by Joe in Indiana
I was enrolled in a Ph.D. Program of finance at the University of Rochester when I picked up the book, Moby Dick. I thought the book would be interesting to read while I waited for classes to start in the fall of 1986. When I began reading Moby Dick, I was mentally healthy as far as myself and all of my friends could tell. But two months later, once I finished reading Moby Dick, I was quite psychotic. I had autonomous voices talking to me inside my head much of my waking hours. As a psychotic, I felt some pressure to obey my voices. It is not as though I would obey every comment I heard in my head, but ideas that my voices spoke to me about that appeared relatively low risk ideas to follow, were commonly obeyed by me.
I quit school once I became psychotic and voluntarily resigned my full scholarship. Shortly afterward, I began to live in my car and travel aimlessly over much of North America. I had a gas credit card and used it as my only means of getting gas. I did not carry money on me when I traveled. To eat, I would beg for food. But in the early stages of my travels, my voices told me to stop eating. Consequently, I did not eat very much. My body weight slowly began to decrease and eventually went from 170 pounds to approximately 120 pounds. I also stopped keeping up my hygiene. I grew a long beard and bathed only twice a week in gas station bathrooms. I would wash my clothes in laundry mats.
Even though I noticeably declined in functioning ability in nearly every way, my social skills held up surprisingly well. I could socialize reasonably well with practically any stranger I encountered on my travels. One idea that occurred to me early in my travels was the idea that I needed to pick up hitchhikers. By doing so, I felt I could effectively combat all feelings of loneliness.
The first hitchhiker friend I picked up was a guy in his early 20's. I picked him up in upstate New York and drove him to nearby Washington, D.C. Once we began to talk to one another, I found him to be a very interesting guy. The first thing he told me was that his parents had kicked him out of their house, permanently. He said the reason they did so was because he had put a live snake in his mother's bed while she was sleeping there. He said his parents did not ever want to see him again. He then told me that he was going to Florida Once I let him out of my car outside Washington, D.C., my voices made it clear to me that I should pick up every single hitchhiker I saw from then on.
I would never pass up a hitchhiker on my travels as a psychotic. I traveled for several months and picked up maybe a total of 75 hitchhikers, but they were all friends. The reason I regarded all of them as being a friend of mine had to do with the fact that not a single one of them ever caused me significant harm. The closest call I had to being harmed as far as I could tell, involved a hitchhiker in a slum outside Miami, Florida. He was dressed as a woman and had a blond wig. Shortly after picking him up around 2:00 in the morning, he pulled a knife on me and told me to pull my car over to the curb. I did as he wanted, with the exception that I parked directly under a street light. Once I parked the car, I jumped out and he began scooping up money laying by my gear shift knob. While he was scooping up money, I very gently reached over and grabbed his knife from him. When I did he became very angry and yelled at me to give him back his knife! I threw the knife as though it were a baseball and we parted company without anybody getting hurt. I can remember nearly every single hitchhiker I picked up. They all made an impression on me. Also, nearly all of them would end up listening to me tell them about the book, "Moby Dick". I talked, "Moby", with nearly everybody I met.
The reason I stopped traveling had to do with a dog I met in Canada. I was driving up to Alaska when I saw a dog in the road. I stopped the car and asked the dog if it wanted to go to Alaska. The dog replied by jumping in my car. Once I had a dog, I began to have some ideas about going back to the United States. Living in my car was a more reasonable proposition as far as I was concerned, when I was totally alone. But with a dog, I wanted to have a place to live.
Because of my newly found dog, I turned around in Canada, and went back to my home state of Indiana. There, I approached my uncle and arranged a deal to rent a small trailer on his farm. My dog and I lived there for approximately one year. In time, my parents moved to get me attention from the mental health system. Once I began receiving medication, I began to recover steadily for years to come. I really do not know what happened to my dog. She disappeared one day from the farm I lived on. But it was because of her, that my parents gained the opportunity to get me care from the mental health system. It was also because of her that I permanently retired from traveling.