Part 1 – Broken

Mentally ill.  Sick in the brain.  Crazy.  Loony toons.  Wacko.  Mental.  Nuts.  Fruit loop.  Insane.  Psycho.  Bonkers.

So many one line words to try to explain a condition that affects every single cell of who a person is.

Before my brother got sick, really sick, I had started taking masters level psychology classes.  Interestingly enough, I wanted to focus my efforts on the seriously mentally ill, the clinical stuff, particularly the psychotic disorders – bipolar and schizophrenia.

By the time planning for practicum rolled around, I couldn’t afford to live in a big city and work for free (which is essentially what practicum is).  I also had a law degree to finish, one that I felt would help me secure a better financial future, so I abandoned the psychology thinking I could revisit it later, if ever.

As a result, I was left with a mound of debt so high it was, is, a very large obstacle, a very expensive reminder of what I never finished.  I’ve had moments where I”ve curse myself – why did I amass so much debt studying something so seemingly useless!  No one talks to shrinks anymore – they just take meds!  Ugh, why is school so expensive!  And so on…

But it turns out, that while I didn’t finish, what I did learn has come in handy over the past few years.

Even when he hasn’t wanted it, I’ve been able to kind-of-sort-of help my sick brother.  I’ve been able to help my sick family navigate the confusing, frightening, and very tumultuous seas that are mental illness.

That’s something I’ve realized, just now in this moment: mental illness doesn’t just effect the person who’s sick, but it effects, infects, those closest to that sick person, making them sick too, in a very real way.

Mental illness makes mothers cry.

It makes siblings fight.

It makes fathers afraid in their own homes, afraid of love ones who refuse to keep psychiatrist appointments, who refuse to take meds (I may vilify them above, but for the psychotic disorders, they’re absolutely necessary in most cases).

Mental illness leaves pits in the stomachs of those who aren’t ill – those who listen to the delusions; who watch the abnormal behavior; those who care; those who want to heal every part of the broken brain that turns water into poison, that twists memories into horrible misrepresentations of the truth.

Mental illness sucks.

It sucks the color and order from this beautiful intricate life of ours and replaces it with a black and white jigsaw puzzle missing dozens of very important pieces.

My family member is very sick right now.

My parents are with him in his college town 10-hours away, taking turns in the E.R. while they wait for a bed in the psych unit.  Thank God this is happening in Nevada, where I’m happy to say that the laws are more balanced in allowing family members and concerned doctors to attempt to enforce holds on those who need them.  Not like California,  Northern California to be specific, where you have to commit a crime before they’ll take your mental illness seriously.  My poor parents are exhausted.  My poor brother is chasing his tale around a cage of paranoia and anger and fear.  And all I can do from here, hundreds of miles away is research treatment centers and blog and pray.

You know how we all want to cure cancer?  Parkinsons? Lou Gehrig disease?  Clearly there are lots of things we all want to cure.  Well, I’d like to add one more to the list: can we please find a cure for mental illness too?    Please.


Add Yours
  1. Daryl

    I’m so sorry you and your family are dealing with this right now–have been dealing with this since your brother’s illness. It seems like everyone talks about mental illness for 5 minutes whenever there’s a mass shooting, but nothing ever happens to change the broken system. I hope your brother gets the help he needs soon and that your family can have some peace. Sending you hugs.


    • Steph Mignon

      Thanks Daryl… a lot has happened since I wrote that post.. And I’m happy to say that one of the big ones is that California passed a law to temporarily remove guns from loved ones who may be mentally ill. While my brother is currently in Nevada, at least if he returns to California in the future, and we have these problems again, there’s something we can do if he gets dangerous!


  2. The infernal infertile

    Mental illness taints everyone it touches, but it brings out unknown reserves of strength too. It must be unbearably hard to watch someone so close to you go through such an extreme illness.

    Yes. We should absolutely find a cure for mental illness… And soon please!



    • Steph Mignon

      Awe – such an awesome comment… I always say that to my Mom, how it’s our job to be strong so he can get through this. So far, I’m amazed at what an awesome job my parents are doing this time around.


  3. journeyformybaby

    I whole heartedly agree. We need to find a cure! I have always felt that mental illness is so misjudged. People are so quick to look down on those with mental illness and so many people seem to think that the problem is due to bad behavior or some other ridiculous stigma instead of realizing that there are actual chemical imbalances that can occur and throw off everything. So many people who have mental illness seem very ashamed of it when the reality is, it’s not their fault any more than cancer would be.

    I’m sorry that your family is going through this right now. I hope that your brother will feel better very soon and that he gets the treatment he needs.


    • Steph Mignon

      Thank you for your insightful comment! It really is due to a misfiring/misfiring of the brain… not because someone is lazy, or a bad person. I had so many misconceptions about mental illness before experiencing this, that I know how others judge. Unless you’re well educated on the topic or have experienced a loved one’s illness first hand, it’s very difficult to understand.


  4. nickeecoco

    I’m so sorry your brother and family are going through this right now. It’s such an awful helpless feeling there’s nothing you can do but just pray. I’ll say a prayer for your brother as well.


  5. jesselyn6585

    I’m sorry to hear this. My baby sister was in and out of psychiatric facilities all through high school so I get what you’re going through (but understand every situation is different). Sending you love, patience, and strength.


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