This Was Bad

It happened again.  We saw it coming and had no way to stop it.  How have we not learned how to curb Son when he goes manic.  This time was so frightening.  I’m not sure he’s going to fully recover.  I think it’s because of his benzodiazepine addiction of a few years ago.  Which he still has, apparently.

Things had been going so well.  The four of us were getting along better than we had been in years.  I was getting out and doing my own thing and feeling good.  I should’ve known it wouldn’t last.  Damn that optimism!  Son had been in a great mood for weeks, his business was doing very well.  He’d started some cannabis seeds and his plants were looking good.  He was staying up late; 2 and 3 AM.  But he didn’t seem bothered by it.   This went on for three days or so.   Then on Wednesday he started acting odd.  Muttering, shuffling, off balance.  Mostly confused.

This we recognize and we do as we had agreed, that if Son started acting drunk or sleep walking we were to give him an extra 1/2 dose of Seraquil.  He stayed up very late and was agitated, bumping into things, dropping things.  We sat and talked for a while, but he was pretty incoherent.  He asked the same questions: what’s going on, I don’t understand what’s happening,  why is this happening.  Then he’d ask what day it was or what time.  He was always surprised by my answer.  He began to hallucinate.  I started to record him, but had to put the camera down while I cleaned up the mess he made urinating in the middle of his room.  By then he was calmer and sat down on the couch, where he finally fell asleep.  I went to bed about 4 AM.

Next morning he seems better.  He gets up, talks with his dad and has some coffee.  But later in the day he started acting weird again.  Still, he wasn’t as bad as the previous day, so maybe he was still getting better.  But that’s not how it played out and we spent Friday night in the ER.  He admitted himself and I went home.  Husband is picking him up as I write.  Don’t know what good it did for him to just stay the night.

Still, I spoke with his caseworker and she was probably the most helpful one by far.  It’s been a different person every time he’s been in hospital.  She told me she didn’t any reason Son wouldn’t qualify for disability.   She told me to call my local SS office.  They’ll send paperwork which Son takes to his doctor.  We have an appointment with a psychologist in two weeks.  We make an appointment with the SS office and meet with their counselor.  Then in about two months he should have an answer.

I’d never heard of this, but the caseworker said she’d been doing this for 10 years and she’s rarely heard of anyone in Son’s condition be denied disability benefits.  I hate the idea of him being permanently disabled, but if he had these benefits, he wouldn’t have to work so hard out of our living room.  Plus he would then qualify for Medicare, which is much better coverage than Medi-Cal.  That’s the most important thing.

I was so angry when I tried again, in vain, to find help.   All I got was recorded messages telling me to call another number.  I called a dozen phone numbers for an hour and in the end had no where to go but the ER.  Where I had to sit and keep him calm for 6 hours, because you know they won’t give you any drugs until all the tests come back and you see the doc.  Once Son was medically cleared he finally was seen by a caseworker.

Son kept asking us if he took something or if we gave him something.  He also asked what we found in his room.  Did we take something from his room.  So we checked out his room.  A small bottle of a type Benzo in powder form.  He and his dad just came back and I told him we found it.  Now he is angry and wants it back.  He wants people to leave him be, that he’s better when he’s on them.

It’s going to be a long, long two weeks before he meets with the psychologist.  Maybe I can get him into the psychiatrist sooner.

Sometimes life just fucks you.

 

I’m Getting Angry, Then Sad

I am angry, sad, confused, and just plain put out.  Common sense has disappeared from Congress.  Our protests gain a lot of press time and piss off Dump and Pres. Bannon, and yet, they seem to be ineffectual.  How do you keep up the heat?  I have only been actively involved a short time, and yet I already feel utterly defeated.

Here is a link to an article about how senators have voted on each Dump cabinet pick.  This list did not make me happy.

 

Sure, we should hang in there, wait until 2018 with the mid-term votes.  But both my reps seem to vote (mostly) how I want.  But I can’t vote for other states’ reps.  I can’t make the people in Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, etc. see it my way.

We can keep up the heat on declaring Dump incompetent due to mental illness, but we’re still stuck with all the other swamp creatures!  How do we clean up that mess?

Yes, I know, one step at a time.  But patience and persistence are not going to be enough.  I can’t sit here and hope the people in Blue States start calling their senators.

I feel like Dorothy, caught in a black & white tornado, and suddenly dumped (pun intended) in the middle of a bright orange swamp!

