Tag Archives: mental illness

The Order

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Yesterday we received a notice from the court.  It has been ordered that due to his present mental status it is in the best interest of Evan to have no visitation with Eliza at this time.  It did not specify if or when her rights would be restored.  Nor did it acknowledge any of the other “concerns” that she had.

A part of me feels that she got what she asked for.  She was not at all truthful in her letter and had no reason to write it in the first place.  I felt like she wanted us to be punished for not giving into her every whim and desire.  I tried to warn her that this could happen.  However, she told me that “no judge would take my rights away.” 

There is a side of me also that feels sorry for her.  I know she will not take this news in stride.  I know it will be hard for her.  I’m sure she will blame us somehow, some way.

But she needs to understand the severity of Evan’s mental state.  I don’t know if this will help her realize it, however, this ruling takes a lot of pressure off of us.  She is currently in solitary confinement and I believe that this will give her time to think without the opinions of the other women influencing her.

Regardless of her reaction, I am just glad to have this matter finally resolved.

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Her Sleeve

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By now, I know that Eliza has received our letter that we wrote in response to hers. I’m sure she was not happy with what was written considering that we soundly refuted every concern she raised.  Eliza thought  she was going to be able to write the judge without us ever knowing and get a ruling in her favor.  It probably was a shock to her system when she received the letter from the clerk informing her that we were sent a copy.  So at today’s visit I had no idea what to expect from her.  At the last visit  she was nervous and insecure.

 I suppose I thought she would be somewhat distant and/or hostile.  With that in mind I braced myself for whatever was coming.  However, she was on her very best behavior, other than throwing one jab my husband’s way when I gave her an update about Evan (She declared that Evan’s mental illness derives from my husband’s family because he has a cousin who is schitzophrenic.  I told her that it was unlikely because it was his cousin’s mom who suffered from mental illness. My husband and his cousin are related because their dads are brothers.)  She was quite charming.  She even asked about Nicholas–something that she has NEVER done before.  Eliza also asked if I would write her regarding the conversation that I have scheduled with Evan’s pyschiatrist on Wednesday.  And:

  • She apologized for taking 45 minutes to come out.
  • She shared with me that she is interested in taking cosmetology classes.
  • Eliza has put in a transfer request to a prison that is much closer.
  • Eliza hugged me at the end of the visit.
  • She shared with me that her culinary arts class would get to cook a Thanksgiving dinner which gave her something to look forward to.
  • She asked if I would send her more of Evan’s drawings.
  • She inquired about how my stepfather was doing.
  • Eliza told me the times that her other son has football games so that I could take the boys if I wanted.
  • She expressed her thanks and appreciation to me for bringing Ethan down.

It was a tad unsettling.  She is the proverbial box of chocolates that Forest Gump spoke of, you just never know what your gonna get.  Generally she is pleasant in person because for some reason, I think she is intimidated by me.  Once she is no longer in my presence, her true self and feelings emerge.  She allows her paranoia and anxiety to take control.  She is also aided and abetted by the numerous prison attorneys who work for free and supply her with poor, illogical advice.  Let’s not forget about the other pot stirrers who love to cook up batches of trouble and contention. 

I wonder if she felt bad for writing what she did?  Or is it that she misses the special favors that she used to get from me?  Maybe she misses hearing her name called at mail time and receiving the care packages that I used to send.  Sometimes she is so hard to read. Forgive me for being suspicious, but I am left to wonder what Eliza has up her sleeve!  It could just be her arm, but her sudden change in attitude makes a girl wonder…

Watch What You Say

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My MIL strongly believes that people are capable of speaking things into existence, both good and bad.  Case in point:  My husband and I once had a pet name for Eliza.  We used to refer to her as “Crazy.”   I don’t think it is necessary for me to explain how she was christened with this.  However, we don’t call her this any more now that Ethan and Evan live with us.  We don’t want them to hear their mom being spoken of in a derogatory manner.

One day while talking on the phone with his mom about Eliza’s growing paranoia, he slipped and called her “Crazy.”  His mom, a devoutly religious woman was appalled.  She quickly reprimanded him for the wording. 

