Listen to an expanded version of Antone's message here
Antone is a 43 year old, divorced man who was interviewed at a homeless shelter in downtown Cincinnati but has since moved into independent housing. He has lived in several places throughout his life – Washington D. C., South Carolina, and Ohio.
Antone recalled a time playing with friends at age 7, taking turns riding a bicycle. When it was his turn, he didn’t pay attention to the traffic signal and rode out into traffic, where he was hit by a taxi cab. He hit his head badly during the accident, and several days later started hearing voices for the first time. He described having years of escalating difficulty related to the voices, particularly because he was afraid to tell anyone what he was experiencing:
So, I really didn’t know how to deal with it or what to say to anyone or how to address it. And I mean it was that way for a long time. As I got older, the voices got stronger, and I got into a lot of mischievous stuff and was having a lot of problems at school, and nobody didn’t seem to know what was going on with me because I didn’t tell them what was happening with me. ‘Cause I didn’t understand what was going on with me. It wasn’t until--maybe, I was, I think I was, like, twenty? Nineteen or twenty? Something like that. I had gotten into the military, and again no one knew what was going on with me mental health wise. And things kinda changed a little differently then because in the military they train you. They kinda strip away all your mindset that you normally, your conventional mindsets you would have coming up. And they put a different instinct in you. So now instead of the voices telling me to do mischievous stuff, it’s telling me to do more criminal stuff. Because, like I said, my mindset was a lot different as far as what they were training me. And they kinda train you not to have emotions. That’s primarily what the basis is of the training. So I’m getting into more serious stuff now, you know, involving firearms and getting into serious fights and stuff like that. But, again, everyone was just thinking, “Well he’s just out there. He might be something with the streets or what have you or whatever situation may be.” But, I didn’t know how to tell ‘em I was hearing voices and what the voices were saying and what the voices were making me do. So it evolved a little more. I got out of the military, and I seriously had an attitude problem then for a number of different reasons. I was into the drug and alcohol for a while, but the purpose I was doing that was to try and calm the voices.
After Antone got out of the military, he did seek treatment:
Antone: I finally went and spoke with a doctor about it after I got out, and he started me on a regimen of different medications. Now for a while they would work and then they would stop. I mean, as the story goes, that went on for a number of years, but I had kinda gotten away from the mischievous criminal stuff and it was much more like an anger issue. That’s what people would kind of view it as, like an anger issue. Like, “Well, he’s just got anger issues. He’s just, need anger management or something of that nature and he’ll be okay.” Took anger management four times. Didn’t help.
Interviewer: Do you think you had anger issues?
Antone: No, but that’s what everybody’s telling me, so naturally you would think, well maybe I do, you know? So, that’s why I went and took the class. I took the class four times. Didn’t change anything. I mean, I learned a lot of good stuff, but it didn’t change anything.
At age 27, while married with 2 children, Antone was arrested and sentenced to prison for 15 years for robbery - a crime he says he is innocent of. He spent several years angry about the false arrest, but his demeanor does not today have that anger, as he was able to shift his focus toward more positive endeavors during his incarceration:
I won’t say going to prison was a good thing. In a way it was, depending on how you look at it because I finally was able to address the issues of my schizophrenia. You know what I’m saying? Because now it’s more prevalent than it was before. So now I’m talking to people, and I guess they were asking the right questions to find out exactly what’s going on with me. But in the same sense, I was going through the thing with the incarceration, being innocent. Of course there’s an attitude because you’re mad for being somewhere for something you didn’t do. So that was one of the bigger issues, and it took me almost eight years to kinda, you know, to get past that or work my way through that, if you will. Then the latter part of my sentencing, I kinda worked on communication skills, you know, things that people would, normally wouldn’t focus on. Doing things spiritually, reading a lot. I kinda isolated myself because I didn’t really like what was going on in there, so I didn’t really mix and mingle with too many people ‘cause that causes problems too.
