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