Six months or so after Janice found out she had breast cancer, my youngest boy began complaining of headaches and later other ailments. We did many tests and treatments including diet, conventional medicine, chiropractic, massage, and various kinds of energy work.

The next year he gradually stopped going to school and passed the California High School Proficiency Examination halfway through his sophomore year, getting out of high school at fifteen. For two years he holed up in his room playing video games while his mother died slowly down the hall.

Janice had been dead about a year last fall when my son told me that he was aware of channels that were giving him information as sentences and images. He believed that the channels came from people he knew and that they told the truth. Since the channels always promised him torture and doom, he was always fearful. That was his life.

At the end of October, to feel safe he signed himself into a Butte County facility for assessment and got out three days later with a prescription for Abilify, which also provided the intake worker’s clipboard. My son was just as fearful when he got out, just calmer.

He stopped taking the prescribed drug after a couple of weeks, and in a few days became convinced that he had a brain aneurysm, eventually persuading a neighbor to take him to an emergency room. By the time I found out and got to Enloe someone from Butte County Behavioral Health had claimed him under a 5150, the law that allows such an action when a mental patient is thought to be a danger to himself or others.

He soon got arrested for shoplifting and then alarmed some people in the neighborhood by standing around in their yards, and ended up back at the Puff. That time at the Psychiatric Health Facility (“the Puff”) he didn’t get out after the initial 72-hour period and stayed another fortnight until he was discharged with three prescriptions on New Year’s Day and directed to the Shalom Clinic for follow-up. God bless the Shalom Clinic.

He stayed on drugs a couple of weeks and then quit because he thought they hurt his brain, which could easily be the case.

He got out for a while and now my baby boy—born in the bed where I sleep and where his mother died—is again at the Puff. God bless the Puff, too.

I’d like to say my contact with the mental health system was satisfactory, but there is no mental health system. There are services here and there, but nothing that deserves to be called a system. More on this later.

Meanwhile my son sleeps in a hallway under 24-hour fluorescent lights, a type of sensory bombardment sometimes used as torture.

And God bless NAMI, the National Association for Mental Illness.

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