Archive for the ‘Mental healthcare’ Category

Documentary about current practices in Psychiatry

(I’ve reblogged this documentary because I believe with all my heart that psychiatry needs to evolve in radical ways.  I am personally very distraught by the care that is available to people, like my family, who do not have the financial means to access private care and/or are without support from extended family, leaving ‘us’ with only one option, which is the current practices in modern-day America’s mental healthcare system).

Everything Matters

The producer of this film, Lise Zumwalt,  is looking for funding to continue making it. See here and donate please, even a small amount.

Powerful commentary and documentation on the coercive nature of psychiatry. 

If you’re not aware of just how brutal and coercive psychiatry can be, you should really watch this. This may seem extreme to those who’ve not seen it happening but it’s very common and the bottom line is psychiatry, in general, at best, is subtly coercive. Drugs are generally presented as necessary rather than one, often far less than ideal, possibility for treatment.

CLINICAL SUMMARY: THAT’S CRAZY is the story of Eric and two others who are on the frontlines of a revolution in mental health. They are part of a new phenomenon – a growing number of people who say we need to rethink mental illness. The critics are the patients.

STATUS: Eric, a genetics major…

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Green Healing and Lizard

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Another Awesome Green Healing!

I always imagined that a horticulture therapy class would be fun and healing and I was right! I love the class.  I’m also in-love with a lizard!  Who would have thought that my springtime heartstrings would be drawn in by such a creature.

He (or she) lives in a small Cabbage patch, along with some Brussel sprouts and Rainbow Chard.  I’m not sure about the gender.  Perhaps Deb, from can tell me, but for now, I’ll refer to little lizard as a male.  I think he has a mate or a sibling, because the first time he appeared, another one was following him about.

Gardening has always captured my full attention.  Time passes easily and way too fast for me when I’m working with plants and dirt.  I’ve found myself in gardens all day many times in my life.

I haven’t been able to do more than have a few potted plants in several years, due to muscle and joint pain.  It’s too hard to bend over.  Fatigue slowly took my stamina and my time in the garden lessened with each passing year.  I later moved to the woods and enjoy what I am able to grow in pots, but it isn’t the same as working with a garden in the ground.

One garden I grew was such a part of me that I grieved for the best of a year after I had to leave it behind.  I dreamed of it for a long time.  I finally wrote the new tenant who moved to the house where my garden was.  I included a sketch, with a description of the flowers and which butterflies would be visiting.  I received two of the most wonderful long letters in return the next summer.  One was from the mother and the other from her six-year-old daughter.  They were wonderfully surprised when the garden bloomed and the little girl loved the butterflies as much as I did.  I stopped having the dreams after that.  My garden was loved.

The raised beds where I’m taking the horticulture therapy class are high enough that I don’t have to bend over too far and can even sit on the wooden frame.  Because of this, I am again altogether involved with the garden.  It’s a good thing the class ends at a specific time or I’d be there all day.

During class, I focus my attention on the task at hand and not too much thinking is going on.  I try to listen well when my classmates or the coordinator talks, because I learn so much, which is very cool.

There is so much I could say about each class, which is good, but a little tiring to my brain.  I’d really like to tell you all about what I’ve learned and have become aware of after only attending three classes, and maybe I will in time.

Having been taking photos too, I’m aware of a lot going on at once, and more than just my cute little lizard friend who turns from green to brown right before my eyes.  He’s cute and smart!

I notice a lot about myself.  Of course, I notice how good I feel while I’m there and after I leave.  I also notice how I try to fix things.  It seems I want to save the world.  Apparently, a part of me thinks I’m capable of this, I guess.  Why would I try if I didn’t think I could?

For my birthday last year, my mother and son brought me home a gift.  It was a miniature sculpture of a little girl, on a bicycle inside of a glass bulb.  It reads, “Given the right cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world!”  I can see now why they both thought it fitting for me.

