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TITLE: Chapter 3 of "Something not quite right" - A true story of dealing with mental illness and God’s healing
By Luke Zimmermann
08/31/11
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See notes under Chapter 1.
CHAPTER 3 Hippie time
Nimbin, Northern NSW, Australia,1990

The northern part of New South Wales is gorgeous. It is hilly and green and around every bend in the road is another stunning view. Jenny and I fell in love with the area when we visited it a year earlier and decided that if we had the chance we would move here. When we drove into Nimbin, an isolated village deep into this hilly country, it felt like we were coming home. Here time had stood still since the 1970s when the hippies had congregated here for a large festival. Many of them never left and built humpies in the bush in an attempt to go back to nature. In 1990 there were still many hippies in town – long hair, flowery dresses and little kids with bare bottoms everywhere. There was a large health food store in town that sold tofu and other vegetarian food and a greengrocery that specialized in organically grown fruit and vegetables. Since we had become vegetarians, this was a very attractive place to settle down.

We bought a piece of land in a new subdivision, a few minutes drive out of town, and bought an old house from Brisbane – about three hours drive north of Nimbin. The house was delivered in two halves on huge trucks and put together again when it was positioned on our land. I renovated the house over the next six months and we planted a couple of hundred trees and shrubs. We wanted to become self-sufficient, so most of what we planted were fruit and nut trees. It was all hard physical work but very enjoyable and it was the change we had been looking for. Our dream was becoming a reality. When the house was ready and after researching various options for a business, we chose to start a herb farm. We became members of a local, organic herb growers’ network and were going to grow culinary herbs which would be transported to Sydney and Melbourne to be sold. I did some training with the network to learn about herb farming and prepared a large area of our land to be used for a herb garden. The fact that the street we lived on was called Basil Road, we took as a sign that this was the right choice.

In our eyes, Nimbin was also a very spiritual place. Almost everyone was into some kind of spiritual awakening through yoga, mediation and a myriad of religions and beliefs. We loved this environment and continued in our own development with new fervor. I meditated at least once everyday and also started to see visions of catastrophes, usually in the form of great floods and sometimes knew what was going to happen before it actually did. That was pretty cool. Jenny and I talked non-stop about our spiritual experiences and everything we did and thought had a spiritual meaning. We listened to various Indian gurus that had followers in the area and became convinced that there were many ways to God and we all had to follow our own path. Jenny became more and more psychic and started to take a leadership role in the family. She was the one who often saw the future and knew what to do. She had very convincing arguments and I usually ended up agreeing with her.

Since we were vegetarian, cooking was not easy. I had to learn about preparing balanced meals to make sure our food intake contained sufficient protein, minerals and vitamins, especially since I did a lot of hard work in the house and garden. It was quite a learning experience. Strangely enough this had begun with Mitchel a few years earlier. When he started on solid food, he refused to eat anything that had meat in it. We tried to feed him baby food with meat or chicken in it, but he just wouldn’t eat it. When we gave him lentils with vegetable puree, he would eat to his heart’s content but any meat he refused. Initially we didn’t understand how he could tell the difference. All the food was pureed. But eventually we came to the conclusion that he must be psychic too.

Mitchel was two-and-a-half years old when Jenny became pregnant again. We were looking forward to the birth because it would give Mitchel a new focus in life. He had become increasingly difficult and we were at our wits end how to deal with his tantrums. One day he threw a tantrum in a shopping centre in Lismore, a city about half an hour from Nimbin. We had just finished shopping and he wanted something we didn’t want him to have. He threw himself on the floor and screamed. We first tried to calm him but nothing seemed to work. Eventually we walked away pretending to leave him behind. He couldn’t care less and continued his screaming. We ended up standing on the first floor at the balustrade watching him. While he continued his tantrum, people gathered around him and probably wondered where the parents were. It became increasingly embarrassing to own up to him, but when he saw all strangers around him, he stopped and sat up. Jenny and I looked at each other and wondered what to do now. Eventually we were going to have to get him from down there. Inside I was cringing and felt totally helpless and out of my depth. I had no idea how to handle my son but knew that this was not good. We picked him up and fled the shopping centre. I don’t think we ever went back there.

