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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A divorce and a religious environment spark a mental breakdown

White remembers his sister's commitment to a mental institution. She erupted into cries of "I don't wanna go to Hell," and soon thereafter found herself in Durham Regional Hospital. White believes that his parents' divorce affected his sister's emotional development.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

And then, a couple - twice I think in our last interview you mentioned your sister as crazy. What do you mean by that?
This goes back to the Charismatic Renewal. When I got involved with it, the standard routine - and I'll ask God about that when I see God. But when you're first baptized in the Holy Spirit is what they call it, you're just obnoxious, I mean you want to go climb up on the rooftop and yell to everybody. And a day rolled around when my mom, I think my great aunt Omi, and I were in the den part of the very large kitchen-dining-den area, and we were talking churchy stuff. And my sister was at the dining table, and the next thing we know she is pounding the table with her fists, screaming, "I don't wanna go to Hell, I don't wanna go to Hell, I don't wanna go to Hell!" We're going, "What is this all about?" And it got worse to the point where we put her in the Mental Health part of Durham Regional. And they didn't do much there, except keep her drugged. And when her insurance ran out we had to take her to Butner. And the hardest thing I've ever had to do was let this great, huge, big, butch, burly nurse take my sister into a locked ward. I mean there were twenty or thirty people in that area. And all I could do watch as they closed and locked this great huge heavy door. I don't think my mom and I said two words on the way home. And that was tough. Most of this, I think, started when Pat was twelve and my parents had an extremely nasty divorce. I'm talking screaming and hollering and most everything else you can think of. And for some reason Pat tried at twelve years old to single-handedly put her parents' marriage back together. Which obviously didn't happen. And my thinking is that somewhere along the line when Pat should have been developing mentally and emotionally, she was so sidetracked by the divorce that she didn't start going through what regular teenagers do until she was in her twenties. And that's a little tough when you're trying to be an adult working person. And Pat has kind of emotionally spiraled down to the point where about the only thing she can do is house cleaning and be on disability. I think it may have been a blessing for Pat that she had to have a kidney removed from cancer because that put her on disability. And so - she is getting better. But like I said, if I didn't think like her I wouldn't understand at all.
So that's how she's crazy.
Was there ever an official diagnosis of any sort?
Oh sure, they used the catch-all. It was schizophrenic, no paranoid schizophrenic. Like, "Sure isn't every one." It's kinda like going to the E. E. N. T. doctor and he says "Oh you've got a deviated septum." Everyone that goes has a deviated septum. Well that was a paranoid schizophrenic. I lived with some of those in Atlanta believe me, she was not a paranoid schizophrenic.