Dismantling our Mental Health System

Dismantling our Mental Health System

Today is a sad day, the U.S. Senate introduced a draft of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) of 2017. Like the American Health Care Act passed by the House on May 4th, the bill would:

  • Allow states to drop coverage of mental illness from insurance plans; and
  • Dramatically cut Medicaid, a program that helps children and adults with serious mental illness get better and stay better.

“I live with major depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder and ADD. My mental health providers are my main support. I really can’t afford to have any of my assistance programs taken away …
It would be devastating.”
– Vivian

Today’s bill would result in millions of Americans like Vivian losing mental health coverage at a time when our nation is already facing a mental health crisis.

We need to improve, not dismantle, our mental health system.

Please donate to NAMI so they can continue to support the needs of people with mental illness.

Dear Doctor

Dear Doctor

You took care of my son 13 years ago when he was 17 years old and I thought I would give you an update on his recovery.

During the summer of 2004 my son ended up in the hospital three times for seven days, and each time he came home feeling a little bit worse than before. During this period I was at the most vulnerable time in my entire life and you tried your hardest to beat me to the ground, accusing me of raising my children wrong and being the cause of my son’s illness.  You misdiagnosed my son at the beginning then refused, and even argued with me, to get a second opinion. You diagnosed him with bi-polar yet he was having audio hallucinations and delusions. You pumped him up with the wrong medications, adding one on top of the other. By fall he was on seven or more medications causing him to be almost catatonic, he no longer could function properly. Without knowing the background of my family or the whole story of a specific situation, your staff wrongfully reported me to social services.

Something inside me knew you were wrong, that you and your staff made deliberate mistakes, that your treatment to my son was killing him. I should have filed a complaint to the hospital’s Administration and Psychology departments, and the state of California, maybe even gotten a lawyer. However, to your benefit I had no strength during that time.

By the end of summer, I woke up from my misery and swore that my son will never end up in the mental hospital again, that he will recover and live a normal life. With the help of my son’s therapist I demanded a second opinion and would not allow you to fight me. Eventually the head doctor of Psychology re-diagnosed him with Schizophrenia, yet you took the credit for it. At the end of that summer I fired you and found a Psychiatrist that helped eliminate all the unnecessary medications you prescribed. We got him down to two which he still takes today. I am proud to say, since 2004, my son has not seen the mental ward of any hospital. Through the help of myself, his psychiatrist, his therapist, the UCLA Aftercare program, and his willingness to overcome this, he is doing exceptionally well.

You painted a dreary picture of my son’s future by instilling negative thoughts in his already worn down mind. In 2014, ten years later, he sent me this statement,

”Ten years ago I was told by the people who gave an oath to save lives that mine had ended and my new life was going to be a hollow and sad existence that would end shorter than it could have been.”

Despite his mental illness, it’s now 2017 and, without your negative influence, here is where he is at:

  • He has earned an A.S. degree in Science from a community college
  • He has earned three A.A. degrees from a community college
  • He has earned a B.S. degree in Physics from a local university
  • He has been accepted into the Physics Masters program at a local university
  • He will further his education by continuing into a Ph.D. program
  • His plan is to be gainfully employed at JPL or SpaceX
  • He is a senior brown belt in karate and will test for his first black belt next summer
  • He has attended a series of intense practices in karate
  • He is confident
  • He is funny
  • He is honorable
  • Most importantly, my son embraces his illness and accepts it as a part of his life. He has taken control of it, knowing it’s there but will not allow it to interfere with his goals in life

There you go…thank God he didn’t listen to you, he remembered your words but refused to believe them. My son’s achievements prove that someone who suffers from mental illness can live normally with proper treatment and care from others.

Just for the record, I’m a great mother and don’t you forget it! I made tremendous sacrifices to raise my son and help him through his recovery. It was his father who was not interested in being a part of the family and also not participating in my son’s recovery from mental illness.

With that said, I have become a strong advocate for removing the stigma of mental illness. I am a member and teacher of NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness). I teach family members, who are going through the same nightmare as I did, to cope and understand what mental illness is. I strongly suggest that, instead of discouraging your patients and their families, help them.  Listen to their needs, and encourage them that there is a solution. Send family members to NAMI so they can get the knowledge and support they need so they can better help themselves and their precious loved one. Please.

