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Sunday, August 22, 2010

He Hears Voices


She punched the “off” button on her phone, dropped it onto the bed, put her face in her hands and wept. Her son had called from the mental hospital where he admitted himself when the voices came back, and she was overcome with angst.

Since he once told her that the voices told him to kill his father and stepmother, she didn’t ask what they said. Though so dangerously ill, he realized that telling her would wound her even more, so he stopped telling her long ago.

She searched for some solace, some relief from the pain that penetrated her entire being and found it is the fact that her son had realized he needed help and and sought it. It was no silver lining to the clouds hanging over her head, but it was something to which to cling.

The voices weren’t always there. They began a few years back, before her son’s diagnosis was changed from rapid-cycling bipolar disorder to schizoaffective disorder. He didn’t tell her at first. He was living on the streets of Atlanta, and she didn’t know where he was. He was admitted at intervals to the state mental hospital in Atlanta, and during his last admission, he called her and told her everything.

But he had not yet toed the famous “bottom” - the one that alcoholics and drug addicts and mentally ill people need to hit before they can begin to heal. That happened after he he found himself in Miami, living in a shelter.

The state of Florida takes better care of its mentally ill than does Georgia. A state social worker visits homeless shelters and reaches out to the residents who have mental issues, and her son was in rehab within a couple of weeks. He had to get off drugs and alcohol before anyone could accurately assess the status of his mental illness.

But he still had not hit bottom, and after two weeks was back on the streets, sleeping in parks and shelters. When the social worker found him again, he was ready to start down the long road to some stability in is life, some sense of sanity, however driven by pharmaceuticals it may be. Some people cannot function without the proper drugs to stabilize their brain chemicals.

The social worker found him a place to live and worked with Social Security to have him declared mentally disabled and eligible for benefits. He also had him declared physically disabled as well, as he had suffered two failed spinal funsions in the past.

Her son lives in an assisted living facility (ALF), he sees a psychiatrist once a week and is involved with a state run program that includes computer training, group therapy and 12-Step meetings. His medicine is doled out by a nurse at the ALF, and he is stable most of the time.

He hates where he lives. The other residents are Cuban and only one of them speaks English. Her son’s Spanish is approaching the fluent stage, so he communicates fairly well with them, but not one of them is college educated, well read or on a par with his intelligence. He is lonely and humbled by his living situation.

His mother wants to move him closer to her but she is afraid of what the change might do to him. As much as he complains, he is entrenched in a pattern of living where he is, and he knows what each day will bring. She worries that a move to Georgia would strip him of the structure he has in his life, however humbling it might be.

There is a saying among people who live by 12-Step programs that says it is best to remain where one gets sober, best to stay away from the places where one did nothing but drink and drug and be unstable. In the town where his mother lives, there is only a skeleton of a program that might benefit him.

She worries. What will she do?


Sue said...

I have a son who got sober in Arizona, and five years later, he is still living there.

I understand not wanting to rock the boat. And it seems like familiar structure is even more important when there's a dual diagnosis involved.

Hugs to you. At least he has found some stability, and that is a blessing...even if it isn't close to home, for now.

Brooklyn Book Lover said...

I am sure you are proud of him for sticking with his program and continuing to get the help that he needs. It may not be the ideal situation right now but, he IS staying on program and I give him a lot of credit. Have you spoken with his counselors about the possibilty of making a move? A change in routine is hard but maybe if he is prepared for it a little at a time the transition will be an easier one? Maybe his counselors in Florida can assist you in ocating a proper ALF closer to GA? The right situation will present itself when the time is right. I will keep you in my prayers.

Linda @ A La Carte said...

She will always worry and she will always be scared but she will ALWAYS be there for her son. These rocky roads are hard to travel and painful but travel them she must to be there for her son!! Bless her!!