System Failure

After months and months of phone calls, emails, forms and faxes, today was the day. It’s been a veritable part-time job. Making call after call, inquiry after inquiry, figuring out my way through the maze turn by turn as I searched for a legal way in which to intercede on behalf of my brother. A dry drunk no longer, he threatens more than his own life as he drives home each day from helping Martha with her nightly routine. Finally, in what feels to me like the eleventh hour, Andrew managed (with the help of the only friend he has in town) to get himself to the local mental health facility at the hospital for an appointment that I’d set up for him (he thinks our mother did it. If he knew I did, he certainly would not have gone). In spite of being the one person who made today possible – in spite of my being his only proactive advocate – I cannot be given an update. Legally, as a protective measure (how this protects me or Elihu when Andrew flies into a violent rage or prevents him from taking someone out as he drives drunk along a country road is beyond me) I cannot be told a thing. Yeah, I knew to expect that. I get it. So then I call the hospital. I hope to find his name in patient information. But no. He has not been admitted. Shit, shit, shit. My spirits sink to my shoes to learn it. Now what?

I understand that he’ll go back next week for another meeting with this woman. I’ve spoken to this counselor myself, I’ve given her some background, and for all the many people I’ve met throughout my life in the mental health field, I like her more than many. At least I got a good impression. The feeling that she understood the futility of the system; how it got in its own way, preventing the very help it was established to provide. Yeah, I had a pretty good amount of hope in my heart this morning. But now, it’s just gone. How the hell can a depressed drunk get better when faced with a filthy house, no income to speak of, no friends and daily access to a full liquor cabinet? I don’t think it’s possible. At least not for my brother. As self-determined as he can be, this is one thing that I don’t see him doing for himself. The last time he sobered up, it was under peril of possibly never having his driver’s license returned to him. And the next time it happens? He will never drive again. And more than likely, he’ll be locked up. No joking.

I have a feeling he’ll make an attempt to cool it. At least before he drives. But he can’t sustain it. No way. He lives in absolute filth (think the worst episode of the cable show “Hoarders”). He has no reason to live. Really. He is chronically depressed, blames the whole goddam world for his misfortune and just jumps at the chance to corner someone and talk their ear off about the whole mess. I know he’s my only sibling, he’s my brother, I love him and shouldn’t talk like this, but right now he hasn’t got a whole lot of reason to be here on the planet. He could, but right now he doesn’t. And reaching him will take finesse. I sure hope he comes to like and trust this counselor and finds himself on the start of an upward path. Goddam it! I wish I could help, but I’m nearly as stuck as I was at the start of this whole thing.

Mental illness is a fucking hard issue to tackle in this day and age. The laws bind your hands to help, and for as hip and understanding a culture as we think we are, the stigma continues to exist. The field of mental health is not sexy. One look at the waiting rooms in just about any mental health facility will confirm for you that this is not a money-maker for the health care industry. And we all know it’s a business. Don’t we now?

Sometimes the system absolutely sucks.

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