Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief



Part four.

I have to admit, I am tired of writing about this. All three of the previous blogs only covered a little over 24 hours of what happened with my daughter. Every day, I get another email or phone call that makes me hit my head on the wall again. My plan was to give you all the gory details blow-by-blow so you could really follow the events, but I’ve decided just to give you the highlights. Or should I say low-lights?

After driving an hour and a half home from the hospital, we discovered that we were supposed to bring Emily shampoo and other toiletries. We brought her some clothes, only because the mobile unit suggested we put some together for her. The hospital gave us ZERO information. ZERO. We had no idea that we were responsible for bringing her supplies. And we had no idea they wouldn’t give her several of the clothing items Spencer had packed because there are lots of rules and regulations. Can’t have pants or shirts that have a tie on them. Again, just a tiny bit of information WOULD HAVE BEEN VERY VERY VERY HELPFUL. Great Monday.

On Tuesday I called to try to see what the treatment plan was. The nurse was very sympathetic and said the case worker should be contacting us. I told her what a joy that case worker was the day before. Now the nurse was very apologetic. She said she would not only have the case worker call, but also the psychiatrist. (By the way, we never did get a call from the case worker. Not once during the entire time of Emily’s hospitalization. Nice.)

Later that afternoon, Dr. Personality called me. This is how the conversation went.

“Hello, Darcy. I had a message to call you. What is going on?”
“Well, that it is the question I had for you actually. What is happening there?”
“I don’t understand your question.”
“I’m calling to find out what the treatment plan is for my daughter.”
“I don’t understand your question.”

Are you kidding me? Ok, let me spell it out for you.

“Have you diagnosed her yet? Have you started her on medications? Which ones? Is she compliant with taking them? What is her reaction to the drugs? Do you have a discharge plan? Is she doing any kind of therapy while she is there?” DUH.

The arrogant responses came back in full form. “Well, the diagnosis is a psychotic episode.” So we talked about that. I understand she had a psychotic episode. So he put her on Risperdol which is an anti-psychotic drug. Will she stay on that for a while? Yes. Ok. Now I explain to him that we have addressed the symptoms. She had a psychotic break and we have stopped that. Now what about the disease that caused the symptoms?

“I don’t understand your question.”

Ok. Well, I suspect she has Bipolar Disorder because of the strong family history and the manic episode. But she was saying some things that sounded schizophrenic. He said Bipolar more likely, but that isn’t his job. He has no intention of diagnosing her or starting her on meds that address her disease. An outpatient doctor will do all that.

Are you f*****g kidding me? Again, a little information would be helpful.

Their website says they are a full treatment facility with a multi-discipline approach. (I have to always point out that includes family therapy.) However, they are clearly not. They are a stabilizing facility, like most here in NY. Stabilize her and release her. Now that is information I find helpful. Just tell me what your plan is and I can adjust. But you gave me no information and your website is completely false and deceptive.

I then try to enter a dialogue with him about the next step. Should I be researching another type of facility for her? Why would I want to do that he asks me. For about a million reasons. Because Bipolar is an extremely difficult disease to manage. The meds are heavy-duty and take a long time to level out. And you are going to release her back into the environment that stressed her enough to cause a psychotic episode in the first place. I don’t know what the best next step is, but as her advocate and loved one, I would like to have a dialogue with a professional to figure that out.

Here’s the winning statement for Dr. Dreamy.

“Your daughter is not an imbecile or a retard.”

Are you f*****g kidding me?

“Yes doctor, I know. But neither am I. I am a licensed mental health professional and I would appreciate being talked to in that manner.”

Conversation over.

But that wasn’t even the worse part. After we got off the phone, he actually went to my daughter and told her this:
“You need to tell your mother that you aren’t an imbecile. You can make your own decisions and she should stop treating you like a child.”

I am not treating my daughter like a child. I am treating her like she has a mental illness. And apparently I am the only one that understands this in the entire circus.

I’m not sure if you understand the significance of what that doctor did. Besides being politically incorrect and completely unprofessional, he was undermining my relationship with my daughter. My daughter, who has discovered a serious, life-threatening mental illness. I am not trying to be an ass, but I am TRULY THE ONLY PERSON IN HER ENTIRE LIFE THAT HAS THE EDUCATION AND KNOWLEDGE TO TRULY UNDERSTAND AND HELP HER. And that asshole basically told her not to trust me.

