I Didn't Choose This
Updated: Mar 28, 2022
It was 1990, after years of struggles with fears, anxiety, and confusion my mom was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. For most of us, it was a relief just to know what was wrong. Relief followed by guilt of not knowing what was wrong sooner. As a child growing up all I thought was that my mom was overly protective due to multiple fears. Some of those fears she'd tell me. Some I understood, some sounded odd but as a child I had no reason to question the validity of her reasons. To me they were truth. As the years passed it became harder and harder to not question her fears as they became more and more obviously irrational. The year before she was diagnosed those fears became absolute nonsense but even then no one knew what was going on.
Thankfully, just before her first granddaughter was born, she was diagnosed, hospitalized, treated, and released with in home follow up care. The time it took from hospitalization, group facility to a group home was about 9 months. The after care included rehabilitation back into the work force, a psychiatrist, a case worker who visited every few months and monitored her carefully, help with establishing a new home and of course medication. A nine month long process and after care that made her a complete success. For the next 20 years she successfully managed her own home, bills, bank account, her own life. Anyone who met her had absolutely no idea that she was mentally ill. Her meds worked. The medical care worked. The system that got her there worked.
Remember the fall of our economy? The great recession that began in the late 2000's? Guess who suffers first? Cut backs were made and she lost her long time case worker, Mary Pluff. Sometime after that life line was taken changes were made with her doctors too. Within a couple of years...without having those 2 major voices of reason, she played with the dosages and then quit taking them. I remember her telling me that she thought maybe she was either misdiagnosed or just didn't need them anymore. Unfortunately you cannot reason with someone with this disability. If that were possible, she would still be fine today.
On September 1st 2011 she was evicted from the very home she had for decades been able to maintain all on her own. By the time her family found out it was too late. Thinking back, it wouldn't have solved anything to pay her bills for her anyway. At least she'd have a home? No. Doesn't work that way with someone who fears living with people and has delusions about them. Her family and I all tried on numerous occasions to help her, with medical needs, with food, clothing and yes even shelter. Not once, or twice, multiple times. Countless times she was hospitalized only to be turned back out into the streets after a brief stay. I cannot even begin to tell you how incredibly frustrating it has been to try to deal with this broken system we have now.
The mentally ill have taken the brunt of the fallen and broken system that was supposed to be in place to help them! Why do we have so many homeless? Our system. Patients rights that are supposed to protect us, hurt...no...it kills the mentally ill who cannot help themselves. They tried to tell me she has the right to choose. That she was capable of making her own decisions. Why yes you're absolutely right, she can, could and did before when the system that helped her in the 90's actually worked. Remember? They kept her stable and yes locked safely for months before releasing her and then rehabilitating her. Now? They never kept her for longer than a month. Then they'd give me the "she's capable of making her own decisions now". Released to the streets to walk again and end right back where we started the month before. And yes, her family and I tried on numerous occasions to help her once she was released from the hospital. And each time she returned to the hospitals I'd explain to them, she needs to stay in here longer than a month to become stabilized! She's fooling you people! As soon as y'all release her, she stops taking the meds again. "Her choice" they'd say. Really? After 20 years of taking them, 20 years of success, she quits taking them, becomes homeless, is arrested numerous times, fights the elements, watches her grandchildren grow..at a distance, starves, is beat up, has battles within that you could never comprehend and yet you're telling me she's choosing to live out there on the streets and face all this?
Freaking idiots. I was even told that she would have to be admitted NUMEROUS times a year in order for a judge to even consider her incompetent. But in order to be admitted, she had to do so willingly or be Baker acted. Baker acting won't happen unless a person is a threat to others or themselves. And no, being homeless doesn't count as harmful to yourself. Even if in your right mind you would never choose to be homeless. She told me all the time that she didn't choose this. Sorry Mom. The powers that be thought otherwise.
This morning (Oct. 16th, 2019) a homeless man ended my mom's life. She was sleeping on a bench. He stabbed her for a blanket that he thought was his.
I gave up hope in our system but I never gave up hope that somehow, someway, she'd get better.
She was off meds for approximately 9 years. She was homeless for 8 years, a month and 15 days.
Today, she's better. She's home. Not the way I thought it would happen. I'm numb. I'm shocked. I'm heartbroken but