Part One began when I had the crazy intrusion to my home of a woman scared for her life. In the middle of the night, around midnight. I never did tell you all what happened with that. After my 911 call to the local police I was left in the position of being alone with this semi hysterical woman in my living room. Now what do I do?
It wasn’t like she was a friend or even a close neighbor. But she was a frightened woman and with my personal experiences in dealing with a schizophrenic male in my house I understood her fear. She babbled on nervously telling me that her son, whom she described as being 6′ 10″ and aged 35, kept saying that she stole his invitations and that he needed those invitations. She said she had no idea what he was talking about, that she had never seen invitations to a party or anything like that but that he liked to go to raves. She said he began tearing things apart and when she attempted to use the phone all of the phone lines were dead. She said that he must have cut her phone lines. She also said that he had grabbed her purse and taken all of her money. She continued to tell me of violent rampages and him urinating on her carpet deliberately….who does that?
Crazy talk. Why does the midnight hour bring on such craziness? I have no idea what happened in her house, I could only nod sympathetically and offer her some water. I no longer keep sodas or things like that in my house and pretty much only drink water and tea. Occasionally coffee but at that late hour coffee was kind of out. So water it was.
The dispatcher had said that the officer would be heading out to her house and would be getting her son out of there. Perhaps I am a bit naïve here, but to my way of thinking if this guy is getting violent and she is saying she is afraid for her life…shouldn’t the police be getting this guy evaluated? Living in California I have often heard people joke about “5150” which is code for the California law for an involuntary psychiatric hold. This allows qualified police officers or clinicians to detain individuals that may be a danger to themselves or others. If he truly is schizophrenic then it doesn’t take much for a violent situation to turn into a tragedy. On the other hand how did I or the police officer know what really went on in that house?
Sometimes it takes an eye witness to truly understand the crazy part of schizophrenia. You see the person with the schizophrenia BELIEVES with their whole heart that what they are seeing and hearing is real. So if you talk to them their delusions rule the conversation and nothing you say or do will get through because they believe what they believe. The voices the urges they are all very real to them.
So here I am alone in my living room with this strange woman that I didn’t know babbling all kinds of crazy things. It began to occur to me that she might be suffering from the same thing as her son. Or was it her that was the one with the mental illness?
How do you know the truth?
With my step-son I can only tell you what I myself witnessed. He had moved out of our house after The Big Fight and we had moved to Utah. It really didn’t take long before we heard from him and his relationship with his girlfriend and her mother had deteriorated as we had known it would. So he moved back in with us. I still remember the first day he was back with us. We were living in Heber City, Utah in a rental house. I remember driving him around in my ’96 Trans Am with the t-top off and showing him the beauty of this new area and for awhile he was the sweet kid that I remembered although he was now 18 and 6′ tall. I was so determined that his time in Utah would be different from Vegas.
It took a lot of research and fighting with my husband, but I got him enrolled in the alternative school to try to get him a high school diploma. I also got all of the paperwork filled out for him to get Social Security Disability for his schizophrenia. It took awhile but he qualified and had all of the records to prove it. Of course we listed my husband as his representative so the checks went into a separate account with just my husband’s and his name and his living expenses came out of that. With some assistance from the local governmental agencies we got him signed up with some job services and the one and only psychiatrist that was employed by the county.
It was a constant struggle with my husband. By this time I had already figured out that there was something seriously wrong with me. Every time someone bumped into me it was excruciating. I was 2 years post breast cancer when we moved to Utah and according to all of the books my side effects from the surgeries, chemo and radiation should have been gone. But I was tired all of the time and was hurting all over my body.
Every time I walked into the kitchen my step-son would come out there and say “What’s for dinner?” It didn’t matter that he had just eaten breakfast or lunch or whatever. It was like it was a compulsion. He would also crowd me in the kitchen and deliberately bump into me. He knew it caused me pain but he kept doing it to the point that I started refusing to be in the kitchen if he was in it.
When he took his meds he was fairly calm but slept a lot. He got a job at the local grocery store as a bagger and for a short while things were relatively normal. We found him a small duplex and my husband paid for his rent and he used his paycheck to supplement what he got from SS Disability. Of course he didn’t get much when he worked so it was a constant struggle to keep his bills paid. Then he got a girlfriend.
Once he met the girlfriend things spiraled out of control. I explained to her early on that he needed, ALWAYS, to stay on his meds. Of course he stopped taking them. He went to work one day and then just left when he was supposed to be bringing in shopping carts. He was never able to explain what happened, if anything actually did. He just left. End of job.
