, who would be graduating high
school in June. (I could be resourceful.)Although those initial arrangements failed, I was able to
keep the house and then persuade my brother to move in with me, which he did, leaving our
uncles house in east Vancouver to resume living in North Vancouver.

So began the episode of The Shack. We were a couple of teenagers, seventeen and nineteen,
renting a ramshackle house, which quickly became a haven for a large circle of friends. While
still tethered to their parents homes, The Shack became a quasi-adult haunt for various people,
though nothing too unruly occurred. Six months or so later, a friend moved into the house with
me and my brother. The rent was reasonable anyway, but divided three ways, it abetted a
decadent lifestyle; most importantly though, my romance prevailed. I was in heaven. I had the
most fantastic love imaginable. I had a place to live. I had my complete freedom from any
parental oversight. I was seventeen, hopelessly in love, and not seeing beyond that ever present
realityliving in love.

Then another unforeseen occurrence: In late August, my girlfriend came to the house to talk.
As with most teenagers, I knew she wasnt particularly happy with her home life, but I was so
consumed with my own life I didnt realize the extent of her dissatisfaction. She told she had
made arrangements to move to Yellowknife, NWT, to stay with relatives there. She tried to
assure me that she wasnt leaving me, but was leaving her family situation. For me, it was simply
abandonment.
Wham, I was devastated! Her plans were made, and within a couple of weeks she was gone.
What was I then? I was just an unemployed punk kid living in a flop house, dazed and confused.
Heaven had suddenly transformed into a bewildering solitude. For awhile, we keep in contact
through occasional letters, but very sporadically. I didnt know how to cope with the situation, as
Im sure she didnt either; but really, I just didnt know the situation. I held to the hope that our
separation was only temporary, but that had no substance, and I was merely clinging to the
remnants of loveit was reverie. From living in love, I now lived in fantasy.

Meanwhile, The Shack became a hub of debauched adolescence. At some point, I started a job
with PGE railroad (BC Rail), in the industrial waterfront. There was no means of transportation
to it, and then I learned an acquaintance had a motorcycle for sale. Owning a motorcycle had
never been a great aspiration of mine, but he was willing to sell it to me on monthly payments, so
it was affordable. I bought it.

Soon afterwards, being back in North Vancouver, my brother became re-acquainted with his
high school friends. As it turned out, several of them also had motorcycles, so my brother bought
one too. Now there was a whole group of guys, mostly in their late teens or early twenties, some
with motorcycles, some with jobs, some with girlfriends, who frequented The Shack. Our home
hosted a continuous party, somewhat like John Steinbecks Cannery Row. In the centre of it was
a confounded, lonely boy, grieving for a lost love. Truly, living day-to-day I just maintained,
unable to see beyond the past.

In the summer of 1975, my parents and younger brother returned from Nigeria and resumed
living in the family house, which had been rented out in their absence. I left The Shack and
revisited my boyhood bedroom. I went to enrol in Capilano College for the fall semester, but I
was unprepared and didnt get registered. I would have to wait until January to start college. I
was broke. For living expenses, I planned to sell my motorcycle.

In late September, simply in one of those nice gestures in life, a former baseball coach of mine,
for whom Id occasionally done yard work, gave me two tickets to a BC Lions football game at
Empire stadium. I still had my motorcycle, so I picked up a friend and we set out for the game.
Several blocks away, while crossing the intersection at 23rd & Lonsdale, we were struck by an
oncoming car turning in front of us.

I dont recall the impact or the hospitalization. My first recollection post-accident was of after I
was home, nine or ten days later. Always being nothing more than a fuzzy memory, a group of
friends from The Shack came to my parents house to celebrate my nineteenth birthday. It was
an extremely subdued affair, especially in contrast to the lifestyle of The Shack. Again, life had
changed, remarkably. While my injuries werent life threatening, they were substantial. I had a
broken right arm and numerous lacerations on one leg, and a severe concussion. While the
broken arm was set in a cast, and the lacerations were stitched and bandaged, the concussion was
basically ignored. It was 1975.
In the ensuing weeks and months I did little more than sit on a couch in the family room
watching television, waiting to heal. I went for regular visits to my family doctor, but that was
simply monitoring my lacerations and broken arm. I knew the head injury had severely rattled
me, but I had no way to gauge my situation. I was stunned. Perhaps most notably at the time, I
was impotent. If nothing else, I knew it wasnt normal for a nineteen year old man/boy not to get
an erection. When I brought this to the doctors attention during one of my visits, he was
unimpressed, saying my body had received a serious shock and needed time to heal. He
suggested a walking routine, which I was already doing. I went home and waited to heal.

Perhaps the other most apparent symptom of head injury was that I no longer readI didnt have
the concentration for it. Throughout my life, from a young age, Id always had a book in
progress at my bedside, even during the relatively dissolute time at The Shack. Now, I no longer
read, but starred detachedly at the TV. I was waiting to heal, as the doctor had advised.