In 2012, while still in prison, Antone was diagnosed with cancer. He attributed his success in getting through that period of his life to a positive attitude, his faith, and his family:
Antone: I had a bout with cancer (phone rings – theme to the movie, The Godfather) back in 2012.
Interviewer: What kind of cancer?
Antone: And that was kind of unnerving. It was, it was in my reproductive system. And didn’t know it was happening. Couple indicators. My cholesterol went through the roof and all this stuff. And the doctors was like, “All this time you’ve been pretty healthy and what’s this deal with your cholesterol? What are you eating?” I eat a lot of vegetables and chicken and stuff like that, but I don’t eat junk. I don’t eat a lot of cheese and all that stuff that could raise your cholesterol because when I got into the fitness thing, I did my research first to find out what to eat, what not to eat, what benefits the body, what hurts the body and how much you should consume at whatever time. So they did a battery of tests. I mean, I was like a human pincushion for a while. And then they did a blood antigen test. Like, I guess it’s called a PSA or something like that, and that’s when they discovered it was cancer. And luckily, it was caught in, like, stage two. But, I mean, if I would have went on and not went and just got a basic check-up or whatever, knew that the cholesterol was the way it was, I would have never known. Then it could have advanced to a stage three or four, and I might not be sitting here now doing this interview. So, but at the time I was going through that, I had to call my mom and my family and my kids and all that and let ‘em know what’s going on. Looking back on it, I would think to myself I should have been scared. I should have been terrified out of my mind, but I wasn’t. And I don’t know why I wasn’t, but I just wasn’t. I continued with everything I was doing with my exercise, with my eating, with my studying of the spiritual stuff. And I continued on with that like nothing that--I kept a smile on my face every day and people were like, “Man, you--I heard you got cancer.” I’m like, “Yeah I do. Well, what about it?” “Man why, I mean, how could you be walking around here smiling, and how could you be this and how could--?” I said, “Listen, man, no one’s gonna live for an eternity. And if the Creator decides that this is the way that I’m supposed to leave, then I’m comfortable with that.” “Oh man it’d be, it’d be f’d up to die in prison.” And, well, it’d be f’d up to die wherever. I mean, that’s just how it is. You don’t determine where you die or how you die. You know, there’s no way you can do that. But, my main thing is--what I’m thinking and what I’m explaining to the guys--my main thing is, I have to present what I’ve been practicing all this time. Because if I don’t, I’m a hypocrite, saying that the Creator is all-loving and everything is for the purpose of Him and His will. Why would I run around here on that, ‘cause I’d be contradicting everything that I’ve been personifying all this time. I said, aside from that, I have to be this way for my kids and for my family because who knows what’s going through their minds out there. Whether I’m getting the proper medical care and the whole situation. And that was their main concern. “Are they sending you here? Are they doing this? Did you ask for that? Did you do this?” “I’m doing everything you ask. They’re moving slow.” “Well, give us the number.” And then they come with a barrage of calls and they go, “Oh my God! You know what, tell your family to stop calling.” Why would you not want my family to show that they’re concerned and their love for me? I don’t understand that. If you’re not doing what you’re supposed to do, then they’re supposed to make you do it because they’re paying your check! And they didn’t like it. I mean, but that’s just the way it was. I got the operation done, and--. You know, the doctor was trying to tell me, “Oh, we can try this and we can do--.” “Oh listen. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on. We not gonna try none of this. You gonna cut this cancer out of me, and that’s going to be the end of it. That’s what it is. I already decided that.” “Oh, you don’t know if that’s gonna be it.” “I’m telling you that’s gonna be it.” Because in my practices it says when you speak and you say something and you request it from the Creator, it’s granted. Doesn’t happen like that all the time, but 99.9999% of the time, that’s what happens. So, get the surgery. All that’s said and done. I have to go back for the follow-up stuff. The doctor’s like, “What do you think?” I said, “You’re not going to see anything. It’s all gone.” I have strong belief in God. I got faith in that, so what I said turned out to be real. And he’s like, “Oh, okay, well that’s good. We still gonna monitor you and make sure that nothing else comes up.” 2010 ‘til now--nothing. I mean, I still got to do the check-ups every now and then, but nothing so, God is good, you know.
