After many years of denial and resistance in my family – and after the suicide of my oldest brother in 2016, due to depression…this year, I got my parents to participate in the NAMI Family to Family class (for most of it), and begrudgingly, I’ve gotten my father to participate in a family-coaching class on the LEAP method.
My remaining brother is 54 years old and has been living with our parents for the past 3 years. He had his first mega-psychotic break at age 28, which was a jumble of extraordinary delusions, channeling spirits, hallucinations, a rock-solid belief that he was psychic, and suicidal thoughts. He ultimately shoved our mom when she confronted him…but looking back, maybe this is what got him to go see a psychiatrist.
I’ve always felt that first psychiatrist visit was a tragedy of an insufficient diagnosis, for everybody. He was diagnosed with “major depression”, and he stopped taking the meds when he started to feel the effects. Even if we were to say he had bipolar disorder, it was a half-diagnosis, but my view then, and today, is that the answer is somewhere on the schizophrenia spectrum.
He’s cycled through multiple psychotic breaks in his life, involving the Illuminati, bug spray/weed killer, stock market manipulation, government surveillance, etc., and he has never been financially independent or consistently employed. We had him on a temporary hold in 2017 when he threatened suicide, but even then, to my knowledge, there was no diagnosis. My brother has never seen a psychiatrist in his life, other than that time when he was 28.
By doing LEAP, we are trying something different, other than loving, praying, reasoning, or telling him what to do. Asking/encouraging him directly to get psychological or psychiatric help leads to paranoid defenses and the wall between my brother and my father gets higher, every time it’s mentioned.
My father is not a patient, empathetic, or nurturing person. I see the long-term potential of the LEAP method, and I think my mother does, too, but my Dad is feeling exasperated by my brother’s negative symptoms: not talking, not coming out of the room, etc., while also not understanding that these (and other) symptoms indicate that my brother has schizophrenia. My mother, on the other hand, is sincerely worried that my brother is going to kill himself, by not eating, drinking water, or overdosing on sleeping pills. I live across the country, and it’s hard to verify what’s really going on, but my read of the situation is that we can’t have him committed until/unless he is a threat to himself or others.
- Assuming that my brother is in fact taking sleeping pills, how do we set boundaries on this, in a way that won’t disengage him further, or plunge him into paranoia?
- Could we put him in a hold on account of taking sleeping pills? Or would he have to overdose (morbid thought) in order to do so?
- If you have traveled a long road to diagnosis and treatment, what would you recommend in order to get your loved one and you to that point, mostly in one piece? With my brother’s profound lack of volition, I really don’t think homelessness will work.
- What can I tell my Dad, to help him stay the course with LEAP?
- What can we do, to help prevent this from becoming another suicide, between now and the hopeful day when he seeks treatment? His daughter turns 18 soon, and she will move out one day. We need to be ready for the crisis of transition….