Shanti was born and her name suited her to a tee. It means peace in Hindi and was given to us by a new age psychic we visited regularly. Shanti was the total opposite of Mitchel and utterly peaceful. Jenny and I sometimes even fought over who would rock her to sleep. When she lay on our chest in the rocking chair, she would fall asleep in no time and so would we. It was so relaxing.

Having a sibling did calm Mitchel down as he became involved in looking after her. Jenny was now completely absorbed with both kids and our relationship grew cold. There was very little physical contact between us and Jenny seemed to get irritated whenever I touched her. Sex was no longer on the agenda but abstinence was all part and parcel of eastern religions, so I accepted it. While she was focused on the children, she did less and less housework and often told me she had to relax. I didn’t understand this - even after a twenty minute shopping trip to town, she needed to sit down and usually didn’t get up for ages. I didn’t realise at the time that her mind was keeping her so busy that she didn’t have any headspace to do anything.

JENNY: Now when Mitchel was born I believed that he was in fact a gift from God and from the time that he could speak I believed everything that came from his lips was directly from God. Or I would find a way to interpret what he said as being highly significant and very spiritual. For example, when he pulled the dog’s tail or tormented her, I would say ‘Well the dog was put on this earth to entertain Mitchel” or I would find a way to justify what he was doing spiritually. Nevertheless, he really did do some truly wonderful things as well. He was the one person who had great compassion for both me and others, but not for the dog. Whenever I was feeling unwell or depressed, he knew exactly what to say to make me or that person feel much better. No matter how young he was.

I began to look to alternative medicine. Homeopathic treatment was all around so I sought out the best. This man was a homeopath as well as a chiropractor and also had a practice in Brisbane. I was pregnant and he said that my hips were out of alignment and that some regular adjustment would result in a much easier birth. Much to his kind and generous nature most of the treatments were discounted or even free. I saw him once a fortnight for the entire pregnancy and true to his word the labour was only two hours and apart from a little back pain soothed with hot towels, my daughter’s birth was as smooth as any birth could possibly be.

Shanti, as predicted by a guru we visited before she was born, was peaceful and content, the total opposite of how Mitchel’s entrance to the world was. If she was tired and crying, I just said: “It’s OK, Shanti, you can go to sleep now” and with a little rocking motion she would be asleep. A more blissful child you could never hope for.

LUKE: There was a little Christian church in town and one day Jenny felt she was called to go and talk to the pastor in the hope we could unite our beliefs and work together. We wandered around the church and rang the bell of the pastor’s house. He wasn’t there so we left our phone number with his wife. He called us the next day and came for a visit. We weren’t sure what we were going to tell him but we just wanted to connect. We talked for an hour about religions but he was not interested in any other religion than Christianity. We thought he was narrow-minded and I was annoyed that he was playing with a little cross on a chain that he held in his hand during the whole discussion. At the end, he asked if he could pray for us and we said that was ok. He prayed the blood of Jesus over us and the house, something I didn’t really understand at the time. While he was praying this, I laughed inside. I was so convinced that I was right and he was wrong to believe in Jesus only. Afterwards, I was somewhat confused about the fact that he was such a nice man while I felt so angry with him. I was supposed to be at peace with all religions and have compassion for all but he irritated the hell out of me. No surprise to say that we never went to the church and we never saw the pastor again.

When I was working in the herb garden one day and some of the herbs were almost ready to be cut, I suddenly realised I had had enough. I was sick of talking to plants and my back ached again from bending over. What is it that is missing here? Why am I not satisfied with fulfilling this dream? And then it hit me like those few precious times in life when you get an insight into yourself that changes your whole perspective: I missed people. I am a people-person. I want to go back to teaching because then I’ll always have people around. I want to work with people, not with plants. I decided in my heart that we were going to leave Nimbin and find another teaching job. A few weeks later, the final straw was when I went to town at seven in the morning to buy a newspaper. I parked the van and found an Aboriginal guy doing a rain dance on the pavement. He looked really out of it, most likely on drugs. I thought: “This is not a good place to bring up children. It is time to go.” When I got back, I told Jenny my plans and she wholeheartedly agreed. She was always ready for a change. We decided to go to the Gold Coast. While planning our move, we became convinced we would “find gold” there in the form of something incredibly precious. We sold the house and business in record time and left Nimbin.
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