Then another unforeseen circumstance: I was sitting watching television one afternoon when
there was a knock at the front door. When I answered, I was greeted by the fellow from whom
Id bought the motorcycle. I was somewhat surprised to see him, but not startled; we were
acquaintances, without really being friends. He and my past girlfriend had been fairly close
friends, which is how I knew him. He had a letter for me from her. She had heard of my accident,
but she didnt know my parents address, and so had sent the letter care of a mutual
acquaintance.

From the time she had left, now more than a year ago, we had never maintained correspondence.
In the past spring and summer, we essentially werent communicating. I thought I was getting
over it. Now, she had written a short letter, no doubt just an expression of sympathy. I read
much more.

I was a broken man before even becoming a man. Although I cant recall the details of it, I
poured over the letter in the sanctuary of my boyhood bedroom. I squeezed my flaccid penis and
tried to excite some sensation of lifenothing! I couldnt even cry. All I had was memories of
the past. I was hardly nineteen years old and sterilely mourning the loss of life. I retreated into
fantasy.

During that fall, I settled with ICBC for the cost of my motorcycle, so I had some money.
Although my right arm, my writing arm, was still in a full arm cast, I enrolled in three courses
for the spring semester at Capilano College, which gave me some future focus. Soon after I
started classes in January, the cast was removed. Since the setting of the bone at the time of the
accident, I had had several x-rays. However, the removal of the cast showed the armed had
healed crookedly. It would take a couple of operations to correct the impairment; but while my
arms use was restricted, I could write. I continued with my college courses.

Although I could write somewhat, my concentration hadnt recovered noticeably. I couldnt


really focus to read, but I hoped that by pushing myself into school work, I would recover that
ability. Regardless, I had to do something. So I began college, the impotent, broken student,
unable to see a future, and desperately clinging to fantasies of the past.

Unsurprisingly, I didnt do well in my courses, but I was managing. At the end of an English
composition course, while I dont recall the assigned topic, for the term paper I wrote about the
Steve McQueen movie, Bullitt. I was just using the movie premise to contrapose the movie
(fantasy) experience with real life experience. I thought I was writing an insightful paper.

Although my concentration hadnt significantly improved, nor had my impotency, it was while
writing this paper that I became enthused; but it was a dissociative enthusiasm. My mind was
racing with ideas, but I wasnt engaged. Still, after an extended period of comatose living, I was
pleased to sense anything that even resembled life. I thought it was a positive development.

I was late submitting the paper near the end of the term. Since it didnt get graded with the bulk
of the other papers, the instructor asked me come in several days after classes had finished. I
remember feeling positiveI thought Id written a good paperbut more importantly, the
experience of writing it had provoked a flurry of mental activity that I assumed to be good. After
a considerable wait, I was healingor so I thought.

I recall a pleasant spring day, on a nearly deserted college campus, meeting my instructor in an
otherwise empty classroom. I was expecting some praise for the insight of the paper, and then to
be on my way. She had me sit down while she went over the paper, and I remember feeling a
little miffed at being kept, rather than just collecting my paper and going on my way. The
instructor began a comprehensive analysis of the paper. She pointed out the numerous
grammatical and composition errors, while dismissing my ideas. I was amazed: separate
realities. She was reading one thing, while I had thought Id written something elsea divide, of
sorts.

Almost imperceptibly, except for its devastating impact; my consciousness shimmered, like a
plate glass window quivering and then silently shattering. Somehow, the conscious structure of
my mind disintegrated. All I knew was psychological implosion and the sudden onslaught of
absolute terror. I was able to maintain some composure, while inside I panicked. I grasped the
underside of the table and mutely pled for the moment to be over. After what seemed an eternity,
the instructor finished her critique and returned my paper. I had passed the course, but in some
horrible fashion, I had passed out of present reality. The event razed my consciousness.

I managed to cross the campus to the top of a long stairway that led down to the parking lot in
which Id left my car. I paused, gazing out on a fundamentally altered reality. Nothing would
ever be the same for me again. Emphatically, the life I had known was past. I couldnt grieve; I
couldnt feel; all I could do was continuedown I went.

The next few weeks were a template of the coming years. At first, I supposed that somehow,
perhaps after a few nights sleep, the severe consequences of whatever had happened would ease
off and I would return to a normal reality. Not to be. If anything, the terror intensified, perhaps
as I realized there was no going back. In one incredibly terrifying moment, my life was forever
changed, in a completely incomprehensible way. To me, in that moment, I had gone insane. My
daily routine was now simply coping with a terror I couldnt understand. Each waking moment
was panica dreadful existence!