Even though she has experienced first hand how hostile Eliza can be; she stills feels that she should be regarded with dignity.  When my husband’s father died, his mom made the trip from Michigan to attend the funeral.  During this time Eliza and my one day in-the-future husband were separated.  She would not allow the kids to attend the funeral.  My MIL rarely came to town and was therefore eager to see her grandchildren.  She contacted Eliza to seek permission.  Eliza would not accept the calls.  Finally my MIL and SIL went to Eliza’s house.  After reasoning and praying with her for over an hour, Eliza finally relented.

My MIL shared this story with me several years ago.  She spoke about the wrath in Eliza’s speech and heart.  She too admitted that she thought Eliza had some mental issues.  However, she remains firm that if we speak of her in respectful terms and have loving thoughts about her that she will somehow receive these warm thoughts and act accordingly.  I might have to give this a try!

We tend to label a lot of things with this word.  We use it to describe people (She is so crazy!), places (They live in a crazy house!), actions (That was a crazy thing to do!), situations (I’m in a crazy predicament.), and things in which we don’t understand (I can’t even explain it–it was just crazy!).  In today’s time “crazy” is an expression of the hip.  Hence the title of TLC’s CD “Crazy, Sexy, Cool”  or Brian McKnight’s “Crazy Love”  or Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” and I can’t forget Musiq’s “Half Crazy” and what about comedian Martin Lawrence’s popular catch phrase “You so crazy!”  Anyone wanna play a round of Crazy 8’s (I’m sure Evan does)?  Isn’t it “crazy” how this word can describe both good and bad?   My students use it frequently due to their limited vocabulary (Why we gotta take a test over MacBeth–that play was just crazy! or Mr. Lang act like he crazy!) It is a term we use so loosely with little regard to whether it is actually fitting or not.

Reluctantly I have must say that my MIL might have a point.  Crazy is too simple of a term to bestow upon Eliza.  So called “crazy”people (mentally ill) can actually seek treatments allowing them to have a relatively normal life unless in the most extreme cases.  Furthermore, I would be offended if I suffered from a mental illness and was referred to as crazy.  At this point I think “unhealthy” describes Eliza more accurately.   Unhealthy people won’t even admit that they have a problem.  She hasn’t been diagnosed with anything to my knowledge.  But I have to admit that “Unhealthy” doesn’t have the same ring as “Crazy!”  Please forgive me for this crazy post!

In Her Shoes

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When my stepson Evan was 8 years-old, he was having a lot of problems in school.  This wasn’t really anything new–he has always had self-control issues.  But because Eliza kept them away from us, we knew little about how severe his problems in school really were. 

We suspected that he had a mental illness one random weekend when Eliza allowed the boys to spend the night.  Evan arrived with a tiny blue pill in his hand.  She had instructed Ethan to make sure he took it with dinner.  When I noticed it I inquired about it.  Ethan only ten at the time, couldn’t accurately articulate why he had to take the pill.  He basically stated that it was because Evan “was acting bad in school and getting suspended a whole lot.”  We were both alarmed.  We had to wait for Eliza to pick the boys up before inquiring about the pill.  At this time she did not allow us to have her phone number and only contacted us when it benefited her.  When my husband attempted to ask her about it she told him that she would call him about it but never did.

Evan started second grade with us on a good note.  However, three days into the school year, Evan was suspended for biting a classmate.  A few weeks later we attended a skating party hosted by his school.  None of Evan’s classmates would interact with him.  Ethan confided in me later that several of the kids had approached him saying how scared of Evan they were! That was only the beginning.

My husband works over 45 minutes away from Evan’s school.  And because my job is a lot closer, it was me who had to pick him up from school when he was suspended.  Kid you not I left work at the minimum of three times per week to get him.  Sometimes I would be fortunate enough that the call or email came at the tail end of the day.  Evan’s school is dismissed at 2:00pm and ours at 2:45pm.  I was saved by the bell many times by generous co-workers who knew of our situation.  Often someone would cover my seventh period class so that I could leave.

 I used to dread when my classroom phone rang beacuse it was usually the secretary informing me that my son’s school was on the line.  The first time it happened it I felt a surge of fear.  I thought something had happened to Nicholas.  Afterall, I only had one “son.”  After that I received so many calls from his school that I became embarassed.  Surely the office staff would start to gossip about my “bad”child. 

