A Tale of Two Children

Article Written by: Gerry Briggs, Eugene Oregon

 One, self-important, hostile, and verbally abusive, the other troubled, confrontational, but with survival instincts, both were born with mental illness, the last frontier in polite conversation.

How do you tell this tale to people unfamiliar with Bipolar or Schizophrenia? For them, there is no frame of reference. If someone asks you about your children, its sort of a show stopper. “Oh I have one child working in Seattle and the other one is on social security payments because he is mentally disabled. If you’ve never seen the classic “deer in the headlights” that line is guaranteed to get results.

My son went away to college and collapsed. He was living with my mother and was registering for City College in Santa Barbara and became disassociated. He would sit in his room with the lights off and my mom would go in and he just sat there. There were other incidents but the short of it was he came home so we could get him to a doctor to see what was wrong.


That was in May, 1990. The next three months were almost incredibly insane. We were remodeling our kitchen and I was cooking in the garage. My Ex-husband and I were also track and field officials for the Goodwill Games and of course worked for a living as well. Chris was in three different psychiatric units, there many trips to the emergency room at 11:00 PM because he was in crisis, and then Chris and I flew to Dallas, Texas where he committed himself to a psychiatric hospital for 11 months.


Three months later he had his first brain surgery for an AVM. He is a brave, beautiful, kind-hearted man with a brain and body chemistry that betrays him. He does the best he can everyday with very little reward. If I had millions of dollars I would set up a special-needs trust for him, buy him a little place of his own, give him an allowance, and art teacher and the monetary freedom to be as happy as he could be before he passes from this life. His wish is to have a family and love.


My Daughter-in-law is another story. She started out the love of her fathers life. He wanted her to shine and fulfill her unexplored potential and to go forth in the world and be happy. That charming beautiful little girl that use to climb into her daddy’s lap disappeared around 12 years old.  It’s a long ugly story.


Possessed by demons we could not see, and convinced that she was THE “Queen of the Universe” and everyone else must do her bidding, she bounced in and out of jail, escaped to California, and was rescued by her Mom and brother in the sense they got her into the law system. She was made a ward of the court, got help for the drug addition, and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.


After 3 months in a psychiatric unit and then 3 months in a half way house, she was the charming, beautiful girl-woman her daddy loved. At that point there was hope. Her medication for schizophrenia was working. We went to see her and she was smiling, responsive and a changed person.



A year later she is off her meds, got in her 1986 car that her grandparents gave her to help her establish a new life, took off to “kill her mother” and ran out of gas on the highway and just left the car in the middle of the road. Her mom managed to get her to the hospital where she will be there for 72 hours observation. She has been off her meds for months and is cycling into violent behavior. And the beat goes on. . .


Their lives go on. . . Real life drama, not real TV. The moral of the story? Hold your children close, hug them, see them as children and appreciate their innocence because when they grow up, all bets are off.

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