There was no relief from the living terrorhell. I slept fitfully, and my days were merely
buffeting waves of paranoia. While inside I screamed for help, the character of the event was
such that if I was to mention it, it would be admitting insanity. As such, I was imprisoned by
paranoia. I thought my only chance was to stay quiet about whatever had happened and simply
find ways to cope with it. I couldnt speak of it.

To the extent Id made any plans previous to the end of my spring courses, I just imagined
working through the summer and returning to college in September. Now, living in terror, I knew
there was no way I could look for work. Simply being awake was terrifying, and even
contemplating looking for a job was too much, but I had to do something.

Even though it was late to apply, I had an aunt who worked in the registrars office at Langara
College. Through her, I managed to register for three summer courses. So began my first summer
in a drastically altered sense of reality. In the scramble to get registered for summer courses, I
learned my first coping imperatives. One was to do something. As much as possible, engage
your mind in empirical reality. A corollary being: focus, focus, focus.

If my concentration was poor before the event, it was now pulverized; just previously, my
reading skills were weak, but now they were non-evident. In the horrifying solitude of my room,
I began to re-learning to read, with childrens books. The challenge was unbelievable, but I had
to find a means to survive. Even though it would be years before I could appreciate the
implication or articulate it to myself, in those first formative months after the event, I was
learning that engaging objective reality was essential to my survivalveritably, it was my
lifeline. That singular feature would become the determining factor of my adult personality,
realized from continuously coping with psychological terrorliving in hell.

While the effects of the event were devastating, there was a notable development that helped
me interpret (frantic mental grappling) what had occurred. Gradually, I regained my sexual
potency. While it wasnt a quick, Okay, everythings functioning properly, in the months
following the event, I regained my sexual potency. However, in the agony of the terror, this
circumstance couldnt be appreciated as positive, but simply noted as an existential consequence.

However, this was significant, not only for once again feeling and responding to sexual desire,
but in formulating a working hypothesis of what had happened in the event. I postulated that
while my experience of reality was now constant terror, I hadnt actually gone insane or
experienced some form of schizophrenic rupture, though that is how I felt.
If only to manufacture some hope, I surmised that the event was a result of head trauma from
my motorcycle accident and not the result of some organic (schizophrenic) break from reality. I
posited to myself that the concussion had shocked my mind in a way that arrested its functioning,
without knowing how. This was evidenced by my extreme lack of concentration, a perpetual
ennui, and my sexual impotency. The event was a form of release, like a psychological
earthquake. The pressure in my consciousness, evidenced by the realization of opposing
realities noticeable in discussion with my college instructor, had reached a crisis point, resulting
in the imploding of my conscious mindtectonic plates of opposing views of reality colliding.
My fantasy world caved in.

I knew it was crazy to be even contemplating such a thing, for anyone at any point in life, but I
was just a nineteen year old college kid, with very typical expectations and desires. However, I
could not escape or minimize the fact that my life, quite literally, had become a living hell. All I
could do was search desperatelyfranticallyfor coping tools necessary for survival. One
primary coping mechanism was developing some plausible theory aside from mental illness to
explain what had happened.

During that first summer of living in terror, I discovered the rudimentary coping tools, which
would form the basis of my survival through hell. Somehow, I managed to pass three college
courses at Langara College and find a girlfriend, who completely unknown to her, served as a
test case for the sexual potency aspect of my hypothesis concerning the event. In our time
together, we managed a normal sex life for two young college students living with their parents:
one small tick for my head trauma hypothesis, as opposed to the organic illness theory.

More importantly, by coping to whatever extent I had, even though I couldnt feel the
appreciation, I knew that objective reckoning was the key to my survival. In September, I
returned to Capilano College. Also, even though it provoked a new extremity in the daily terror, I
got a part-time job driving taxi. However, the only shifts available started early on Saturday and
Sunday mornings, which severely limited any Friday or Saturday night activities. Combined with
the fact that I had returned to college in North Vancouver, my new found relationship withered
and died in the winter.

However, while I wasnt living in any normal sense, against immense odds I was surviving and
fashioning the semblance of a normal college life; astonishingly, considering the hurdles, I was
passing my courses. I had a part-time job; Id had a girlfriend. I wasnt really living in any sense
I had once known, but I was manufacturing a form of life. My principle and indispensible coping
tool was objective reckoning. I knew that with a certainty forged in hell.

In re-learning to read, I began with the many childrens books around our family house. I then
progressed to the adult fiction of my adolescence, re-reading some of the books Id read years
ago. One book in particular attracted meThe Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand. I had read both The
Fountainhead, and Atlas Shrugged, years before. Now, in re-reading those books, I recognized a
psychology that would save my life. Ayn Rands articulation of a rational life became an
archetype for remodelling my own psychology. I knew by experience the primacy of an
objective hold on reality. For me, it wasnt a matter of rhetorical debateit was a proven
application.

