Wayne likes to "test-drive" cars. Most recently, he drove one to Florida, where he was going to help a movie star with her anti-drug campaign.
"It's not uncommon for us to get up and find five cars in our driveway - all nice cars," said his mother, Marilyn.She describes 25-year-old Wayne as "good-looking, clean-cut and very bright. He is utterly charming and can be manipulative. He is also mentally ill."
Wayne has bipolar disorder, which most people know as manic-depressive syndrome. Properly medicated, Wayne is stable and sane. When he's not receiving medication, he has psychotic - and grandiose - episodes. As with his belief that he had been "chosen" to help the actress, he can become delusional, convinced he's the best poet, the finest artist, the most-sought-after mind in the world. During such an episode, he procures fine cars, nice furniture and gifts for new-found friends. He even rents elegant condominiums, paying for them with "borrowed" credit cards, checks or plain charm and a promise he'll be back with cash in a few minutes.
"He once wiped me out with three checks and just kept going," Marilyn said of her son, who has served time in the state's prison for car theft.- - -
Carma used to find "little tiny notes in weird places." They said: "Help me, please," and were written by her teenage son, Jason, who wouldn't acknowledge authorship, even after weeks of counseling.As he got older, Jason started to "self-medicate" with marijuana. He would never acknowledge marijuana as a drug and, years later, he failed to complete a drug-rehab program because marijuana was the one addiction he was unwilling to relinquish.
Jason was found wandering winter-slick streets in summer clothing, and concerned police officers took him home. When he invited them into his apartment, they found marijuana growing and arrested him.
His confinement by the legal system alternated between the psychiatric ward at a local hospital and the Salt Lake County jail's mental-health unit.- - -
Use of alcohol and illegal substances by the mentally ill is common, families say. In fact, substance abuse often masks mental illness for years.
"A lot of mentally ill people get hooked on drugs," said Janina Chilton, Utah State Hospital. "It's self-medication. It seems to ease symptoms."
"Because of his drug-abuse history, I honestly thought he was on a hallucinogen," Carma said. "When he was arrested and drug tests showed no illegal substances, I was flabbergasted."
A scene was repeated over and over between Carma and Jason, with minor variations. It began to take on the "qualities of a nightmare I couldn't get out of":
Jason is pacing in his apartment, which looks like a cyclone hit it. He's thrown or dropped things everywhere. His face is florid, his speech disjointed. "Enter if you're friendly," he yells. "Take the apartment. I'll be peaceful." He doesn't know her. And in his present mental state, she doesn't know him. One minute he thinks he's Satan. The next, he thinks he is Jesus Christ. She finds he has placed knives at every door, to keep out the man "who keeps demons and pigs." His home is a fortress.
When he was arrested, Jason was first diagnosed with schizophrenia and later with bipolar disorder.
Parents of mentally ill children share common experiences: They are afraid for - and sometimes of - their children. Although leery of the legal system, they become desperate enough to "set up" an arrest so their children can get help - or at least protection from themselves. They all know what it's like to "feel like we are sitting on a time bomb."
"He takes his medication only because it's a condition of parole. Since Wayne has been on lithium, he hasn't committed a crime," Wayne's mother said. "He's still got grandiose ideas. If he didn't deny his mental illness, we could probably find another medication that would take care of that. His last court date was the date he went off his medication. This summer, when he gets off parole, he'll stop taking his medicine and we'll start all over. I wish the court could order him to take his medication forever, but it can't."
Carma is lucky. Jason recognizes his illness and is determined to stay on his medication. With it, he is sane. His life is becoming more normal.
Wayne won't admit he's mentally ill. And the legal system hampers his mother's efforts to get help for him. Because he is an adult - although a sick one - she has no legal right to know his diagnosis or what medication he takes. The confidentiality laws that are designed to protect her son's privacy prevent her from helping him.
"When the legal system is done with him, I'll be one of the people picking up the pieces," she said. "But no one will give me the tools I need to do it. And very little attention is paid to family members and their ideas, although they know the person best."Parents of mentally ill children share common experiences: They are afraid for - and sometimes of - their children. They become desperate enough to "set up" an arrest so their children can get help. For families, Marilyn said, mental illness means a lot of pain. It means wondering where your son, your daughter, your parent is. It means wondering if this person is alive or dead. It means loving someone and wishing, at times, that this precious, confused person would die. And it means guilt about those feelings.
Families know this, too: Mental illness is forever. Medications can help symptoms. Like diabetes, it may be controlled. But, again like diabetes, mental illness cannot be cured.
Not yet, at least.
Tomorrow, part three examines the prognosis for the system.