My Uncle Jimmy was diagnosed as Paranoid Schizophrenic at an early age. He heard voices and had hallucinations. He was sent to the State Mental Hospital that we had at the time. My Grandmother worked there and the place was eventually shut down for their abuse of patients. There is a Cemetery on the grounds with hundreds of unmarked graves of the bodies they found while doing construction years later.
I believe my Uncle Jimmy was probably treated in a horrific way while he was there. Of course no one wanted to talk about it. The high dosages of medications they had him on left him with a constant tremor in his hands and he had problems with his grinding his teeth. He always had white spit in the corners of his mouth.
My Grandmother gave him over to the State when he was young. She did this with a few of her children. My Uncle Jimmy wasn’t violent he just didn’t have a filter that society expects a person to have. He loved to smoke and drink coffee. He hated the medications that made him like a zombie. He could either stay at a State run facility where they had control over him 24 hours a day or he could be homeless and deal with his illness in the way he preferred. Heroin. He chose to be homeless and to use Heroin.
I don’t condone his decision but I understand it. I had seen him at the State run facilities and it wasn’t a way anyone should have to live. He was in all honesty happier while on the streets. He did share needles with other addicts, a majority of them also mentally ill. He contracted HIV and lived with the virus for many years. At some point he stopped his drug use. I’m not sure if it had to do with his age or his health. He did advance to AIDS about 2 years ago and passed away from pneumonia.
I never saw my Uncle Jimmy not smiling. My mom loved him and tried to take care of him as best she could right up until she herself passed away. She always knew the gas station to find him at and would bring him hot wieners. He was her baby brother and mourned her death pretty hard. I miss his corny jokes and hearing him call my mom “Anna Banana”.
Like I’ve said before no mental illness or addiction is the same for everyone. At least not in my family. We laugh the loudest and cry the hardest. We always have.