With the persistent use of the coping tools Id discovered, and being as relentless as the terror
that stalked me, I made some measurable progress, even though each moment of life was
dreadful. In appearance, I was living the life of a typical college student, while beneath that
appearance I was living a life of inexorable terror. I was living, in a perverse way, but really
just existing. Aside from the terror in every waking moment, my experience was of complete
alienation, from myself, from others, and from the life I had once known. The stranger in a
strange land was not just a book title, it was a living reality.

Another significant episode in living in the terror came about a year after the event. The
girlfriend, the love of my life, whod moved to Yellowknife, returned to North Vancouver and
was living in her family home. She phoned me and we arrange for her to visit. I panicked,
knowing my life and changed in a completely unexplainable way: where once I knew nothing
but joy from her slightest attention to me, I now feared seeing her. She came to my home and we
spent an awkward day together. I could no longer relate to her in any mannereverything was
alien to meand she must have had a similar experience, though for different reasons. At some
point, we were sitting on the floor of a room together. She leaned across and softly, tentatively,
kissed me on the lips. I panicked, embraced by paranoia!

In retrospect, she was just a young woman reaching out to reconnect a lost intimacy. I couldnt
return the gesture, and the kiss mustve been ashen to her. All I could do was head to the safety
of the bathroom and splash cold water on my face in an attempt to recompose myself. When I
had done so, I returned to sit with her, but the failure of her gesture further exacerbated the
strained atmosphere. She left a short time later, and while we likely promised to be in touch
soon, she was probably glad to be on her way, as I was relieved to see her go. In no manner
could I cope with her presence in my new existence. In the cruellest possible way, I experienced
how drastically my life had changed. To stress, demonically, the incredible transformation of my
life was realized by demonstrating what had once been heaven was now hell. It wasnt
speculationit was lived.

In the months and years following that visit, I ruthlessly applied my objective reckoning coping
skills. That afternoon had shown how what had once been the source of the greatest joy in life,
my love, had become the source of terror. My purpose in life was to seal off that terror. What had
been the source of love and joy had transformed into raw fearparanoia.

As a visual: An oil well that has been sabotaged and lit aflame. The uncontrolled burning is
perilous, perhaps with deadly consequences. The flames need to be extinguished, which means
sealing off the oil source. It is incidental then that the same oil is also fuel for transportation or
home heatingbenign warmth. My preeminent concern was sealing off the source of terror that
now consumed my mind, regardless of the side effects.

In sealing off the terror, in no way did I know I was essentially sealing off my emotional self. I
was just coping with hell. Even if I could have somehow known the negative consequences, it
wouldnt really have matteredI was handling the immediacy of terror. The fact that the oil
being consumed by a wildfire could also have benefits had no meaning while the flames burned
viciously. Firstly, they had to be extinguished.

While there was no emotional confirmation of successconfidence, there were objective


markers. Perhaps the most astounding one was that I was passing my college courses. I wasnt
doing particularly well, but I was passingan amazing feat in itself. Although I hadnt been a
good high school student, prior to the event, I had hoped that once I began college or
university and studied seriously, I could do much better. Now I had to resign myself to mediocre
grades and reconcile those with the daily challenges of the terror. Of course, that could not be
known to anyone else, or shared. My daily experience in hell was alienationloneliness and
constant failure.

In agonizingly small increments, I was progressing against the terror. Even though I couldnt
appreciate my progress emotionally, I could somewhat gauge it objectively. Paramount was that
I was surviving, even if it was in a severely altered sense of reality. I didnt feel hope, but since I
was enduring, I knew it was there. Where theres life theres hope, even if its not felt.

By the time I completed two years of courses at Capilano College, I knew I couldnt expect to
achieve good grades. In general, I was completely disillusioned with life; but particularly, I was
disillusioned with my studies. All I could do was continue on. From Capilano College, I
transferred to Simon Fraser University. At first, I hoped the more mature setting of a university
campus, as opposed to a college one, would facilitate better study habits, and thereby better
grades. Again, I only knew disappointment. I slogged on in mediocrity.

Concurrently: after parting with the girl Id met during my semester at Langara, I didnt date
regularly nor have girlfriends as might be considered normal during ones university days.
Although I could sense it in some ways, I couldnt really understand how sealing off the terror
was also sealing off my emotional nature, which is of principal concern in attracting romantic
interest. In the past, Id attracted girlfriends, but no more. It was just one more confusing and
alienating feature of the terror.

An unforeseeable result of my objective reckoning program was further isolation, romantically,


and in appreciating the company of others, and being appreciated by them. Unwittingly, I was
becoming an emotional isolate, an unfortunate consequence of coping with the terror. Also,
while there was no sudden personality change often associated with schizophrenia, since my
daily experience was disillusionment, a cynicism manifest in my adult personality, which wasnt
necessarily characteristic of my youth. But my adult life experience was dramatically different
than that of my youthevery moment of every day I experienced failure, the failure to connect
with reality in a healthy manner.