The next thing we knew he was tossed in jail. When you have someone that is a paranoid schizophrenic, jail is not a good thing. They don’t belong there, they belong in a mental health facility where they can get the meds and the help they need. But he had gotten into a shoving match or something with his girlfriend and the police were called. There were no injuries but the woman that owned the duplex was upset over the frequent complaints of loud noises from him and the girlfriend so he was kicked out of his duplex. Most of these noise complaints were late at night. He is tormented at night by the voices and shouts back at them.
He and his girlfriend reconciled and moved into an apartment. They did of course finally break up for good but not before she had a baby and he became an absentee father. She did not trust him to be around his own child. Sad.
Over the years, well past that original diagnosis when he was 14, he has become worse and the people in the small town he lives in now know him and refer to him as “Crazy Johnny”*. He accepts the name and is in his own world now anyway. I haven’t seen him in a few years now but I have heard from others that there are incidents where the neighbors have called the police because they hear screaming and the police have had to come in and check to make sure everyone is okay. They found him alone. All the noise is him by himself. He is now 30 years old. His diagnosis was 16 years ago. Sixteen years of torment without medication. I think of him often and feel such sadness. His father always felt that I was “picking on him” when all I wanted was for him to have a full and productive life instead of being tormented by the voices in his head.
All of this has been on my mind since the woman showed up at my place in the middle of the night. When the police did finally show up at my house they asked me to keep her there until they removed her son from her residence. The officer also appeared to already know the woman. That isn’t good. He said something to her along the lines of “Well here we go again huh?” When he left to go to her house she told me that the same officer had been to her house when she had to kick out her abusive boyfriend recently. There was something about the way she said it and the way the officer behaved that made me think this was a regular thing with her.
When your life becomes a series of conflicts that bring on repeated visits from the police it is time to make some changes. Some people seem to get stuck in a vicious cycle of craziness where that is their new “normal”. I know because that was how things were living with my step-son. Nightly rants coming from the attic room that was his room when my step-daughter lived with us, then from the second floor when she moved out and he took over her old room. He would be laughing like a hyena……really, I’m serious….a hyena…and then talking and answering questions it seemed. Crazy. My husband would frequently get out of bed to shout up the stairs telling him to “Shut the FUCK UP!”. His brother and my son would both be trying to sleep to go to school in the morning and nobody was getting any sleep. Every night the same shouting and laughing and extreme anger all at the same time. He told us he couldn’t control the laughing and that made him angry so he would shout. Tormented by the voices every night. His rages would sometimes involve hitting walls or throwing knives and darts into the walls.
Fear was constant on my part. He would be laughing and saying “I ought to just shank her….”. Since I was the ONLY she in the house I could only assume he was talking about me. When my husband went out of the house to go to work it was usually just myself and the crazy guy in the upstairs rooms. Not a comfortable living situation. When he was on meds he slept more and raged less but taking the meds was up to my husband. He refused to let me even discuss the issue telling me it was none of my concern and that he would handle it. Legally I had no right to even talk to the psychiatrist or psychologist although they both made a point of telling me to make sure I kept my own meds away from him because he admitted to stealing some of my pain meds to his doctors. After that I hid them.
My husband refused to acknowledge what the doctors had told him about the use of marijuana by a schizophrenic. They told him that frequently the use of marijuana increased the paranoia and psychotic tendencies. He ignored them and continued to give his schizophrenic son pot on a regular basis. He hid it because he admitted that his son had broken into our bedroom and taken some of the pot he had in the bathroom that was off our bedroom. I was already in counseling myself to deal with living with an addict. My husband often claimed that he wasn’t the one with a problem, that I was the one with a problem since he was never going to stop smoking it. Possessing and being under the influence of pot is a felony in the State of Utah and I felt that as parents of teenagers we had a responsibility to show them a positive and good example by not committing felonies. He saw nothing wrong with what he was doing and as for the violence and manic outburst from his son, well that is now all on him. I am out of it but that doesn’t mean I don’t care. I still remember the kid that was my buddy for so many years before the schizophrenia overtook him. It still saddens me but I can now sleep at night without fear that he will finally take action and knife me in my sleep.
As for the hysterical woman and her son……well the police removed him from the house that night, I drove her home then went back to my house thankful that my own Midnight Madness period had ended and I am now blessed with peaceful nights and no crazy relatives in my attic.
* not his real name, changed here to protect his privacy
I love this time of the year, Halloween, then Thanksgiving and as the topper, Christmas!
