One day when my worst nightmare came true
Updated: Feb 10, 2019
My daughter is spending her fifth night in the bed of an emergency room tonight. I drove away as she was crying and could barely breathe from her resulting panic attack.
You see, my dogs were out of food and I'm pretty certain they think they've been abandoned by their formerly ever-present family; I awoke to a full, cold bathtub with the drain valve wide open; laundry was piled up and fairly smelly five days ago yet still ignored; the box of gifts that arrived on Thursday still sitting in the exact same spot on my floor, just slightly now chewed on its edges.
I cannot keep stating the mantra “our mental health system is broken.” I am part of the problem not the solution when I say those words into the universe. I found myself during my coffee run yesterday answering in response to, “how's your day going?” saying “my daughter is in the hospital so....” to receive an “I'm sorry. Hope she's feeling better soon,” somewhat sincerely. There was a new barista taking far too long to prepare my uncomplicated order, so the friendly guy asked if I'd like free cookies for my ailing daughter. He reiterated that he wishes her well. I state my thanks as I find myself unapologetically saying, “well she's mentally ill and there's no real help for her. This has become our routine.” The lobby fell silent and awkward.
As I left, I felt empowered, though. We so easily mention broken limbs, diabetic emergencies, stitches needed without this silent stigma filling a room. Why can I not, without feeling like I said a bad word in public, speak honestly about my daughter's illness? Why does this make people uncomfortable? This. This is the problem.
My daughter is so eloquently and accurately able to describe her comorbid conditions, with insightful answers and specific challenges that they don't understand how such an intelligent, well-spoken young woman could suffer from the symptoms she describes. They question us. They mention therapies we’ve already tried, well that she's mastered. They offer, frankly insulting, tips and tricks to add to her routine. She states clearly her needs as she describes all the prior skills training she's acquired isn't useful when she “can't access her mind.”
They are baffled, they're calling experts, while they doubt either her true needs being described or her inability to stop the process of “losing it” when she warns them it's happening. It appears there is an assumption of unintelligent thinking instead of accepting and embracing that she understands her disabilities and illness as well as anyone trying to treat it.
One, seemingly angry nurse assigned to my daughter today stated, “she doesn't belong here like a caged animal.” Yet they've denied her freedom. They've deemed her requests to leave under the label of incompetent and unable to manage her own care. So she remains trapped and waiting her bed and one-to-one supervising 24-hour aide at the psychiatric ward - excuse me, “Behavioral Health Unit.”
And we wonder why she wants to kill herself? SHE is her expert. SHE knows what her treatment plan should be. SHE is not receiving respect nor dignity as she awaits while others, who are baffled by her intelligence, decide her fate.
THIS is a true story of our mental health services in America. And one broken hearted mom has no fucking clue what to do other than overdue house chores.