My mom was diagnosed schizophrenic in the 80s. There were times when she needed to ’go in’ to get ’the help that she needed’ because of scary things she was saying or scary ways she was acting. The decision to have her committed during those scary times was always democratic in our family. Everyone would be consulted and everyone would agree, yeah, she’s acting…funny…scary…she needs to go in. Everyone would be consulted and everyone would agree, even me, the youngest. I was in high school when I first became aware of it or when it started really bad, I’m not sure which: did it start then, or did I just become aware of it then? I am not sure, all these years later, what she had been hospitalized for and when – in our family’s timeline. I was in high school, and I was about as active as a person can be. I played three sports: football in the fall; wrestling in the winter; soccer in the spring; more soccer in the summer and skateboards and golf and anything else. Sometimes I’d just open the door and take off running…like Forrest Gump.
I remember this one time when my mom was acting crazy. Sometimes she knew it herself, that she was acting crazy. She would call 911 on herself. She did that one night. It was cold out. It was three or four a.m. in the morning. She had been raving all that night, and my dad and I knew ‘it was time again.’ I couldn’t take it this time though. It was too much for me. I walked in the kitchen and I saw the phone off the hook, hanging down the wall. I picked up the receiver and put my ear to it and there was a recording or something saying something about how our 911 call had been logged and that units would be on the way shortly. I don’t know where my mom was at that point, or my dad. Somewhere in the house. I grabbed my jacket and walked out of the house out into the dark field across the street. I packed a bowl and managed to get it lit in the cold wind and I just walked. The fire department and paramedic station was way at the other end of the field and I saw the units leave the garage there to head over to pick up my kooky mom. I just smoked my bowl and I walked and I started to feel high and I started to feel a little bit better.
There was a time when my mom begged me to kill her.
There was a time when she was putting signs up on our mailbox with crazy accusations and theories scribbled on them.
There was a time when she was convinced that there were radio waves penetrating her skull and taking over her thoughts.
There were times when I would come home and my mom would be having some kind of argument with somebody who was not there.
My mom’s life was not total misery. And as a matter of fact, she had a period of incredible happiness when her grandchildren were born and my sisters and brother would leave their kids with her to baby sit. She was perfectly capable and loving and terrific with the kids. She would play with them and they would sing songs and she would call me to come pick them up and drive them all over the place, anywhere they wanted to go. That may have been the happiest time in her life.
A few years ago I met a real deal psychologist guy – a doctor of psychology who worked as a counselor. We played pickup soccer together, and we hung out a few times too. I told him about my mother. He told me that the diagnosis of schizophrenia was given out to often back then, and that my mom would not be considered schizophrenic according to current standards.
I don’t know why I’m writing all this except that it’s my blog, dammit, and I’ll write whatever I want…and this has been on my mind lately. It’s been on my mind because I’m reading this mind blowing book right now from an author who won a Pushcart Prize. The book almost seems to be written ‘for me.’ It takes place in the metro area where I come from, and the author’s mom was also diagnosed schizophrenic. Her mom was more schizophrenic than mine I think. That, or she is just a far better writer. Probably both. Anyway, the book is called Rescuing Patty Hearst, and it’s by Virginia Holman.