My Brother Isn’t “Crazy,” He Suffers from Schizophrenia


Mitch’s world is complex and violent and isolating, but rather than hiding it away, I’m trying to give others a window into it.


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There are few certainties in this life. However, this I know: Water is wet. Ice is cold. And that small window between Halloween and Veterans Day? That’s when my brother, Mitch, stops taking his antipsychotic medication. My family’s holiday arguments don’t center around religion or politics. That would be too easy. Instead, we fight about whether it’s time to commit Mitch to a mental institution again.

Mitch and I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the ice cream will knock you off a stool long before any beer will (bars can’t serve beer over 3.4% alcohol by weight on tap). Our parents have been happily married for 35 years. Mitch was every bit the baby of our family of five. If he could have slept in my parents’ room into his teen years, he would have. Anything Mitch wanted, he got.

It’s painful to see how the safe and comfortable environment in which I grew up turned upside down a decade later — when Mitch had his first psychotic break at 22 years old, my family’s trajectory changed forever.

In the gap between early childhood and the psychiatric hospital, Mitch was a strong, intelligent, capable and charismatic person. On his good days, he still is. Socially, he excels. With his Zac Efron-like looks, a quick wit, a large beaming smile, sparkles in his hazel eyes, and a richly empathetic soul, he could charm Stalin.

But throughout his teen years — the time the developing brain is most vulnerable — he used marijuana, ecstasy, cocaine, LSD and alcohol heavily. And that’s just what I know of. When he was 18, I got a jarring phone call from my mom.

“Your brother is in jail!” she cried into the phone as I was driving up the highest paved road in North America, a 14,000-foot scenic byway in Colorado, where I’d recently moved. “He rented out a hotel room for three weeks and has been…click here to continue reading