Thomas was born the youngest of four children and he grew up nuts. Just plain crazy. I have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, narcissism, and maybe a few other things I don’t remember, so I belong to the group of people that has the right to call other people crazy. I figure it’s a lot nicer to call someone crazy than to label them with all these wrong diagnoses. (The fact that I have been given these labels doesn’t mean I have these illnesses, see also http://behindthelockeddoors.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/how-i-got-diagnosed-with-unconscious-paranoid/ and http://behindthelockeddoors.wordpress.com/2011/02/22/anna-the-embed-how-i-got-diagnosed-with-narcissism-part-iv/ .) I just call Tom crazy because that’s the kinder, gentler way of describing his difficulties.
Tom got married and had three kids—even us crazy people gotta have a life—but his youngest daughter died shortly after birth. Upon investigation it turned out that the baby had a rare disease resulting from missing part of a chromosome. Upon further investigation it turned out that Tom was missing the same part of a chromosome, and last year they found out that most people with this problem, in addition to having a complex set of physical manifestations, also act pretty crazy. Life is really tough if you don’t get to start with a full set of parts.
Tom’s sisters and brother had spent their lives trying to help Tom but, when push came to shove, their parents would apply money until the problem du jour went away. No long-term solutions were ever established. Periodically, the siblings who got their full share of chromosomes would give up and go away, then, because they are really nice, caring people, they would come back and try again to be helpful, except for one sister who lived out of state.
Tom, of course, had been way too crazy to hold a job so his wife was holding two of them, both at convenience stores. His wife is a very nice, kind woman who loves her husband but she’s also not terribly bright and is very passive. Tell her what to do and she’ll do it but she’ll never figure it out on her own, so the home situation is in total disarray. Sometimes Tom would see a psychotherapist or a psychiatrist who (of course) would prescribe pills which sometimes Tom would take and sometimes he wouldn’t. And the real corker here is that sometimes Tom can be entirely functional and then he can go off the rails without any warning.
So now we come to a month ago when Tom got an order of protection against his wife. According to Tom’s brother, Terry, this is a manifestation of his craziness, not an appropriate response to a real problem. With his wife barred from the house, Tom lay down on the couch and didn’t get up—sometimes not even to go to the bathroom. He did not speak, not even to his two daughters, aged ten and twelve.
When the electric company came to shut off the power, the older girl tried, unsuccessfully, to deal with it. The landlord was threatening eviction for nonpayment of rent. There was no food in the house. There was no functioning adult either, and the mother—who couldn’t enter the home—was working from 6:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. The children existed in this situation for three weeks and then, on Monday night, the Syracuse Police Department (SPD) and emergency medical technicians arrived, followed by Tom’s brother and sister.
Tom said he wasn’t Tom; he was Vladimir. Then he jumped the police and EMTs and tried to beat them up. At that point they took Tom to CPEP—the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program—and called Child Protective Services for the two kids. Terry took the kids home with him but had to return them in the middle of the night because he had a dog and one of the girls had a violent allergic reaction. Their mom was now back in the home and took time off from work. Tuesday night, Tom’s wife, brother and sister, and their spouses had a family meeting.
Wednesday Tom’s sister Stephanie took off from work, too, to try to figure things out, and Terry called me. He said that he didn’t know where Tom was. CPEP refused to tell him if Tom was there or if or where he might have been moved. How could he find his brother? Terry needed to know how Tom was, and if he was able to make decisions, and could he give guidance on what to do about his children, and could he sign papers? (Tom had gotten a lawyer and appealed a denial for Social Security Disability, but now he was refusing to sign the necessary paperwork because, he said, the lawyer was trying to steal his money. The family was living on mom’s wages, Food Stamps and Medicaid.)
Terry and I had a long conversation while my mind reeled under the onslaught of so much information and so many problems. Where to start? My first priority was the children; their safety and well-being had to be secured. At noon, Terry was taking Barbara, the children’s mother, to a job interview where he had pulled some strings and she might get a job that would pay enough that she could quit her second job and be home with the kids after school—might and maybe. The SPD—twice—had told Terry that Child Protective Services (CPS) was being notified, so he called them. The woman who answered the phone at CPS gave Terry the name of the children’s case worker and transferred Terry to the worker’s voice mail. Twenty-four hours had elapsed and the case worker had not called back. I told Terry to call CPS and ask for the supervisor. (To be continued)