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 am not sure what it is about me, but I somehow manage to attract crazies or people in crazy situations and last night was more of the same.
Night time is my time. Mornings are horrible for me. My Princess and the Pea Syndrome hits hard before noon. Once I have taken my meds the creaking and groaning of my body commences and after a few hours I am able to partially function. I absolutely do not make any appointments before noon unless I am forced to. So I am usually up during the late night hours and frequently go to bed after 3 a.m.
Last night was more of the usual. Frosty was patrolling the back yard, this is a job he takes very seriously and there are some nights that I cannot get him to come back in. He hates 2 things with a passion. The first thing is sirens. He really hates those and will sometimes cry the most pathetic sound you can hear from a ginormous pup like him. The second thing is coyotes.
Frosty is a rescue. They told me that he had been found wandering around out in the desert and he weighed only (hey, he is a tall dog!) 75 lbs when I got him. He was very skinny for his height and was full of parasites. It cost me about $150 to remedy the parasite issue but I love him to death and he adores me and is very protective. VERY. I have a chain link fence around my entire back yard. There is not much behind me but desert brush and a few dirt roads over there is one house. It really is mostly open desert behind me and it is a well known coyote hunting path. I see them often at dusk and early in the morning and they drive Frosty absolutely nuts. My working theory is that he had some run ins with coyotes when he was wandering around in the desert. If he scents them he will start barking. If there are none in the area he will patrol the perimeter of the yard, come in to check on me, then go back out and patrol some more. Recently my next door neighbors acquired a bunch of chickens. Oh joy, not only do they have a weird idea of what morning is (they start crowing at about 3 a.m.) but they are like coyote magnets. The neighbors should be glad Frosty is here or I am pretty sure those coyotes would be having chicken dinner.
During the day he is a couch potato and will either be laying on his love seat or laying on my feet on the floor. He hardly ever barks during the day. He will get excited if people actually ring the doorbell but one look at him and solicitors run for the hills. He is a very intimidating presence to some people just due to his size. I kind of like it that way.
It isn’t that I don’t like people. I do, when I am out and about. I just don’t like them showing up at my door at midnight. Especially if I don’t know them, have never met them or been told about them or whatever. I really don’t know too many people that look at a midnight visitor as a welcome intrusion…..unless maybe a person of the opposite sex with a naughty visit planned….okay, that was my fantasy…sigh….now back to reality.
So I was reading up on some blogs I follow and considering what I was going to be working on next. Frosty was barking his fool head off and I was just about to go out and see if he had something in particular bugging him or if a coyote was just getting too close to the fence.
Knock, knock, knock. Somebody was pounding on my heavy duty screen door at the front of my house. I usually open up my house at night to let it cool down without running my air conditioner. I live i the desert but for those of you not familiar with the High Desert of California, we get some darn cold nights in the fall and winter. Once the sun goes down it goes from 90 to 65 pretty darn fast. It doesn’t usually take too long to cool the house down and I like it a little chilly when I go to sleep. But I am also a bit cautious and even though my front door is open I have one of those heavy duty barred screen doors meant to keep people out and dogs from destroying it.
There is never anything good that comes from a visitor past 10 p.m. in my experience. I found a strange woman standing there. It was pretty obvious that she was very upset and she was visibly shaking. She was also holding a cigarette. Bleh. I thought that maybe she was here to complain about Frosty barking. He was pretty agitated and after She started babbling out her story I realized he had probably been barking because of the turmoil this woman was going through and the fighting that had started a few desert blocks over.
Her story was not unfamiliar to me unfortunately. She began telling me that she lived a few streets over and had gotten into an altercation with her adult son. He is schizophrenic. THIS I understand. My step-son was diagnosed as schizophrenic when he was only 14 years old. I have lived with the heartache that comes when someone you love turns into someone you don’t know and suddenly terrifies you. She told me that he began tearing up her house demanding things that she didn’t understand and cut her phone lines and took her purse. She said he urinated on her carpets and she was afraid for her life. There is something about night time and schizophrenia. It gets worse at night.
She asked me to call for help. I did. I took a chance on her and let her in the house. Normally I wouldn’t do that but obviously this was not a normal situation in any way. I had 911 on the phone before I opened the door and let her in. I also shut my front door and locked it in case the schizophrenic son had followed her. I brought Frosty in and locked the back door as well and we hunkered down waiting for the police. I had a bit of a dejavu feeling and thought of my step-son. He was all I could think of even as she babbled her story over my iPhone to the police.
Mental illness is so hard for friends and family to understand and sometimes the people that need the help just don’t get it. The person that is suffering from schizophrenia is frequently unable to function well enough on their own to get themselves help. It is heartbreaking and it is more common than a lot of people know. It can also be hereditary. This I knew from personal experience. My husband’s ex was also schizophrenic and I had experienced some of the horrible results back when we were originally dating. She would show up at my house in the middle of the night screaming and yelling and was totally irrational. She was and still is, a scary person. In her case she was also a meth addict and had been diagnosed as schizophrenic when she was a teen from what I understand. I’m not sure why she was never hospitalized and given help or maybe she was and I just never heard the details.
