Life Begins at 50
By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service,
Monday, September 24, 2007
“I knew all along that God was there, but I had just forgotten him like a lot of people do. Amnesia had claimed almost everything else, but it could not take God out of my heart.”
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- Picture waking up on a city bus and not knowing why you’re there or who you are. To even the bravest of people it would be terrifying.
That was Harold Eansor’s situation on July 18 1996.
Harold said, “I wasn’t in physical pain but my head was fussy, hazy and unclear. Where was I? More important, who was I? Who, what, where, when and definitely why?”
Harold got off the bus and noticed a newspaper machine across the street. He said, “As I nervously walked towards it I found the machine
Harold said he recalled wondering, “Why would I be out of the country in Mexico? Wait, this isn’t Mexico. Look again, it’s New Mexico, I know that. No, I’m afraid I don’t. What’s New Mexico? Am I talking to myself? I am feeling very confused but not scared. Wait, who am I kidding? I’m terrified.”
Harold reached for a cigarette and pulled one out of the pack in his shirt pocket. Unable to find a light he asked a stranger who in turn asked Harold for a cigarette. The two of them smoked their cigarettes together and Harold asked questions. Aware that there was something wrong with him, Harold told the stranger he needed to find a police officer.
The stranger advised Harold against the police and suggested he go to University Hospital (UNMH). The stranger showed him where to catch the bus to UNMH. Harold said he asked the driver to tell him when the bus arrived at the hospital.
At the admissions desk, Harold tried to explain his problem. He said, “It turned into a mass huddle with doctors, nurses, police, hospital security, and I believe a few passers by. I was the center of a lot of attention, but I was certainly getting the impression that no one believed me. I couldn’t blame them; I really couldn’t believe it myself.”
A Million Questions
Harold said next came “a million questions” he was unable to answer. He added, “It only seemed like a million. Then more physical exams, taking blood, more questions. It seemed very repetitive, but I was told it was a teaching hospital.”
On the outside Harold said he was calm, cool and collected. However, on the inside it was a different story. “ I didn’t want to show irritability or any impatience for fear of being sent to mental health. That facility was in the back, I was told.”
Next came an MRI and more poking and prodding, Harold said. Doctors told Harold they were unable to find any physical trauma to explain his memory loss. Harold learned that alcohol abuse or alcohol poisoning may have triggered his amnesia.
Blood tests found no presence of alcohol, but Harold’s body and clothes smelled strongly of alcohol. Harold recalled being pump full of B-complex shots to help ward off the reaction of alcohol withdrawal.
When Harold finally looked in a mirror, he was shocked at what he saw. “ I didn’t know that guy staring back at me. I didn’t want to know him. I didn’t know what I wanted. Man, my head hurt. I could use a drink.”
Looking at his reflection Harold found out that he was tall, skinny, and had a big black eye and small cut on the bridge of his nose.
He recalled wondering. “Had I hurt someone; why was I beat up; was I wanted by the police? The guy in the mirror did look a little shady. Wait, that’s supposed to be me in the mirror. Don’t be ridiculous, that is you, whoever YOU are. Am I mumbling or talking in my head? Knock it off; they will definitely put you in mental health.”
Harold wondered who, if anyone, he could trust. Meanwhile, in the middle of his reflections doctors and other medical personnel kept coming into his room in groups of between four and six at a time. Harold said they kept asking him questions for which he had no answers
They asked Harold the name of the president, how to cook a hamburger and told him to count backwards in increments of seven. While he remained calm, Harold said his mind was screaming, “Stop. Shut up and leave me alone; let me think. Help me, cure me and fix me.”
A short while later a woman came into Harold’s room and identified herself as his older sister.
“She told me my name was Harold. I told her I was sorry that I didn’t know her (and my mind was saying, ‘and I sure don’t know this Harold character!’) We talked for a while and she almost convinced me I was actually Harold. The one-sided conversation made me feel creepy. I was supposed to be involved in this Harold’s life, but it didn’t feel or sound right.”
Pictures convinced Harold that he was who his sister said he was. He said, “My sister showed me love and concern, but I felt no relief, no love and no connection. I didn’t dare say that or show that. I smiled and told her that everything would be okay. I said my memory may be coming back a little. I lied. I needed any and all input about me, even if it sounded strange, hard to believe and wrong.”
Harold learned that he was 50 years old, seldom seen without a beer in his hand and he smoked like a chimney. Harold’s sister told him he was a functional alcoholic who never held a job for more than two years and who lost his last job three weeks prior to his memory loss. His room mates didn’t want him back because he was so far behind with the rent. His sister was unable to help him, because she was in the middle of downsizing to a smaller house.
