My Baptism – Caregiver Journey

A brief anecdote of how my journey as a caregiver to a family member with mental illness began

It was the summer after my sophomore year of college when I found out my mother had a clinical mental illness.  I was sound asleep when the phone rang.

“Is this Chris Murphy?” asked an unfamiliar voice.

“Yeah.” I responded.

“Is your mother Patti?” the voice asked.

I rubbed my eyes and turned towards the clock.  It was 3:45 A.M.  “Yes.”

Over the next twenty or so minutes, a social worker from the Licking County Memorial Hospital detailed her encounter with my mother.  Mom had been picked up in a rural community, a sixty minute drive from her home.  She was ranting, screaming, and highly agitated about a number of things.  I was told my mom would be held in the Emergency Department until I could arrange to pick her up.  I remember getting off the phone and thinking, what in the world is going on here?

Now, as a kid, mom had some goofy personality quirks.  No questions about it, but heck, I was a kid.  It isn’t like I had another mom or family to index behavior against.  But this?  This was a little outside the realm of her “normal” behavior.  The ride home from Licking County Memorial Hospital was my formal baptism into taking care of a family member with a clinical mental illness.  She was fifty-three at the time and I was just twenty-one.

Over the past sixteen years I went from being a college student, to an established lawyer.  During this time, I have encountered just about every-single legal problem one can, when caring for a family member with a clinical mental illness.  There is no handbook of how to do this stuff.  There is no go-to guide.  And what’s more, no one really wants to talk about it.  It is taboo.

So, with that said, rather than sit on top of my experiences, I thought I would share it.  I think the best way to deliver the information is in articles.  I’ll try to keep them short and interesting.

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