Sunday, July 22, 2007

Escape From LA

I have written previous posts about my sister and her problems with mental illness. I hesitate to refer to it as a struggle with mental illness, because for her it is not much of a struggle. It’s more like she embraces the craziness. She resists any treatment and insists that there is nothing wrong with her. It’s the rest of us that struggle trying to keep track of what she’s doing and where she is.

Let me now remind you that there is no law against being crazy. That means that crazy people are allowed to do everything that any other person is allowed to do. For example, sometimes crazy people might decide to travel.

Last year my sister, Lynne, decided to travel across country for a job interview. She had been doing alright and seemed stable at the time so it seemed like maybe we didn’t have to worry too much. I was a little bit apprehensive since she had made a couple of comments that sounded a little bit strange and paranoid in the days before her trip. This was typical of her before going crazy. I thought back to the other times that she has had a “breakdown” and I recognized that it was usually at least a few weeks of subtle crazy before she developed the full blown psychosis.

Lynne had been told by her psychiatrist that it was very important that she keep her stress level down and get plenty of sleep in order to prevent a relapse. She had been doing well for several months prior to interview and we all hoped that she would continue to do well.

Unfortunately, Lynne had an early morning flight and stayed up all night in order to make sure that she didn’t oversleep. She called me after arriving in California and told me that she was in her rental car driving to the hotel where she had a reservation. She sounded fine and was enjoying her drive.

She then disappeared for the next 36 hours. She didn’t answer her cell phone, did not check in to the hotel, and did not show up for her job interview. She finally called with a crazy story about running out of gas and then having her rental car stolen from the side of the highway. She told me that someone broke in to her hotel room and injected her with drugs and then she woke up in a different room. Someone else had threatened her with a gun. She said that the person with a gun was a man dressed as a woman. That was certainly possible since it was California after all. She thought that she was sick from being drugged and went to the hospital only to leave again before being seen. She had three trips to hospitals total but always left prior to being seen. She called again from a cab driver’s phone (hers was in the "stolen" rental car) and said that she was out of money. She then became a pedestrian in L.A. Not a good thing.

My mom tried to get her to go to a hotel and told her she would pay for the room. Lynne instead wandered around L.A. lost. Eventually she was discovered in the post office in the middle of the night by a postal worker. He could tell that there was something wrong with her and he got my mom’s phone number and called. He was nice enough to then take my sister to the airport and my mom arranged for airport security to watch her and make sure she got on the plane. It was then arranged for security at the next stop to take over so she wouldn’t wander off and miss her connecting flight home.

This ordeal became a nightmare because of the fact that my sister would not stay in one spot. We were all on the phone with the police, hotels, airports, hospitals, cab driver’s etc. trying to catch up with her. I really thought that we were going to have to have someone travel to L.A. to try to find her. We encountered a few people that did not seem to care but quite a few that were willing to do a little extra to try to help. It was because of these people that we were able to get her home safely.

We still don't know what happened in California. We do know that the car company eventually found the car and it was damaged. It is possible that Lynne just walked away from it thinking that she was being followed.

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