Harold said, “I learned that supposedly I was a likable guy who would give the shirt off his back to anyone in need of it. My mind raced. ‘Who is this guy? It doesn’t feel like me.’ But I do need a drink and I’m dying for a cigarette. I want to trust my sister, but I just don’t know her.”
The hospital released Harold and arranged follow up treatments for him at mental health. Arrangements were also made for him to stay at the Good Shepherd Shelter for men. That week, Harold said, was a blur.
“My sister met me regularly for lunch and tried to jog my memory,” Harold said,. “I told her some things were starting to look familiar, but that wasn’t true. Maybe I shouldn’t have given her false hope, but she seemed to need more reassurance than me. My feelings of gloom and doom were mellowing. I craved a drink, but I couldn’t afford it and it would have gotten me kicked out of the Good Shepherd. My sister helped supply me with cigarettes. I smoked and thought and took aspirin for my horrendous headaches.”
With his week’s stay coming to an end at the Good Shepherd, the staff there arranged for Harold to stay at Joy Junction for a month. That prospect made Harold nervous.
He said, “I had heard unsettling stories about Joy Junction. I felt as if things were going from bad to worse. I was starting to feel scared and nervous again. My mind was working overtime. ‘Don’t trust; don’t share; don’t show doubt or fear; figure it out yourself.’ My alcohol cravings continued.”
Upon arriving at Joy Junction, Harold said he recalls being greeted with the words, “How are you? Are you hungry? Have something to eat and then we will get you settled in.”
After eating, Harold said he was signed in “with friendly concern and a minimum of invasive questions. I was given reassurances and made to feel genuinely welcome. This atmosphere debunked the negative impression that I had been given of Joy Junction, but my mind was warning me, ‘Don’t trust; don’t share and don’t be vulnerable. Stay in charge, stay calm and stay cool. Keep control.”
Settling in at Joy Junction, Harold said he began to ask questions. “Who was this Harold and where was he? When was he coming back?” The feeling, Harold said, “was like house sitting and waiting for the owners to get back. There were no instructions for emergencies. What would Harold do? Where was Harold? I didn’t feel like Harold.”
Harold said he visited former previous work places to see if they would ring any bells and jog his memory. He rode the bus for hours all around Albuquerque hoping to see something familiar.
He also visited the library, which at the time he recalled had 11 books with references to amnesia.
“I devoured them and learned little,” Harold said. “The headaches got worse.”
Meanwhile, Harold was also attending church while staying at Joy Junction and one day a guest preacher told those in attendance that God has brought them to Joy Junction for a reason and it was their responsibility to figure it out.
Harold said, “I listened but I really did not hear. However, the following week the preacher said almost exactly the same thing and I listened, but this time I heard what he said in my heart.”
Harold said thoughts came to him like “lightning bolts. I know God and trust in God. I know Jesus and have always trusted in Jesus. I don’t know how I know this, but I do. I’m screaming in my head, ‘Why has it taken me two weeks to remember God?’ Now I have someone to turn to, to trust and confide in.”
Harold said, “I knew all along that God was there, but I had just forgotten him like a lot of people do. Amnesia had claimed almost everything else, but it could not take God out of my heart.”
Harold began to pray daily, spend time with the Lord and soon noticed a big change in his life. “I became less nervous and felt calmer and actually in control. My headaches lessened in severity and my outlook on life improved. I stopped pushing the envelope searching for my past and started concentrating on the present.”
Harold completed Joy Junction’s life recovery program and joined Joy Junction’s staff in Jan. 1998. He has worked in a number of positions and is now our Chief of Security.
He said, “I can think of no organization I would rather be a part of.”
Harold is continuing to stay close to the Lord and ask for His help in every aspect of his life. Two years ago Harold asked the Lord to help him quit smoking. With the Lord’s help Harold remains smoke and alcohol free.
He added, “In eleven years my body weight has grown 50 percent, from 140 lbs to 210 lbs. My faith, love and trust in the Lord have grown far beyond any descriptive numbers. Daily, I feel blessed to be a small part of Joy Junction. Except for occasional allergies my headaches are non existent. Life is great.”
Thanks Harold. We are blessed to have you as part of the Joy Junction family.
Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and director of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, http://www.joyjunction.org . His newest book is "Homeless in the City: A Call to Service." Additional details about "Homeless" are available at http://www.HomelessBook.com