I have some hard news to share. I started writing in my personal journal a few weeks about my family situation because I was fed up. I needed an outlet to get all of my thoughts out of my head. I was about to share and call for help from anyone and everyone, but then I held back. I thought, maybe I shouldn’t put it all out there. But then I read this blog post from a blogger I have been following for a very long time, and I instantly felt like someone else out there understood. That I’m not alone in this fight. She literally said everything I have been feeling and I started to realize that it is time that I open up about a big part of my life that is in danger right now.
Many people who know me very personally know that my relationship with my sister has been struggling for a while now. She has battled depression most of her life, from the time she was about 10 years old. Now, that may seem very young, but a few select people know what happened in my sister’s childhood that impacted her so roughly. She actually went on to have some good years in high school and was turning her life around, starting environmental clubs, was about to save the planet and even got a full ride to Berkeley. But then a few other things happened. Things took a turn for the worse. I won’t get into all those details just now. If anyone were to ask me about it I would openly talk about it, but there are some things that don’t necessarily need to be written about on the Internet to live on forever, ya know?
Even though I know about the events that eventually led us here, I still don’t quite understand how we went from the fun-loving, go-getter sister to where we are today. In the past year, things really took the biggest dive. She has always suffered from depression, but in the last year she started becoming very, very paranoid. She started sayiing the most odd things that just didn’t make sense. I could give you a laundry list of things that she says but that just wouldn’t do it justice. My sister dropped out of college, traveled a bit and eventually ended back at my moms around the time I was engaged. I asked her to be my MOH but she honestly showed very little enthusiasm about anything related to my wedding. She started acting very weird. Once a socialite, now she stayed in her room all day, couldn’t sleep at night and binged on everything at my mom’s house at random times. She couldn’t hold down a job because she just has no self awareness.
I would be sitting there having a conversation with my sister, and seeing her physically there, I know it’s her, but it just doesn’t sound like her. When I talk she will act like she is listening but there is a vacant look in her didn’t. It’s almost as if what I’m saying doesn’t register at all in her mind. When she talks to me, she goes off on these crazy tangents and thinks everyone is out to get her. People started to notice and we had her college friends, high school friends and acquaintances texting and messaging us, asking if she was OK. We tried to be a united front and all kept telling her the same message: she needed professional help.
Our friends and family have taken her in and given her job opportunities, but she is beyond the point of functioning normally. Finally, she had nowhere else to turn but end up back at my mom’s.
My mom and my sister have always had a weird relationship. My sister has always belittled my mother. They would get in huge fights, and my sister would later go back and apologize, but now she is in such a bad mental state that all she does is treat my mom badly. And my mom puts up with it, of course. She thinks she can solve all of my sister’s problems.
Now it’s to the point of my mom becoming the enabler of Cailey’s behavior. My mom tries to step in and solve my sister’s problems, when really my sister just needs to figure it out on her own.
My sister does not believe she needs help. She thinks we are all the crazy ones. In the last few months my sister would literally creep in my mom’s room at night and scream in her face. My mom is helpless because she is quadriplegic and there was nothing she could physically do to remove herself from the situation.
Two years ago, I was traveling to my cousin’s wedding shower in Austin and the morning of, my sister got upset and told me she was going to commit suicide. She said that she was going home to tell my mom goodbye and then she was going to do it. I of course immediately called my mom and told her what she said. Then I called Richard because I had no idea what to do and he was much closer to my mom’s house at that point and he said he would go be there for my mom and would call the police since she was claiming to be a danger to herself. The police arrived to my mom’s and they spoke to my sister. Richard pulled up my mom’s phone and to show where my sister had said terrible things, basically to show that we weren’t making this story up. She started yelling and screaming and they decided to take her in. MHMR got involved but she was deemed, “not an immediate danger to herself or others” and released her that night. After that, my sister decided to go back to California because she didn’t like that we had called the police. But she couldn’t make it out in California on her own and she returned back to my mom’s house.
Things were OK for a while. My sister basically didn’t sleep at night, would cook and leave stuff in the oven and almost burned my mom’s house down a couple of times. Her paranoia continued to get worse. She would bounce around from Houston to Austin, floating around on people’s couches until they kicked her out.
All along the way, I kept researching for ways to get her help. At that point, my family had tried to call the police, the mental health police, connect her with social workers, psychiatrists, etc. But no one could legally hold her if a) she didn’t want help and b) was not “deemed a danger to herself or others.” [Side note, I freaking HATE that phrase] I started to almost yell at a MHMR employee one day, saying it’s unbelievable that we have to get to the point of no return to actually help someone who is not mentally capable of helping themselves.