Sincerely,
Lisa Marie

(¯`´¯) ..•*¨`*.•
 ´*.¸.*´   Peace & Light

Mental Ward

Mental Ward

The elevator crawls upward, creaking and squeaking, and gives a slight jerk as it stops at the seventh floor.  The doors slide open and I enter into a small claustrophobic room that has no windows to the outside. To my left sits a table and a couple of chairs. A bouquet of artificial yellow flowers lie in the center of the table, I’m not sure if they are there to cheer me up or make this room seem cozy, they just don’t belong. To my right is a locked, heavy duty, double door each with a twelve-by-twelve, one inch thick glass window. There is an intercom and a doorbell on the wall to the right of the double doors. Peeking through the small windows I can see the nurse’s station and a visiting area. The nurse’s station, shielded with thick glass, is centrally located for monitoring patients, visitors and the two locked doors, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Time is of the essence and visiting hours are from 5:00 PM to 6:00 PM — exactly, not one minute more or less. Except for special circumstances, the doors stay shut to any visitor prior to 5:00, and precisely at 6:00 visitors are booted out with no exceptions. My nature is to be on time, so of course I wait in this small lobby ten minutes early and will stay until I am no longer allowed.

Precisely at 5:00 PM, I ring the doorbell, identify myself, and explain that I’m here to visit my son (I announce his name) in the junior ward. I hear a loud click which slightly startles me, unlocking the doors. I walk quietly through the visiting area and turn to my right toward a second set of double doors that lead to the junior ward. The halls are large, barren and dark, I feel as though the dim lights are deliberately designed to increase the already dismal energy that encircles those who dare enter this facility.

My every breath is heavy, my pace is sluggish and my stomach churns uncontrollably. I want to turn around and run, I have that choice, but if I do then I will have failed my duty as a mother to support my son. I desperately need to be with him to comfort his fears and to reassure myself that he is still with me. There is no going back, I must keep moving hoping this nightmare will pass.

I reach the entrance to junior mental ward, the chasm of mental anguish. I walk through the doors as they mutate into a large mouth swallowing me into the murky darkness of Dante’s Inferno where there is no joy in Life.  It feels more like a place of punishment rather than a place of healing. I don’t see how anyone can be restored to health in this place.

