Mary M

I want to tell the rest of my son, Michael’s, story because I need the support of this community. If you read about Michael in my previous story, Two Knocks, then you know he was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at the age of 17. But maybe what I didn’t explain well enough is that Michael is, by far, the most passive and kind person I have ever known.

I’ll cut to the chase, about one year ago, in January, 2015, after spending five weeks prior in a local hospital, Michael was released. However, upon release, he was still “not right”. He was psychotic and manic the day he stepped out of the hospital. He came home but then left again, in the middle of the night. He left a note for the family, not to worry about him, because he was setting out on his own to find his own truths, as he put it.

We were frantic, looking for him but then, the following morning, we got a call from a local policeman, Office Shepherd, who knew Michael and his diagnosis. The officer and his partner had coincidentally, been called to the area where they found Michael – sitting in the snow, barefooted, praying – because a horse had fallen into the pond across the street from the church where Michael sat. A crane had been called in to rescue the horse and was snarling traffic so the police were summoned.

Recognizing Michael immediately, Officer Shepherd called my oldest son, Nick, to ask what they should do about Michael sitting in the snow, no coat, no shoes. Really? They asked Nick? Anyway, Nick told Officer Shepherd to tell Michael to come home; we’ve been worried about him. So Officer Shepherd relayed Nick’s message to Michael and then left him alone to direct traffic.

About ten or fifteen minutes later, Michael began to hear a voice in his head that told him, “Get home! Get home quickly!” So he got into his car and careened down the hill away from the church and into the mayhem that was taking place in the intersection below; police, standbys, newspaper reporter, cameraman, horse… “Get home, get home quickly!” the voice cried.

Michael swerved and accidentally ran over Officer Shepherd’s foot and then crashed into a guardrail. He got out of his car and began to run home. The two officers chased him down (Shepherd too) and wrestled him to the ground and put him in the back of their police car, about twenty minutes too late, and took him downtown. But not to a hospital, no, they took him to see the judge.

As he stood in the courtroom, barefooted, as Nick stood outside the courtroom, crying and holding up his shoes, Michael was charged with attempted murder of a police officer and was immediately sent to prison.

He remained in prison for nine months before finally being transferred to a state hospital for the mentally ill. He has since been found not guilty by reason of insanity. However, and this is where I need help – I’m desperate – they have no intention of ever letting him out. My passive, kind son is currently being housed with the criminally insane and he may remain there for the rest of his life!

I have reached out to state and local advocacy groups and although they are outraged at what has happened to Michael, they offer no solution. I ask you, the community in support of the mentally ill, what else can be done to release my dying son? And he is dying. State hospitals bread insanity. It’s a pressure cooker and I fear every time the phone rings from the hospital that I will be told that Michael killed himself.

7 responses to “Mary M”

  1. Mary Ann says:

    I would contact your local NAMI chapter, your state representatives/congress people and The Treatment Advocacy Center.

  2. Carol says:

    I hear your words and pain. I wish there was more we could do to change the culture of judgement we’ve created in the country when dealing with those with mental illness. I am sorry to hear of your challenges that seem beyond inhumane. Your son is symbolic of the masses who remain uneducated on the topic of mental wellness/illness. It reminds me of how thankful I am that the Rochester, NH police department is trained to respond to mental health issues. I believe their training is mirrored after the Memphis, TN program. A little education, to include in our workplaces would do a lot of good in the world. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/memphis-changed-way-police-respond-mental-health-crises/

  3. Geace says:

    Seek an attorney who specializes in guardianship. Join NAMI. Seek all avenues of advocacy offered by NAMI. Been there. Don’t give up!!! When one door shuts (and it does happen) go to the next door for help!! Just don’t stop!!!!!

  4. Larissa says:

    Mary,

    I’m so sorry to hear what has happened to your son. I live with schizoaffective disorder, depressive type. I was originally labeled as a schizophrenic, which is a necessary intermediate because the proper diagnosis of SA requires an extended history of mental illness that people with first-episode psychosis don’t usually have. I was originally hospitalized for several weeks when I had my first psychotic break, at age 18. I was depressed for a long time before going away to college, but both my despair and then hallucinations escalated dramatically under the pressure of a new environment and academic challenges. I have attempted suicide 7 times, including jumping from a 110-foot tall highway overpass onto the roadway below. I have been in the hospital more times than you have fingers to count on. My family and I have been through the ringer over the years, there’s no doubt about that. I can’t begin to appreciate the situation you’re in, though my mom probably would quite well. She’s driven hours and hours to get to me in emergencies over the years and she knows what it’s like to fear for what will come when the phone rings. I know that things seem really really desperate right now and that you want to be with him and help him and comfort him and protect him, but please know that you’re doing the best you can. Being the sick person in the equation, you don’t always realize what you need and what’s best and how you’re going to cope with things, but now that I’m doing better, I can see those things more clearly. I also know now, despite my paranoid thinking, that there are people who are trying their best to help get me through the really tough times and that helps a lot. The thought of the people who love me has stayed my hand many times when I wanted to end it all. Please just keep reminding him how much everyone loves him and needs him in their lives and wants to protect and keep him. As someone with SA, I know how much you need to hear that. You need to know that people want you around, that you’re not just a needless burden for them to bear, that you’re loved. My understanding of the legal system is limited, so I can’t offer much help there, but I will pray for Michael, you and his other loved ones, and for justice and mercy from the people who have a hand in how his future will be decided. When I am really suffering, my therapist always asks me a specific set of questions. Have you felt really bad before? Did it ever get better? The answer is, of course, it does always eventually get better, in some way or another. Don’t lose hope. Know that there are people who care deeply and who understand. If someone like me can get a Master’s degree (just graduated in December!), he will, with all the help you can give, make it home to you safe.

  5. Monique says:

    How can we help

  6. Mary Mack says:

    Thank you, everyone, especially you, Larissa. You made me cry tears of hope for Michael.

    I will keep fighting for him, thanks for listening.

    Mary

  7. nina says:

    Have you tried to start an internet petition. LIke one like this from move on .org. http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/calling-all-us-political

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