A shovel got away with a young man during class yesterday and dirt went flying across the garden, landing directly on a female classmate.  We were preparing the bed for our tender young Bok Choy plants that we transplanted two weeks earlier.  The young man felt very badly and apologized.  The woman who was blasted with dirt jumped back in surprise and concern, as she wasn’t sure what had happened.  Then, she looked at her shoes and remarked about the dirt on them.

“They look like good gardening shoes,” I told her.  “I bet that dirt will come right off.”

I wanted to fix the situation.  I wanted to make him feel better and help her to let go of her worry over the dirt.  I also wanted her to know he was sorry.

As with the other classes, each time I have seen these particular traits in me.  They are heavy traits, and likely a part of what makes me sad and tired.

I hope the ‘Green Healing’ helps me to realize that I can only do so much.  I am not  responsible for the world.  I can’t make everything right.

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog!

The Patient Patient

dogtimeTwo months had passed.  He was their, “model patient.”

He hadn’t read the patients’ rights literature.  He believed, as I did, that exercising those rights would only bring trouble.

“He’ll be our star,” the psychiatrist and social worker told us, referring to the transition unit they were recommending for him. 

The program on the unit sounded pretty good when they first told us about it.  As with much of what they told us, details were revealed later, after decisions had been made.  We soon learned that a patient normally waits (in the hospital) nine or more months to get in. 

The other part they didn’t tell us was that patients in that particular unit are more deeply under, “the motherly care,” of an institution.  The doctor and her team were as elusive about how long he would stay in the different unit, as they had been about how long it would take to get in.  After speaking with a few professionals, I learned they could keep a patient as long as they deemed necessary.  I understood this meant however long it took to convince the patient that he or she had to take medication, no matter what, every day for the rest of his or her life, aka, compliance.

A patient can say no to medication in a psychiatric hospital, but if the treating psychiatrist believes drugs are necessary, then almost always, medication it is.  

He took the medication.  He was quiet.  He went to classes, most of the time, except when the medication sedated him to the point that he could not stay awake.  He gained almost sixty pounds.  His blood tests changed from normal to abnormal.  He accepted gracefully, “No,” when he asked if he could take a lower dose or change medications.  He came back from the passes they gave him to go out with his family. 

Hospital psychiatrists basically have their own government.  If a patient says no to recommended treatment, the psychiatrist simply goes to the hospital’s court, which occurs weekly and presents his or her case to their judge.  The doctor usually has several other medical team members present; psychologists, social workers and nurses, to aid in the request for forced treatment.  The patient has the right to contest, and is given either a legal advocate or an attorney, but hospital judges almost always give the requesting psychiatrist permission to “treat” the patient.

We chose not to contest the necessary court hearings for a few reasons, the first of which was, that the social worker revealed only pieces of what they were asking for and ultimately, we believed we wouldn’t win.  At least, not until after I could come up with a solid plan to present to them.  A plan that would offer their patient, my son, equal and better “treatment” than what they had in mind for him.  We could only hope they would do the right thing, which was to help us in outpatient planning for treatment in the community.  I worked rather obsessively on creating, “A Plan for Recovery.”

It was amazing really.  All the things the psychiatrist and her colleagues came up with to use against him, some of which were fabricated stories with threads of truth either exaggerated, misinterpreted or grossly over-approximated.

“The county is getting tired of,” the social worker had said the first time we spoke.  I interrupted her.  I couldn’t help myself.

“Which county would that be?” I asked her.  My son had been tossed around in several counties since we turned to psychiatry for help.

“He’s been in the hospital,” and she grandly stated a specific number of times to justify why, “the county was tired.”  Even if her number had been correct, which it wasn’t, it was still relatively low according to what I had learned in NAMI’s Family-to-Family education.  I felt lied to in a way.  Betrayed. 

I’d taken the classes, which are strongly recommended by these same psychiatrists, hospitals and institutions.  What I had learned was the best thing to do for a loved one in a mental health crisis was used against my son.

