Mental Illness: When You Can’t Help

Mental illness is a bitch. Seeing mentally ill homeless people walking the streets was nothing out of the ordinary for me or any of us for…

Mental Illness: When You Can’t Help

Mental illness is a bitch. Seeing mentally ill homeless people walking the streets was nothing out of the ordinary for me or any of us for that matter. I always often wondered how those people ended up where they were. Did they have a family? Did their families love them and remember them? What caused their mental illness, environment or genetics? Where do they sleep? Do they ever eat? Why can’t they get help? What’s their story (ies)?

Well when the crazy bug came-a-knockin to my door, I had to rethink my perspective(s) on mental illness. Sometimes you do all you can do, and the mentally ill will not allow you to help them. The law essentially has allowed these people the right to be mentally ill, and the right to bring harm to others. It’s a sad fact. Thanks to over interpretation of rulings made by the Supreme Court, families are unable to provide help to family members against their will. I provided another link below to provide context for my opinion.

As a survivor of childhood physical, verbal, emotional and sexual abuse indirectly at the hands of my mother, I always knew she wasn’t wrapped to tight. How does a mother allow other people to harm their children? How does the parent not believe their own child? Only in time did she eventually reveal her real self to the world. The mentally unstable, delusional her. As I’ve learned over the years, history simply repeats itself when one fails to consciously break cycles of abuse and neglect. From what I’ve learned through grapevine testaments, she likely endured what she parsed out. Just because your parents/caretakers did it to you, doesn’t mean it was right. I guess the evils inflicted upon her corrupted her good brain and made a deal with the devil to support evil, forsaking good.

My mom was mean, evil, and had multiple personalities to suit any situation. There was a school mom, and home mom. Church mom and work mom. Special events mom, and family gathering mom. She was always the victim. Always suing or threatening to sue because she was wrong. Always right and needing validation. Always needing to fight. Unfortunately, many people never got to truly see all over her layers and personalities. She just kind of hid it. When things got hot, she moved. She did all kinds of things to us. People knew were being abused, or they suspected we were being isolated because we were abused, yet they minded their own business. Not wanting to get involved and put themselves in the line of fire with the crazy one.

As time went on though, there was a pattern developing with her. It was self-destruction. She’d get a man, but he’d never stay. Her true self left much to be desired. After the dudes learned she was crazy, they were looking for their way out I suppose. Just couldn’t keep that crazy at bay. She’d get a good job, and manage to fuck up all the relationships at work by accusing people of all kinds of crazy things. Talking about her. Sabotaging her desk. Going through her shit. Spying on her. It got so bad they set her up a job to work from home to cut down on all of the issues with her. Gee…….thanks job! We really enjoyed that extra time with the devil.

Same things happening at work, we were being accused of at home, except we couldn’t leave. We were stuck like chuck, enduring all the hell and fury and then some.

But one day………we were freed. Either by default (getting placed in foster care, or having your shit dumped on the porch via informal eviction immediately after your graduation) or intentionally like my sister was when she enrolled into college and never moved back home. She eventually joined the armed forces where she has served for 20 years. Our mother wasn’t nurturing or helpful. We were burdens and we knew it. Our goal was just to survive long enough to somehow get the hell away. Foster care was my way out. It wasn’t easy by any means, but it was much better than being in the house with the crazy lady that acted like she was my foster mom. My sibs and I were able to move on and lead halfway productive lives. Fast forward thirty years later.

We went off in an attempt to salvage the rest of our lives, raise our children in a somewhat sane environment and be the parents we wished we had. We scattered the country (and the globe) to live our own lives with very little contact with my mom. We would attempt to have some reconciliation bonding moments (i.e. holidays), but they were so bad and so stressful we all decided it was best to stay at our own home and enjoy our days off with our immediate family. After the aftermath of 2 failed marriages and relationships, mom eventually found herself alone. The grandkids didn’t want to be around her. Her good was kind, but her bad outweighed her good. The leopard couldn’t change her spots. Besides that, my sibs and I weren’t willing to risk the health and well-being of our children to feed into some socially acceptable ideology that we must forgive, forget, move forward and attempt to be a traditional family. The nerve of folks!

The chicken has now come home to roost. My mom is now severely mentally ill, and she legally owns a gun. The last few people that were trying to help her, putting up with her craziness she has finally successfully isolated So much so that her 80 year old mother is afraid of her. My grandmother says she is obsessed with victimization, her neighbors, and people listening to her calls. She has her cell phone wrapped in aluminum foil. She has cut power in her house. Her garage door opener doesn’t work. She cut the power to that as well. My grandmother was a nurse in psych hospitals for 40+ years, and did not retire fully until 76–77 years of age. She knows crazy, but she just couldn’t come to the realization that my mom was off her rockers now. It was a hard pill to swallow. She also did not want to be the one to lock her away. She wanted someone else to do her bidding. The one that helped make this person mentally-ill again was turning her back to give the job to someone else. Oh joy!

