Schizophrenia: Ann Marie and Tim

Schizophrenia: Ann Marie and Tim

 

Ann Marie wanted Dr. Phil to see exactly what was going on with her mother, so she installed cameras in her mom's home to catch her non-stop psychotic behavior.

Her mother stands alone at the kitchen table. She absently tugs an unkempt strand of hair from among the mats that cover her head. Here's a sampling of the statements she makes to no one in particular:

"Do you have the Mary Williams white microphone with the Roberts sponge, Brian Bob?"

"Bea Arthur and the Golden Girls, they were all over Michigan."

"I would imagine the Feds are going to have a field day there, Gabrielle."

 

"I'm someone that got hired by the Feds to take all of this down. Well, that's a ten billion dollar reward."

 

"Do you hear me, Janey? You're getting caught by Mt. Mary College tape recording system for what you're doing. That's right. They're putting their own tape recording system in. That's why I'm hearing Laurie."

Ann Marie explains, "Over the last six years schizophrenia has become a monster that has crippled my mom. She is currently living in my brother's apartment. She pretty much sits smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee."

Ann Marie continues. "Her only outside source is to go to the store and use her calling card to call me on the phone," she says. "A typical phone call starts out normal for about two minutes. Shortly after, she just goes off into a tangent."

To illustrate her point, Ann Marie engages her mother in a phone conversation. She starts with a warm hello, but soon says, "What are you talking about?"

"I can hear somebody with a gun through a cell phone, wherever you're at," says her mother.

"Can you ... feel it?" asks Ann Marie.

"I can feel it through the cell phone. You got that off?"

"Who are you talking to?" asks Ann Marie.

"The radio station. They mic'd everything."

"What do you mean they mic'd it?"

Her mother explains, "Well they put little mics, connected to stakes in the ground all the way to your ... wash machine, to your dryer, and I can hear them move body bags."

The two siblings talk on a couch at Tim's apartment, where Ann Marie has been visiting. "This morning I went into Mom's bedroom," Ann Marie tells Tim. "There were four sharp kitchen knives sitting on her dresser. They were just big. She picked them up, and she was, like, rubbing them, like, back and forth. I was actually afraid for my own safety."

"That is not safe anymore," Tim says.

"She sat there and watched me sleeping last night. She said she saw people by me," Ann Marie continues. "I opened up the refrigerator. All of the food was moldy. It just reeked. She'll unplug all the appliances: the refrigerator, the freezer."

Tim says, "Her response would be, 'There's speakers in the fridge.'"

The cameras even captured their mother saying, "Isn't that right? One bastard, Brian Bob, in my refrigerator."


Once, when their mother was still living on her own, Tim drove over to see her. He arrived to find his mother had turned off the heat in the house and turned off the breakers. He found his mom sleeping a foot away from the space heater covered up with a blanket. The oven was on and open and the stove burners were on.

 

"I first noticed that something wrong after her second divorce," Ann Marie recounts. "My mom would talk about people following her. She thought that her ex-husband's family was tampering with her car. One day I walked into my mom's house and it was in shambles. I asked, 'Why are all the clocks taped up? What did you think when you were boarding up the attic?' And my mom told me that she thought people were coming in from
the attic. I saw a TV that had been sitting in the living room thrown out into the back hall. She thought people were talking to her from the TV. She got rid of it."

Ann Marie and her brother petitioned the court to have their mother hospitalized.

Tim says, "The police came, took her to the hospital for an evaluation and then brought her to the psych unit."

"The hospital kept her for about two weeks," says Ann Marie. "They put her on medication, sent her home. After my mom was feeling better, she didn't think there was anything wrong. She was in denial of any problems with her health. The medicine ran out and the illness just took over. It excelled at the speed of light."
Ann Marie gets a phone call from Dr. Frank Lawlis chairman of the Dr. Phil advisory board. He asks her, "When did your mother start having these kinds of symptoms? At what age?"
 
Ann Marie tells him that her mother was around 40 years old. "There was a lot of stress that my mom went through in a very short period. My mom filed for divorce. She had her best friend pass away in her arms. I never really saw her grieve or mourn."
 
"If this is a stress event that kind of clicked her over," says Dr. Lawlis, "then I think that she can be helped fairly efficiently. I'm pretty optimistic because of what you've told me."
 
Dr. Phil says he shares Dr. Lawlis's optimism about this case, and explains, "Schizophrenia is kind of an umbrella diagnosis for a lot of different clusters of behaviors that are pretty poorly understood. The typical onset of schizophrenia is much earlier in life. It's later for women than men, but it's like late teens and early to mid-20s," not 40, as in the case of their mother.  
He adds that stress is also a factor. "We know that she is sleep deprived. And let me promise you, I can take any member of this audience, deprive them of sleep long enough and they will become psychotic in their behavior and it can just kind of swirl and start heading downhill." He asks Dr. Lawlis for his take.

"Well, exactly," he says. "It's like soldiers who are fighting under severe conditions ... we create an imbalance in our brain, so consequently what happens is that you become psychotic. You become overwhelmed."

Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Morteza Kahleghi, of Creative Care, who is joined by his wife, Mary. Dr. Phil says "We've been talking about what could be a very innovative intervention program for their mom. Can you talk about that a little bit?"

"Yes," says Dr. Kahleghi. "If, indeed, your mom has schizophrenia, it would be a very late onset, which is very rare." He tells the siblings that he would like to make a thorough assessment of their mother and see if her symptoms can be controlled with medication. "What I'm gathering from Dr. Lawlis is that this may not be schizophrenia, that it may simply be a psychotic disorder, what we call, 'Not otherwise specified.' And if we can get her medicated properly and stabilized, we can find out with more psychiatric testing exactly what it is we're dealing with."


Dr. Phil says that Tim and Ann Marie are going to need some legal help to get care for their mother. He introduces attorney Carol Wessels, of Wessel Law Office in Cedarburg, Wisconsin, near where Tim and Ann Marie live. He thanks her for coming, and says, "There are steps that you can go through, respecting the person's rights but yet getting them the care that they might not have the ability to see that they need, true?"

"Absolutely," Carol replies. "The first thing we look into is whether there are less restrictive things that can be done like powers of attorney, advanced directives that a person would on their own choose to do, that name someone to make decisions for them when they're not capable to do that. But we try, if it's at all possible, to allow somebody to keep control over their life."

Dr. Phil agrees on the importance of this aspect of the case.

Dr. Phil tells Ann Marie and Tim, "You've just got to realize you just don't have the ability to provide her what she needs at this point. She needs professional care. She needs professional help and support and safety. And so we want to see if we can work toward that and see if we can bring her some relief in this and give you some help along the way. How do you feel about that?"

"That's great," Tim says, looking at his hands in his lap. "That's awesome. And that'd be 10 tons off my chest. This is very hard for me." A grimace forming on his face contorts his words and he breaks
down into tears.

"It's been a long road, has it not, Tim?" says Dr. Phil.

Tim nods and through his tears says, "Yeah."

"And I want you to feel good about it and not guilty about it," says Dr. Phil. "This is something that we're going to do for your mother, and not to your mother, OK? This is a gift that family members can give to someone where they get them to where they need to be to get the help that they need to have."

"Thank you so much," says a tearful Ann Marie.

"Our goal is to bring your mom home where y'all can love and share with her. And when she gets to the point where she's got her feet on the ground and, as Carol says, she can allow some control back in her life, that she keep it as long as she's got her feet on the ground," says Dr. Phil.