BE YOUR BEST SELF MINUTE BY MINUTE by Heidi Franke

In court with my son, Mitchell. He was doing a good job with self-surrendering on a drug possession charge, but as most know, he had attempted suicide and now has a new diagnosis of schizoaffective bipolar type. His drug possession charge was from the time he was psychotic and feared there were several men in his apartment with guns. He used a bat and broke out his window and used a neighbor's phone to call 911. The police did a sweep of his apartment and found meth. My son was delusional and beginning to have increasing symptoms of a serious mental illness. The drugs exacerbated, if not quickened, his decline in executive functioning. Thus his pending charge.

I let my son stand on his own in court and it started going the wrong way and he had no public defender. We had been cued by the mental health attorney what to say. It was a state case. I had to slowly step to my sons side just as the judge was going to take my son into custody. I said, "No!" Calmly I explained the course of his co-occurring mental illness with drug use. A nice legal defender stepped up to help. I was in tears at that point, and my son was quiet just waiting to see what would happen to him.

I would have been the mother in court holding my son back from the bailiff taking him. My son is mentally ill and doesn’t belong in jail. If he went in without his meds, it would be horrible. You see, my father was mentally ill with bipolar disorder and was untreated until the last 6 months of his life. He was in his 80's. 

I was just 12 when we landed in LAX and the FBI took my father into custody as we de-boarded the plane. My father wasn't with us so I went back. The FBI was putting him in handcuffs and taking him away. I remember holding onto my father, crying and begging them not to take my father. A little girl tried to take control of something beyond what her mind could grasp. If I was only strong enough to hold on they wouldn't take my father away. I remember someone pulling me off of my father and then the world fell apart. So yesterday, that little girl saved her son who could not save himself.

I remember, in my tears, the judge saying he understands about mental illness but I don’t think he really did. There was a court clerk looking up data and feeding information to the judge that I can't recall. Then I heard a recommendation from a prosecuting attorney to drop the warrant. I told them over and over Mitchell was just released from the hospital and, though the drug charge is real, there was a much bigger picture.

They saw a parent with knowledge and accountability willing to take care of her son. We left together, a court date reset. We went to a very nice case manager with pretrial services who asked Mitchell to check in by phone everyday. It was close. Please do not give up, whatever your struggle is in life. Be your best self minute by minute. Stand up for those less fortunate. Be a voice. Believe.

Photo Credit Heidi Franke Mitchell Franke

Photo Credit Heidi Franke
Mitchell Franke

Follow up note from Heidi this morning:  Mitchell moves to sober living home today. I am proud of his work. The bigger tests will keep coming. He still wears a gps ankle bracelet for mental health court. His mind and attitude are healthy. It's just fighting the brains attempt at hijacking the vunerable that will keep me worried. I hope he engages in new pursuits. There will be people around him to help.

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