The hard part of mental illness

My cousin’s first hint of something amiss began with daily long distant phone calls filled with angry rants. The parents on one side of the country looked at each other with astonishment and concern as their son once again dumped his rage on them from his side of the country.

They carefully asked, “have you been taking your medication?”

“I am fine. I don’t need any medicine. I am doing just great.”

They knew better. His postings on Facebook and phone calls validated their concern. He ranted about the police stopping him. He ranted about his pets being removed from his property when he left them untended while he communed with nature for a few days.

“I love my dog,” he protested.

He quarreled with the authorities. He had not crossed the line that made him a danger to others or himself. Not yet, anyway. His parents knew his actions and words threatened his health and his freedom. They could do nothing.

His brother and sister traveled across the nation to bring him home. He was not there. One of his new friends assured them, “He is a great guy. I did not realize this was happening. When I see him, I will try to persuade him to take his medicine.”

The family waited. They prayed. They wished he would renew his daily angry phone calls, “At least then we knew he was alive. He has never been this bad before. He has always said he would take his medicine so he wouldn’t get this bad.”

The hardest part of mental illness have wrapped around my cousin’s family. Mom, dad and siblings might go about their routine life and look normal. They aren’t “normal.” They hurt. They want their loved one safe and in his right mind. They don’t like even the thought of potential encounters with the police who are simply doing their duties of maintaining order. An arrest could be devastating for their son. In the past, doctors said an incarceration could possibly trigger a psychosis so deep that he would never recover – not even with medicine.

It hurt to read my cousin’s Facebook postings. I prayed, and I recalled our own family’s mental health crises. For one of our sons, three hospitalizations in as many months and an arrest for disorderly conduct followed months of insufficient medication. A court order for regular shots of Haldol to calm the mind left him able to hold a job and return to a semblance of normality. It took a couple of years before the doctors again prescribed modern medications. A decade later, with sufficient medication, the doctors made a rare declaration “Your illness is in remission, but keep taking the medicine.”

For another family member, we were stunned when the nurse at the psyche ward said, “We are arranging for a room at a long-term care facility.” She predicted we would visit him about once a month.

We visited and listened befuddled with the word salad he spewed.

Did the doctors really say, “No improvement expected?” My world slumped into discouragement. Modern medication had failed.

Time did not fail. Through the months, his mind calmed and he slowly realized his options. He chose to leave the facility and live closer to family. His choices since then have not always been ideal but he takes his medications and manages.

As I read my cousin’s post, I prayed for my cousin. I prayed for an intervention, a return home and that their son would regain his mental health. I pray that he accept the medicine and realize anew the depth of his family’s love.

About jottingjoan

retired former newspaper writer. Many children and grandchildren. One husband.
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