Onset of Illness

A brief chronology of my son’s life

1980 is my son’s birth year. DS is now 27. He has younger brothers and sisters. As a child he is sweet, introverted, and intelligent. He teaches himself to read by watching the words while I read him books. When he enters kindergarten, he reads the instructions at the bottom of his worksheets (intended for the teacher) and completes the work before she has a chance to explain what to do.1997 His diagnosis with a variety of autism called Asperger’s syndrome. This came as something of a relief. He was beginning his senior year of high school, only needing one special education class (English) up to this point. He always tested very intelligent, but he had problems that caused him to be classified by the school as “behavior disordered” until this diagnosis. We get him on SSI (Social Security disability income).

1998 DS graduates from high school and begins college. He lives at home, and I drive him to college classes daily, since he is still not ready for driving, nor living independently, even in a dorm.

Autumn 1998 DS starts having psychosis (very irrational fears), delusions and paranoia about being watched. He goes to a private hospital covered by his father’s insurance. One doctor tells me he has schizophrenia; the discharge papers simply say, “Psychosis.” He was put on Zyprexa (olanzapine) and makes rapid improvement. It seems like a  miracle. He is discharged in a week. He returns to school in a couple of weeks.

2001-2007 DS does not complete college, dropping out with only 6 credit hours left until graduation. He just cannot pull together a senior project. No amount of pleading on my part, nor meeting with the academic department head (who offers a great deal of help), will change his mind. He works as a bagger in a grocery store for two  years. During this time he gets his driver’s license, and we give him a used car. He works as a cashier in a department store for nine months, but he was extremely stressed by the negativity coming from customers in that job and quit. He works  some temp jobs, and we try to get help from the state vocational rehabilitation  people, who refer us to many local agencies. No new permanent job is found. He is completely unemployed for at least one year before the summer of 2007. He always lived at home with us, his parents and brothers and sisters. When he leaves college, his father’s insurance drops him, and he only has Medicaid for his medical expenses.

The Onset of Schizoaffective Disorder
Spring 2007 DS seemed to be crankier than usual. We would argue about all kinds  of things. I would try not to participate when he wanted to argue. DS’s father,  my husband, was not as skillful or did not choose, should we say, to not participate in arguments about “irrelevant” things, such as politics or ideas. DS would be very critical of his five year old sister and two year old brother (their noise and playfulness), and I would encourage him to cope in different ways and be tolerant. I did not encourage him to eat dinner at the table with us, because he would criticize his five-year sister relentlessly for her table manners, her speech, etc. I was beginning to entertain a fantasy of taking my two little ones and moving away. Sometimes when DS and I  argued, little sister would say to me later, “I wish he did not live here any more.” Fortunately, DS spends most of his time during the day in his room sleeping or playing computer games, so most of the time we can manage. DS’s father, my husband, is working long and irregular hours, so there is not much help there. I try to be patient with DS, attributing some of his crankiness to frustration at his unemployment, and nature causing him to chafe at living in his parent’s “nest.” Around this time he announces he is writing a poem and a short story, and he is certain he can make a living at creative writing.

This is not a particularly fair or balanced accounting of my son’s life. It leaves out a sizable portion of the joy and good things in our lives. I just wanted to give a little background so the reader can see what his challenges and his family’s challenges have been. Other people who develop severe mental illnesses may have a background that is similar or one that is totally different.

I will trying to tell the story of this year (2007) under the category Recollections on this blog:

Leading up to First Hospitalization 2007

First Hospitalization June 2007

Trouble With Georgia Medicaid (late June 2007)

Psychiatrists Assume Medication Noncompliance (late June 2007)

Four Police Encounters in Three Weeks – Part One (June-July 2007)

Uncomfortable Memories of Dealing with Mental Illness

Four Police Encounters in Three Weeks – Part Two (June-July 2007)

Second Hospitalization (July 2007)

Move to a Personal Care Home and Third Hospital Admittance (July-August 2007)

Creative Hospital Discharging of the Mentally Ill (3rd time in hospital, August 2007)

The Failings of Day Programs for the Mentally Ill (August – October 2007)

The Letter I Never Mailed to the Georgia Governor (September 2007)