The majority of the time the calls came right before my lunch time.  I would make a mad dash to grab him and drop him off at the sitter’s, sometimes sliding through my classroom door right before the minute bell rang.  This went on for months.  We had tried paying a child care service to pick him up when he was sent home for the day.  This worked for a few weeks before the daycare provider grew tired of picking him up so frequently.  She felt that it was taking away from her other clients.    I was livid about what Evan was putting us through.  I even secretly gave him a nickname: Crazy 8’s.  Evan was obviously acting very “crazy,” he was 8 years-old, and he was a game aficionado.  In fact, one time he was sent home for hitting the teacher because he could not finish playing the game. 

Once while presenting at a writing conference I received “the call.”  Unable to leave my husband had to pick him up.  Eventually my husband learned that he was eligible for FMLA and his job would be protected when he needed to leave.  However, this was a drain on our finances.  My sister and aunt would pick Evan up when neither him or I could leave work.   But at least we were fortunate enough that we had family who was willing to help us.   I knew a woman who wasn’t so lucky.

I worked with Lisa my first year of teaching.  I really didn’t know much about her other than that she was divorced and had a son.  Shortly I discovered more about her when she started being absent 3-4 times a week.  At first, we all thought she was ill and had no problems following the contingency plan that Ms. Johnson had established.  The plan was that each English teacher had to take 5-8 of Lisa’s students each day that she was absent.  Remember, this is high school, so that meant  we would see an extra 25-40 students per day.  And because her absences were not planned, there were no lesson plans that came along with her unruly bunch.  It got old really fast.  We were all annoyed about having to take on her responsibility in addition to our own.

One day we were all sitting around in the English office discussing Lisa and her absences.    By then it had already leaked out that she was absent so frequently due to her young son, Austin who suffered from bipolar disorder, ADHD, and ODD.  We were all beyond feeling empathy for her even though we knew that she was a single parent and that her extended family lived in Florida.  Lisa was carrying the load all by herself.  A few times she had even brought Austin to school as a last resort.  I saw him a couple of times in the English office playing quietly.  He was a cute little boy and seemed to have a sweet personality.  In other words, he didn’t “look” like anything was wrong with him.

Honestly then I was ignorant about mental illness.  I knew that bipolar disorder was a type of mental illness and what the other acronyms stood for but that was the sum of my knowledge.  Everyone had opinions about what she should do, myself included.  I made a comment wondering if Austin was truly bipolar and the room got quiet.  Lisa had entered the area.  If a hole would have opened up in the floor I would have hurled myself into it.  I felt soooo bad.

To her credit, she did not indicate that she knew what we were discussing her life.  But I am sure that she knew.  At the end of the year she was let go due to her poor attendance.  Shortly after that she moved back to her home state in order to get the support she needed.

Today I think about Lisa a lot because I am now walking in her shoes.  Now I see what a journey it is.   She would have a been a good resource for me to brainstorm with.  I see Austin in Evan.  On the surface, he looks peaceful, too.  But what lies underneath is a very troubled child.  I used to wonder if God was punishing me for my lack of understanding.  But now I know that He is using Evan to  teach me endurance, faith, and true compassion. 

Evan’s behavior became so volatile and unpredictable that he was eventually placed in an alternative school for students with behavior problems.  His behavior did not improve there, it actually worsened to the point that we finally relented to our last resort, residential treatment. 

I have learned many things since Evan has been in our home.  I have learned about the devastating toll that mental illness can take on a family.  I learned what it really means to love unconditionally when you are pushed to the limit.  I’ve learned to leave the judging up to God.  Sometimes we don’t know what others are going through based solely on our superficial observances that we deem to be the gospel.

Turn, Turn, Turn

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Dealing with Eliza’s paranoia is down right exhausting.  It just overwhelms me the way that she processes life.  Case in point, yesterday I received a letter from her that clearly displays what I am talking about.  She wrote under the guise of seeing how the boys were doing.  However, her real intent was to throw “verbal stones.”  Here’s an excerpt of parts of her long rambling letter that troubled me:

I have written all of my boys every week for the past two years.  After you stated that it was instructed for Evan not to be able to speak to me even after the court order.  I can’t help but to wonder if my baby is receiving all or any of his mail.  And it worries me.  I don’t know what these people were told but I am not and never have been an unfit parent so there is no reason why such actions should have been made without properly notfying me…