By the time I completed my degree at SFU, I was an extremely cynical young man. For four
years, my daily experience was of terror, even though Id maintained a semblance of normality.
My education or career goals were never clearly defined, but to the extent they were, I imagined
going into Education to teach high school English, or if my grades warranted it, to apply to a
Law school. By graduation my grades certainly didnt warrant applying to any Law school, and I
was so disillusioned by education in general I hadnt prepared to enter Education. Reminiscent of
high school, I just wanted to finish and spend some time away from studies.

When I did graduate from university, I had no plans. A definite consequence of coping with the
terror, even though in many aspects I had been successful, was a complete lack of self
confidence. Confidence is the emotional affirmation of accomplishments. In sealing off my
emotional being, I forewent any self confident. I was a hollow being. Still, anything was better
than the terror.

After graduating, I had no confidence to undertake a serious career job search. Even more so,
although there was no way to express it, while I had made progress against the terror, I knew
there was much more to do before I could even imagine living a normal life. A career at that
point was unimaginable, but I didnt know what else to do. Fortunately, I got a job without
looking for one. My brother was working as the bar manager at Mulvaneys Restaurant on
Granville Island. The owner, Bud Kanke, was opening a casual Tex-mex style restaurant at the
corner of Pacific Avenue and Seymour Street. My brother was helping set up the bar in the new
restaurant, but didnt really want the responsibility. Even though I had no restaurant experience,
he got me a job as a bartender.

Just starting the job was another unbelievable experience in terror, but I managed it. That was in
the fall, and by the winter/spring, I knew the restaurant business wasnt for me. One day, while
setting up the bar for the restaurants opening, one of the managers called out from the office to
ask if I knew anything about budgets. I didnt, but it got me thinking about business skills. While
business had never been a particular education interest, as my interests had been primarily in the
liberal arts, I started to ponder it. I figured that some business training would be good for any
career pursuit, (my previous aspirations had been flops), and, again without being able to share
this consideration, I felt it would be good for my ongoing campaign against the terror.

Since I didnt have the grades to warrant an MBA program, I opted for BCIT, which had a good
reputation. I worked at the restaurant until the start of the summer, and then helped my dad in
having the family house moved, before starting BCIT in the fall of 1980, now nearly five years
into the terror.

I hadnt done any mathematics since high school, and even then, Id sloughed my way through.
With the onset of the terror, that form of calculation was incredibly challenging. However, once I
managed the initial coping with mathematic and accounting skills, I knew that form of learning
was very beneficial in combating the terror. As my liberal arts education never had, this form of
education emphasized the development of objective reckoning skills, which were my coping
tools. Once I adjusted to the demands of BCIT, even though I never thought of myself as having
a business character, I knew the training was an effective means of dealing with the terror. Of
course, I wasnt able to express that to others. How can you tell people you were at business
school to negotiate hell? A form of madnessmost surely!

By midway through my first year at BCIT the benefits of refining my objective reckoning skills
were obvious. Although I was never an extroverted person even before the event, since the
onset of the terror and my program of emotional sealing, I had become markedly introverted. I
had no new friends since the event. My circle of friends, for what it was worth, were people
Id known in my pre event life. At BCIT, I developed new friends. The emotional sealing had
negated any new emotional experience, but now I had tangible evidence that not only were my
methods effective in restricting the terror, but also would result in normal emotional integration
with others. By the end of my first year at BCIT I was convinced of the efficacy of my whole
program to defeat the terror.

Then an amazing turn of events: In the late spring, about the time I was finishing my first year at
BCIT, I was at a house party. I met and talked with the younger brother of my high school
girlfriend, the love of my life, the personification of love. Since that terrifying afternoon years
before when she had kissed me and I was unable to respond except for experiencing paranoia, I
had never reconnected with her in any way. Her brother said she was now a single mother of two
young children and living in North Vancouver. Since I felt the personal wherewithal to attempt
some form of reconciliation with her, I contacted her. As definitive evidence of the benefits of
my coping program, I was able to reconnect with her, in some manner.

During that summer we became lovers. Of course, it wasnt the same as when we were
teenagers, but so much had intervened since. Naturally, it wasnt going to be the samenothing
ever is. There was none of the emotional exhilaration I once felt in her presence, but we were
older now, and I had experienced the worst of the terror. Plus, I could further rationalize the
difference that since she was a single mother, in many ways her future was determined. Me, I
was nearing the end of my formal education and had yet to determine any future.