For years our house was the go to place for Halloween in the small town we lived in up in Utah. Flyers were printed, decorations hung in the trees out front, complete with flying witches, ghosts and pirates. We built on to the decoration list each year and each year I called the Domino’s pizza in town and ordered several hundred dollars worth of pizzas. Did I mention the part where the flyers were distributed to the ENTIRE high school? Oh, and there was only one high school in the entire county? My son was a bit of a social animal and always managed to line up a band of some sort. My step-son kinda just went along for the ride, he wasn’t anywhere near as social but he loved the party too. My step-daughter was there for the first party but had moved out and was starting her own family by the time the others rolled around. My other step-son, well we will talk about him some other time because my heart aches to talk about him.
I made little mummy fingers from Vienna sausages, strips of tortillas and ketchup. There were witches hats made from Keebler cookies and Hershey’s kisses. Spiders made from little peanut butter filled crackers with pretzels poked into the sides for legs. There was Jello filled with gummy worms and chocolate pudding and crumbled Oreo’s (graveyard “dirt”) with marshmallows and candy corn. Yeah it was a junk food heaven. (if anybody wants recipes let me know) What more could a teenager want?
For the punch we had rainbow sherbet mixed with Mt Dew for a cool greenish tinged and quite frankly really gross looking but delicious drink. To give it a little extra pizzazz I dropped a chunk of dry ice down in the bottom for a bubbling smoky looking brew. The kids loved it and I loved seeing the looks on their faces when the fog bubbled up from the bottom of the punch bowl. After the first year I made sure I had extra Mt Dew and sherbet because it went faster than I ever would have dreamed.
Now you might think I was crazy to take all of this on and maybe I was. My ex wasn’t much help when it came to doing….well anything, involved with this party. But I wanted this to be filled with good memories for the kids down the road when they were adults and looked back on their high school years. I did all of this for them.
I am also a realist. These were teenagers and this was a party. The bottom of the flyers had our contact info for the parents of the kids and a brief statement that anybody caught drinking or smoking pot or whatever would be immediately ejected from the party. The flyers also invited the parents to stop by anytime should they wish to. Against my ex’s wishes I also called the Sheriff’s Department that covered our area and invited them to the party as well. Every year. This was clearly stated on the flyer. I know to a lot of people that probably makes me sound like a total party pooper. Well I really don’t care what anybody thinks about that because I took my job as a parent very seriously. My ex….well he had different views. We lived in a very tight knit community where the majority of the residents were Mormon. We were not, but we had relatively good relations with all of our neighbors. I was never really sure what all of the adults thought of the parties but the kids raved about their memories to me on more than one occasion so I was satisfied.
I have some bittersweet memories of these parties. My sons (yes I looked upon my step-sons as mine as well) had a lot of friends that were frequent visitors in our house and called me “Mom” as they walked in and out of our house on a regular basis. I spent many hours preparing for the parties with my sons and my pseudo sons. The decorations were elaborate as well with the animatronic 6 ft. tall Butler at the door and the motion activated ghosts, witches and pirate tied to the trees, upstairs balcony railing and front porch. There was a fog machine, strobe lights and black lights. By the time that our “guests” started arriving I was usually so exhausted and in so much pain that I personally was unable to really enjoy them.
I was forced into the position of being the party Nazi, walking through all parts of the house, yard and even the street to check the parking situation and make sure nobody was out there drinking or smoking pot. My ex was supposed to share this duty but wasn’t really much help. To this day my heart becomes filled with pain as I recall catching him coming out of our bedroom smelling of pot himself. Parents are supposed to guide their children and show them by example and this was a constant war between us. For the record, at the time of the parties ( I really don’t know the laws now) possession or being under the influence of marijuana was a felony. Utah is harsher than most states.
Our driveway in front of the detached garage became the stage and concert venue and we had strict rules about the noise and the cut off time. I made sure ahead of time that the neighbors knew what to expect. My ex was supposed to be keeping an eye on the bonfire that was in the backyard. This was a popular part of the Halloween party since this was Northern Utah in October and was pretty darn cold most years. My pseudo sons were always very helpful and I loved them more than they will ever know. I thanked them for their help every year but I never told anybody about the physical pain I was in due to my fibromyalgia and my blown disks. I kept soldiering on.
Looking back at the parties I really can’t think of anything I would have done differently except maybe to express my thanks again and again to the kids that helped me set stuff up. I don’t know if I should have told them of my physical pain or not. There was nothing anybody could do. A couple of years ago when I went to retrieve all of my belongings from the house my ex and his girlfriend now live in, I took all of the Halloween stuff. He said he would never use any of it and so I took everything. He made the nasty remark that he could afford to buy new stuff and I couldn’t. Yeah, real nice.
When I decorate now I have memories of putting up these same items with all of those boys that helped and when I see the looks on the faces of the little kids that come to my door I am happy. I won’t be here at my home this year, I will be on another grand adventure in Georgia, but I am looking forward to decorating again next year.