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Schizophrenic hears demons, aliens, rap songs

Posted: Monday, November 08, 2010

Matthew Douglas-Martin was late for his change of plea hearing Friday in Juneau District Court. He was given the wrong dates for his appearance, not by the court, his attorney nor his family.

Klas Stolpe /  Juneau Empire
Klas Stolpe / Juneau Empire

Instead, voices gave Douglas-Martin the wrong dates.

"They are demon voices," he said later. "Maybe aliens. I like to think they are rap stars."

Douglas-Martin suffers from schizophrenia. It is a constant struggle to distinguish reality from hallucination and the mix and match world they create.

"I am trying to get this behind me so I can move on," he said, barely audible, as he sat down in the back of the courtroom Friday.

Judge Keith Levy had already called Douglas-Martin's name.

Defense attorney Julie Willoughby had already indicated hospitalization was the reason he missed a prior appearance. Willoughby didn't know why he was missing this one but asked Levy for the hearing to be reset again.

Assistant City Attorney Robyn Carlisle said no warrant was requested and suggested the following week. The court moved on to other cases.

Someone in the audience asked Douglas-Martin to remove his hat. More cases were called and completed and more voices filled the room.

Levy left the courtroom and the day was adjourned. Douglas-Martin sat quietly confused, frustrated, and alone. A bystander whispered to Willoughby as she started to leave that maybe this was her client.

Willoughby asked Douglas-Martin his name.

"I am Matthew," he answered, after a brief silence.

Levy was asked to return. Douglas-Martin sat next to Willoughby. Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc. caseworker Paul Chisholm sat behind them.

Douglas-Martin was told to speak up, and to keep his hat off. More voices. He was asked if he understood.

Chisholm confirmed Douglas-Martin had been assessed at JAMHI and was following a treatment plan. Douglas-Martin got up and sat by Chisholm, then started to leave the courtroom, not understanding his hearing was still ongoing. More voices told him to sit down.

Douglas-Martin's assault charge was changed to disorderly conduct and a criminal mischief charge was dismissed. Voices asked him a question.

"I plead guilty, your honor," Douglas-Martin said.

Douglas-Martin received 30 days in prison with 25 suspended, 40 hours of community service in exchange for the remaining five days and one year of probation. He must also follow through with JAMHI treatment.

"We do clinical and rehabilitation services," Chisholm said outside the courtroom. "We work with many resources in the community. Our doors are open for everybody. We have residential homes and treatment facilities scattered throughout Juneau."

The JAMHI website has multiple links to information about schizophrenia. The links state it is a brain disease that interferes with normal brain functioning and causes affected people to exhibit odd and often highly irrational or disorganized behavior.

"I hear everything that goes on in my head in, kind of, like rap," Douglas-Martin said after his court hearing, as he and girlfriend Jessica Mazon sat in a far corner booth at McDonald's. "I want to record all those voices. And I love politics. I like to politic to people, because this, this right here (he holds up a French fry), this is why America is the coolest country in the world. That's America, love it or hate it. You know, it is just this babble economy."

Douglas-Martin said he was diagnosed as schizophrenic recently at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

"It's from my genes," he said. "My grandfather was angry a lot. We don't understand why we are mad."

He was diagnosed at BRH shortly after being charged with indecent exposure for exposing his buttocks to a school bus. This occurred about an hour after a court appearance for the charges heard in Friday's hearing. A state charge is still pending.

"I was (upset) that my clothes didn't fit right," Douglas-Martin said. "And I was mad I was being dropped off at the Johnson Youth Center. After you get skinned down repeatedly you just don't care anymore who sees you naked."

Mazon said she is Tlingit and a Deisheetaan princess. Her great-great grandfather was a chief in Angoon.

"No, no, he is not a lousy boyfriend at all," Mazon said. "He has a bad temper sometimes, but he is not a bad boyfriend. Matthew was pretty much normal when I met him, before all this happened. I pretty much adapted with him as he changed. I tried to understand what was happening so I could understand him."