Still, for evidence of the success of my coping program, she was as significant then as she had
been in determining the extent of the terror many years before. I hadnt just met a woman like
my great loveI had held that same personnot simply an approximation. It didnt last though.
By the end of the summer shed had enough of me, no doubt sensing the emotional detachment
that so characterized my new being. Still, despite that unfortunate development, the fact that we
had reconnected, if only in a limited way, was confirmation of my new self. I had made it back!
When I began my second year at BCIT I was convinced that I had made the correct choices in
combating the terror, regardless of how tough it had been. I was doing reasonable well in school,
better than I had in university, my cynicism was abating, and most importantly, I had spent
rewarding time with the woman who represented love for me. I could easily rationalize why it
wasnt the same, as when we were teenagers.

Notable in my progress was the development of friendships with the other students at BCIT. In
my college and university years, I hadnt developed one friendship outside the friends I already
knew since high school. Things were different now, and markedly so. In my final year at BCIT,
the progress against the terror seemed to increase exponentially. One clear indication of this was
when, without premeditation, I spent several days at home reading John Miltons Paradise Lost.
I was able to read the complete text in those days, one of the most difficult pieces of English
literature. Not only did this reaffirm my interest in literature, but it was tangible evidence of how
keenly I had honed my concentration since the onset of the terror.

For the first time since my teen years, I anticipated the future positively. I looked forward to
graduation as the gateway to launching my new self into the real world. Although I still hadnt
developed any real emotional confidence, a plethora of objective markers signified my success. I
had the strength and security of my rationalizations. In the spring of 1982, as I neared graduation
from BCIT, I fancied myself the conquering hero. After all, I had bested the terror and was
completing my sixth year of post-secondary educationdone during the terror; albeit briefly, I
had reunited with my true love. I was preparing myself to greet the real world with my re-
modelled self, manufactured in an extreme psychological environmenthell.

Although it was a couple of years passed, a perceptive woman Id known had given me a copy of
a book, The Outsider, by Colin Wilson. To me, she hadnt given me that book simply for its
literary value; but rather, quite bluntly through the books title, she was telling me who I was. I
didnt covet the role of the outsider, but she was right. Even as my presumed conquering hero,
I was an outsider. This was known not only from my personal alienation, but that in pursuing my
program of objective reckoning I was outside the cultural mainstream of ideas. My aggressive
objective attitude contrasted with popular thought, which, in general, further alienated me from
society. I did not conform to popular opinion. I wore that attitude as a badge of couragea
talisman.

One profoundly negative consequence of the event: I had lost the sense of music in life. While
I never had much musical talent, in my youth and adolescence I had a great appreciation for
music. Mostly, it was the popular music of the late 1960s and early 1970s. My tastes werent
sophisticated; still, I had loved my music. Very strikingly, that appreciation was no morethe
music was gone. No longer was music inspiring and enrapturing at it had once been. The terror
consumed that appreciation, and in its place left burnt offerings.
Then another amazing eventa simple dinner party: On one enchanting evening, as graduation
approached, a fellow student and his wife invited me to a small dinner party. I knew thered be
several other guests, friends of theirs, but I had no idea who theyd be. They were a couple, and a
single woman. On rare, unpredictable occasions, I was able to emerge from my imprisoned self
and be the person I imagined myself, a reasonably attractive, a reasonably intelligent, a
reasonably educated, charming young man. Somehow, the circumstances of that evening
permitted this self to emerge. The single woman was a very attractive music student and
aspiring opera singerMarisa Gaetanne.

In so many ways she was the antithesis of my remodelled self, but in the clichd, opposites
attract, we were attracted to one another. From the start, the attraction was powerful, and we
began a relationship, of sorts. Consistent with my emphasis on objective reckoning, even though
I wasnt feeling it as I once had, I had brought music back into my life. Marisa embodied the
music in lifethe music cremated in the terror.

The pieces of my new self were coming together marvellously, as a result of a struggle to live
after the horrendous event. In unspoken temerity, I figured in reaching a pinnacle in my
objective reckoning program, having assembled the pieces of my shattered self, Id then merge
that reconstructed self with present reality. In meeting Marisa, I was on the verge of living
againthe music was returning.

In developing new friends at BCIT, and by generally interacting better with people, I supposed
my persistent alienation would dissolve as I merged my new self with the real world. While I had
no defined career plans upon leaving school, I assumed that with my retooled self and my
education, in some way the world would be a welcoming place. What greater welcome is there
than love? My crusade against the terror was to be rewarded by experiencing love again.

I rationalized the frustration of the past summers failure with love, as that of trying to recycle an
old love. This situation was decidedly differentfresh. Here in my arms was a woman who
exhibited all the attributes I admired and wanted to love, and she deserved to be loved. While in
our time together, I could know love with her, I couldnt experience it. As surely as I had once
been physically impotent, I was impotent to love, which manifest in various ways.

