Here’s how it went.
Brother doesn’t return calls for a week. Not sister’s calls, not parents calls, not other brother’s text messages. Parents arrive home from a cruise to remote places, travel weary, having received strange messages from their son while they were away. They’re back, but their son is no where to be found. In our era of connectivity, this is extremely disconcerting, especially considering the silent party’s history.
Sister calls police non-emergency line. She’s concerned, based on information learned from parents (she was trying to give brother space, per his request, but knew all along something wasn’t right); she’s worried, they’re all worried, that brother is delusional and dangerous. Dispatcher confirms that recent calls have been made from his residence, but that police there resolved things “just fine,” so there’s no reasons to worry that they can’t handle a person who’s mentally ill. Sister wants them to put a note somewhere, alert someone, be on notice, just in case there’s another call (too many devastating stories in the news about police responding improperly to these types of situations), but dispatcher explains that “the system doesn’t work like that,” but offers to send officers to do a “welfare” check. Sister decides it should be parents call to make.
Parents make that call. Police visit brother. Brother finally calls parents, ranting about motor cycle gangs putting a hit out on him maybe. Parents just home from one trip, begin another – the 5 hour drive to son’s college town. They don’t unpack; just throw their confused dogs, and suitcases of dirty clothes, in the car and go.
There, father tells son he’ll consider paying son’s rent next month, and his college tuition, if son agrees to see his regular psychiatrist the next day, “to talk about things.” Son agrees. In the meantime, they speak to other doctors son has seen, family medicine doctors, who, with son’s permission, clue them in to some of son’s delusions. There’s poison in the water. He’s been drugged. A teacher’s out to get him. Implausible notions; no good arguments; not making sense at all.
During the visit the next day, psychiatrist makes a big decision, decides brother is a danger to himself or others; a 5150 hold is placed (with handcuffs).
Waiting begins in the emergency room. Waiting for a bed in the mental illness ward somewhere, in a state with few resources. 36 hours of waiting. Of ranting and raving. Of no sleep for parents. No sleep for brother. Crazy gets crazier.
Brother finally gets a bed. Parents are sick to their stomachs watching their son suffer, watching their son be taken away, a second time via ambulance. At least now he’s safe, they reason. Sister feels the same way. He’s with people who can help him. Right?
Parents stay in brothers apartment, while brother is in the hospital. Despite brother’s assistance that mother not “disturb a crime scene,” she cleans everything – weeks of garbage thrown out, dishes cleaned, and laundry done.
Then, more waiting. Calls to hospital not returned. Privacy laws leave parents in purgatory. They can only hope their mentally ill son gives them permission to visit.
Days go by. More calls. More waiting. Finally, family visiting day approaches and brother obliges them.
Doctors there agree with parents, with sister, with other doctors – brother needs back on his meds. But, they can’t force him without a court order. Hospital staff says they’ll push for one.
Father must return to work. Mother stays in son’s apartment, cleans some more. Hopes for word on the court order, is thrilled that it seems their son may be getting the help he needs. Is thrilled that maybe they’re taking this seriously.
It’s a good thing she didn’t get those hopes up, because things change quickly.
Brother gets a new case worker, who won’t return parent’s calls. Too much work, too little time. Defense attorney throws case out, claiming the 5150 was done incorrectly. There’s no guidance anywhere about how any of this works. No clear steps to take; only fear that, after two weeks in the hospital, still unmedicated, brother may be released – no progress made. Only two months off his meds, and look where we are. Parents and sister write emails to defense attorney, about brother’s history, about his heart of gold, but about how if he’s afraid, if he feels threatened, there’s no telling what he might do.
More waiting. More helplessness. More fear.
That’s the update. And it’s probably an all too familiar story for those with family members who suffer from a serious mental illness, characterized most dangerously by anosognosia, or lack of insight, or the inability to realize that what one believes and experiences is the result of said illness. Those who don’t know they are mentally ill, are the most dangerous. And I’m convinced that it’s families of people like them that are the most lost.
The system for responding to, and dealing with, mental illness is a mess of a million marbles spread all over a glass floor, bouncing around with no direction. In Nevada. In California. A mess. (Though I’m thrilled to say that AB1014 passed, allowing concerned family members to petition the court to remove an ill or dangerous family member’s firearm. Um, no unstable minds shouldn’t be allowed to play with guns, thank you very much.).
I wish there was something more I could do. For my brother. For others like him. For their families. There’s so much on the line.
Meanwhile, my beautiful baby blossoms. Meanwhile, I work, I learn, I find joy and hope in it all. Parallel universes, it seems. I have other updates about my girl, about my work, coming soon, but all this needed to come out first.