 

 

Sometimes You Shouldn’t Call 911

I’ve decided, after this most recent, for lack of a better word, psychotic episode it is not always best to call 911 or go to the ER.  But then what do you do?

The last time we had to call 911 and the cops came, they treated son with no respect, as if he had robbed a bank or deserved what was happening to him.  That time they took his (full rx) meds and his (brand new) shoes with them.  The meds and shoes did not return with Son.

This time I called 911 both the paramedics and the cops showed up.  The medics came, looked Son over and left.  Three 6′ cops surround Son, agitating him further.  They told us we were agitating him and pushed husband and I from the room.  They practically searched his room, picking things up, reading mail.  And once the cops are there: you have no control over the situation.

I felt a twinge of how it must feel to be a person of color when they interact with the police.  Only a tiny taste, but it struck me how the police do that.  Push everyone out, take control and then haul your son away like a criminal, leaving bruises on his arms, scraped skin around his wrists and a badly pulled tendon in  his shoulder.  Which is almost no injury at all, but they don’t care that they injure you this mildly, let alone shoot you.

The cops DO NOT know how to handle people with anything nearing empathy or compassion.  It appears that they are not trained in diffusing or de-escalating a situation, especially in the case of an addict or mental health patient.  In our particular situation I now know that Son needed to calm down, instead we ended up working him into a frenzy of frustration and anger.  By the time the cops arrived, he looked positively crazed.  I’ll never forget the look he gave me when the police took him away.  I’ll never forgive myself for causing him that kind of pain.

So I ask you, why would I call 911 the next time?  I mean, fool me twice, but then who should I call?  I discovered, too late, that my county has a service that will send out a social worker team that will come to your home and assess the situation, and work with the family to alleviate the crisis.  Many times avoiding police involvement or trips to the hospital.  This is a fabulous service, and one I did not know existed. Their number is in my phone now, on speed-dial.  I urge everyone to see if they have this type of service where you live.

I make one suggestion to the 911 system, add another question; “Police, Fire department or mental health emergency.”  I think that would be a huge huge help to people who find themselves in similar situations.  The service could even pair up a social worker with a police officer, specially trained where his first impulse is NOT to shoot.

Rather than make this post too long, I won’t write about ER staff and their treatment of mental health patients.  Suffice to say they are not much better than the cops.  Again, having a psychiatrist on staff at all times and the staff trained to at least recognize someone who is obviously in a crazed state would go far in alleviating the problem.  Those of us with mental health issues , when in crisis, should be treated with as much urgency as a heart attack.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services: (SAMHSA), a federal source of information and help for those in need of mental health or addiction issues.

National Association for Mental Illness: (NAMI)

 

NAMI

The National Association for Mental Illness is having an end of the year fund drive.  I normally don’t do this, but with Trump coming into office who knows what will happen to people who have mental health needs. It’s very possible the helplines currently out there will be cut or entangled.

Back in October 2016 (read article here) Trump was speaking to a group of veterans and commented on those with mental illness.  He stood there in front of soldiers with PTSD, those with depression, or those knew someone who committed suicide, and others who may have attempted, and called them weak.  “They can’t handle it,”  he said.  If he doesn’t even understand the basics of humanity and psychology, do you really think he will commit funding to the VA for improved care?

I don’t think he will.  I think he is going to sit in the White House and perpetuate myths and misinformation about depression, PTSD and other issues faced by returning vets.  He expects that a ‘strong’ person can beat their depression.  Like it’s a heavy bag, and punching it every day will make it go away.  It doesn’t work like that.  There’s medication and therapy.  Finding the right doctor and getting the right meds takes time and effort.  Often more effort to find help than to give in.

The man hasn’t an ounce of empathy in his body, do you think he knows how to help vets and others with mental illness beat the stigma?  No.  Obviously, Trump is going to re-introduce the myth that those with depression are just ‘weak’.  That soldiers who come back from combat with PTSD, as being “unable to handle it.”  What kind of assistance is he going to ensure the community continues to destroy the stigma and myths around mental illness.  We need to stand by NAMI, the VA and other support groups in making sure people have adequate access to mental health care.

Over the past 20 years, deaths related to substance abuse and mental illness have increased by over 1,000 percent in some areas.

This GIF Sums Up The Impact Of Addiction And Mental Illness On America  (click on graphic):

.  hp-gif

For the complete article:  Huffington Post

Here’s Mayim Bialik  making the plea for NAMI.

Thanks for reading.

