Mental Illness – Part 2

Back in 2010, I asked for advice on how to handle a mentally ill man that I was home teacher of.  I called him Ted back then and will continue to use that pseudonym.  Let me quote from that post because to be frank, he scared the hell out of me.

So, I dropped by again today to meet Ted.  He didn’t invite me in, but we talked on the cold porch for about a half hour.  I soon realized as I talked to Ted that he was mentally ill.  He confirmed my suspicions when he told me that he heard voices, had anger issues, and suffered from depression.  I asked if he lived there with his mom, and he confirmed that he did.  He explained that he could afford to live in the apartment by himself, but her social security check made it easier to make ends meet.  He said that when the time comes for his mother to die, he might go live in a mental health facility.  He mentioned that he made a living on disability checks–he had been declared mentally disabled due to depression.

In the half hour I talked to Ted, he told a series of strange, but probably true stories about his life.  He had been married once, but left an unfaithful wife.  In response, he got drunk at a bar, and was angry enough to fire a gun.  It was unclear to me if he was merely firing the weapon at someone or not, but he was arrested and spent time in the LA County jail, where he was physically assaulted by inmates (I’ll spare some gruesome details.)  This is what caused his “anger issues.”  He also mentioned that he was surprised that a mentally ill person could get a gun in California, and then proceeded to fear that Pres Obama was going to take away his gun.  (If anyone needs a gun taken away, it is this man.)

In light of that conversation, I wondered what to do, and wondered if I should even go back to see him again.  Mcarp gave me some advice that I followed.

I’ve run across several similar individuals, including one who claimed that God spoke to her through her parrot. Some people, and I don’t know Ted so I can’t say in this case, just need someone to talk to. Maybe what Jesus would do is just visit him and be a friend. Don’t go and preach to him. Don’t take him to church. Just be a friend and listen to him.

I was Ted’s home teacher for several years.  During that time, I gave him priesthood blessings, took him to the emergency room for treatment of migraines, and did become his friend.  He lived with his mother who hobbled around the apartment with a walker.  Following her bunion surgery, I worked with the Relief Society to deliver meals to them.  The sisters were scared of him.  I was too, but sort of knew how to handle him, and I was the person to deliver the meals instead of the sisters.  I was always apprehensive around him.  He overdosed when mixing alcohol and prescription drugs one time and got real sick.  He admitted to me that he tried to “commit suicide by cop” while I was his current home teacher.  He was in 2 car accidents.  The first was not his fault.  He was rear-ended and developed severe migraines.  In the second accident, he made a left-turn in front of another vehicle.  Because he was on prescription medication for his migraines, he was very concerned he would be charged with DUI.  However the police did not charge him as they were well-acquainted with his mental illness and his situation.

I did not have a partner for the first 3 years I home taught Ted, and then finally got a partner who came consistently with me for about a year.  When the ward boundaries realigned, I was not in the same ward anymore, and my partner continued to home teach him.  I learned Ted’s mother had a stroke, and ended up in a nursing home. I visited her there and took Ted to see her.  She died about a year and a half ago.  A year ago, (last October) my partner told me that Ted died in his sleep and wondered if I wanted to go to the funeral.  Of course I did.  It was probably the saddest funeral I have ever attended.  No, I didn’t cry, and nobody cried when Ted died.  That’s why it was so sad to me.

The saddest part to me was looking around the room and seeing only about 30 people there.  His brother spoke and said that they almost didn’t hold a funeral because they were concerned that nobody would come.  That was truly awful to hear.

Ted’s home teacher dedicated his mother’s grave, and gave the closing prayer at his funeral.  His former bishop gave the opening prayer.  I think we were the only 3 people he knew in the ward.  I talked to a young man in his 20s who I didn’t recognize, and he said he was a relative and didn’t really know Ted very well, but had been asked to dedicate his grave.  (To save money Ted was cremated and the ashes were brought to the cemetery.)  The people who spoke at the funeral all said they didn’t know Ted very well.  I soon realized that I probably knew Ted better than anyone.  It still makes me sad to realize this.

I didn’t plan to go to the grave, but felt compelled when I realized that few people would.  I didn’t plan to go to the funeral luncheon, but once again felt compelled to.  I met Ted’s aunt, who flew in from Hawaii, and I’m glad I met her.  It has now been a year since Ted died.  I’ve kept track of him, and added his name to FamilySearch.  I seriously doubt that anyone will do Ted’s temple work.  But I contacted his aunt, and asked for her permission to complete his temple work.  She granted it, and I am awaiting the approval process in FamilySearch.

While most people will go on with their lives and forget about Ted, I will never forget Ted.  His life was a real roller-coaster.  It was a blessing to get way out of my comfort zone, and minister to him and his mother.  I’m still looking out for him because I don’t want him to be completely forgotten.  Truly he was one of the least of these that Jesus mentioned.


3 comments on “Mental Illness – Part 2

  1. Very nice piece, Heretic. A moving display of what it means to serve Christ.

  2. Thanks Rock!

  3. Thanks for the story. Mental illness is a tough one, and the Church really has no answer for it. I have a son with schizophrenia and severe depression. He is on a good medication right now, which has given him some of his life back. No idea what the future will hold, but priesthood blessings and even a phone call (to me) from an apostle were no help. The range of what we call “normal” includes a lot of stuff that maybe we ought to be asking questions about. What is reality anyway?

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