There is a fantastic article up on the New York Times website, coming out in print this weekend in the NYT Magazine, called When My Crazy Father Actually Lost His Mind, by Janeen Interlandi. The author tells the chaotic story of how her family tried to get help for her 69 year old father who was ill with a manic episode. In it, he bounces from hospital to jail to ER, to homelessness, over and over. She talks about the catch-22's with the legal/psychiatric system with a father who is dangerous enough for a restraining order to keep him from his family, but not dangerous enough for civil commitment, and she talks about stories of others families where awful things have happened. Her love for her father comes through, mixed in with her frustration that there is no place or mechanism to help such people. Ah, but the story has a happy ending. It reminded me a lot of Pete Earley's book Crazy: A Father's Search Through America's Mental Health Madness.
And so for weeks, we had been locked in a game of chicken: waiting for my father to do something clearly dangerous; praying like hell that it would not be his suicide or accidental death or the death of someone else. In the meantime, my mother had all but stopped sleeping and had started hiding the car keys and the checkbook. She would tiptoe around their one-bedroom apartment at night, waiting for him to doze off, then call my sister or me to unload her despair in a flurry of whispers.
Oh, I can't begin to do this article justice in a blog post, you'll just have to read it.