UPDATE ON TYLER by Kimberlee West

Our 19-year-old son is autistic with a serious mental illness but never mind that. Those facts are not factors within the Department of Justice. Tyler was sentenced to 20 months to 15 years. The judge checked 20 months — the minimum. Ty has already served 544 days. He will be transferred from jail to Jackson, Michigan prison. Once there, he'll meet with a parole board who will decide if he serves five months or 13 months or more.

Ty plead guilty to the home invasion (sleeping on our neighbors sofa) and a CS3 (third degree criminal sexual conduct in Michigan). There were no victim impact statements. None of the victims ever came to court. He will have five years of probation. He could come home in five months to one year and one month. He could be placed in a halfway house. There's no circuit court for mental health. There's no real treatment or help. There's lots of money involved and fines. Tyler had every reason to fight but dragging this out  could have added an extra year onto his sentence. It's exhausting when, as parents, we do our very best and it still isn't enough. We hope to God Ty survives prison. He's not a fighter. He's a sweet kid. 

The court gave us one hour notice, today, for Ty's plea. The prosecutor tried every trick including trying to renege on our deal of no more than 20 months for both cases. He tried giving Ty three more years. He tried to put Ty on the sex offender list. He was unsuccessful. We're thankful for our private attorney who stopped that with a statue and case law.  Even though the girl involved told the hospital nothing happened, our chances with the jury were slim. Juries usually don't vote "not guilty" for mentally ill people.

We need a law that says it's illegal to take advantage of a disabled, handicapped person. People used to understand what handicapped meant. Now it's politically incorrect and we call it an intellectual disability. Legally, this means someone knows better after 17 and can be charged like everyone else. Our attorney had a downs syndrome person sentenced to 10 years. This is what we've become. It's shameful. I've worked with kids with disabilities for over 35 years. They were born that way. Yet, for reasons beyond my understanding, the court doesn't recognize that. The burden should be on the prosecution to prove that disability was not a factor in committing a crime before the disabled person is charged with a crime. 

If my son were on drugs or alcohol, he'd get a break. If he were a vet, he'd get a break. 
If he were a violent offender, he'd most likely be released. The inmate, who beat Tyler up and knocked him out cold and then fired a gun at someone, was released from jail. Yet Ty's still there. 
He's simply seriously mentally ill. 

We haven't spoken to Ty since he left Muskegon. He's quarantined for 30 days. It's standard for entering Michigan prison. We have no way to contact him except by mail. We tried to put money on his phone and commissary accounts but were not allowed to do so.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to many of you. Thank you for writing letters, supporting us, and praying through Tyler's trial. We'd love to give bear hugs to every one of you who supported us. Your kindness is overwhelming. Please continue to pray for his safety and release.

 Tyler

Tyler

See more stories about Tyler by Kimberlee West. Click in the Archives on the right hand side of the blog.

August 22, 2017 - Walk A Mile In Our Shoes
November 15, 2017 - Hope One Day We'll Have Real Choices
January 12, 2018 - The Failure of Kevin's Law

AH REALITY. IT SUCKS by Laurie Mendoza

The room and board my son was in decided not to serve three meals a day. They can do that because room and boards aren't always licensed. It's a breach in the rental agreement. But who has money for an attorney? I had major problems with my car this month. My son knew I wouldn't be able to help him. He made the decision that he didn't want to pay these landlords more money for services they don't provide.

So Sunday he got a storage unit. He  paid on it for two months and moved out. He wants to be able to buy his own cigarettes and food since the room and board only buys $40 worth of food for a week. That's for 13 people. My son was paying $750 per month for a shared room. Figure this one. $750 times 13. That averages to about $9,000.00 a month. Now multiple that by 12 months. That's how much they're making off the mentally ill and seniors and they run at least three houses. The two landlords each have arrest records.

My son is kind of emotionally flat lining. He's out on the streets and he doesn't like it this time. If he'd stayed at that house he wouldn't have had enough to eat. He really wanted to find another place but his phone broke. Phones are important to everyone but especially to people with serious mental illness. He's sleeping in alleyways. No way to call 911. Plus the phone plays music and music keeps the voices away. He has no close friends. He wanders the streets of Carmichael, California. The sheriff or security guards taser him to keep him moving. He does have goals but little things knock him back. Ah reality. It sucks.

Read more about Laurie's son. Click in the Archives on the right hand side of this blog.

March 27, 2018 - How Turing Point Failed My Son

 An alleyway for Laurie's son Photo credit: harland spinksphoto/flickr

An alleyway for Laurie's son
Photo credit: harland spinksphoto/flickr

PRISON CORRESPONDENCE by Travis Christian and Dede Ranahan

June 1, 2018

Dede

I am waiting for visitor applications. I have asked for them but now it's up to the prison to find some. I would love for you to come visit me.

