Dagoberto may not think of himself as a Godsend, but he appeared as one to me when we got home from Michigan with Tim still attached to us (although I was already settling in to make the best of the inevitable).
Dago is Tim’s social worker at Long Beach Mental Health and he showed up at our door the next day. He expressed amazement at how well Tim looks and functions compared to when (at Tim’s request) he did his first cursory assessment. I thought that ironic since Tim had been refusing all his medications for a week and was more muddled, more resistant and more suspicious than usual.
Dago told Tim, “When I first met you, you were not taking care of yourself. You were only eating one or two meals a day and not drinking enough water. Your memory was bad and you were very confused. You said you mainly wanted help for depression. You said you were having trouble sleeping. You said you were lonely because you couldn’t get out and see friends and do things for yourself.”
Then he said, “There are three reasons we commit people to hospitals—when they are a danger to themselves or others or when they can’t take care of themselves. If you hadn’t had family willing to take you in, you would have had to be hospitalized for self-neglect.”
Tim was taken aback. I felt relieved that a professional was expressing what I had been unable to communicate to the rest of the family. (I remembered one of our friends greeting Tim warmly after he’d been staying with us a few weeks and telling me in a pleased aside, “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen Tim in clean clothes!”)
Dago, Tim, and I sat down together and aired our relationship thoroughly and with candor. It was most helpful
Tim said we had “stolen him in the night” and brought him to our home without his consent. He complained he wasn’t allowed to leave our house because he might get lost. He couldn’t go places and see his friends. He complained our friends were all evangelical Christians. We wouldn’t let him bring weed into the house or even have it on our property. He said we hid the knobs to the stove. He said we had rules and he doesn’t like rules.
Some of what he said was true.
I asked Tim whether his choosing to use stairs instead of elevators, rocky hillsides instead of paths, was a deliberate “up yours” to mock my worry about him. He said no, he chose those routes for the exercise. That may be true, too. I said I had issues, nightmares even, about his falling because of bad falls—real ones–that had resulted in injury or coma to myself and others I was caring for. He seemed to better understand my worry.
I said I knew Tim wanted to be treated like an adult and I was trying to mother him less. As an example of one attempt at treating him like an adult, I described how, instead of buying his creamer, cottage cheese, canned fruit cocktail and skinny bagels when Jerry and I shopped for the three of us, I had offered to take him with us and let him do his own shopping, like he used to do when the store was within walking distance—pick things out and pay for them.
I described Tim’s astonished reaction: “I’ve been here two months and you’ve never said anything like this! Why are you saying this now? The food just appears! I don’t want to go to the store. You buy more things than I do and I’d have to come out to the car and read a book!”
I said I didn’t like being criticized, yelled at, sworn at, publicly demeaned, defied, and hit by someone who was trying to give him medicine or physical assistance which Tim had asked for and doctors had prescribed. (Tim said, “I only hit you once.” I stood corrected.)
Tim said I do all these things for him in order to control him—and to get appreciation. I said I want to provide safe boundaries within which he can live as independently as possible. I described how I had felt when he came up behind me, put his hands on my shoulders and kissed the back of my neck. I said gently, “Appreciation like that will last me a month or more!”
We agreed that ideally he and I both want him here (and Jerry is okay with it) if it will work.
Dago said I need to let Tim do more things for himself, take himself places on the bus. He said to have Tim help around the house. He told Tim not only to keep with him the note I’d made of our contact information (since he has not been able to master a cell phone) but to have it laminated.
Result: Tim agreed to help take out the trash on Wednesday nights and put away the dishes after they’ve dried in the drain (on the LEFT side of the sink. “Put them away–in the dishwasher?” he asked. “No, in the cupboards.”) He took himself to AA on the bus the other night. We arranged to pick him up and bring him home because it was dark.
He left his cane on the bus.
But it’s a start.