Up Close and Personal (May is National Mental Health Awareness Month)

Yes, my family has been affected by mental illness and I am writing about it today. My brother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia before passing away in 1995. This is a difficult topic to write about because it is emotional, complex and complicated. I will try to describe Raymond’s story with the detail and respect he deserves.

Raymond and I shared an apartment about the same time the disease began to take hold. In other words, his paranoid episodes were becoming frequent and more intense. I would hear him talking to himself in his room, and at times I’d hear him become agitated and angry. On a few occasions, I became annoyed and impatient with him which usually resulted in us yelling at each other and me leaving the apartment. Although these times were frightening to me, I never feared him because I knew in my heart he wouldn’t hurt me.  These episodes caused me to be anxious as they didn’t make sense nor was I able to control them. Can you imagine the fear he felt?

Months later, my parents urged him to move in with them. My mother had a special bond with Raymond. Perhaps she felt his pain as only a mother could. The next paragraph, written by my sister, describes the turning point that ultimately brought him the help he needed.

The most difficult time I remember was when Raymond was left home alone while the rest of the family went to my sister’s house for Easter. When we returned home later that evening, my father told us the neighbors had called the police because they felt Raymond’s behavior that afternoon was troubling to the children who lived in the apartment complex. The neighbors knew him and told the police he was not a danger but was mentally unstable. The police initially brought him to the station, then transferred him to a facility in Downey, California, for a 5150 psychiatric hold.  I wanted to be with my brother. When I tried to gather all his necessary belongings, I came across a notebook he kept in his dresser. I was not able to contain the emotions I was feeling when reading through his notes. The notes had many obscure writings and scribbles – I could see, feel and live through some of the pain he must have felt during his torturous mental anguish. He drew stick figures of him calling out for help wanting to escape. That was the first time I fully understood the suffering he endured.

As painful as the series of events described above may have been, it was a blessing and an answer to our prayers because he was finally able to get professional help and medication for his schizophrenia.

Raymond continued to experience small episodes of paranoia, and in 1989, after stabilizing somewhat, I asked him to be in my wedding – I was happy and proud to have him be a part of that special day.

Mental illness is a disease that comes in many forms and crosses all boundaries. My brother was a beautiful, generous and kind person. He did not choose this disease and I will not allow his memory to be defined by it.

2 thoughts on “Up Close and Personal (May is National Mental Health Awareness Month)

  1. princehal says:

    I understand your pain Cindy. As a brother I have watched my brother struggle with various diagnoses ranging from bipolar disorder to psychizoaffective disorder. For long stretches he is able to work, enjoy sports, movies and other elements of life and at others he can do none of these. He is currently in one of the good periods after nearly 2 years in a trough. He is one of the ppeople I most respect because I know that every day is a fight for him to get up and do his very best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your note and compassion. Watching a family member suffer is a great burden. I hope your brother will experience wellness more than the illness. Best to you and your family.

      Like

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