I've been struggling lately with my mood. I think it's the coffee. I haven't been exercising as much as I want to. I've been drinking too much coffee. My spirits are up and I'm not hopeless, so that's good. Life is needy. It take a lot of maintenance to stay healthy. Sometimes I don't want to do the work. But, I believe God has a purpose with my life. I have good days and bad days.

I hope you're ok. Sorry, I haven't written. I've been hoping to send you an application. How's your book going? Don't feel obligated to write me. I appreciate when you do.

I just finished exercising and now I feel on top of the world. I'm getting ready to watch the NBA finals. Have a good night.

Hugs, Travis.

 Travis on Mother's Day 2018

Travis on Mother's Day 2018

June 4, 2018

Travis,

I just received your letter and I'm so glad to hear from you. I'd love to come visit you and I hope the prison provides the visitor applications soon.

I sent you a book, Crafting the Personal Essay by Dinty W. Moore. It's been a while since I ordered it from Amazon and tracking shows it was delivered. I hope you've received it by now. There's lots of how-to books about writing out there. Some are better than others. My gauge for how well I like a book is by the number of underlinings I've made and the number of asterisks I've placed in the margins. I've left a lot of markings in my copy of this book :-)

I'm almost to the last posting of A Mother's Diary on my blog. I'm feeling trauma again in reliving the end of Pat's life. This seems to demand lots of energy. Emotional energy. I sit in nature and take deep breaths. I crave silence. I embrace solitude. That's how I listen to myself. It's how I "hear" Pat's voice, too. I hope my writing is helpful to those who are reading our story.  Soon, I'll undertake the big learning curve about how to get my book into print. If nothing else, I want to leave professional, hard-bound copies for my daughters and my grandchildren.

Are you in touch with your friend, Jorge? I posted his letter on my blog and wrote to him. I haven't heard back and I hope he's doing okay.  I'll send him another letter. No worries. I don't feel "obligated" to write to you, Travis. I want to write to you. I send you good thoughts every single day.

Hugs back. Dede

Travis' mailing address:
Travis Christian BB8099
B-1-211
C.S.P. - SAC
P.O. Box 290066
Represa, CA 95671

IT'S KIND OF LIKE A DAILY "SOPHIE'S CHOICE" by Gwendolyn Bartley

Happy to report that Mike and Kristy handled the wedding and after parties with great success. My parents accompanied me in taking Mike back to his group home yesterday and, unfortunately, they witnessed our reality there. The group home is run down and dingy which is the typical group home. We have been able to make Mike's bedroom nice as we have the freedom to decorate, clean, and make it his space. My parents also saw first-hand how quickly violence escalates among the young men living there. One beat the snot out of another on the floor as we entered the living room. For all those who say mentally ill people are not violent, come spend a day here. 

This is not where or how I want Mike to live but I have no other options in order to protect my other children at home. I struggle with this every day of my life and battle that I'm sacrificing his quality of life to protect Eric, Kristy and Shannon. It's kind of like a daily "Sophie's choice."

It is deplorable living for the children. The caregivers are mediocre at best. There are only a handful of these group homes available in the state and all are equally as terrible. Beds are limited and I'm fortunate to have this home only 30 minutes away. I pray daily for another option to become available for Mike. Meanwhile, I walk a tightrope advocating for his living conditions and care. I don't want him kicked out or treated poorly because his mom complains too much.

No one wants a group home in their community but people are shocked when they learn that I can't find another location for Mike. Please be open minded to allowing more group homes in your community. I will go my grave fighting for the improvement and quality of these facilities for children and adults who have already suffered enough.

 Mike

Mike

NIKKI AND KEVIN - PART TWO by Nikki Landis

So this is what severe mental illness does.

My husband was my dream man. He was wonderful. We had fun and laughed and traveled and made plans. And then, slowly, I lost him. It started in little bits. Barely noticeable. I thought I was imagining it. Then he convinced me I was the crazy one. Because that's what they do... anosognosia. It's like trying to convince someone with Alzheimer's that it's 2018. Or that they have Alzheimer's. You can't. You can't convince someone who is psychotic that they're sick. 

Honestly, I thought I was losing my mind. After all, he was working, right? He could carry a gun and arrest people and do paperwork, right? But he was barely functioning. Not getting his work done. And paranoid. Crazy paranoid. He started telling everyone I was cheating. I was staying out at the bar all night. But here's the thing - I don't go to bars and I certainly never stayed out all night. I had no idea he was spreading these things around. And his work buddies had no idea it wasn't true. Because who thinks "psychosis," right?