“That’s not correct information you have,” I told her the next time she made use of the number she grabbed out of thin air.  Instead of looking for the accurate number of times he had been in a hospital, she divided her fictional number by two.  By this time, we were almost out the door, so I let her have her number.

I called a meeting with the psychiatrist and her colleagues to present an outpatient treatment plan, even though this is not how things are usually done in a psychiatric facility.  A family member can most certainly meet with the doctor and/or team of professionals caring for a loved one, but normally, social workers are responsible for outpatient planning.  They refused to help us with outpatient planning because they wanted him to stay.  They said if I wanted to come up with a plan, then they would listen, so I did.

“What if he doesn’t make it at this work-study job?” they asked me during the meeting.  “We’ve been informed that if he can’t make it on time, then he’ll be terminated.”

I reiterated to them that the ACT team worked with him for years and never even got him a job interview.

“This is a work-study job at a meditation retreat center,” I told the group of scrutinizing psychiatric professionals.  “He’ll be outside, learning carpentry, landscaping and building maintenance skills,” I told them.  I didn’t focus on the spiritual teaching that would be offered as part of the work-study job.  I was afraid they would come up with a reason that this wouldn’t be good for their patient. 

“We are afraid he won’t make it,” they kept saying. 

They should have said things like this several years ago, when I was asking for their help. 

They talked as if they expected the world to suddenly be perfect for my son, whom they had repeatedly neglected for many years.  The hospital didn’t have visits from anyone offering jobs in the community, much less directors offering one of their patients a much desired position that would nurture personal and spiritual insight, community involvement and meaningful work.

“He’s been sleeping in groups,” the psychiatrist said.  She was grasping at strings.  Very thin ones, I thought.  She looked over at her patient.  He was sitting at the end of the long table, obviously, without any confidence that he might get released from their toxic care.  In a righteous way the psychiatrist asked him, “How can you function in the real world if you’re falling asleep in our (interesting and stimulating) groups?”  It was more a statement than a question.

He looked around.  He didn’t have an answer.

They were giving him a dosage of medication that I had seen caused him to not be able to walk.  I had seen him staggering, falling against walls, half asleep in the middle of the night, while stumbling to the rest room.  Plus, they were giving it to him in the morning! 

I had asked my mother to be discriminating about what she said during the meeting, because they would use everything against us.  She had been quiet, although, I later learned she hadn’t heard everything, so maybe that’s why, but she responded in defense of her grandson’s rights.

“Maybe he’s bored in those groups,” she said.  “He won’t be bored when he gets out of here.  He can come to my house.  I have everything,” and with that conviction, she had waved her arms in the air, communicating the vastness of what she had to offer compared to the hospital’s unit the doctor was advocating.  “Y’all don’t have any of the things we have,” she added.

Mother looked at me.  I knew she wondered if she had said too much.  I didn’t think so.  My sister chimed in about that time, remarking on the weight he had gained from the medication and not exercising.  “I’ve seen what gaining weight does to people.  They get tired.  Uhh, he’s gained a lot of weight since he came here.  We can see that.”

I was glad they had come to the meeting!

“Which classes is he falling asleep in?” I asked.

The doctor didn’t know.  Her sidekick, the psychologist who wanted every single person he met to know he held a PhD, murmured something under his breath.

“Does he fall asleep in the Yoga class?” I asked, while they were still thinking.

They looked at each other.  The social worker shook her head no.

“He’s never liked lecture classes.  He likes hands on learning and experiential education,” I told them.  “He thrives outdoors,” I added.

I had told the psychiatrist, before the meeting, that I couldn’t understand how she could keep my son when he was not a danger to himself or others.  I hadn’t meant to say that, but when his liver panels continued to come back abnormal and his cholesterol and weight were rising like a flood, I became upset.

“It isn’t even legal.  What you are doing is unethical and illegal,” I told her.