She was music and the promise of lovea promise I couldnt fulfill. Despite desperately
wanting to, and thinking it should be, I didnt feel love, as is normally expected. While she could
loveI couldnt. As this became apparent, I retreated to my rationalizations. We were opposites
in many ways, and while there might be a powerful attraction, we were essentially two different
people with starkly different world views, or so I rationalized the divide.

Once this discord became evident, whatever relationship we had begun dissolved. The attraction
between us had been immediate and powerful; so too it evanesced quickly and completely, like a
cosmic occurrencemomentous, but short. A type of collision: sharp impact, with dazzling light
vanishing into dark matter. That dissolution, the de-materialization of apparent reality, portended
my life to come. Although I had fabricated a self from a psychologically shattering experience
in a college classroom many years before, that fabrication was folly. The conquering hero was
quixotic.

I was keenly disappointed with failing to realize love with Marisa, but I was able to rationalize it.
In recent years, I had come a long way across terrifying psychological terrain, and I wasnt going
to be stymied by the failure to love, or so I thought. However, my sense of triumph, of the
conquering hero, was short lived and unrealized. The fair maiden escaped me, and with her,
the music. After the crescendo, cacophony continued.

Although I graduated from BCIT amidst a severe economic recession, I thought with my
education there would be some viable job opportunities available to me. There wasnt, and so
began an extended period of underemployment and unemployment. However, more disturbing
than being unable to secure suitable employment, the episode with Marisa typified my new
self. Not only was I impotent to love, but I was also impotent to live. Despite my education,
and any other achievements, since the event I hadnt developed any real confidence, but only
the security of my rationalizations. As I failed to implement them, those were stressed and
weakened. Ultimately, to be sustained, rhetorical justification needs empirical evidencetheory
needs proof.

My graduation from BCIT marked a high point in my struggle against the terror. However, while
life was no longer constantly terrorizing for me, neither could I realistically live. Although I
couldnt, or wouldnt, articulate it as such then, I had climbed as high as I could, against
seemingly insurmountable obstacles, only to reach failure. The ensuing years were distinguished
by a desperate struggle to hold that positionthe appearance of success.

In the eyes of most people, I was a wastrel. Yes, I could talk a successful liferationalize one,
but I couldnt live it, although no one but me ever saw the psychological hurdles Id traversed.
What began as months of a degenerate life became years. I knew I was slipping from the peak
Id reached upon graduation from BCIT; but no matter what, I couldnt prevent tumbling down
from that peak. I was impotent to liveflaccid and spectralwithout consistency.

As the years progressed, my sense of failure intensified. I recognized my past achievements,


especially psychologically, even though I didnt feel them or share them with others, but I
couldnt apply that recognition to daily life. I was simply failing at living. In an excruciating
decline, I sank into a great depression, while valiantly flailing against itchasing windmills.

In my early thirties, with a catalogue of failure behind me, I ended up working as a part-time
bartender at a fashionable restaurant in downtown Vancouver. I had never achieved career
employment; I never knew love; Id never married or had children, as is typical. I was the
outsider, as the title of the book given to me years before had identified.
Then another turn of events: I was starting my evening shift of work, hunched in a grimace that
was now characteristic, when I looked up to see the most beautiful woman imaginable. For me,
she was beyond comparisonnot just for her physical beauty, (a former model, I learned), but
something in her presence commanded my attention like no other person ever had. I was awed.

She worked in a nearby office building and after her workday had come into the bar for a glass
of wine. I straightened up, wiped away my grimace, and served her a glass of wine. I was
enthralled by her presence. To extend that fascination, when she left to use the washroom, I
refilled her wine glass. On her return she paused, appraised her wine glass, and then her
expression melted and glowed with the light of recognition. She looked up with a smile of
appreciation, and I smiled back. She retook her seat and we became friends. In an unexpected
way, at a most incongruous time, life leapt. I now anticipated each work shift for the possibility
of serving her a glass of wine and just basking in her presence. In deep gloom, I had found a
beacon of hope.

In the following weeks, I saw her frequently enough to share some biographical details.
Unsurprisingly, I learned she was living with a man, who was by her description, the great love
of her life. She too had attended Capilano College, although in legal secretarial studies; and then
she had studied and graduated from SFU in English, as I had, although at a different time. We
had a commonality of experience that promoted friendship. I was disheartened that she was in a
love relationship, but my life was fraught with disappointment. I was just encouraged to get any
regard from her.

Then a startling development: I didnt see her for several weeks and bemoaned that loss,
assuming that she had found another bar for her after work glass of wine. However, she
reappeared one day, and in conversation she said she had ended her love relationship and was
now sharing an apartment with her cousin. She gave me her new telephone number. I was
astounded, and elated. Here was a chance for me to climb out of the morass that was my life. In a
common sequence of events, a woman gave me hope when no other hope was seen. I shivered,
not wanting to squander the opportunity.

