NO APOLOGIES... by Catherine J. Rippee-Hanson
Updated: Jun 9
"Once someone mentioned that we told Mark's story in a raw and unapologetic
way. That's because the truth is raw and unapologetic!" ~Linda (Rippee)
Catherine J. Rippee-Hanson and Linda (Rippee) Privatte
Yes... we have unapologetically laid bare the uncomfortable truth of our brother's life on social media, with journalists, and in speeches to officials in government. More importantly, we've chronicled how Mark lives at all - with so much against him. He fought from that fateful night of the original motorcycle accident in 1987, and then once he knew what his life had become... he wanted to die rather than live his life with the consequences of a traumatic brain injury that took years to recover from... and the accident itself that took his sight. He was suicidal and in need of constant help. For years, my twin, Linda, and I both looked after and tried to help Mark the best we could, but after a while and so many psychotic episodes where someone often feared for their life, his life, or when someone was actually hurt or had property destroyed - it became impossible.
After more than three decades, we have accumulated intimate and thorough knowledge of the details of Mark's tragic life since he was 24 years old... the two to three years it took to recover for the most part from the TBI... the years he seemed to do much better, living independently with assistance... the dramatic change in him when he started hearing voices... his perspective and thought process impaired... the horrible behaviors... the unreality of his reality... ultimately into madness and homelessness.
We've lived with family discord, loss, disappointment, frustration, fear, anxiety, physical and medical repercussions, judgement, bullying, and people pointing fingers at us - when the law is what ties our hands - yet becomes an easy out for all the officials. We've seen him suffer repeated beatings and seen citizens of his hometown bring him food. We have seen the humiliation and the kindness of stranger's reactions to him. We’ve experienced the daily unknown, fear, and foreboding that every family with a loved one who is seriously mentally ill faces. We know all the horrid little details of his fixed delusions to the point of memorization because we have heard them so many times over the years.
We've begged government officials, medical professionals, and health agencies for help. We know what it's like to be pushed away. We know what it’s like to be kept away legally from doing what is best for him, even as we know so well that he cannot make the decisions necessary to keep himself safe, healthy, or even sheltered. He doesn't know he is mentally ill. It's not denial. It's a brain condition known as anosognosia - which up to 50% of people with schizophrenia suffer from... a complete lack of insight into his own serious mental illness.
I read that "schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair." Mark certainly knows despair... questioning out loud - even his own existence. Howling and raging against the voices that torment him - begging the question, "Who am I? Why am I like this?"
And the next minute lucid and calm enough to recognize one of us and to provide a hug. Or he might hold our hand and bring up an old memory from childhood. As his older sisters, "despair" and "hope" are what we waver between in our balancing act - every minute of every day. There are no normal days... “average” days - defined in our lives, as a day without a worry about Mark... only the constant, unrelenting uncertainty that has ingrained upon us both to jump when the phone rings.
If he has no understanding of his mental illness how can he "choose" to get help? How can he make decisions about his living situation? How can he make any sound choices? Why, under current law is his inability to recognize his own mental illness not pertinent when he describes the voices that torment him and even says they are coming from a microwave radio-frequency being sent by the police who planted a chip in his brain to grow more cops and is how he receives transmission of those voices. When he's said that he's taped the voices, so he knows they are external... a mental disturbance, not intrinsic but extrinsic as an indication of being of sound mind. He is unaware of the fact that he is mentally ill, and so will always, always, always say that he is not.
If it weren't for our efforts in recent years on social media, the press and within our community as well as the collective kindness and compassion that has grown out those efforts - Mark would not even be able to feed himself. Our members on social media have stepped forward and stepped up, while others sit in judgment on either Mark or us, including some of the very people that could help Mark. Some people may not want to read about it... see the photos... or videos... or even know about the struggle of a family left to handle a serious mental illness with no professional help. We don't want him to die in a gutter or in a creek because everyone gave up on him as dispensable knowing full well that he should qualify for conservatorship for his own benefit.
