I’m in a bit of a daze at the moment. I attribute this bewilderment to reading the journal I kept while in a psychiatric hospital. I had forgotten, over the past nine years, how sick I was and it has been quite disconcerting to re-visit it. After I returned home, one of the medications that had been very effective in the hospital had to be discontinued because of a rare side effect; I had to return to the hospital for a week to get stabilized and started on a new medication. The entire experience, of being in the hospital and then having the medication turn on me, was awful. The only happy notes in my journal are from when I was put, near the end of my stay, in a half-way house. I enjoyed being with a household of people who were just as mentally ill as I was. There was a lot of laughter, compassion and understanding.
Nine years later I have wondered and forgotten, off and on, why I still need to take my medications. Reading this journal put me face to face with why – why I need to continue to take care of myself, why the right medications are so important, why it is that I now have a life absent of horror, confusion and terror.
I am one of the fortunate ones. If I could, I’d get help for every mentally ill person in the world; but that’s not going to happen.
A neighbor of mine recently took in a relative who is most likely mentally ill. He can’t help this young woman. He doesn’t know what’s wrong with her, just that she can’t engage in a two-way conversation, and the other day she mowed his lawn over and over until he had to stop her and take the lawn tractor key away from her. As an observer, I am wondering what is going on with this 25 year old woman. Did the sound of the lawn mower engine help to drown out her auditory hallucinations, for example? I was not invited to meet her, so my observations are only from my own experience and from what I’ve been told. I don’t pretend to be an educated and licensed mental health provider. My knowledge has all been gained from my own experiences with mental illness, mine and my son Calen’s. This is knowledge we gleaned involuntarily. But, I must say, having had the personal experience of mental illness gives me the compassion needed to look beyond bizarre behavior and into the afflicted person. And, by hearing about people who need medication and compassion, I am reminded how important my medications are for me. I am also reminded that Calen and I are so very fortunate to have the care and medications we have.
I live in a tiny town where there are no facilities for mental illness, for intervention and, I was reminded just a few days ago, no time for the mentally ill. (I receive my care and medications in a larger town an hour away.) We do have a medical clinic here and I was told that this young woman went to the clinic because she was obsessing about physical ailments. The doctor who saw her was convinced that she was experiencing psychosis, but he didn’t help her; he didn’t have “time” and dismissed the symptoms he observed with a laugh. This reaction angered me, but there is nothing I can do, especially having heard about it after the fact. There is nowhere that this young woman can go for help unless she is transported an hour away to a mental health facility. She has no money and no insurance. The bottom line though, is that she is not seeking help on her own, but she might have accepted it had it been offered. Today she was put on a bus to return to the city from whence she came. I am not a fan of cities, but I do hope she gets the help she needs (and that she actually makes it back to where she came from).
There are so many people out there who need help. If our government spent even half of what they spend on war to help the mentally ill, we wouldn’t be in this ridiculous position.
Reading my journal was upsetting but I know now, once again, how important it is to take my medications. I’m going to journal again and hope that if I get sick again, I can read back and see what it was that made me better: family, friends, exercise and medications.