Susan had then just finished graduate school and begun working in the mental health field. "I have worked in psychiatric hospitals, community mental health centers, with different cultures. I have worked with drug and alcohol abusers, group homes, foster kids and also with children's behavioral services. Just about every population there is to work with."

But her son had a curious aversion to his mother's new vocation. "David asked me never to talk to him about the work I did.

"I was telling him about an experience I had in school with guided visualization and he asked me what it was like, so I did one with him. I led him visually on a story of going through the woods and he meets an old man who gives him a gift of a box. When I asked him what was in the box he said, 'It's a box with nothing inside.' He was disturbed by that and so I got disturbed with him."

For Susan, that situation was mirrored by another time when she and David were walking on the beach of Washoe Lake near their home. At one point, she says, David looked over at her and asked, "Mom? What do I like?"

"I think I was frightened by what I perceived happening in him." What she 'perceived' was an individual who had significant inner turmoil that he was trying to manage on his own. Susan says, "There was this discomfort with himself. Feeling that there was an impenetrable barrier between himself and other people, and discomfort in emotional situations.

"I think also I was in some denial. I spent a lot of time trying to talk him into looking at life in different ways, while not letting myself acknowledge that he didn't have the capacity or was losing the capacity to do that."

More than a teenager struggling

David began attending a private, progressive, liberal arts school in Olympia, Wash., Evergreen College. Susan remembers, "It was a challenge for him, and the first year one of his female instructors told him he just might not be the type of person for college." Though David struggled mightily with the academic discipline of the university, he still had his moments. He was popular among his classmates, had a serious girlfriend and established the schoolwide composting program, which still exists.

In 1985, after completing a survival skills and mountaineering training course in Colorado, he participated in an ascension to the peak of Mt. Aconcagua in Argentina. He even talked Evergreen into giving him credits for it. After the climb, while the rest of the group returned to the United States, David stayed behind in Argentina, hitchhiking around the countryside for a couple of months.

But things began to unravel again in the spring of 1986.

He had gone to Arizona to work with Native Americans there, and even though he was upset by what he saw as organizational infighting, he couldn't decide whether to stay or go back to Evergreen. He started back to Washington several times, always by train, which was his preferred mode of transportation, but aborted the trip each time. Finally he did make it back to Evergreen and completed the quarter.