Still, all our pleas and arguements to prevent him from dying on the streets have fallen on deaf ears. There is no assistance we're told by county officials. There are no services we're told by county agencies. There is no housing appropriate for Mark. There is nothing that will compel him to get treatment for a disease that he is not even cognizant of. We've been ignored repeatedly. We've been scolded by officials for not shutting up about it...(for some reason, they seem to think we are going to go away) We've been scorned by medical professionals who have a duty to act in the best interest of their patient, but ignore brain illness and treat it as a civil right to be protected at all costs against family members like us who love him and who only want our brother to be safe... physically, medically, and mentally. Medical professionals are resistant to assisting family members as they fear the liability imposed by HIPAA regulation infractions - above a very serious medical condition that needs to be treated.
No, we have no apologies...
We have screamed, written, called, testified, petitioned, gave speeches, statements, kept notes, documented, made videos, collected statements from other community members... especially the hundreds of notifications and messages regarding times that Mark, being blind, fell or stepped into traffic. Indeed, we predicted that he would eventually be hit by a car and begged for help and services from our county of Solano to prevent that very thing, pleading incessantly with the county of Solano through meetings, speeches, calls, letters, e-mails while still advocating and testifying for proposed state legislation of various mental health reform bills. We networked with other mental health advocates to help formulate the 2020 Grassroots 5-part Federal Agenda plan for Mental Health/Illness reform at the national level which made its way to the White House and all of the 2020 Presidential candidates during the primaries.
Our brother, Mark may never be cured of his disease because he went untreated for so very, very long, however; he still has a right to live and to have a better life. He is not happy living on the street, but his only solutions are not even based in reality. He forgets that he was kicked off the Section 8 housing assistance when he was evicted 13 years ago. He believes his delusion about several different women who have taken advantage of him over the years - believing that one or all are still going to show up with the money he gave them to get an apartment. But the truth is that no landlord will rent to a person who is blind with a serious mental illness. No motel or hotel in the area will let him stay even one night - he's been blacklisted. Some taxi companies have banned him. No homeless shelter in the county will accept him and provide a bed for even one night due to previous outbursts during psychosis. County services for mental health have been denied to him out of discrimination. This is what it is like for people who are floridly psychotic with serious mental/brain illness and anosognosia.
Mark's circumstances are even more dire, given that he is blind and has now been struck twice by a vehicle in the span of a 4-month period. As if the first accident in 1987 wasn't traumatic enough, followed by about 60 surgeries. So many surgeries, that I've lost accurate count. Both times he was hit by a car it resulted in life-threatening injuries. Mark is still hospitalized going on 107 days now. His already broken body is battered and shattered beyond belief again.
I have nightmares now of him being ignored... nobody riding up on a white horse to save the day, no matter how loud we scream. I see his body struck over and over as his body is thrown in the air and crashing down like a limp rag doll, his face slamming into the windshield - breaking it. The blood... the broken bones... the head trauma... and still blind, unaware of what has happened to him - again.
Still living in his delusions of what his life will be when he is discharged. The thing that we fear most. He will not be any safer than he was when he was struck by a car back in September or when he was struck by the second car in February. It has become increasingly apparent, that county officials, investigators, APS social workers and other county directors of services are callous and uncaring. They only see that Mark's circumstances - with all his medical problems and brain illness, just don't fit into the right boxes for him to be deserving of help.
So, they just ignore him long enough and wait it out...
Wait what out? Well, his life... of course. Once he finally dies from exposure, infection, or gets hit by another car... they will shake their heads and give contrived little quotes of self-promotion and false compassion to journalists who want to know why they didn't help before tragedy struck once again.
Nope, we still have NO APOLOGIES HERE...
Our brother, James Mark Rippee, in 1987 - before his original accident which took his sight and before schizophrenia and anosognosia.
After being struck by a car in February of 2020 - his body broken and shattered. He is still recovering and his mobility and future is uncertain.
LINK TO SIGN PETITION FOR MARK https://www.thepetitionsite.com/376/138/959/demand-attention-for-james-mark-rippee-from-governor-gavin-newsome-amp-the-state-of-california/?taf_id=65116396&cid=fb_na&fbclid=IwAR2WwvORagwgLFf-rpbEPvUyfel6XagbdN2JaMrwHppmqUkIInd1dSaT5DQ