Where Did My Brother Go?
Do you know that feeling when something just isn’t right? Unfortunately, I am quite familiar and have experienced it many times. Approximately nine years ago my brother Ryan was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia at the age of seventeen. Now 26-years-old, Ryan has endured countless “psychotic breaks” or “episodes” resulting in hospital stays and more medication cocktails than I can remember. He seems to somewhat manage the disease at times, but ultimately will end up not complying with the medications his doctor has prescribed, which lands him back in the hospital.
So our family waits for the phone calls. Usually they come in the early morning hours. Sometimes Ryan is crying uncontrollably for a reason that is unclear, even to himself. Occasionally he is upset and ranting about something insignificant which (may or may not have actually) happened many years ago.
I recall one time in particular where I knew something was wrong. I could tell Ryan had not been taking his meds, but he insisted he was, so we all just went on with our day as usual. I was working at a restaurant at the time and I remember sitting on a cinder block outside the kitchen door crying because I knew there was nothing I could do to help him. I got a phone call from his friend who told me Ryan was at her house earlier that evening, but he was acting “weird’ so she asked him to leave. He never came home, so when I got off work I went looking for him.
During my search of our small town, I got a phone call from a police officer. I don’t remember his name, but he told me Ryan was arrested earlier that evening for driving while intoxicated (DWI). I told the officer I was confused because he did not drink very often. The officer stated Ryan had not been drinking, but it was obvious that he was high on some type of drug and a blood test was done to determine what was in his system. The officer then stated that Ryan parked his car in the middle of a busy highway and laid on the ground to “listen to the yellow lines.” I informed the officer of his diagnosis and asked when he would be released. The officer stated Ryan will be held overnight and he will be allowed a phone call in the morning.
Morning came and Ryan called in tears, asking me to come get him. I called our mother to let her know what was going on. We decided it would be best to take him directly to the Community Services Board (CSB) to be evaluated and transported to a psychiatric hospital. I called a bondsman and he met us at the jail. All the paperwork was filled out and Ryan was released.
He walked out looking disheveled and dirty from laying on the ground the night before. As we were driving, he was saying off-the-wall things. He thought he was a professional football player, and he told us of the game he played in last night where he was the star player. When he realized our destination was the CSB and he would be hospitalized, he became irate. He screamed at me to stop the vehicle and let him out as he beat and pounded on the dashboard. I hit the brakes and considered stopping to let him out because I was terrified of what he might do if I didn’t. From the backseat my mother quietly told me to keep driving. Ryan didn’t approve of this and he drew his fist back threatening to hit me. Thank God he didn’t because I don’t think I would ever have been able to forgive him, even given the circumstances.
We arrived at the CSB and Ryan attempted to escape multiple times. He would run down the hall charging toward the exit only to be held back by a security guard. This went on for about six hours while the staff attempted to find a hospital with an open bed. They finally found one, and two officers came to transport Ryan. Before leaving, we said our goodbyes. He hugged me and I thought he would never let go. When he pulled away I could see the fear and pain in his eyes, the demons that haunted him. All I felt in that moment was immense sorrow.
Ryan eventually came home, sedated and a little less himself. With every episode he loses a piece of who he used to be. He is no longer the spirited and charming person he once was. Ryan’s reality is not bright and shiny or inspirational, it is dark and dismal. I fear for what will become of him if this cycle continues.
Pullout: “He hugged me and I thought he would never let go. When he pulled away I could see the fear and pain in his eyes, the demons that haunted him. All I felt in that moment was immense sorrow.”