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  • Writer's pictureCatherine J Rippee-Hanson

Thanks, with a Side of Guilt

Updated: Dec 7, 2021

by Catherine J Rippee-Hanson

Is it possible to feel both grateful and ungrateful at the same time? Wouldn't it be nice if we could live without inharmonious and conflicting emotions, nagging feelings of failure, and feeling inadequate as family members or caregivers for those with serious mental/brain disorders?

On Thanksgiving, we all take the time to reflect on what we are grateful for, as well as the people we hold most dear to our hearts. It is a day to tell those we love how much they mean to us. This is a day to forgive grievances and focus on what is important in life. It is a day of thanksgiving. We are grateful as we acknowledge and give thanks for what we have in life. People have shared their stories and experiences with us, which helped us feel less alone in our struggle. We did not know there were so many families. As we fight for Mark's care and life, we are thankful that we still have each other and our mother, Lou Rippee, and those in our community both online and off.

"...As we prepare for Thanksgiving, we wonder what our brother is thankful for on this day. Is he thankful for the bush that barely covers him from the cold and hides him from those who might harm him? Does he even know that Thanksgiving Day is here in his confused, delusional state of mind… so impaired with untreated serious mental illness?" ~ Linda Rippee Privatte & Catherine J Rippee-Hanson Thanksgiving 2019

Two years later, our brother, Mark is still alive against all odds living on the streets of Solano County still... We are grateful.

We are especially grateful for the community and members of our Facebook group 'Mark of Vacaville' for watching out and caring for Mark on the streets of Vacaville whenever and as best as they can.

We are grateful to have been a part of the "2020 Grassroots Mental Healthcare 5-part Federal Agenda Plan,” that so many advocates put their hope in, especially after it taken by Leslie and Scott Carpenter to Iowa and made its way to Washington D.C. during the 2020 primaries of the Presidential campaign.

We are grateful for being involved and being able to try once again to reach those in power through Dede Ranahan's book, with sixty-four other co-authors in Tomorrow Was Yesterday.

We are grateful that we could collaborate with a producer/director like Gail Freedman, and collaborate with Ron Powers, Author on the film documentary in production, No One Cares About Crazy People.

We appreciate everyone who has given us the opportunity to tell Mark's story… and those who did it for us. No help has been too little. As grateful as I am for anything positive - I feel guilty that our brother, Mark is still on the streets thinking that he can survive the winter and really having no options and no capacity to make informed and reasonable decisions or choices about his life.

Left to the streets by the county officials, social workers, and agencies…blind, disabled, with a TBI, and suffering from an untreated serious brain disorder - schizoaffective with /bipolar disorder, and anosognosia (lack of Insight or awareness of his mental/brain illness.)

Sometimes it is unfathomable that we are still at this point. No one willing to even help Mark with housing. I wish we were at the point of at least finding housing with services attached. That is the most elusive. No treatment beds. No residential treatment. No AOT… No Laura’s Law… No mental health services at all… In trying to analyze Mark’s predicament through a lens of logic… it seems that it is not that he does not check the right boxes – he checks far too many of them.

If county officials want to continue saying that he is "competent" after the entire town has witnessed him getting struck by two different vehicles being literally 100% blind and delusional most of the time - then why won't any social worker or county worker help him get his Section 8 Housing and IHSS worker back to assist him since it was based on his 100% blindness? Oh wait, there's that pesty lens of logic.

He lost Section 8 Housing 14 years ago during a mental illness crisis. There is no supportive housing or facilities for housing or beds for care and treatment near Solano County. The county Board of Supervisors and the county Attorney signed off on a letter to our family that declares their "legal" assessment that Mark has full capacity and is not eligible for any mental healthcare as he is "competent."

At the very least...he should have housing due to his disability of blindness and did for years, but I digress...

There are definitely conflicts of feelings upon thought. The help that Mark has received, as well as Linda's, my mother's, and my own have been greatly appreciated.

Despite all the fears, the anxiety, the worry, the frustration, the tears, and the anger... We still give thanks. We are grateful.

As we always do when we sit around the dinner table and say what we are thankful for, we will mention our family - because we love them dearly. We also will say, “I am thankful for every person that has supported us in our advocacy for our brother.”

We are grateful for each other for we are each half of the “twin tag team,” as we have been known, or by our new "Twisted Sisters Advocacy & Activism for Serious Brain Disorders" page." Twisted Sisters Advocacy & Activism for Serious Brain Disorders | Facebook We have come further together and done more than only one person could have ever accomplished.

Over the years, we have been grateful to each other for being able as twins to work in cooperation so well together regardless of how slow it sometimes is... We each have our limitations, but somehow - together we make it work. It just should not be this hard is all I am sayin'. I am grateful. I could not imagine doing it alone, and that makes me feel guilty and sad again. Because I know how hard it is for many families and family members to cope on their own.

So, yes. I am grateful, and I will give thanks... along with a little guilt that seems to still linger even as we search for some glimmer of silver linings.

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