My step-son was a sweet kid when I met him at the age of 9 and we were buddies. When I started noticing the unusual behavior he had just turned 14. It is not unusual for puberty to trigger schizophrenia. In his case the worst started showing up when he was at school. He got suspended for stabbing sharpened pencils into the seats of the school bus he rode on when we lived in Las Vegas. It was the odd outbursts and the strange hand motions and things he said that had me insisting that he be evaluated by a doctor. My husband fought me every step of the way. He did not want to admit that there was anything wrong with his son.
At first he was very open with the doctors. He told them that he could read minds and that he heard the thoughts of everybody around him. He thought he had super powers. This was back when the Sci Fi show Roswell was on television. The show centered around a group of alien teens that had landed in Roswell and somehow the show managed to get into my step-son. In the show the alien teens had different taste buds and frequently poured massive amounts of hot sauce on their food. He started eating everything with Tabasco on it. He told the psychiatrist that he thought he was an alien and we were hiding his real heritage from him.
The problems at the school increased. He would suddenly strike out at fellow students thinking that he heard them saying stuff about him. My husband continued to be in denial and I fought as hard as I could to get him help. My husband accused me of “picking” on him and kept saying that he could beat this problem if he put his mind to it. He didn’t “believe in” psychiatrists, psychologists and medications for mental illness. I continued to fight him on his son’s behalf. It took its tole on our marriage.
The older he got, the worse the schizophrenia became. While we lived in Las Vegas I was also fighting for my own life and battling breast cancer. My nights were spent working in a casino and my days were spent grabbing sleep here and there and getting to my doctors and chemo treatments, then radiation and trying to get help for my step-son as well. During this period my own son was beaten with a belt by his biological father and I found myself involved in a court fight when I refused to let him see him without getting counseling himself. He also suffered from mental illness that I believe was brought on by drugs he did way back in the 1970’s. When my son’s biological father showed up for the meeting with the counselor….well they ended up calling 911 on him back then. It is everywhere. So many damaged people from so many things.
I know there were a lot of things that should have been handled differently. I felt like I was battling alone. I loved my step-kids. They were my kids from the time they were 3, 6 and 9. Their mother had nothing to do with them from 1993 on. Our years in Vegas were hard ones for me. There were some good memories from the first few years but once the cancer hit I was trying my best to just keep my head above water. My husband had an alcoholic father that would get drunk and hit him as a child to correct him. He was determined to be the exact opposite of his own father and took the position that anything the kids did was on them because it was their lives and they would learn from their own mistakes. My position was that we were the parents and it was up to us to guide them and correct them. It was a constant battle. I was trying to fight for their well being and yet I was always the bad guy. They thought I was being mean, I was trying to be a good mom and employee and stay alive.
That first year of the big C, my daughter was pregnant and having difficulties with her pregnancy. She and her husband lived in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas. We consulted each other frequently and tried to support each other through our mutual doctor appointments. I had kids at home and my step-son’s issues and I was pretty sure I was going to lose my mind as well. I regret not being more open with all of my kids and step-kids about the pain and agony I was going through at the time. All they knew was that I snapped at them over things like getting their chores done and school work and would be cross over that they didn’t understand. At first when we were trying to deal with the schizophrenia the rest of my kids and step-kids thought it was kind of funny. They would tease him and go along with his delusions of his super powers. Even my husband would poke fun at him when he would start telling them that he knew what they were thinking and when he would spend 3 hours in the bathroom….in the dark….in the bathtub…because he thought he was creating fireballs in his hands.
My husband seldom participated in any of the counseling that my step-son went to. He didn’t take him to appointments, I did. Then came the big fight. I don’t know what started it, but we had been having a lot of problems with aggression from my step-son. This is pretty common. Imagine if you had voices in your head constantly telling you that everyone around you was out to get you. He would thrust his chest out and bunch up his fists and push you. When he took his meds things would calm down. But just getting the meds into him was a war with my husband. I had to leave it to him to get his son to take the meds because I was heading to work late at night when he needed to take his meds at bed time.
All I knew later was that my step-son had started getting aggressive and supposedly swung his skateboard at my husband. There was a knock down drag out fight and my step-son ended up with a black eye and was thrown out of the house. He was 17 by then. He moved in with his girlfriend and her mother and out of our house. I was horrified by the whole thing but had no control over any of it.
I had multiple conversations with the girlfriend’s mother who herself believed that he shouldn’t be on meds, he needed a good church. This was along the lines of what my husband believed. He was Catholic and thought that maybe a priest could exorcise the demons that were tormenting his son. I cried a lot during that time.. We were in the process of a job transfer to Northern Utah for my husband and I was still trying to recover from all of the medical treatments and get my health back. So we left Las Vegas and moved to Northern Utah, leaving my step-son behind.