Why do people with schizophrenia who have loving families end up homeless? A person that has never dealt with an unmedicated mentally ill person most likely can’t grasp this agonising reality. Some mentally ill are not safe without being medicated. Before 2012, I wouldn’t have known either. How I wish I could go back to that naive way of thinking.
I’m a dance mum, a cheer mum, a theatre mum, a softball mum. My girls were in every activity that brought them joy. That’s what you do when you love your children. You want the best for them. You strive every day to make their lives as good as they can be. At least, that is what I thought I was doing.
My life hasn’t gone in a straight line. It veered off in directions I didn’t see coming. In 2006, I’d been married for seventeen years. My ex became a different person when he drank. He had been drinking more and more. You can see where that went. My daughters were eleven, fifteen, and seventeen when their family broke down and their parents divorced.
Many other things happened, but this story is about my middle daughter. She started acting like a typical teenager, taunting and pitching my ex against me and manipulating her younger sister. In 2007, I made my middle daughter leave and go live with her dad.
My middle daughter and I had a good relationship despite the tough love. I went to her theatre productions and encouraged her best I could. When she was twenty-two, she called in the middle of the night and wanted to live with me. Thrilled at the prospect of being closer to her, I agreed. From the first day, she talked to herself and waved her arms around at nothing. She laughed uncontrollably in a disturbing tone. That was 2012.
Early in 2013, she opened the door to getting help. I found out she had a suicide plan. After fifteen days of hospitalisation, she seemed to be better, and the medications started working. I relaxed about her chances of normalcy. As the years and her illness progressed, her demonic schizophrenic side began to emerge. Mild symptoms turned into scary episodes of dark thoughts, witch talk, and dangerous lashing out. If you want more details, I have gone into many scenarios in my book.
When her episodes turned tactile (feeling hallucinations), she turned to drugs to ease the ‘I feel hundreds of people raping me every night.’ Illegal drugs tend to make schizophrenic symptoms so much worse. They interrupt any medications the person with schizophrenia is already on and enhance chemicals in the brain that cause their illness to become darker.
When you have schizophrenia, they hospitalize you, stabilize you with medication, and release you. The hospitals do their best, but there is no long-term care for the chronically mentally ill. You can get them into private facilities, but they are massively expensive.
This person with schizophrenia was my precious middle daughter. She was my blue-eyed baby girl. I did my best to care for her illness and helped her with her added addiction issue for the next six years. She was hospitalised for stabilisations twenty times. She was thrown in jail for attacking a police officer when she saw him as a demon. Instead of taking her to a hospital when her brain was broken, they threw her in jail.
After she became unstable to the point of threatening to kill me, I couldn’t let her live with me, my husband, and other household members. Again, there is way more to the story in my book. I searched everywhere for a group home or anywhere they could care for her full time, long term.
She was in and out of jail or homeless for the next two and a half years. I frantically searched for somewhere to house her the entire time. With jails not providing antipsychotics, she was too unstable to live with me. Even though she was legally disabled, she didn’t qualify for any government programmes. I heard, ‘there’s a gap in the care of the mentally ill,’ over and over. She was even found incompetent and sent to the state hospital. Again they kept her for three months and released her to the street.
In late 1963, JFK, who had a mentally ill sister, eliminated the ‘cold mercy of custodial isolation’. Asylums were to be replaced with ‘the open warmth of community concern and capability’. I feel Kennedy’s heart was in the right place. This story has nothing to do with politics. That bill, the last one he signed before he was assassinated, resulted in large numbers of mentally ill being released with nowhere to go. Only half the planned community centers were built. Life went on for the world, but the mentally ill are still left out today. I know legislators and government officials have tried to amend that act, but it hasn’t helped my daughter.
I don’t have the answers. I was interviewed on I Heart radio’s 55 KRC in Cincinnati, OH. When the commentator asked me how they could help, I said: ‘Allow me to get a Medicaid waiver with only a mental illness diagnosis.’ I added: ‘That is why I wrote the book; I don’t know what else I can do.’ Awareness of the issue. Schizophrenia is an epidemic, so I pray there’s a better answer than the one I came up with in my book. Not everyone could pull off the miracle I was able to manage. Even today, I struggle with whether there’s a better way for my daughter to live her best life.
To date, she has been hospitalised twenty-seven times. She is only 31. Daily, I care for her and hope for the best. She and ones with similar debilitating mental illnesses deserve the best from all of us. It was not their choice to be schizophrenic.
J Mark Stacy spent thirty years as a transportation broker, not a career she chose. Her latest release, Tapped & Skipped: Hope In The Midst Of Madness, was the number one new release in schizophrenia for several weeks.