Slogging Through Info

My most challenging activity is trying to sort through the pages and pages of assorted sites dedicated to the advocacy of addicts and the psychologically ill.  Go to the “How You Can Help” page on most of these sites and it’s all about fund raising.  Join a walk, have a bake sale.  I don’t want to raise money to study the fucking problem.  And why should it cost money to try to move a bill through its paces?

Of course, it always comes down to money.  That’s why so many addicts and the mentally disabled people are either without insurance entirely, or only getting care through ERs, county-funded (make that underfunded) facilities and crap insurance like Medi-Cal or Medicaid.  No one wants to put money into funding proper training, adequate support, and sufficient insurance coverage for what society has apparently decided are ‘throw away people’.  Like the poor, mentally ill people and addicts are treated like they did something to deserve their current situation.  Just like poor people should work harder, an addict should just quit using, Mrs. Conservative Christian Republican says.  (Actually, that was real advice given to my son by an MD.)  What people don’t seem to realize is that without help the addict is quite unlikely to achieve sobriety.  Just like without our help our poor are dying on the streets for lack of care.

The GOP of the past 15 years or so is responsible for there being more poor, more mentally ill without care, and more homelessness.  Why?  Because every bill that comes along designed to help people is watered down or destroyed by their manipulation.  Why?  Because they have decided that those with are not obliged to help those without.  Mostly it’s because there is NO MONEY to be made in helping people.  What we have is a political system favoring the rich and powerful, with laws designed to help them avoid paying taxes that fund programs like Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, and the Affordable Care Act.

So here I am trying to figure out how to try to impliment change.  I’m still trying to filter through all the various groups involved in trying to make policy changes.  I guess I kind of get why there are so many websites and groups, and other pages since each of us has their own ideas on how to accomplish change, but if we could pool our resources and our energy toward changing laws to reach complete reform it would seem to guarantee success.  I know it will be slow.  Evolution is a slow process.

NAMI

Change.Org

State of Mental Health in America

Dec. 17, 2012 Washington Post article on mental health care

May 12, 2014 USA Today article on mental health care

Care For The Mentally Ill

When will there be no stigma or restrictions regarding mental health.  My son just spent 7 of the last 10 days in a mental health ward.  He acts no different.   Still surly and angry, which I have come to understand can be part of BPD (bi-polar disorder).  Unfortunately, that is very hard to take.  I’ve never handled the anger of others well.  Get mad at me and I just want to run away.

The docs sent him home with lots of scripts, including Depacote, but I’m not sure what else.  He’s not very talkative right now, except to complain to me about his dad.  Somehow Son blames his dad for most of his problems.  It’s really hurt my husband deeply, to think their once very close relationship has come to this.

Frustrated?  OMG!  I don’t think I could feel more helpless.  We are unable to get Son to do much to improve his situation.  I have begun the necessary paperwork to get him on federal disability.  Now I have to find him a new GP, a therapist, and a psychiatrist.  Because if I don’t do it, it will never get done.  I’ve been on the phone every day the last two weeks trying to get him into a 30 day program.  I have left message after message, but never received a call back.  My last call, yesterday, I thought I was making progress, as I finally got a name (though they gave it so fast, I didn’t get it, but I did get his extension, which is helpful.  I’ve left him a message.  You know, if they don’t have the space, fine, just let me know and I will try elsewhere.  Almost NO ONE takes a patient with Medi-Cal.  The plan is absolutely worthless:  Poor quality care, lousy doctors, horrible office staff, red tape, ridiculous rules, and the docs don’t get properly paid.

I thought I found a psychiatrist last week.  The office staff and website all refered to her as Doctor, but she is a Nurse Practioner .  I think labeling her Doctor is misleading.  I asked her about her education and I find out her masters degree is in epidemiology!  And you know what else?  In California it is nearly impossible to check up on a Psychiatrist.  If you’re a lawyer you’re a member of the State Lawyers Association, and usually, a member of the national lawyers association, both of which can be easily accessed by the lay person if you want to know what their specialties are, make sure they are properly licensed.  But you cannot do the same for psychiatrists.  That most definitely seems quite wrong.  Especially when that “doctor” prescribes a drug (in this case Rexulti), but doesn’t mention any side effects.

