I got a call from the police at 10:30 p.m. They found my mother in a park and saw the open missing persons report I made from the last time she disappeared.
They asked me about my mother’s history. We talked about involuntary commitment, which they said they did not have cause to do. I spoke with my mother on speaker phone. Like she has been consistently, she was adamant about not going to a shelter. I told her that I could not bring her to my home because I have roommates. I told her I’d get a hotel for her for the night. She said that wouldn’t help because it was only for one night. I said I would come see her instead, thinking maybe I could convince her if I talked with her face-to-face. She didn’t want me to come because it was so late and I was an hour away. I arranged to meet her a few days later.
That’s the easier part of the story to tell.
It was the kind of cold night in SF Bay Area that there was more notice paid to homeless people and their well-being. The police talked with me, expecting that I would come down to get her and bring her to my house, since I had made the missing person’s report. That would be the kind of happy ending that could make a police officer’s day.
Why I haven’t taken her in is more difficult for me to explain.
My mother has delusions of persecution. She screams when she’s being “attacked.” It is so loud and terrified that it hit my fit-or-flight response dead on. Strangers look around quickly to see who’s being assaulted. I can’t have her in my house because I have roommates. I can be woken up in the middle of the night, but waking my roommates up like that would not be acceptable.
Then there’s knowing how she has developed delusions over the past 30 years. She believes her neighbors break in to her apartment and steal things from her. She believes there is poison gas coming in through the sink pipes. Her only sister is part of the conspiracy against her. I cannot risk her involving my roommates and neighbors in her delusions.
I know that even if I do take her in, she won’t stay. It’s been this way with every space she’s lived in that since before she went off of her medications. It’s fine for a little while and she’s happy, then her delusions start manifesting in her new space. She has moved every 6-12 months for years for over a decade, each time thinking the problem was with the place she was living not her.
I cannot do it. I decided when I found her again last time that I could not bring her to my house. At the bottom of it all, I could not bear to bring her into my home and then put her back out on the street again. I decided I would do anything for her I can except that. This is my secret shame.
I know that bringing her into my house would be a short-lived solution and would jeopardize my own living situation. I know that it is a logical response. Still, I feel like I’m saving myself at her expense.
All I can know is that I cannot help her if I do not help myself.