In the ensuing months, I practiced the usual courtship rituals, though I knew my life situation
didnt support them. Not only was my lifestyle not conducive to romancing her, there was
considerable competition for her attention. She attracted many suitors, of which I was just one,
and maybe a pathetic one at that. Still, she gave me some opportunity to impress her.

During that spring, I experienced extreme emotional fluctuation. Not in classic manic/depressive
mood swings, but between sensing romantic hope and the despair of having that hope dashed.
All the while, I was trying to maintain a dubious lifestyle and support myself with my measly
work schedule. Again, as had become typical of my life, I was failing. By summer, my life
situation was becoming desperate. One day the bar manager manoeuvred me into discussion.
Although he said he wasnt displeased with my work performance, the restaurant manger was
frustrated with my attitude and wanted me dismissed. I was being fired from a measly part-time
bartender position. What was I to do?

My attempt at romance was failing, or had failed. Throughout the past months there had been
momentsspells, of dynamic connection with the woman who now personified love for me; but
those occasions were quickly severed and I was left perplexed. Now I didnt even have a part-
time job for financial support. I was home alone in my squalid apartment, with no hope at all. In
desperation, I thumbed through my personal telephone book, thinking I had to make a reliable
connection with someone. Despite numerous attempts, I failed at any such connection. In
complete despair, I crumpled inside, succumbing to the pressure that had built over the years. I
toppled to the floor, cowering in a foetal position under the coffee table. I had broken again.

Sometime later, I regained enough composure to raise myself from the floor. Similarly, but not
the same as in the event, my mind had somehow foundered, while essentially staying
connected to reality. The next few days were tortuous. I wandered Robson Street, and other
nearby locations, but with the constant dread that Id get lost, unable to find my way home. Plus,
my mind was just doing random acrobaticsflip flops. I couldnt escape realizing the failures of
the past twelve or thirteen years since the event.

In those few days, I had to admit to myself that my initial working premise at the onset of terror
had been wrong. Mine must be organic psychological damage (schizophrenia) and not just the
result of being conked on the head in a motorcycle accident. Once I convinced myself of this,
there was only one choice. I telephoned my sister to ask for some help. When she arrived, we
took a taxi to Emergency at UBC hospital.

In discussion with the Emergency psychiatric intern, I blubbered out my misery, trying to frame
it in context with a head injury sustained years ago. The intern focussed on the more immediate
causes of my distress. The outcome of the interview was that I was given some tranquillizers and
sent home, while told a psychiatric evaluation would be scheduled for me. The tranquillizers
calmed me considerably, and I went with my sister to her nearby apartment.

Since my telephone call to my sister there was a curious psychological development. Once I had
asked her for help and knew I was going to confess the event, as the determining factor of my
psychology, a glow formulated in the core of my psyche. I couldnt identify it, but it was like an
ember of warmth and peace; and despite my jumbled mindmental tumult, the glow reassured
me that I had made the right decision.

After the trip to Emergency at UBC hospital, I spent several days with my parents on Vancouver
Island, before returning home to prepare for my psychiatric evaluation. The tranquillizers were
effectively quelling my extreme anxiety, and the glow in the core of my psyche was expanding
daily. The effects of it were amazing, and I felt good despite the traumatic situation. Beauty
inspired this new sense of reality.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

By the time of my psychiatric evaluation, maybe ten days after visiting Emergency, I had
composed myself significantly and I anticipated the examination, as a forum to detail the full
extent of the psychological anguish Id known for years. The appraisal went well, with me
detailing my psychological ordeal to a panel of professionals, while being prompted by someone
else. After the assessment, I was surprised that my narrative hadnt caused more of a furor, but it
was received calmly, with one psychiatrist, who I assumed to be managing the proceedings,
complimenting my presentation. I thought I was articulating madness, yet she was praising me.
Lifes oddities: for the first time in many years, after describing a living hell, I felt the emotional
flush of confidence. That seemed crazy, but maybe I wasnt.

Several days later I returned to the hospital to do some testing with a psychologist. That went
very well too. It was now several weeks after my trip to Emergency and all the consequences of
my confession were positive. In some manner, the recent psychological turmoil triggered many
positive effects. More remarkable than the professionals assessment, the glow Id noted in the
core of my psyche was expanding to encompass my entire being. I was undergoing an amazing
psychological metamorphosis.

During the next couple of weeks, the emotional character of my being fleshed out, dramatically.
Then the entire experience resolved into a few days of transcendental euphoria that renewed me
in an exceptional process. What had begun six weeks earlier as a one-way trip to a psychiatric
facility became a magnificent psychological revival, in a manner that could never have been
foreseen. From failure, I learned success. After immeasurable tribulations, I had recovered my
potency to loveto live. Indeed, I was the conquering hero I had once imagined myself to be.