Mazon said Douglas-Martin is doing a lot better, especially in the past few weeks, and has made a lot of progress.

"I don't understand it," Douglas-Martin said. "It takes a lot to control it. You have to blank out the negative, realize that it is negative. Such as I substitute other words for negative words I hear, like gun I will replace with tool.

"I know a lot of people care and that is frustrating because I don't know what is wrong all the time. My mom loves me so much. I wish I cared about me as much as she does. My self-respect is low."

Ronni Price, Douglas-Martin's mother, is frustrated, too. According to Price, Douglas-Martin's permission to release information expired the day he was released from the BRH mental health unit.

"I didn't understand that," Price said. "I am his mother and can't get information. At his core he is a very good kid and intelligent. This illness does run in my family. My father, my grandmother and my sister had it."

Price said Matthew was 17 when he had his first episode.

"He took drugs - mushrooms - and it sent him into an episode where everyone looked like demons," Price said. "He thought messages were coming from the TV, that people were watching him. He has visual hallucinations, or he did."

Price said her son sees spaceships and has believed he was abducted on a nightly basis. Matthew also has ideas about government conspiracy theories.

Price said Douglas-Martin said he used to be able to see inside people's hearts or spirits and they appeared to him as demons or angels.

"I went through that with my sister, too," Price said. "She is very healthy now. Her schizophrenia lasted four or five years, but after she got better she enrolled in nursing school and graduated. She is a mother and has a happy marriage and is able to live a normal, happy life. That gives me hope that someday he will be normal and able to have a normal life.

"I know Matthew is pretty delusional, struggling, and having a hard time making appointments and taking (medication). He has to reach out to people for them to be able to help. He does understand to admit himself to the hospital if he is losing himself."

The JAMHI website says schizophrenia is a biologically based disease of the brain, and not something caused by poor parenting or by brain damage. It is not a form of mental retardation, dementia, delirium or intoxication. It is not a form of multiple personality disorder, and it has little to do with aggressive tendencies.

According to the website, people do recover from schizophrenia and the disorder is not contagious. Most people with schizophrenia do not need to be institutionalized and can make decisions about their own treatment. People with schizophrenia can also be non-violent and can hold steady employment.

The most important thing to remember about schizophrenia is that it is not anyone's fault, and it is nothing more and nothing less than a disease of the brain that some people develop, according to JAMHI. One percent of the world and 1.2 percent of Americans have the disorder. About 1.5 million people in the world, and 100,000 in America, will be diagnosed with schizophrenia this year.

"Just think of all those voices," Douglas-Martin said. "You wonder what that sounds like, you try to listen to that and understand that in the world today. You know. I can rap that."

Mazon tries to keep him on a schedule, with medication, his appointments and with his rapping.

"He is like Eminem," Mazon says. "Except he is a lot faster and a lot better."

Douglas-Martin shovels french fries into his mouth, bobbing his head and tapping his fingers to voices and beats only he hears.

"Yeah, yeah, Eminem," Douglas-Martin said. "Marshall Mathers, M.M., and me, Matthew Martin, M.M. I am always thinking new raps. I am always thinking. It just never stops. The thoughts, the voices, the raps - I want to record all this."

When asked if he records, Douglas-Martin says he just goes to friends' houses, or outside, or on buses, or just in his head.

"Who knows, maybe me and Eminem were both abducted by aliens," Douglas-Martin says with a grin. "I don't know, do you? See, those are things I have to be careful about."

Douglas-Martin takes Mazon's hand and they walk from McDonald's towards Franklin Street.

"I always think she is wrong," Douglas-Martin says about Mazon. "She is always right. I am pretty lucky with her."

For more information about schizophrenia, visit the Juneau Alliance for Mental Health, Inc.'s website at www.jamhi.org. They can also be reached at 463-3303 or info@jamhi.org.

• Contact reporter Klas Stolpe at 523-2263 or at klas.stolpe@ juneauempire.com.



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