Listen to a segment from the above excerpt here
Antone was released from prison in November 2013. He left the city where he was incarcerated to go to Cincinnati, Ohio so he could get a fresh start; however, he had to start with nothing:
Antone: So, I got here. Naturally I’m homeless because I don’t have anybody here. I don’t have any family here. So, now this is a whole new aspect that I’ve never experienced. So, I really don’t know what to do or who to go to or what to ask for. But, I need everything ‘cause I don’t have anything. I landed at the catholic worker house. I think it’s St. Francis--St. Joseph Catholic Worker. I think that’s the name of it. And I was very surprised at how willing they were to help, you know, the kind of direction they were point me in mentally, consciously. I’ve always had a thing about work. I mean, I’ve been working since I was like nine years old, so there’s never a problem with me working. But my--I think my obstacle was in my mind was I have a felony. So, it’s gonna be even that much harder to get in, to get some work. And--
Interviewer: I hear that work is important to you.
Antone: Yeah. I mean it--that’s how you take care of yourself. I mean, I’m not one of these people that sponge off the government and all that stuff. I mean, it--I went through some things a while. Could have gotten this and could have gotten that. I’m like, “Nah, I’m just going tough it out and just try to find work or whatever I gotta do.” You know what I’m saying? But I’m not going to go that route because too many people do it and then they get used to it and then they relax and they get lazy, whatever the situation is, whatever go through they mind, but I don’t wanna be one of those people. But anyway for, like, the first forty-five days, it was dismal.
Although Antone did get help for his mental illness after getting released from prison, he now stresses the importance of being willing to trust people in order to get better:
Antone: Now, as far as the Schizophrenia, you know, dealing with it when I got out here. I was kinda surprised with that too because there’s a lot of help out here for people with that type of a disorder, but you have to kinda put yourself in a track to get the help. If you don’t ask for it, you’re not going get it. I mean, there’s some things you might have to do that you might not be comfortable with doing. But if you really want help, and you really wanna try, I mean---. You can’t cure it, I don’t think. I don’t--nobody has ever told me that you can, but in order to be able to manage it a lot better and be a lot more functional normally, you have to get help. You have to trust someone and tell them what’s going on in order to get that help. If you don’t, I mean, you can end up in prison or dead, or I don’t know what would be worse, but probably something worse than that. You know and that just kinda blew my mind. But I’m--I always think back to, like, if I would have known to let someone know at a earlier age, I might not have went through all the things I went through.
I just wish--I mean, hopefully this will kinda give people a little more insight into things, and hopefully the younger adults that, you know, might listen to this or read it or whatever later, that could be going through something like what I went through, it would be an indicator for them to say, “Hey, maybe I really need to talk to somebody about what’s going on and what I’m hearing.” And that’s really why I’m doing what I’m doing right now is--.
Interviewer: You want folks to get help sooner.
Antone: Right. It’s not specifically for me. But it’s, I mean I’ve learned like--different things, different places I’ve been, you know. You don’t always wanna do things for yourself. You wanna do things for people that come behind you.
Antone has been through a great deal in his life – mental illness, prison, cancer, and homelessness. When asked what keeps him going, he responded:
Antone: My spirituality. I mean I have a strong belief in the Creator. My family pretty much keeps me grounded, ‘cause they supported me, I mean, especially through the incarceration. They’ve always supported me, but especially through the incarceration thing, when you really don’t expect people to really be there for you because, “Oh, he’s locked up. He’s okay. He’s getting fit. He has shelter.” But it wasn’t like that with my family. My kids, you know what I’m saying? And I just refuse to lay down. I mean, that’s just me.
Interviewer: Have you always been like that?
Antone: Pretty much. (laughs) Pretty much.
Antone chose to Participate in The Schizophrenia Oral History Project out of a desire to help those who come after him. Listen to him speak about this here.