Exhausted, holding back my tears and trying to control my shaking body, I search for my son in the midst of a dozen or more young teenagers going through the same torment as he. There I see him, sitting alone at a table toward the back wall, looking in my direction in a daze, staring at, what seems to be nothing. I know he is confused and frightened but there is something else that is disturbing and I don’t know what it is yet. At first he doesn’t notice me, but as I approach he slowly turns his head and looks in my direction but not at me, he is looking through me as if I am not there.

~~~~~~

The sequence of events that I just described became routine for most of the summer; my son suffered through several psychotic breaks which landed him in the hospital each month for seven days at a time. The daily trips to the hospital were more than a nightmare; I relived the feelings of being alone and trapped in permanent torture, I can only imagine what my son was going through. I was hopelessly lost because I did not understand what was happening and I did not know what to do to help. I could not believe that my son’s brain was sick with something called mental illness. With what little energy I had left, at home I spent hours into the night on the internet researching mental illness and desperately looking for something else that would be causing this drastic change of behavior.

I was in complete denial. I so wanted my old life back because this just is not fair…

(¯`´¯) ..•*¨`*.•
´*.¸.*´  Peace & Light

Arrival

Arrival

… After an hour and a half on this brutal commute from work to the hospital, I finally arrive at 4:30 pm. I am not familiar with this strange place in the suburbs of the city.  While searching for parking, rush hour traffic weaves its way through narrow streets making me more on edge and a wall of buildings on each side are reaching out to devour me into a place of oblivion.

Eventually I enter into the parking structure which is almost completely full but I find my parking space on level four.  Once parked I open the car door and I’m bombarded with relentless noise from everywhere around me; cars racing by, the echo of tires screeching at every turn in the parking structure, airplanes flying overhead, non-stop chattering voices, doors opening and closing, footsteps pounding as people walk to and from their cars.  It’s hot and I feel uneasy, I wipe the perspiration from my forehead as I gather my senses and become acquainted with these new surroundings.   All I want right now is peace and stillness so my mind can calm the nagging pressure of thoughts that my son is very ill.  Not wanting to face anyone, or anything that would require my attention, I opt to take the stairs down to the first level.   Slowly descending and with each step, I have succumbed to the fear growing inside me – it owns me now.   I stare down at my feet and notice gum stuck to the steps.  I see myself as that gum permanently glued to the floors of hell.

I make it to ground level in one piece but suddenly I am face to face with the very place that terrifies me.  The hospital building is several stories high which, in the afternoon, blocks the sun and creates a feeling of dusk for several hours.   This time of year the sun sets later in the evening, but it is only 4:30 and the premature sunset has imprisoned me adding to the already darkness that penetrated my life force.  I enter the building wondering if anyone around knows where I’m going.  I head toward a less obvious section of the lobby, off to the side and down a hallway, to a solitary elevator.  The button lights up when I push it and the doors slowly open.

I step into the “Twilight Zone” which takes me to my final destination, the mental ward…

(¯`´¯) ..•*¨`*.•
 ´*.¸.*´  Peace & Light

The First Day

The First Day

“To ignore the evidence, and hope that it cannot be true, is more an evidence of mental illness
William Blase

A new morning breaks and the sun begins its ascent into the skies stretching across the countryside and I feel its warmth on my face as I open the curtains allowing the light to enter my home. I begin my morning routine of reflection, brewing coffee and getting ready for another day at work. The birds are waking from their nightly somber, leaving their nests in the trees, congregating in a central meeting area atop of a nearby fence, chattering as if they are discussing their plans before heading out to wherever they go for the day.  Feeling alone, I gaze at the horizon to the east knowing my destiny lies in that direction.

Anxiety has crept through my humble abode – there is a strange emptiness – my daughter is still asleep but my son’s bed is vacant. I walk into his room and sit on his bed wondering how it got to the point as if a nuclear bomb struck. Knowing that my son is a scientific experimenter, and not yet understanding what has been going on, I wonder what the plastic bags and tape were doing in his trash can.

I begin my twenty-five minute commute that typically includes listening to the radio and being somewhat irritable having to deal with heavy traffic, but knowing life is good and thinking about my plans for the evening.  However, today’s drive is different, I feel uncomfortable because my life has taken a sharp turn into a direction that truly frightens me.  My thoughts are scrambled and my nerves are on edge worrying about my son and his mental health.

At work, the hours crawl, the day is grueling and longer than any other day I have ever experienced; I just want it to end. I leave work early at 3:00 pm and race to my car with only one thought in mind, to tackle rush hour traffic to reach my destination, this time not home, but miles away to a dark place where I don’t want to be.

My mind races and I ask myself repeatedly:  What’s wrong with my son?  Why are they saying my son has a mental illness? I know what mental illness is, but what is it really?  What am I supposed to do?  Where do I go?  Who do I turn to?  Did I miss something in raising my son?  What did I do to make him end up in the mental ward at the hospital? Is all this my fault?

Questions continue to haunt me…

(¯`♥´¯) .♥.•*¨`*♫.•
´*.¸.*´♥  Peace & Light

Beginning

Beginning

“In Zen, there is an old saying: The obstacle is the path. Know that a whole and happy life is not free of obstacles.
Quite the contrary, a whole and happy life is riddled with obstacles—
they simply become the very stepping–stones that help lift us to a new perspective.
It is not what happens to us in this life that shapes us; it is how we choose to respond to what happens to us.”
Dennis Merritt Jones – The Art of Being, 101 Ways to Practice Purpose in your life

Welcome to my journey of survival through my son’s mental illness. My story is about a very special young man who’s positive energy embraces him, he laughs at personal obstacles and smiles at his accomplishments. His brilliant mind and profound thoughts take him beyond typical thinking habits into a vast universe of unlimited possibilities. Like all of us, he lives in the arena of the symphony of life: play, work, joy, challenges — all normal activities a person would typically witness.

However, for my son, a normal day is making it to the next without being diverted onto a path of hallucinations, delusions, thoughts of suicide to escape misery…a psychotic break down.

When a loved one passes away, there is time for grieving and there is closure. When a loved one becomes a victim with mental illness it is like death; everything you once knew about this person vanishes and all that is left is a shell with its insides eaten up like cancer.  There is no closure because this person is a living, breathing human being.  The feelings of loss, grief and emptiness become an eternity of sadness.  That is if you want to stay on this path.

Mental illness is an invisible neurobiological disease that can, and will, affect anyone at any age. It does not discriminate. But I believe with determination and hard work, changes do happen and getting to the light at the end of the tunnel is possible. I know this, I am there.

I am single and a mother of two exceptional children, both adults now. Their loving nature has always encouraged me to see optimism through joyful moments and difficult challenges.

It has been several years since my son’s initial psychotic break. Throughout his life he has been challenged by complications most would think of as suffering or payback of some sort, but he has always overcome them with a strength that lives within his beautiful spirit. The most challenging of all hardships he will endure for the rest of his life is the diagnosis of Schizoaffective Disorder at age 17.

Through it all, my son is thankful for being who he is. He has always had a positive outlook at his personal challenges and humbleness when accomplishing his goals. His high energy contributes to a strong drive to learn and understand just about anything. He has a brilliant mind with an IQ that goes past the charts (if that means anything to anyone). His logical/philosophical thoughts about life take him beyond typical thinking habits into a vast universe of unlimited possibilities.

You are invited to come with me through my journey through my son’s illness that began in late spring, 2004…

(¯`♥´¯) .♥.•*¨`*♫.•
´*.¸.*´♥  Peace & Light