Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Mental Wellness vs. Mental Illness

I think mental health is on a continuum, and every one of us fits on it somewhere. This is one of those topics where we talk in divisions and categories, but in reality the lines are not that concrete. The lines are helpful to discuss issues with each other, but in real life? It can be very hard to distinguish between them.

I am in private practice. Most of the time, my clients consist of people like me. I am functioning, capable, and relatively healthy. I struggle with depression, but overall I manage well. I see a counselor and plan to for the remainder of my life. I don’t always NEED counseling, but I benefit from it. I like having someone to bounce things off of. My clients are generally in the same “category” – they don’t necessarily NEED counseling to function, but choose it because it is helpful.

Oddly enough, I had never thought of a simpler way to express that idea but recently I was meeting with a UB student. There are med students who have the option to choose an elective called “Spirituality and Health” or something like that. These students meet one on one with several key people in our community to get several different perspectives of how spirituality affects our health. I am one of the panelists the students see. Recently I was meeting with one rather delightful student who happened to want to go to into psychiatry. It was a double connection with me, being in the mental health field.

Anyhow, she said she had read about the term “mental wellness.” She’s a good student so she wanted me to be sure and say she didn’t get credit for coming up with the term herself. I loved it. That’s it. People like me are pursuing MENTAL WELLNESS. People like me are helping other people pursue mental wellness.

I got an extremely huge education this week about mental illness. I spoke with some higher-ups and got a big clarification about hospitals like ECMC and what their goals and purposes are. The statistics I got were staggering. The amount of people a facility evaluates and the amount of patients that are actually admitted presents an incredibly huge gap. The hospital is only equipped to see the very sickest of the sickest. They just can’t meet the needs that the larger majority of people in need represent. My question is, then where do we tell our clients to go?

There isn’t a good answer. I am currently looking into some partial programs to educate myself further. It’s a huge problem. It’s what I encountered last year with my daughter. It’s what I encountered last week with my client. It’s what virtually all of my colleagues struggle with. What is there for those people who don’t fit into the “mental wellness” category? They really aren’t functioning well. Counseling and outpatient psychiatry isn’t enough. But they aren’t completely mentally ill either. They aren’t talking about aliens in their stomachs or wielding dangerous weapons around and a serious threat 98% of the time. There just isn’t much in place for them. There just isn’t. And it’s heart-breaking. I feel like I’m watching a disaster in the making. Worst case scenario is people continue to worsen and end up being in the “sickest of the sickest” category. Perhaps it could be prevented if they would get the proper help. Best case scenario is they don’t worsen, but live a life with almost zero quality. That pretty much sucks too.

Not sure what the answer is. I do know I will keep looking and fighting and arguing and trying. It’s time-consuming and non-rewarding most of the time, but I know of no other way. So if you are one of those support people in my life, be patient when I need to talk and vent and talk and vent. You need someone to put a pillow on the wall sometimes when you are banging your head into it. But I would rather do that than give up or become so disenchanted or jaded that I just give up. My daughter deserves better than that. So does my client.


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Imbeciles

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.