“Aw, you want us to feel sorry for you after what you done?”
“But it was an illness. The brain gets sick!” There is medical evidence for this.
I must live with the guilt of taking a life – 40 years this far and more to come. But the jury gave me my freedom, my life, so I must do my best. I want my book to be a success. I want people to understand and take action.
It’s hard. Family doesn’t always support the person who has mental illness. I was fortunate for the most part, but I saw it myself in the hospital that patients were abandoned by family and friends. Some guys never got visits. I, myself, was abandoned by my “friends” and adult mentors. I learned to live alone and be comfortable with it. I found in my dating years that the ones who were most unforgiving were those who had mental illness in their families. In general, others, the court among them, see you as a behavioral problem, as one who is mentally retarded, or a felon. Those who don’t have any understanding of the illness are afraid you will come sneaking through their bedroom window to kill them on some dark and stormy night.
There is other discrimination against those with mental illness. I can’t seem to get a good-paying job despite the credentials I have. Of course, that may be complicated further by age discrimination.
Talking about being mentally retarded – or intellectually challenged – I was always at the top of my class throughout my school years. I earned an Eagle Award in Boy Scouts. I graduated second in my high school class by less than a point. In engineering school, I graduated “with honor” or cum laude. Today I have a master’s degree in engineering and am a Professional Engineer licensed by the State of NJ. (Yes, they know about it). At the job, my team at Con Edison won a Team Award for completing an important $4 million project on time and on budget. We were all chosen for our superior performances on previous projects. I ran the project. I belong to Mensa and qualify for an organization called “Triple Nine Society” which is a high-IQ organization like Mensa but has a higher entrance requirement. I wrote a book called In the Matter of Edwin Potter: Mental Illness and Criminal Justice Reform. For a time there, I was homeless, and, just last year, I won the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award from Marquis Who’s Who.
As it was said in Jersey Boys, “If you want to get a hit record, it’s like the stations of the cross. You have to get past the record companies, the Program Directors, the DJs, and, if you’re lucky, you get to the people.” The same is true for those like me who want to make something of themselves. You have to get to the people.