My mom’s 60 something year old sister was so afraid of her that she called us children to do something about her. She’s cutting holes in her walls and ceilings now, talking about the government is listening to her. She’s threatening to shoot her neighbors because she thinks they throw things into her yard and put trash in her trash can. We had the sheriff to do a wellness check who came back to report that she had anything electronic covered up, claiming the rays from those lights were penetrating her body causing it to ache.

Oh yeah, and she kept her hand in her pocket the entire time. She had her gun on her, inside of her robe. We warned the sheriff prior to them doing the wellness check, but they indicated there was not much they could do because she was legally able to carry it. He did check before entering her home, and she did honestly acknowledge she had one. She also went on a rambling spell about all of her horrible neighbors. The officer that did the wellness check did advise though that she needed to be checked for psych issues. We knew full well that she would never go to get psych help. She was unwilling to acknowledge her mental illness, and we knew would go down fighting to include shooting anyone (and she has shot at folks, including my baby sister previously although it was never reported).

I flew into town and joined my brother in going through the awful process of involuntarily committing my mom.

What a horrible process.

My brother had actually witnessed her bad behavior recently which was a requirement, so he was able to file the emergency petition. I intentionally stayed out of dodge, so I went for moral support. The judge signed the petition based on our testimonies and the stories told to us by my grandmother and aunt. The day of reckoning came. The authorities went to her house to pick her up to take her to the psych hospital involuntarily.

My cousin (mom’s sister’s oldest son) went to oversee the committal and to ensure her home was locked up. Everyone wanted to make sure things went off without a hitch (aka resistance). It was a mess! She cried and pitched a fit, threatened the entire family, and went through the roller coaster of emotions. Of course, she was angry at us, her children. And of course, she was once again the victim. She was institutionalized for exactly one week before they set her free. None of the people that saw the mental illness she had been seen exhibiting would stand with us to attest to it.

No one. Not even her own mother.

She was able to convince the psych doctors that there was nothing wrong with her, or at least nothing worth keeping her involuntarily for. She had the law on her side. The law that says she has the right to be mentally-ill, refuse care, treatment and medication. She has the right to harass and scare her neighbors. Even her own family.

In 1975, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a State cannot constitutionally confine, without more, a nondangerous individual who is capable of surviving safely in freedom by himself or with the help of willing and responsible family members or friends. ( Pp. 422 U. S. 573–576) This ruling has set the precedence for all today’s treatment and passiveness as it relates to safeguarding society.

Translation: She has the right to be crazy/ill, and harm others as long as the people doing the assessing thinks she won’t do anything to harm others. Screw us….

My mom used to threatens neighbors. She has a gun. She heard things, they tell her to do stuff. She says the government listened to her phone calls, so she wrapped her phone in foil. She cut holes in her walls, and she climbed into the ceiling cutting wires. She had a home monitoring system that records bugs that she insists were lasers shot at her home by neighbors. She had a home. She has a car and a license. She has a pension, so she has means to take care of herself. She has bullied people into assisting her (that are not family), and paid “new” friends helping her flee from committal to. They know she’s ill, yet the play along with her because it benefits them. She’s moved and distanced herself from everyone since our last attempt to institutionalize her. She’s angry, because we don’t see what she sees or hear what she hears. We can’t help her. She doesn’t want our help.

I’ve punched my help tickets. So have my siblings. As far as her mother and sister are concerned, they are dead to us. How can you allow your next of kin to wander the world like this without trying to help the children get their mom help? Her mind has told her to isolate herself from everyone that cared something about her. How can a system say someone is definitely delusional, yet not delusional enough to be involuntary committed? I wonder if the families of mass shooters, serial killers, and other people who eventually harm others due to mental illness have gone through the processes that our family has to help their loved ones or if they simply turned a blind eye, put their loved ones on the street and unleashed them onto the world?

When mental health professionals won’t spend enough time talking to patients and loved ones about the mental health of our loved ones, how on earth can we protect them? How do we protect the community at large? We don’t, and we can’t. All we can do is wait on the phone to ring to get the news that some harm has come to our loved one, or that our loved one has harmed someone. What do you do when you’ve done all you can do?

You check all of the boxes, punch all of the tickets, CYA (cover your ass) with all the petitions, call law enforcement, work with agencies that help support families attempting to care for loved ones, and hope for the best. I am happy everyday that goes by as an uneventful one. Sometimes, there is nothing that you can do for a person with mental illness except allow them to have their way. It’s their right. It’s their life. I now understand why homeless mentally ill people liter our streets. I understand why they aren’t being treated. I understand why family is long gone.

I don’t have to agree, but I do understand. My heart goes out to all those families with mentally ill loved ones who won’t accept help. You are not alone.

The brain is an interesting thing. It is so complex, yet so dangerous.


  • O’Connor vs. Donaldson — The landmark U.S. Supreme Court Mental Health Court Ruling (Wikipedia)
  • ACLU- ACLU -Mental Health Institutions