" 'Zach, you're a stupid wong-gong, a long-gone wong-gong.'
"I ignore this, but while I'm sitting here being quiet, my palms are sweaty and my throat is dry. I need to decide if this situation is real or not; I need to decide that right now. Sometimes I understand what's going on, and other times I don't have a clue. If I don't figure this one out, I could be in trouble."
According to the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Depression:
"Schizophrenia is a chronic and severe brain disorder which affects approximately 1 percent of the world population. Approximately 2 million people in the United States suffer from the disease in a given year. Schizophrenia is characterized by positive and negative symptoms. Positive symptoms include delusions, hallucinations, disorganized thinking and markedly disorganized behavior. Negative symptoms include reduced emotional expression, social withdrawal, loss of pleasure, difficulty concentrating and/or thinking, and a lack of energy, spontaneity or initiative. Treatment is aimed at reducing symptoms and preventing psychotic relapses. Schizophrenia is usually treated with antipsychotic medication, and may be used in combination with psychosocial therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Many scientists believe that schizophrenia results from a chemical imbalance in the brain, and are investigating various neurotransmitters in determining this imbalance."
Sixteen-year-old Zach Wahhsted suffers from adolescent onset schizophrenia. He waits at the coffee shop after school each day; him mom picks him up there up at 3:30 and gives him his medication. It is imperative that he get his twice-daily medication on time so that Rat and Dirtbag--the worst of the voices in his head that have tortured him in the past--don't come back.
Today, Zach will not get his medication on time.
"All I want is a maple bar, but I don't think these kids with the guns care about what I want."
Today, as Zach waits for his mom's arrival, a pair of teenagers, "Frosty" and "Stormy," come in to rob the coffee shop and the situation disintergrates into an armed standoff with hostages.
"I look around at everybody else in this place, and they all look scared, so I'm trying to look scared too. I mean, I guess I'm scared, but this all seems so normal to me. The thing is, I'm used to seeing and hearing really weird stuff, so this doesn't feel that strange to me at all."
As a schizophrenic, Zach tends to react differently--some would say inappropriately.
"One of the kids with a gun, the older-looking one, says, 'Nobody's gonna get hurt if you just do what we tell you!'
"I say, 'Okay.'
"He seems surprised at the sound of my voice and looks at me real fast, then away again.
"He says, 'We don't wanna hurt anybody.'
" 'Good,' I say.
"He looks at me again, 'You gotta problem?' he asks. I think he sounds mad.
" 'Yes,' I say.
"This surprises him too. 'Oh, yeah?' he asks, then he points his gun right at me. 'What's your problem?'
"I'm sort of surprised that he wants to know.
"His gun is big and black, with a wide hole in the end of the barrel. It's like a tunnel.
"I answer him as truthfully as I can. 'I'm sick, that's my problem; I take medicine two times every day, thanks for asking.' "
"The lunatic is in my head
The lunatic is in my head
You raise the blade, you make the change
You re-arrange me 'til I'm sane
You lock the door
And throw away the key
There's someone in my head but it's not me"
INSIDE OUT is a tense and often comic tale that plays out inside the back room of the coffee shop and inside Zach Wahhsted's head as 3:30 comes and goes...
"I wonder if Frosty and Stormy are going to shoot me. Like in that movie Pulp Fiction. The bad guys shoot lots of people in that movie. I'm definitely NOT going to ask them about Pulp Fiction or about shooting us. I don't want to give them any bad ideas.
"I don't even want to think about getting shot, and so I try to be real quiet...
"After whispering to Stormy, Frosty says, 'Okay, everybody, we've got an announcement.'
"All of us look at Frosty, but before he can say anything else, I hear words flying out of my mouth...
" 'Frosty,' I ask, 'did you ever see that movie Pulp Fiction?' "
This story of how the kid with all the voices in his head turns out to be the voice of reason in a tense life-and-death situation is a spectacular read. And while there is great levity in the unique rapport that develops between Zach and the armed teens, beneath the hostage situation is the realization that no matter how the standoff ends, Zach will forever be hostage to those voices in his head.