Janet: Family Support

Initially, Janet’s parents provided a safety net for David. He would call them when he needed money. Although David did not live with his parents, on one occasion when his parents were gone, he brought friends to his parents’ home. When friends stole some of their belongings, the family could see signs of David’s instability. This was the beginning of a spiral of increasing symptoms that eventually led to incarceration.

As their parents became older and experienced illness, Janet and her sister Laura took over when David need help.

My parents started to age. My dad became ill. They would always try to handle it. Then my sister and I got involved because my dad died. When he got out [of jail], he needed a place to go. My mom’s alone, down in Florida living on her own, was renting an apartment. My dad’s gone now. He [David] was goofy and she being the mom, took him in. But she had to move because it was the end of winter and she wanted to move back north and she needed help to move.

Janet traveled to Florida to help her mother move. Meanwhile she observed her brother “acting crazy.” He cooked grapefruit and bread together on the stove for a very long time. David told her not touch it. He was staying up late and not sleeping. Her goal was to close up the apartment and get her mother to the airport; however, David was not cleaning up his room and he was extremely irritable. She worried about David becoming even angrier; she had never been around him when he acted so angry.

It was quite an ordeal. I was able to get him out, get my mom on the plane, and left him to himself. He ended up moving in with an older friend of his who’s an older man. He stayed there for a while, because he had lost his mobile home. He lost the home because he was acting goofy there. When we would visit him, his home was really trashy. Things periodically would fall apart and he would have trouble coping and paying bills.

Janet and her sister Laura took over monitoring David’s behavior. After their mother died, David settled down and started working. Laura, who is a lawyer, manages David’s finances. He continues to live in Florida but visits his sisters once or twice a year and Laura visits David in Florida.

As Janet and Laura became informal guardians for David, the sisters became closer to one another. They aim to stay in touch with him. David would always call their mother once a week, and so Janet tries to call him once a week. With Laura managing David’s finances, he has less stress about financial decisions. Communication with David is challenging.

He has a very simple life, a very quiet life. He has some hearing loss—I think from all the working with the optical machines. He doesn’t have a lot of friends that we know about. When he comes to visit me, he will read the entire time and visit with us a little bit. If we sit at the table and I start asking him too many questions, then I notice he’s done eating and leaves. I’m just trying to engage in conversation. . .He can be very social. But because of living alone, he’s in this quiet mode all the time. I think being around all of us is not his routine.

More of the Story: Triggers for Mental Illness