The Mental Tyrant: Snippets From My Life With Mental Illness

Gabe Morley was Yob’s original drummer (from 1999-2002) and appeared on their formative recordings Elaborations of Carbon and Catharsis. However, the ensuing years have been difficult ones for Morley. He’s struggled with a range of mental illness that have made it difficult for him to hold down a job and find a stable place to live. He has also faced multiple psychiatric hospitalizations. Morley is now homeless but is close to finding a place to get on firm footing with a little assist. We offered to let Morley share pieces of his story to give you a sense of his arduous journey and to let you know what he’s up against.

If you’d like to help Morley raise funds to get him a stable place to live to start 2017 on better footing you can help via GoFundMe. A small amount will be enough to get Gabe situated. We wish him the best of luck.

Have you ever been in one town and woke up in a different town with no idea how or why you got there? My first experience in a psych ward started that way. I awoke in a strange room. I’d spent 24 hours in the ER room for mental patients. I was 135 lbs and had probably slept 200 hours in a month. The ward is a cold, unwelcoming place. It’s basically a jail cell with a padded bench. The staff strip searches you, takes all of your belongings and places a security guard outside of your door.

The bathroom light is on a 15-second timer. The water on the shower is on a 30-second timer. You can’t have your phone. And it’s frightening, too, because you are in a place with people that are violent. They have a secure ward for those people but sometimes misdiagnose them. One of those people targeted me. She was a hulk of a woman and schizophrenic. On day two she started watching my every move and hovering.

It escalated when she began talking to herself and doing this laugh that was bone chilling. I kept telling the staff that I felt unsafe and other patients did, also. The staff was very complacent. One day at breakfast she sat across from me and just stared, laughing maniacally. I went to the nurse’s station and said if I am harmed in any I will sue the hospital. Within minutes two guards came and escorted her to the secure locked ward.

Just how did I get here?

I’ve been a musician since I was eight. On a family trip my stepdad played Frank Zappa’s Roxy and Elsewhere, Rush’s Farewell To Kings and Genesis’ Foxtrot. Something about those albums made a thing in me click.  Music was my escape from abuse. I picked strawberries for a summer to buy my first drum set.

I met Mike Scheidt of Yob when I was working at the Record Garden, a local metal spot. We clicked instantly. We would get together and jam. I went to see Mike at his job and he told me he had an idea for a band name based off a Looney Tune cartoon — Yob. We got a bass player and started rehearsing.

During this time I started experiencing symptoms of PTSD, anxiety and depression. I flaked on rehearsal and was afraid to leave the house. I had  panic attacks. Depression made me stay in bed for days. Mike called and said that he got another drummer to do the demo but I could still have my place in the band after that if I wanted. That kicked my ass and made me try my best to not flake.

During the recording of Elaborations Of Carbon my life became more and more challenging, even as Yob started playing with bands we once considered heroes. Looking back, I realize I was wrapped up in my head trying to just get through the night to get home. A lot of bands thought I was an asshole because I have severe social anxiety. Mike was always there to explain and usually after we played there was nothing but love. So, we began writing for our second album, which would be Catharsis. On the way to pick up my drums before practice I was t-boned, which totaled my car. It took me almost a year to recover. During that time I would go to practice and just listen to the songs they were working on.

The accident kicked my mental illness into full gear. I quit working and became a shut in. I wouldn’t leave my house. I was constantly paranoid and depressed. I was barely able to practice. During this time my girlfriend was super supportive and helped me in ways I could never repay.

Eventually after many great shows, rehearsals and studio sessions Yob recorded Catharsis. But I kept feeling more and more like I was barely hanging on. I had a shitty doctor and was self-medicating. We got offered to play a festival and do a small tour. I had a breakdown just from the thought of that. 

I realized that I was not going to be able to be in YOB anymore because I was holding it all back. Leaving Yob was one of the most important decisions I ever made but I don’t regret it one bit. I wanted to live and I wanted to see YOB grow into what it should be. After leaving I slipped into a deep depression with anxiety and paranoia. My girlfriend basically became my caretaker. That situation put a huge strain on our relationship and she eventually left me after I kind of got my shit together.

I joined a band called Rye Wolves. I was in that band for four years and recorded one album and helped write the second album. I was still experiencing major symptoms of mental illness. I eventually left Rye Wolves and started Shadow Of The Torturer with Isamu Sato from Yob and Mike Brown from Alderberan. That was short-lived. I then started a hip hop group called The Illusionists.

After that band disbanded I slipped very deep in my mental illness. Through the years I would become suicidal. Honestly it was tough for me see Yob become successful. But now I am a fan and proud to be a part of the history.

When I was admitted to the main ward in Portland I was given a psychological exam. I met with a few nurses and a doctor. The doctor prescribed some new medications to help curb my crippling anxiety, which was feeding my paranoia. I was on a solid diet, which makes a huge difference in my meltdowns. I was broken but determined to learn some tools and be honest with the doctors and nurses about the level of my PTSD and the chaos it was causing in my life. I went to every group they had to offer and spent hours drawing or doing laps around the ward.

I did a lot of self-examination. I was lucky to have my circle of friends because I have no family that gives a shit besides my sister. I worked with a social worker to make plans for my release. I worked with the doctors to get my medication levels right. Apparently, my lithium levels were right at the toxic level. It was causing extreme tremors in my hands and crippling headaches that had made me blackout a couple of times. After the two weeks of groups, therapy, medications and three meals a day I was feeling better and felt I was ready to be discharged.        

I ended up moving back to Eugene because they had a homeless shelter that I was going to have to utilize. Luckily, I got to stay at a friend’s house for a few days. On my birthday I went down to the shelter to check in. I was not feeling good. My best friend said I could stay with him for a couple of days. Later, I ended up having to stay at the shelter, a miserable pit of despair and hopelessness. The day room has a constant stench from the two bathrooms downstairs.

If you have nothing to pass the time I can see how you could go extra crazy in here. I had my laptop to keep me busy with my 4,000 albums on iTunes or making music. Three meals a day are served which, most of the time, are pretty decent. Other times, they are almost inedible. When it is time for bed you have to go to the upstairs area and get assigned a locker. You then have to strip naked and walk over to the shower area. After your shower you are given a towel and have to put scrubs on. There are three dorms and I was assigned to the smallest. You sleep in bunk beds. It is nearly impossible to sleep because you have a room full of chronic smokers that cough constantly. You are then woken up at 6 a.m. and have to be out by 9 a.m. I would usually go to the park after breakfast before heading to the library.

While I was in the shelter my best friend was able to line up a couple of options for places for me to stay temporarily in Corvallis while I start my job. Unfortunately, it was taking longer than expected to hear back from these people. I felt I was beginning to mentally slip again. I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly. I was depressed and my paranoia was kicking back in. I hated every day I had to spend at the shelter. Hearing the schizophrenics talking to themselves. Smelling the piss and shit. The coughing. The sadness. I had a job waiting for me in Corvallis and I only needed a place to stay. Some days I would stay with my best friend but the downside was losing my spot a the shelter quite a few times. I was at my wits end and was crying uncontrollably and had pretty lost hope in the future. The next day I received a call from one of the options to stay at in Corvallis…