MAYBE THAT IS MY STORY by Jennifer Cordova

November 6, 2018: Morning

Is anyone familiar with San Jose Behavioral Health (SJBH)? My brother, Matt, was sent there on a 5150 (involuntary 72-hour hospitalization) from Oakhurst which is almost four hours away. He has no friends or family in San Jose. Every time he gets a new doctor or is in a hospital, he signs a “release of medical information” so I can speak with nurses and doctors regarding the decisions they’re making on his behalf. I am eight hours south of San Jose in Orange County.

SJBH told me, ”If no one picks him up at end of the 5250 (involuntary 14-day hold by a qualified officer or clinician following a 5150 hold), we’ll drop him off at the nearest homeless shelter.” They told me they keep no one longer than two weeks no matter their mental state. Individuals are released and, most often, picked back up again. I could build a rocket ship to the moon quicker than I can get a medical professional on the phone.

I can’t tell you how smug the police were every time we had to call and how many times they said, “He’s not a danger to himself or others”. Well, my brother was a danger to himself and his psychosis almost cost him his life which lead to the hold. If he hurt someone else, he would have been off to jail not to a hospital.

There is a documentary on Netflix right now called, God Knows Where I Am. This story is my family’s nightmare. My brother, luckily, was found in a cemetery nearly frozen to death. The lady in the Netflix story was not as lucky. It’s sad to live in the greatest country in the world with the most broken healthcare and mental healthcare in the world. We have the resources but they are unattainable.

My brother has bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. He’s on meds and, if he stays on meds, he can continue to live with my parents. I just can’t believe the hospital shipped him four hours from home and won’t take him back. They will put him on the street in a city he’s never been to. Luckily, because he signed the medical release, I’ll know when he’s released and what shelter he’ll go to. I begged SJBH to please hold him long enough for family to get him before they drop him in a shelter. They told me, “We’ll try but we can’t promise anything.”

November 6, 2018: Evening

I just got the worst news imaginable. The social worker called and said the judge over-ruled the 5250 going against the doctor and the social workers. The judge talked to Matt for five minutes. I’m utterly broken. I cannot wrap my brain around how this has happened. How do these judges sleep at night? My brother is a danger to himself and to those around him. He can’t go home if doesn’t stay on meds which he won’t. I haven’t spoken to him yet but he’s going to freak out over what I’m about to tell him. If he flips out in the mental hospital after the 5250 is lifted, can I pursue a 5150 again? I’m at a complete loss right now.

November 17, 2018

My brother is back home and he wrote me a borderline pornographic message. He said horrible delusional things about my kids. Part of the stipulation of his being able to move back home is that he stay on his medication. He’s with my parents and they’re telling me he’s worse off now than he was before. I think he’s hiding the medication in his mouth and making it look like he’s swallowing it.

After the message I received today, I told my parents I want no further communication on this subject and I won’t be helping them in the future. I can’t deal with him. I have my own physical health issues, am on chemotherapy, and will be having double surgery next week. I’ve developed colitis, as well, due to all of the stress of the situation. I can’t continue to put myself through his drama when I have my own serious needs. Matt did go see the judge yesterday and his case was continued until the end of January which means he still cannot see his kids. This will be the first Christmas, ever, that they don’t get to see their dad. I literally have to step away from this situation.

I can’t be the only one who has come to realize that sometimes we have to love from afar. That it’s okay, for the sake of our own health and sanity, to take a step back when we’ve done all we can. That it’s perfectly fine to not allow ourselves to be the target of verbal abuse.

Maybe that is my story.

Note: Jennifer is having surgery today.