12.03.2007

PART 3 (Snippets from the Storm)

I will always remember…

The first visit with my brother, twelve hours after he’d been transferred to the mental hospital. He was led into the cramped, chaotic visiting room so obviously still doped up, scared, subdued, confused… looking about twelve years old. It is the first of many times throughout the week that my heart will remind me it can break more than once…

Phone calls from the mental hospital, as my brother discovers the telephone in the common room and calls me every hour, begging me to come get him, he just wants to go home, what happened, why is he there and why won’t they let him leave?...

My sister taking over calls to the psychiatrist, social worker, our parents, interrupting their questions and answers, too stressed and scared herself to play anything but the part of the shrill, high-strung and easily-offended sister. I slip back into the familiar role of quiet, calm mediator/accommodator. And stay there…

My brother’s memory coming back slowly but surely, filling us in on what he thought was going on that Monday- delusions of a police state, heightened senses of smell and hearing, animals talking to him, signs everywhere, my sister as a wicked force controlling all the little children and his heart, Monk controlling all the cars… A twisted version of Ender’s Game going on in his head throughout the day… my relief (and misplaced, immature satisfaction) that despite the delusions and hallucinations he never once saw me as anything but an ally…

Tales of escape attempts, additional forced-sedation incidents, an isolation room, calls to 911 that shut down the phone system for the day… I grow tired of people telling me that it’s okay, this isn’t my brother, etc. because guess what?! Whether or not his perception of reality is accurate, his terror is real and doesn’t anyone get that? Doesn’t anyone get how scared I am for him, for all of us?! My heart is hurting, I’m not sleeping, and there is fear and stress every second, from every angle of this situation. And if one more person tells me how strong I’m being…

My sister and I becoming regulars at the mental hospital… Walking on the grounds towards my brother’s building, my sister freaking out because she’s plowed (headfirst, of course) into a giant (but invisible to everyone else) spider web, me shushing her and both of us breaking down into hysterical giggling as I tell her to cut it out, quit, they’ll want to keep you here…

My brother insisting each visit that he’s okay, he’s not crazy, he just had a bad day and how long does he have to stay here? And will he be here on his birthday? And, what happened? How did he end up here? My sister and I exchanging looks, unsure of how much to tell him, confused as to why his doctors and nurses haven’t reminded him of his diagnosis, haven’t given him any information…

My parents’ display of how spectacularly they can mishandle a situation, saying the wrong things, trying to blame this illness on something, someone. Monk seems to think I shouldn’t put up with some of the things that are being said, but I remind him it is all coming from a place of fear and frustration, and that eventually I will put my foot down. Eventually…

The 7-day marker arriving, the morning of my brother’s birthday, the one night I haven’t turned my phone back on, and the doctor of course trying to reach me, Monk calling, my sister practically breaking into the house to wake me up: They want to release him today! But they couldn’t reach you so maybe they’ll keep him longer now! But if it is between today and tomorrow I don’t see what good it will do to keep him overnight, how much more prepared we will all be in 24 hours. I suspect if anything, spending his birthday at the mental hospital will cause even more damage. There is a mad scramble to get in touch with the doctor, the social worker, anyone at the hospital that can reach anyone else who might be able to help us get my brother out that afternoon. And we do…

My brother has a laid-back 22 birthday- bowling, prescription filling, and early bedtime. He doesn’t want to talk to my parents and my mother cannot accept this- she calls me, hurt, crying, not understanding how he can be at a bowling alley and yet shy away from a happy birthday phone call from his parents, and my heart breaks yet again as I ask her to be patient and try to explain, unsuccessfully, why she is being shut out.

We keep Thanksgiving quiet and low-stress, we arrange for him to do the outpatient therapy program, we are hit in the face again and again with how much younger and even more restless he seems now, with a constant need to be entertained, to be doing something, our new roles of babysitters and activity planners not something we are used to. The behavior disorder should start to clear up immediately we are told, but the thinking disorder will take at least another month.

So now we wait, and watch, and try to adjust. Again. Carefully, hesitantly, we revise our concept of “normalcy,” our idea of what the day-to-day routine should be, attempt to make peace with finding ourselves in a situation so far from what we thought we were getting into back in August, so far from where we started.

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