Slowly he lost more of himself until he had a full and complete breakdown. It was terrifying and heartbreaking and yet hopeful. Because we had answers. And knowing the problem is half the battle, right? But it's not. Because the psychosis kept coming, harder and faster. People don't understand. They don't know what to say. They have all these ideas about mental illness from movies. Movies about mental illness are mostly crap.

You want to know what serious mental illness looks like? Go talk to homeless people because, for weeks at a time, Kevin lives in his car. He is right now. He is currently sleeping in his car. He won't shower for days — by choice. He says he just can't do it. He is completely unable to take care of our children. And you know how sometimes people with Alzheimer's hate their family members? Yeah, that too. Aimed squarely at me. I'm Satan.

I have an entire list of treatment facilities, programs, and therapies but he has to go, and he won't. He wants to live in a car. This is what nobody tells you about serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar and schizoaffective disorder.

Many of those homeless people you see with mental illnesses? They have families who love them and want them home. They aren't kicked out or banished from the family. They can't get treatment because they're too sick to know how sick they are. Their families are members of FB groups and websites that post pictures of homeless people all over the country so they can find their loved ones. Sometimes an ill family member gets paranoid and takes a bus out of state. Sometimes the group home responsible for their care actually sends them off on a bus without telling the family. Yes, this happens much more than you would guess. Sometimes they're like Kevin and are too sick to live at home but refuse a hotel or friend or family member. But many times they are loved and missed and looked for and prayed for.

Kevin was an inpatient twice in April alone. Kettering hospital sent him to a Wilmington parking lot in an Uber and didn't even let me know. I requested that the social worker try to get assisted housing for him. He needs help and he won't let me help him. But they didn't even try. Don't even ask about the VA. I'm not ready to talk about that situation yet. 

When Kevin is relatively stable and not sick, he tells me to talk about his story. He's not ashamed and neither am I. I guess raising kids with autism gave me a thicker skin. But people need to know. Before Kevin got so sick I didn't know. He's sick and there's nothing I can do to help him. I am putting the kids first, and I pray that someday he is in recovery and says I made the right decision. I know the old him would say I'm making the right decision. I miss that Kevin. 

Schizoaffective disorder, severe chronic PTSD and OCD. That's the latest. But it doesn't really matter. All serious mental illnesses (SMIs) are a variation of Alzheimer's, and we don't let people with Alzheimer's live on the street and claim they have a civil right to choose it. We see them as sick and fragile and needing care. 

My heart is breaking. Our kids' hearts are breaking. Please pray for us, and if you have a family member with a brain disease/mental illness, rethink how you talk about it. I have never been ashamed of my boys with autism, and there are few good reasons to hide SMI. Talk about it without stigma and the stigma disappears.

 Nikki and Kevin

Nikki and Kevin

NIKKI AND KEVIN - PART ONE by Nikki Landis

Kevin got out of the hospital Friday and was admitted to another hospital yesterday. When he got out Friday he was agreeable to the new treatment plan. Monday morning, when it came time to call and make some appointments, the agreeableness was gone. He got very agitated, started yelling, and broke our back door.

He left and started calling people trying to have our kids put in foster care. He's decided I'm a terrible mom and he can't take care of them, so they need foster parents. Unfortunately, the police showed up and questioned me in front of the kids. So they saw and heard too much. And his breaking the back door scared them badly enough that they don't want to see him. I worked for years to shelter them from the majority of his bad symptoms and, within 12 hours, it was all undone.

Yesterday, Kevin texted me not knowing what was going on, and he didn't seem to remember much of what happened Monday. He went to his psychiatrist and was admitted. This morning, I called him to see about meeting with his social worker about housing or residential treatment and he's a totally different person. He is not sick. I'm the problem. If we get a divorce then he will be fine. He has a whole alternate reality version of Monday that sounds like a typical marital fight — nothing like what actually happened.

Kevin is diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, bipolar type, and severe PTSD (combat related). He can't come home. We've reached the point where I can't protect the kids from him anymore. But I'm a fighter and I'm not willing to throw in the towel. I believe he could become stable again. 

The first time I read I Am Not Sick I Don't Need Help it was a library copy. Then I gave away the copy I bought. I overnighted a new copy that will be here tomorrow. This is a different situation than I've been in before. I'm more detached and he is sicker. While I wait for my new copy, his anosognosia comes and goes. He accepts that he is sick until it's time to see a provider. It's the same pattern every time. When it's time to see a new doctor or therapist he freaks out and causes major drama. Within a few days, he comes up with a plausible story of some typical fight couples have. Then he decides he's completely fine.

Have any of your loved ones accepted long-term that they are sick? This has become the biggest barrier to his care but it is evolving so fast that I can't keep up and I need advice.

To be continued.

 Nikki and Kevin

Nikki and Kevin