I pray that you can see my position in this situation…

If for some reason Evan hasn’t been receiving his mail I could only imagine the effect that it has taken on him.  Regardless of any past feelings toward me  it is in the best interest of Evan to know and feel that he is loved by his mom and if his mail has been or is being held this I know is very hurtful to him–not to mention it’s just wrong.  I pray this is not the case at all.  But Morocco can you blame me for worrying?  You know in your heart that I love my boys dearly and their good upbringing shows very clearly.  Evan’s behavior disability should not be taken advantage of by any means.  I pray me voicing my concerns have not offended you.  I apologize in advance if the contents of this letter has in any way.  However right now Morocco I really don’t know what to think.  But I do know that there are things that need to be addressed.  I can only pray that God continues His work with our situation.  He  has already begun and though we still may have ironing we can rest assure that God is still at work.

First of all, I have assured Eliza on several occassions that Evan has been receiving his mail.  I’m puzzled as to why she thinks that he doesn’t considering that when he writes back, he often makes mention of something she said.  We have nothing to gain by holding them from him.

Evan’s therapist did not feel that it was a good idea for her to get him more stirred up during his manic phase.  Again, she has no way of speaking to him anyway because she is in prison–the facility does not accept collect calls and I don’t think any judge would force them to do so.  She has not even been able to arrange a third party call to call our home to speak to Ethan so…??? I’m guessing that she just wants to have SOMETHING to complain about.

Unfit parent, hmm, I don’t think she is necessarily unfit (she did keep them clothed, fed, and sheltered), but I do think she is unbalanced and unhealthy.  She has killed someone in front of them, been in MANY fights in front of them, had them removed from her custody for neglect, been in MANY volatile verbal confrontations in front of them, alienated and kept them from their father–do you catch my drift?  Much of what has been told to the therapist came from Evan’s own mouth. 

Notfying her?  She is not the custodial parent so they don’t have to do so.  It hurts when the shoe is on the other foot, which is why I do keep her informed.  There are SO many things that she didn’t inform my husband of, but we don’t hold that against her because I know that an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.

Who is she praying to–the Devil?  Her blasphemy scares me.

I have told her several times that the past is the past.  Apparently it is not for her.  I think she remembers how she kept Evan and Ethan away for years and is afraid that we are going to sneak and use that against her one day.  I don’t know why she feels this way because we haven’t yet.  I take them down for monthly visits faithfully, I send pictures, school work, and report cards, I encourage them to write her, I keep her informed about their development, and I make sure that they acknowledge her on all special occassions.  What more can I do–seriously?

This is the second letter in which Eliza has mentioned how she has done such a good job with the boys.  I think she wants me to agree with her.  The problem with that opinion is that I don’t, so I can’t validate that for her.  We have picked up where she has left off.

Yes, I can blame her for worrying.  If she has handed her situation over to God as she has told me that she has many times, she shouldn’t worry.  I sent her the Serenity Prayer months ago.  The lack of control she has over this is killing her.

Behavior disability??? Try mental illness.  It blows my mind that she wants to keep her child crippled.  I can’t understand why she does not want him to get better.  We are getting him the help he needs–not at all taking advantage of him.  That was really hurtful to me.  I almost think that she has something to hide.

She doesn’t care about offending me.  She lives in her own world and plays by some set of imaginary rules that she created.  And she finds a way to contort any information that I provide her with.  I was momentarily offended and upset, but then I decided it was fruitless and made the choice not to be.  Being offended and angry about her character is like getting mad at a bee for stinging.  You can’t get mad–it’s what they do.  They were born to sting.

 The primary emotion I experienced after reading her letter was sadness.  I just feel so sad because she is making herself miserable.  I know she has a lot of time on her hands and is probably listening to the advice of many “prison lawyers,” but her paranoia is getting ridiculous.  And it doesn’t have to be this way.  We should use our problems as stepping stones to get us to a better place.  I am here for her, but only if she will allow me to be.  Though I refuse to allow her to enmesh me in her mess.  I knew one day soon the tides would turn, and surely enough, they have.  But I am not going to “turn” with her.  Here is my response to her letter:

Eliza,

Hi, I am well, thank you for inquiring.  The boys are doing fine, too.  They are both participating in the “Summer Spectacular Reading Program” again this year.

Evan is doing awesome! God has been answering our prayers.  He really loved the picture that you sent of your mom.  He was so excited to receive it.

Take care,

Morocco

I am proud of myself for not letting her manipulate me into something I am not.