helpless

My mom and brother have schizophrenia.

When I was a child, I thought my mom was homesick for the Philippines and that my brother just copied her odd behavior; when I was a teenager, I thought they were severely depressed and angry. As an adult, I started to understand there was something else wrong.

When I was 38, my dad called, “Your brother might be on his way to your place. He cut every wire in and out of our house and yelled that we were spying on him for the government.” My brother did eventually show up, demanding to live with me. Instead, I used his paranoia and convinced him that the best way to “stick it to the man” was to collect disability benefits and then he could live on his own. All he had to do was get an official diagnosis. “What could I be diagnosed with?” I gave him some explanation based on my own anxiety and depression, and we went to the hospital. After a couple of weeks on meds, he walked away from treatment and has never returned.

A few months ago, he ended up in Boise again. He was the best I’d ever seen him. I thought things were good. He was sober, going to meetings, and claimed to be “vacationing in Boise.”

I was surprised that he was so healthy, because weeks prior he was out of it. He’d told me he wanted to go to Alaska to work. I gave him our Alaskan cousins’ info and got a strange text a few days later stating that someone had stolen his identity and was texting as him, that he never had any intention to work there. I knew it was him that had called asking, but I shrugged it off. He said someone was trying to pin drug charges on him and had hacked into his phone. To be honest, I wasn’t sure if that was him being delusional or him trying to use his diagnosis to get out of trouble.

Over the last few weeks, he would pop into my salon here and there. I gave him a haircut and some clothes. He got temp work and started making money. He really seemed okay. I didn’t see him for a month, but I wasn’t worried. Then he came into my business trashed last week. He was slurring and swaying, “I’ve been drinking for days. I think I was fired. I’ve made inappropriate choices and I’ve been using meth again.” He looks like he’s lost 30 pounds, his face is puffy, and his stuff is missing, so he’s dirty and getting dirtier by the day.

You can judge me, but I won’t bring him into my home. My kids’ safety is my number one priority, and I can’t trust him. He refuses to get into treatment and says he isn’t schizophrenic, “It’s my electromagnet field giving you that perception.”

He’s hovering around my business, making my clients nervous. He barges in, insisting that I have his things. He was upset that I threw out his dead phone battery, even though I replaced it with one that worked, “I like to keep things.” He’s upset about his missing bag, which is full of old Styrofoam coffee cups he won’t toss and a pair of shoes he found on the street.

And I don’t know what to do.

My dad says to call the police. My mom, apparently, is also going downhill. She sleeps in ten-minute increments and then yells gibberish. He hasn’t slept and also feels helpless. He tried to get her committed somewhere, but the current laws state she has to sign herself in and she won’t. He knows it’s just a matter of time before she loses it in a store, and then the police will be involved. I don’t know if he’s worried or hoping that will happen…

Most of our homeless population is like my brother. They should all be in hospitals. They used to be. President Carter tried to make sure funds were in place to care for the mentally ill. President Reagan, former governor of my home state California, followed his state’s model and made it nearly impossible to institutionalize them. Those funds were blocked and the “crazies” were let loose onto the streets. Violent crime and homelessness increased.

And people like me and my dad were left without the right to check our schizophrenic family members into treatment.

So what happens now?

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