In the tiny town in which I live, pop up art exhibits happen, as this one has on a fenced up erstwhile gas station on the main street. I wonder how many women walk by this every day and decide not to add their #metoo.
The mental health system in the United States is a terrible failure. Mom has been released from a second institution, again unmedicated, driver license intact, refusing outpatient therapy. She does not believe in her diagnosis. Yesterday, Mom appeared at my door and told me she’d just come from her best friend’s house where her best friend came home from visiting her husband after brain surgery and found Mom arranging flowers in her dining room. Mom is not a violent person, but that scared me, and I imagine scared her best friend.
I spent an hour talking to Mom. She brought me things she could have just dropped into recycling but didn’t, clothes she no longer wanted but that I would never wear, clean Ball jars. She filled the air with words, but couldn’t get to a point. She wanted me to do something, but couldn’t tell me what it was. I was relieved when I walked her to the door, but on the porch, she saw my neighbor’s very young son and turned back. She said she’d approached the little boy and my neighbor told Mom to stop talking to the little boy. Mom said she then walked into my backyard and visited with the chickens for a while before ringing my doorbell. My heart sank. Mom could be anywhere and in contact with anyone.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I have an appointment tomorrow morning for bloodwork, and my doctor wants me to see a cardiologist. I don’t think I have a heart problem. I think I have a someone else’s problem problem.
Yesterday, my mother went back to the hospital. She’d been out of the hospital and on a rampage for two weeks. The house is a shambles. My stepdad has been bunking in hotels. The family is exhausted and angry.
For the last two weeks, my mother tore about in the house, packing my stepdad’s stuff. She’s decided it’s over between them after 43 years. She says he’s cruel and after 43 years we know he’s not. It’s part of her mental illness in which we are all her enemies.
Yesterday, Lena, a social worker from the county, talked her way into Mom’s house while my sister Anya and I were sitting in the living room. Lena and I had made an appointment, which enraged my mother. Lena’s questions enraged my mother. Anything we said enraged my mother. Lena’s taking me aside to talk enraged my mother. Mom demanded Lena talk in Mom’s presence, but Lena and I walked away. Mom came after us and told us we were doing the exact thing she’d told us not to do.
“Mom,” I said, “she has procedures.” Mom slammed the door. Lena initially told me she did not see enough evidence that Mom was either suicidal or homicidal. She consulted with her supervisor and told me Mom was going to the hospital, we could drive her or the police could take her. I was devastated. We went inside so Lena could deliver the news, which went very badly.
Lena had spent hours with us and had to leave, but she gave Mom a deadline: she would let Anya and I drive Mom to the hospital, but in 45 minutes, she would call the facility, and if Mom wasn’t there, Lena would call the police. Mom was fully enraged by then and would not hear a word I said when I suggested she pack a bag.
Lena rang me from outside to say it had been determined that Mom had violated a court order, so the police would have to be involved. It was awful news but came as a relief to Anya and me that I wouldn’t have to drive her to Somerville across some of my least favorite highways while Mom said terrible things to us. Things happened quickly after that: a police officer arrived, then another, then an ambulance, then the ambulance left on another call. Meanwhile, Mom ran around frantically, packing a bag she eventually had to leave behind anyway. When she finally got into the police car and they drove away, Anya called her dad, who was waiting around the corner. This is what we have been reduced to by my mother’s mental illness: we talk all day every day about one person’s problems and spend all our time and energy coping with them.
By the time I got home from this 3 pm appointment with Lena, it was three hours later. My husband Pete had rearranged our bedroom. My cats weren’t sure I was sufficiently worshipful. I talked about what had happened for over an hour before we made dinner. My brother called and shouted for half an hour because he’s been so upset with Mom for weeks and feels powerless in California.
This morning, I woke up early and at 7 am, a social worker called to say Mom was being transferred back to the facility she was released from two weeks ago. I begged her to find a closer hospital. She promised to try. It’s been two hours. I am waiting.