I’m so mad all over again just writing it, that I’m going to end here. There is so much more to say but I’ve had enough for today. UNBELIEVABLE.


Calls That Change Your Life

Sometimes in life, a phone call will alter the course of your future in a profound way. “Your husband has stage four cancer” is one example. Last weekend, I had a series of phone calls that changed my life. That is why this week’s blog is so late. I have a feeling I will be writing several blogs about the last seven days of events.

On Saturday, I got a phone call from my daughter Emily’s friend in Georgia. It seemed that Emily had drunk a bottle of cough syrup and was acting very strangely. I assumed she had attempted to commit suicide, but I couldn’t get Emily to really answer what her intentions were. Along the suicide train of thought, she was also talking about her will and reminding me that I was supposed to take care of her children if anything happened to her.

There was little sleep for me, and none for Emily or her friend Melinda. By 5 AM, I realized that Emily no longer was making much rational sense at all. The scales had been tipping more and more away from reality and now I was convinced she wasn’t okay.

What to do? I started with what I knew here in New York. I called Crisis Services and asked them for their equivalent in Georgia. Of course I had to call a couple of disconnected phone numbers before I found the right place. But once I reached them, they were amazing. I gave them the scenario, and they assured me they would send a mobile unit as quickly as possible to evaluate Emily. Being in the Georgia mountains, it was at least an hour drive. I was impressed with them from the first call, and they didn’t disappoint me. I got follow-up phone calls when they were en route, calls while evaluating her, and calls afterward.

By this time, Emily was going in and out of coherence. Sometimes she knew her father was dead, other times she didn’t. And the scary part was that when she acknowledged he was dead, she was also saying she was going to be with him. And scarier yet, she started saying that she was bringing her eight year old son with her. He needed to be with his grandpa. Mike was my contact at the mobile unit and he let me know that Emily definitely needed to be hospitalized. The only question was whether she would voluntarily go, or if they would 10-13 her, meaning involuntarily admit her. Voluntarily is always preferable, except that if you voluntarily check in, you can also check out whenever you want to. That was a big drawback. He made another call to me and asked me if I could get to Georgia as quickly as possible. Emily made it clear that she could trust me. He knew I was a licensed mental health counselor, and he felt strongly that she needed a family member other than her husband to advocate for her.

Of course, Sunday was my annual block party. Held at my house, of course. We started it the year Tim got sick and have had it ever since. It’s one of my favorite days and everyone else seems to look forward to it, too. I announced to the party that I had a family emergency but I would feel terrible if they didn’t stay and enjoy themselves. One of my favorite smart alecks assured me they planned to party without me, and would probably trash the place with their wild, inappropriate behavior. I felt much better!

Now I had to book a flight. I found one on Southwest for Monday morning. I forget how much it was, but I was surprised and grateful it wasn’t like a thousand dollars with the late notice. By then, Summer and Karen had come over and were in full swing being the great friends they have always been. I looked at Summer and asked if I should break some professional boundaries. I had a client who is a pilot who might be able to get me to Atlanta sooner. Without hesitating, she said “Get to your daughter as quickly as you can, by whatever means you have.”

I contacted the family and sure enough, within a few brief moments, they told me about a 7:00 pm flight that was highly likely I could get on. You have to fly stand-by so there are no guarantees, but it looked promising. The girls sprung into action. They helped me pack by bags, and make the 14 or 15 calls of cancellations I needed to make for the next week at all my various jobs. The next thing I knew, I was arriving in Atlanta.

Spencer (Emily’s husband) picked me up and we went straight to the hospital. By then it was 1:00 am. This was not a psychiatric hospital, nor did it have a psychiatric unit. The plan was to take her to a hospital that was a mental health treatment facility. We went back to see Emily, and her door was guarded by a police officer. I had to be wanded before I could enter the room. I asked Emily if she knew who I was and she did. She knew my name. But that was pretty much the only thing that was in tact. She knew everyone’s name from her entire life time. The details about their lives though were completely off base.

More in the next blog. Emily has given me permission to tell her story. I have learned an immense amount about mental illness and learned even more about advocating in a very, very poor health system. We both think it could be helpful to educate everyone else in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation. But you will have to wait for the story to unfold. I am exhausted beyond belief, and also behind in trying to resume my responsibilities here at home. For now, let me just say that Emily had what is called a psychotic episode. That means she was no longer in touch with reality. There were delusions and hallucinations. Stay tuned for the next several blogs and I will continue to explain how things unfolded…