He took one of these pills and his regular meds and a lot of alcohol, and by midnight he was hallucinating and speaking gibberish, he was paranoid, and angry, and just plain out of control.  So we took him to the ER where he sat for 5 hours during which time, nothing was done.  Why?  Because they could not make sense of what he was saying.  They would not speak with me about what had been going on.  All they wanted to know was whether he was suicidal, and because they got a “no” they just released him.  At home about an hour later, things got worse and we had to call paramedics, but since we didn’t know at the time what he may have taken, the police also arrived.

Why should I have to call the police?  They aren’t trained to recognize psychiatric problems, they just treat everyone like a criminal.  I specifically requested paramedics, assuming they were trained at least minimally in psychiatric disorders.  But they never even spoke with Son.  So I had to watch the police manhandle my poor boy and take him back the hospital to be placed on what they refer to as a 5150.  Basically it’s a 72 hour suicide watch.  It was a horrible place, where he got very little help, but when we got him back he was able to converse.

Then two days later he checked himself back in.  He came home today.  He has been drug and alcohol free for about 10 days, but his mood is still black.  He is quick to anger and always yelling.

The thing is, if he’d cut himself, or had cancer, or had appendicitis, he would get immediate and appropriate care.  But because he has a mental condition, nothing is done.  I am so angry with this broken medical/insurance system in this country I could scream.  Why is it we have to wait for bi-polar individuals to totally lose it and hurt someone before anyone intervenes?  And then again, it’s the police.

Why are mental illness and addiction treated as crimes?  How do we change that?  Finding a solution is very hard, but I’m trying.

 

 

 

 

 

Richard Cohen and Me

I just finished watching these videos my husband wanted me to see. (http://richardmcohen.com/videos/)  I don’t know why he wanted to me to see them exactly.  I haven’t yet asked him.  Of course, I found nothing new in these.  I know what it is like to suffer from a mental illness (depression) as well as a chronic (and progressive) illness.Image

For the most part I think they were informative and Richard Cohen seems to take his bouts with illness in stride, as everyone must. What surprises me is that it surprises people when ordinary people with less than ordinary illnesses survive and thrive and have ‘normal’ lives.  The interview with Piers Morgan seems to me to be one of the better of these.  He treats Richard with the due dignity of any accomplished individual, regardless of his physical condition.  The one I found interesting is the one where Meredith Viera (Richard Cohen’s wife) interviews (if briefly) several individuals who participated in Richard’s book “Strong at the Broken Places,” in which he talks about people with chronic illness. Among them a man with bi-polar disorder, a young man with MD and a girl with Crohnes.  She knows how to treat these individuals with due respect, not hero-izing them, or with condescension or pity.

ImageMy problem comes with the last video, with MSNBC host (I can’t think of her name, maybe Debra Norvill?) who seems to both belittle and hero-ize Richard in the same introduction.  Personally I really disliked her tone.  I know she didn’t write the script she spoke, and it was for America’s benefit, it was so over the top and her tone sort of condescending.  To me it seemed she felt deeply sorry for Richard and his travails.  From what I have seen disabled or ill people do not want anyone’s pity.  What an ill person wants is “normalcy.”  To be treated just like everyone else, while wanting people to understand you.  SInce most of us do not understand each other, at least treat everyone equally. 

(If I may be so bold by using “We” and include the general chronically ill population), We don’t want our feelings disregarded either.  Please if someone is in chronic pain don’t make them “feel better” by trying to commiserate and saying, “I know, I had a charlie horse once, and man did that hurt.”  Please, if someone with chronic illness mentions they are not feeling very well, don’t say, “But you look great.”   Please if you are talking to someone with chronic depression, don’t tell them to “buck up” or, my personal favorite, “smile, it could be worse.”  I understand why people say such things; they don’t know what they should say, they don’t really care, they truly think they are being ‘nice.’  All of these things are dismissive and imply a complete lack of understanding. Image

As for the stigma attached to being mentally ill, I can only speak for those with depression, and the stigma that we are self centered; that only a selfish person commits suicide.  Or worse, we could be happy if we just wanted to.  Ugh, that one really makes me scream.  There is nothing more a depressed person wants than to be happy.  Nothing more someone with bi-polar disorder wants than to be on an even keel.  Saying we have control, when we don’t is demeaning.

Of course, we can control how we think and change the way we think.  I know, I’m one of these, but I didn’t believe that even two years ago, or even six months ago.  But it has taken years of therapy, and drugs to realize this.  It isn’t exactly as easy as “smile,” or “look on the bright side.”  Until misconceptions and stigma end, may I make this suggestion: Unless you have experience in this area you should just keep quiet.  Just a suggestion.