Beyond that stressful behavior, my sister became so delusional that she started doing weird things to my mom. Weird and scary, as in stealing her phone away so my mom couldn’t call for help. Since my mom is quadriplegic her phone is basically her lifeline. My mom also has a button on her wheelchair that she would use in case of emergency if she falls out of her chair and can’t get up or something. My sister took that button away and even started locking my mom in her own house. At that point, my mom realized she had to do something.
A few weekends ago when my sister locked my mom in her house, my mom’s service dog was able to bring my mom’s phone back to her (that my sister had taken away). Then my mom called the police. The police came over, called the constable, called MHMR who then also arrived. They were all there for four hours gathering information and eventually decided to take my sister in to the mental health hospital. FINALLY, someone was listening. I was honestly scared that it was going to get to the point of my sister actually physically hurting my mom before anyone would listen, and I was just so thankful that (even though it was all still very scary) it was just my sister locking my mom in her house. I had been on edge the entire time my sister was living with my mom, worried that my sister was going to hurt my mom.
So my sister was taken to a mental health hospital and held against her will. The entire time she was there she was not cooperative at all. They decided to try and get her to meet with a judge to try and force her to take medicine. My mom was going to show up and speak to the judge but got a call that day that the interview was going to be over the phone between just the judge and my sister because they were worried about transporting her and her behavior. They eventually got clearance to get her medication. We were told she would be there 45 days. I finally felt a sigh of relief. I knew medicine was what was needed, but it takes a solid month for those kinds of medications to really start to have an impact.
Things were going much better for my mom and we were all gaining our mental strength back and for the first time in over a year, really starting to feel hopeful. Then we got the call. The call that my sister was going to be released – after only 14 days.
EXCUSE ME?! What the heck? Didn’t the judge, therapist, nurses, etc. all just agree with us that my sister’s behavior was still not normal? We didn’t get any information and were basically told the morning of that my sister was getting released.
So my mom went to pick her up and offered to put her in a hotel for a few days. My sister did her normal thing where she talks like she is going to get a job and has some leads, but we all know there is nothing. My mom was about to invite her back into the house, but I had to have another hard conversation with my mom and remind her that this is just not going to do any good for anybody. It is such a struggle right now, because my sister still won’t admit that she has a problem so she won’t go into the housing that the mental health hospital recommended that she could really benefit from.
If my sister could stay on medication I do think she could still live a full life. I kept pressing my mom to ask about her diagnosis from the mental health hospital, but since she is a legal adult they can’t share much info with us. What I gather is that despite her uncooperativeness, they diagnosed her with bipolar disorder, but I don’t think that’s 100% accurate. There is too much paranoia there for it to be just that. My biggest fear is that without proper treatment, it could turn into full blown paranoid schizophrenia.
At what point is it too late? At what point does she turn violent and physically hurt my mom or someone else or herself? What can I do? What can anyone do?
I turned to a friend of mine who I consider an activist in these matters (not sure if she would call herself that but I do!) She usually knows the right things to do that will have the most impact. Basically, with the current administration and the GOP in power, they’ve made drastic cuts to healthcare and the ACA, which also includes access to mental health treatment. But she did present a few resources of ways anyone can take action. I have also done some research and included a few links to get involved, donate or write to legislators:
National Alliance on Mental Illness: Get Involved
Mental Health First Aid:
For gun control, check out Moms Demand Action. Nationally, they’re doing fantastic work helping get pro-gun control candidates elected as well as advocating for commonsense gun laws.
Lastly, I ask that you have patience with me. If I seem tired or irritable, you might think it’s because I have a 5-month old. But my baby’s sleep is actually the least of my worries. He is a complete angel. What keeps me up at night is worrying about my sister. I want my sister back. I want Connor to grow up knowing his aunt. I know that I will most likely not ever have the same relationship with my sister that I had a few years ago, but I would be happy just knowing that she is content and feels loved and cared for. As someone who wants to fix EVERYTHING, it is difficult for me to not be able to do much right now other than try to bring more awareness to this mental health topic.
So my biggest goal is just to start the conversation. I hope I have inspired you to take action.
Editors Note: I have tried to boil down the information to what is just necessary to tell my story. I have just skimmed the surface. We have gone through an emotional roller coaster for years and there is a lot more to the situation than what I have alluded to. But I wanted to make this short enough so that it is readable and get to the point that I really want to make, which is to speak up on the mental health and gun control topics. Make a change. Our country needs it.