Janet: Let people be who they are

“I think it’s made me more compassionate.”

Janet found out about her brother’s “goofy” behavior when he was 18 or 19. David, four years younger, talked very fast and made a dangerous plan to drive a snowmobile over 30 miles through fenced fields. She came home from college to support her mother, but they didn’t know what to do. Her mother, an experienced nurse, consulted a doctor and also a priest who came to see the family. Hospitalization for her brother soon followed.

He was put in the state hospital and we visited him there. It’s a holding pen. That’s how I thought. I think they put him on meds. That was the first incident. They called him paranoid schizophrenic. I don’t remember bipolar back then even being a diagnosis.

David was diagnosed with bipolar disorder many years later. Although he did not experience additional hospitalizations, he was incarcerated at least two times. Janet described David’s pattern of episodes.

It seemed like every five years, he would quit his job, be fed up, and then go to Las Vegas, lose his laptop, or move somewhere. Because my parents took the burden of what was going on, I didn’t know all the details other than I worried about David. I know he would move, quit jobs, be talking, what we would call crazy—just talking fast. I wondered if he just couldn’t handle stress.

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