You’re Gonna Miss Me, the 2005 documentary about musician Roky Erickson, is an agonizing look at schizophrenia and mental illness. The film shows the aging rock star at his lowest, and for anyone who’s ever dealt with a parent or loved one who has a similar degenerative disease, it can be a difficult watch.
As much as You’re Gonna Miss Me is a documentary about the rise and fall of one of the founding members of the 13th Floor Elevators, it’s also a documentary about mental illness. After failing to keep himself on the straight and narrow, Erickson found himself in the care of his mother, who doesn't trust doctors or mental health professionals.
Whether you’re a fan of Erickson’s stellar musical output or if this is the first time you’ve heard of him, You’re Gonna Miss Me is an affecting documentary that has to be seen.
Throughout You're Gonna Miss Me, Erickson's described as a person who's on a permanent, winding high. He comes off almost alien, like a creature who genuinely loves everyone and doesn't need substances to be far out.
Unfortunately, according to 13th Floor Elevators drummer John Walton, substances were a continuous and permanent fixture in Erickson's life. "Roky's second acid trip hurt him," said Walton, noting the two of them had been given too high of doses. During this bad trip, Walton fell off his drum kit stool and decided to stop taking LSD; Erickson didn't.
According to Erickson's brothers, his use continued to spiral. They were taking "LSD in the morning, mescaline at night," and Erickson "worshipped [it]."
Even after Erickson was diagnosed with schizophrenia, he continued his use. In fact, he did everything in his power to stay high and started using other substances, like heroin.
You're Gonna Miss Me is filled with chilling stories about substance abuse and mental health, but one of the most upsetting moments in the documentary occurs when Erickson's ex-wife, Dana Gaines, delves into how Erickson's addiction nearly cost Gaines her life. One night, he gave Gaines $13 and instructed her to purchase smack. She was against the idea, but a groupie and fellow user brought her to a dealer.
The dealer laughed when Gaines said she only had $13. Instead of throwing her out, the dealer locked her in the house and injected her with the substance against her will. She explained the horrifying experience, saying:
I start up real fast and then all of a sudden I'm telling this man standing in front of me, 'I love you so much. I love you so much.' And I just start throwing up and I'm crying and I'm scared. I heard one of them say to the other one, 'She's OD'd' and I remember both of these men on either side of me, for hours, walking me in circles for hours and hours.
Once she came to, the dealer sent her off with a needle and a bundle of smack for Erickson.
In 1969, when Erickson and the 13th Floor Elevators were on the brink of stardom, he was taken in by local police for cannabis possession. Rather than serve two years to life in federal prison for holding one joint, he pled insanity. A doctor testified that Erickson was "a classic example of a schizophrenic reaction, a mental illness, mixed with drugs."
Erickson was let off the charge but was sent to Rusk State Hospital, which housed psychiatric patients near Tyler, Texas. Rather than having a set sentence, Erickson was there until someone could prove he was sane. In 1970, his brother Mike hired an attorney and was able to get a trial for him in 1972. It only took 15 minutes for the jury to decide that Erikson was sane.
While Erickson speaks to his brothers, the filmmakers, and even his well-wishers, the person he's closest to is his mother, Evelyn. Rather than do what's best for her son, she actively refuses to give him medication or take him to a doctor. It's clear she herself may have mental health issues, but her prejudices against therapists and psychiatrists actively hurt her son.
In the film, Erickson's mother tells the filmmakers she's the only person for whom he answers the phone. They spend about four hours a day together. She knows the state of his home and isn't perturbed by it.
At the beginning of the documentary, she frantically glues photos of herself and her family on large pieces of cardboard, trying to explain the history of her family. While it is unfair to armchair diagnose her, it is worth noting that people can be genetically predisposed to diseases like schizophrenia and other mental afflictions.