Sunday, February 10, 2008

Crazy Break

As many of you know (my two regular readers, anyway) my sister, Lynne, has battled with mental illness for the last few years. I haven’t talked about her much lately and that is simply because she is doing well right now.

She is a bit unusual in that she isn’t “crazy” all the time. I refer to her as part-time crazy. I have had to readjust my thinking of what it means to be mentally ill. I always thought that you were either “normal” or “crazy”. What else could there be, right?

Since then I have learned that my sister can be entirely normal (a bit quirky though) or entirely crazy. The only time that she is anywhere in between is when she is in the process of slipping into psychosis. At that point, she will begin to express some paranoid beliefs that might be so mild, that if those thoughts were from anyone else, you wouldn’t consider them alarming. So as her family, we tend to get caught up at times in analyzing her words for fear of what might come next.

It’s odd that when she is back to normal, she seems to have little memory of all the crazy things that she did and said. She will deny and try to rationalize what happened. Sometimes she will accuse us of blowing things out of proportion to make her look bad. But, really, that’s not the case. The only value in going over the things that happened in the past is that perhaps it will finally occur to her that we don’t enjoy getting her “locked-up”. The other hope is that she will develop enough insight into her condition that she will catch the early warning signs and manage to avoid a full-blown psychotic break. Most of the time when we talk about the things that happened, we will all be laughing. I don't mean that we truly find it funny but we can find the humor when she is back to normal.

Last year was the first year that she has not had an episode since 2001. She showed some symptoms but was able to get it under control before it became bad. Her psychiatrist has really stressed the importance of a proper diet, plenty of sleep and keeping her stress levels down. She is no longer court-ordered to take the anti-psychotic medication but she claims that she does take a low dose at times. She is very afraid of going back to being crazy as well as being forced back to the psych. ward.

She is on Social Security disability now, which has been wonderful for allowing her to keep her stress level down. It’s kind of ironic because you would never guess she was disabled. But if she started a job again it would be just a matter of time before her paranoia resurfaced to the extent that she would be unable to work.

The problem now is that she’s bored. She has been looking at jobs online and keeps finding things that she would like to apply for. She called me a few days ago to tell me about a job that she was interested in that would require moving to Florida.

Lynne- “I’m thinking about applying for this job as a _________ (something like VP of some department in a large company).
Me- “Oh, yeah?”
Lynne- “Yeah. It’s in Florida.”
Me- “Ok. You really think that they would hire you?”
Lynne- “Yes, I think they might. They do a lot for disabled people you know and maybe the fact that I’m disabled would work in my favor.”
Me- “Just because they help disabled people doesn’t mean that they want them running the place.”
Lynne, laughs- “Yeah, you might have a point there.”

Last night I was talking to Lynne about the possibility of applying for another job out-of-state. She then started talking about how what she really wanted was not a job but to have another baby.

Lynne- “I could just take your baby.”
Me- “No, I think you’ll have to get your own.”
Lynne- “Darn it.”
Me, bringing up a past delusion- “Hey, remember when Katie was a baby and you kept telling me that you were lactating and that you could feed my baby?”
Lynne-“Well, I WAS!”
Me- “I had to keep telling you to keep that freaky breast-milk away from my baby. By the way, that goes for this baby, too.”
Mom, silent up until now- “Yeah, and stay away from my cat. You’ll probably be trying to feed her next.”

Stay tuned for Part-2: Lynne explains what REALLY happened when she ended up crazy, wandering the streets of L.A. Now THAT is a wild story.


Loralee Choate said...

I have learned a lot about mental illness in the last four years.

The biggest thing being that it is really misunderstood by a lot of people.

Either way it is definitely not an easy road. Not at all.

Laughter is a good way to cope, though. ;)

Mark said...

Lynne- “I’m thinking about applying for this job as a _________ (something like VP of some department in a large company).

This shows she is indeed naive. I hope she takes your council on important matters.

S said...

So, she really wants to get her next job as a wet nurse?

J. said...

Hi Lisa, just wanted to say that I enjoy your blog and I'm very sorry I missed out on your "confessional" entry. Having more than one relative with mental issues and a husband who is often a DH, I find your writing comforting, although you have more kids than I would ever even consider having.

AmandaH said...

I'm a regular reader! Although I don't comment. So, hi!

I can't wait until Park 2. A few weeks ago I read your archives and read about your sister, so it's still fresh in my mind.

Thanks for writing all that you do. I enjoy reading it, and I check back everyday for more!

Sara said...

I still think the cyclical nature of her illness is due to parasites...what was that link you had to some doc who had a patient where they discussed "The Worms"? I still it's like the worms...

Also, surprisingly, her "naivete" (sp?) seems to really work for her. She is so compent, convincing, articulate, and witty, when she's not losing touch with reality, that she really could go and just get a job doing such and such. When was the last time an employer looked at your mental health record? They look at prison, and your credit score...