As of today, my mom has been living in her car for 30 days.
30 days ago, my mom checked out of her life completely, and has been living in her car, waiting for Jesus. Yes, you read that correctly: my mom is waiting for The Rapture.
Those of you who follow me on Facebook have seen my updates for those 30 days. You have read about the situation as it’s unfolding. I have chosen to share many things about this process, because we are far too secretive about mental health needs in the US–something that must change. Because this process is far too difficult and biased–something that must change.
For those of you who don’t follow me on Facebook, here’s a quick recap: in May of this year, my mom was voluntarily hospitalized. She was diagnosed with paranoid delusions and behavior disturbances related to those delusions. The hospital psychiatrist started her on Haldol, an old-school but tried-and-true antipsychotic medication. My mom improved. Approximately a month out of the hospital, the physician’s assistant who treated my mom removed her from Haldol and placed her on a low dose of an antidepressant. Six months after her release from the hospital, my mom has been living in her car for a bit over three weeks, because she is on a psychotic break, prompted by her paranoid delusions. Any questions?
What you don’t know are all of the things that I’ve chosen not to share.
I haven’t (mostly) shared my feelings about the situation. I haven’t talked about how having unmet mental health needs impacts your life and the lives of those around you. I haven’t talked about the other things going on behind the scenes, in an effort to get treatment for my mom.
Not quite 15 years ago, my grandmother (my mom’s mom) exhibited some of the same symptoms and behaviors that my mom is now. At the time, my mom and I had several discussions about how frustrating it was for Mom to try to care for my Gram. You see, Gram had not been a good mom to Mom. Gram was an alcoholic. Mom’s parents divorced when Mom was very young, and she was raised between her mother’s household and her grandmother’s. But at the end of my Gram’s life, my mom still wanted to take care of her the best she could. Fifteen years ago, neither of us could wrap our heads around what was going on with Gram. Now, I’m going through the same thing with my mom.
Trying to get help for someone with a disease which, by its very nature, prohibits the person living with the disease from the awareness that they are living with a disease is difficult. Mom doesn’t understand that she needs mental health help, and she definitely doesn’t want to need mental health help. The veil of Delusion and the fortitude of Denial pair to form an impenetrable divide between her and the world… between her and her friends, between her and her family, and, in my estimation, saddest of all, between her and a good-quality life.
There are so many tough parts of untreated mental health needs. As someone who has managed depression for more than half of my life and anxiety for the last few years, I have experienced and put others through rough times.
For me, with my mom, the hardest part is separating my recollections of the person who raised me from the person she is now–they are so different that Mom is nearly unrecognizable in her current form as Alterna-Mom… yet occasional glimpses of Mom shine through.
Mom rarely had a disparaging word about anyone, and definitely not about me. Alterna-Mom is quite bitter, and often has venomous comments about others. Sometimes the others includes me. Most recently, it included my partner Stacy, and our son. Just truly hateful things. She has implicated or alienated every person in her life. My logic knows that she can’t be held accountable for most of what she’s saying and doing right now. My emotions aren’t quite able to let her off the hook.
Spending the last month reaching out to every person and local, regional, and national agency available to help my mom has taken a lot. It has taken time. It has taken patience. It’s taken perseverance. It’s taken grit. Taken energy. Taken humility. Love. Hope.
Things in my daily life have been put on hold. Non-essential duties have been postponed. My partner has taken up my slack with the household needs and caring for our kiddos. Intimate time with him has been sacrificed, due to lack of time and simply being emotionally and physically exhausted.
Just a few days ago, I was able to secure an appropriate prescription to help Alterna-Mom morph back into Mom. I visited her at her car, in her favorite parking lot on the west side of town. She refused the information leaflet (which is all I offered her) and the medication. I asked if she needed anything and she provided a short list. I will deliver those things to her today, and leave her, not knowing when I’ll see her next, nor what state she will be in by then. I will bring her those things because I said that I would. And then I will be done. I don’t expect her to even meet me halfway–because I don’t believe she can–but she has to budge.
Untreated or unmet mental health needs affect more than just the person with the needs. They affect everyone who cares about them and for them. And while Alterna-Mom is at large, we are all left to wait for whatever happens next.
As always, your thoughtful comments and questions are welcome.
This post is for informational purposes only; I am glad to hear your own experiences, but am not interested in advice at this time. Thank you. ❤
2 thoughts on “Jesus Take the Wheel”
I too have a family history of mental illness, and it’s true that no two experiences are the same. So, empathy is futile in trying to help people who are having a breakdown. All you can do is your best and hope that she can snap herself out of it, like waiting for someone to wake up from a coma. You can sit at their bedside and hold their hand, but you can’t shake them awake. I hope things get better soon because I know how draining it can be on the ones who have to sit by and watch it unfold.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts. Yes, there’s only so much someone on the outside can do. I know from managing my own mental health needs that ultimately, it’s up to me. It has been a whopper of a month.