Connie: Working Through Family Conflict

Although other family members dismissed Naomi’s behavior as getting “blue” during transition to college, Connie and Dan knew Naomi’s behavior was not typical.

The realization that there was an illness came at different times for every member of the family and it came in different ways. For Dan and me, it’s like this is real. She didn’t cause this. Her brain got hijacked. We did the education and the support groups. Her birth dad and her step mom felt that putting her on medication was the fix.

Naomi’s older sister, Laura, blocked Naomi from her cell phone. Naomi’s brother, Sam, struggled with Naomi’s bisexuality. Connie soon found that Laura and Naomi’s birth father blamed her for Naomi’s problems because Connie’s mother and sister had each attempted suicide in the past.

Laura told me, “It’s your blood line; it’s genetic. Thanks for putting the crazy gene in me. Now who’s going to want to marry me because I have a crazy sister. . . There’s a genetic marker and that comes from you. This is from your family. Your family is weak.”

Recently, Naomi revealed she started hearing voices while in high school. She thought it was her own voice talking to herself. Then in college she realized the voices were saying scary things. Connie was incredulous when she found out about the voices. When Laura learned Naomi heard voices, she realized Naomi’s irritating behavior in high school may have been connected to hearing voices.

Naomi’s four parents are now communicating better than they did in the past. They still have disagreements but they “have figured out how to be better together.” Connie recently disagreed with Jack (Naomi's father) about his decision to pay for internet access for their daughter. With internet access, Naomi tends to binge on watching series online, leading to lack of sleep, eating poorly, and poor hygiene. Connie worried about the possibility of Naomi developing manic symptoms, triggered by her obsession with the internet.

Connie and Jack also disagreed about mental health care when Naomi was in crisis in New York City. After stealing Jack's credit card, she went to visit friends who did not know she was coming. When she arrived in an agitated, belligerent, and manic state, her friends did not let her stay with them. Naomi called her parents and siblings who were on vacaion in Hawaii (Naomi had refused to go) asking them to give a credit card number to restaurants so she could eat. In New York, Naomi was homeless, rode the busses and trains all day, ended up getting raped and beat up, and finally was arrested for shoplifting. She was taken to a city hospital, put on hold followed by a civil commitment, and hospitalized for 14 weeks.

Her birth dad and stepmom, and my husband and I have very different views—we have never gotten along in parenting styles ever, and now we have this child in crisis. Her dad’s solution is he’s going to go out there and he’s going to pay for an attorney and airfare to get her out of the hospital. I’m saying, well hang on, she’s on my health insurance per our divorce agreement. At this point we don’t have ACA, Obamacare, and since she is not in school, none of this is being paid for. My husband and I are saying to my ex, if this hospital is a good setting for her and if she is getting what she needs, stay. No, no. He hires an attorney, gets her out, and brings her back to Minnesota. They land. He brings her to my house, because we’re the primary home. We make a nice dinner with the four parents to sit down. She of course, is in a very highly agitated, belligerent state. We’re trying to have a conversation with her about getting help. She goes in the garage, gets out her bike and rides off in the middle of the night and then starts the whole homeless, getting arrested cycle again. It was super-disruptive; it was really hard. Lots of tears. The only time we find about her is when we get a call from the police or hospital saying that she’s there.

The four parents met to make a plan. Connie and Dan were in the middle of the NAMI family to family class. They encouraged Naomi’s dad and stepmom to go to the one-day Hope for Recovery class. Since Naomi kept showing up at various hospitals for crises, they decided the next time one of the parents came in contact with her, they would call the police.