Mental states are fragile. One of the most popular themes of American literature, in fact, is the fragility of man's sanity. H.P. Lovecraft utilized this often in his horror stories, and the death of the "American Dream" and the effect it had on the sanity of its dreamers was a popular theme in Arthur Miller's plays.
Unfortunately watching somebody's mental state deteriorate in real life doesn't carry with it the safety of a Lovecraft novel or a play in a theater. It's real. It's awful.
Here were some of those answers.
Nine Years Alone
Watched my dad join a cult. Get diagnosed with cancer. Get dumped by the cult and die alone. It was horrible, one of his friends used the word "sick" as in "ill" and that really made so many of his choices clear. He was dying, he felt like crap. He didn't want to get medical care. He became mentally unstable and ended up pushing everyone away over 9 years, he got his wish. He died alone.
Quick Chemical Turn Around
I watched a friend get overtaken by his first bipolar episode in about 3 weeks. He started smoking a LOT more than he had before. He was on Snapchat and social media nonstop. He started drinking heavily as well, and barely sleeping. He totaled his Jeep and got a dui. He went to his job and told his boss to f*** off among other things. He was fired.
He started getting angry very easily. During this time I spoke to his mom to let her know what was going on but she was in denial still. The drinking and mania continued for another week. He went golfing with some friends and as they were driving home, he lost it and started ripping his clothes off and tried to jump out of the car. They pulled over and he was screaming for someone to come and kill him. They calmed him down enough to get to the hospital where he stayed for a few days. This all happened in 3 weeks. He's better now which is really good to see.
Intelligent Yet Alone
So I am a nurse in an Assisted Living Facility. Most people there have dementia. Of course I have plenty of stories of sun downers. Or hospice patients. However, this person just stuck with me when I was an aide at a local hospital.
There was a woman who came in to a med-surg unit. She was middle aged, so not old. I don't remember why she was on our unit, but I remember it had something to do with a car accident, but she was so smart. She had two doctorate degrees and enriched many lives at a local college. I just remember being in awe of the conversations I would have with her when I had the time. She was there for a long time. I remember saying goodbye to her at the end of the shift and her commenting that she was going to a rehab facility. A few months go by and she came back. I remember seeing her name and being excited to see her.
When I went to her room she didn't recognize me, which wasn't too odd. Sometimes our regulars didn't recognize me. However, she didnt' even know how to use the remote for the TV. She could still for the most part take care of herself with minimal help, but something was... off. I told the nurse who had taken care of her the previous night about the status condition change, but the nurse didn't do anything. The next times I had her I just watched her decline. Become incontinent, unable to care for herself, mood swings, all of those. It was the saddest thing I had ever seen at that point in ny career. She ended up passing in the hospital. I will never forget the intelligent, strong woman I had met just months ago become almost a shell and non-verbal so quickly. I never saw a visitor there even once.
Grandma, she had Alzheimer and dementia, she started losing her memory slowly over time, then one day she fell and broke her hip, being bed ridden accelerated her illnesses and within couple of months she was just laying there and staring at the roof,barely speaking and all she says is none-sense, she doesn't recognize anyone, not even her children. It's like she's not there anymore and all that's left is her body.
The sad part is that she's been like that for years, dead but not really dead, that we can't even mourn her probably because all the sadness and tears were shed while her body still lies on her bed.
A close person to me told that he had what he thought was a mental breakdown at the age of 5 or so. And the reason was intrusive thoughts about death, specifically his own death.
I said "Why would you even be thinking that at that age?" and why would he worry about that because he was still a child and far from death. He just responded with "I don't know. It's like I know how it feels.
It might've been just a one time thing but he had these mental breakdowns sometimes and it was not good. The most recent bad one was when he was 15. He was doing something happy or anything but then he suddenly freezes up then flinches and starts to cry like a child. And he cries for hours and kicks his feet. At this point I was scared because he was inconsolable and don't know what to do.
After a nights sleep, He seems to be fine but he seems to have momentary "aftershocks" and would flinch and start to cry again. He said it takes 2 months to recover from this or be back to his normal happy self but he becomes scared, frantic and sad in these 2 months.
Worse thing is I think he kinda had PTSD from these episodes and if something reminds him of these situation he breaks down again. One specific song was enough to make him have a mental breakdown and it seems he is likely to have these in December or in the night.
He's fine now and has ways to recover from the breakdowns but it seems he is still prone to having these episodes.
My fiancé's mom past a few years ago from creutzfeldt-jakob disease (CJD for short). CJD is most commonly called mad cow disease even tho they aren't the same. CJD only happens to humans and Mad cow is bovine. CJD is when these proteins in your brain called prions go crazy and start to fold and basically turns your brain in to Swiss cheese. There is no cure and it is very rare. Only a few hundred cases a year. She was perfectly healthy except for being diabetic but she had zero complications with her diabetes.
Then out of nowhere she started having problems remembering things and then starting having mood swings. She went to the doctor but they couldn't figure out what it was. It wasn't until a month or so later that a specialist diagnosed her with CJD. She went from being completely healthy to not being able to move her arms, legs, control voluntary and involuntary functions and then death in 8 months. It was extremely hard on my fiance to see her mom lose everything that made her who she was. Her own mother and father had to see her deteriorate as well. It was just awful for the whole family
No Longer The Person I Fell In Love With
When we came back from my deployment, I literally watched my then-husband become a shell of the person he previously was. Prior to the deployment he was so light, optimistic, and social. He slowly transitioned into a man afraid to leave home and eventually began to use substances and was finally released from duty because of it. We still remain friends after all these years, but he's still only a ghost of the person he was before.
It Kept Going
My grandmother was very ill for many years with almost no immune system. Minor cuts and scrapes would get infected and run rampant. Every now and then the infection would make its way to her brain.
It would usually start slowly and progress to hallucinations. Commonly she would see mice or cockroaches. One time she believed fully that she had hair lice, and would get her husband to check and comb her hair to the point it would start falling out.
Eventually she'd have no idea of the date or even the year, sometimes believing it was as early as the 40's, the same year she was born.
She'd then begin to forget how old people were and at its worse, who they were. All this time she believed she was fine and refused to go the hospital.
Even after all that, the hardest was the vitriolic hateful things she would say to you and everyone else when the ambulances were called because she could barely stay conscious.
These infections happened 4 or 5 times, maybe more. And every time the doctors would tell us that she wouldn't make it, and she did every time.
She passed away in 2017.
Erratic And Dangerous
My group of friends witnessed two friends go through paranoid schizophrenic breakdowns, one after the other, in the space of two years. The second one was my roommate. It happened very suddenly. He just woke up one day and decided that we were all lying to him all the time, and acted with the hostility and contempt that you would expect from someone who thought those things. He did erratic stuff like smashing all his belongings with a baseball bat in the driveway and piling all his socks on the kitchen floor. He eventually went back to his parents' house, which was a relief. From what I have heard, he never really got the help he needed.
No Good Can Come From Bad
Friend fell back into addiction. I thought I felt powerless as I listened to him downplay his use.
I felt even more useless as he started looking off into corners. Then said the voices that he was hearing "weren't from meth, they were from living with [his] parents".
While I was away, my bf went over to him holding a kitchen knife to keep his parents (who were half a world away on vacation) in the basement. He hid in a bench for 6 hours.
Finally, he called the cops on his voices.
Visited him everyday I could in the mental ward. When he got out, he blew up our friendship, went missing, went back into the psych ward. That's the last thing I knew.