We hadn’t spoken again, until the day of the meeting.  She still didn’t say much to me.  She did look at the photo I brought with me.  It was of my son, smiling, shortly before he was admitted to their hospital.  “He was much happier and healthier,” I told her, which he was.

My son was discharged shortly after the meeting. 

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog!

Thank you for the Prayers

Healing and HummingbirdIMAGE CREDIT:  Sarjana’s Medicine Wheel via Flickr

I would like to express my deepest gratitude for each prayer spoken, good thought and healing wishes for my son and I, along with the great amount of support many people have offered since my earlier post.

The days have been long and demanded my attention or I would have posted an earlier update.

My son is continuing to receive inpatient medical care.  His symptoms have lessened to some degree.  I am grateful for this, even though I understand that he’d rather not be in a hospital.  I wish he didn’t have to be in one, however,  I must have hope that his medical team will offer new choices and opportunities for his recovery in the community.

I’ve strayed from writing much about my son or his illness in my blog, mostly because I began to feel that I was crossing an invisible line of loyalty.   I don’t want to infringe upon his privacy nor betray his trust and the latter feels rather compromised.

I would most likely feel easier about sharing my concerns or feelings and his progress if his diagnosis was a more accepted, less stigmatized and certainly, a better understood illness or condition.

One thing I want to share is that after I asked for prayers, there has been an experience of Grace, even if fleeting or intermittent. 

Grace is the moments when peace has flooded my heart and the nights when sleep came after my mind had gone round and round, thinking of all that is out of my control.

Grace is also the moments I’ve had with my son when I had more to offer than anxiety, worry or sadness.

My son and I used to meditate together when he was a child.  He knows what I speak of when I talk about an inner peace.  He used to call our meditations going to his happy place. 

He didn’t feel like doing a meditation together during a recent visit when I suggested it, but he called me afterwards to tell me he’d like to try the next time he sees me.

I believe the moments of Grace came from your prayers and healing wishes, along with a willingness I have also felt, to be open and receive them.

Again, I am most grateful for your generous support. 

Thank you!


“Keep quiet, undisturbed, and the wisdom and the power will come on their own….. Abandon all desires, keep your mind silent and you shall discover….. Desirelessness is the highest bliss.”
~I Am That Nisargadatta Maharaj

As always, thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s Blog.

Horses healing hearts

Horses heal the mind, body and spirit

Candy, A Morgan

Wow!  OMG!  Totally Awesome!

Those are the words that first come to mind as I write, recalling my ride today.  

Today I met a Morgan horse named Candy.  I couldn’t believe her name was the same as the Appaloosa that I rode last summer.  I loved that Appaloosa, who was a very spunky girl and today, I loved Candy the Morgan horse, who was tender, sweet and did exactly everything I asked her to do, and then some!  I mean, some things I asked her to do I didn’t realize I had asked for because I’m an amateur rider.

The trainer showed me how Candy was keen to my every move, such as barely moving my foot in the stirrup, which told Candy to slow down a little. Candy was sweet and intelligent.

I also learned that gently pulling back one side of the reins, while giving a little on the other side controlled Candy’s speed during a trot.   Instead of bouncing up and down, afraid of falling, I was able to move gracefully with her.  This was an awesome feeling.  It was exciting too.  It was most likely my favorite part of the lesson.

The trainer told me I was doing a great job.   She said she was surprised at how well I did during the trot.  I’m sure she had no clue how much this meant to my self-esteem hearing her say that.  I felt good about myself in that moment.  It was a healthy sense of control in a time when most everything in my life feels completely out of my control.

Aside from enjoying the ride there is a relationship that you develop with a horse and it doesn’t take long — only a few minutes.   It’s amazing how much a horse listens.  The simple act of holding out my pinkies, which I didn’t know about,  slowed Candy down.

While I’m certainly tired from the ride, there is a smile on my face as I write.  My spirit feels good.  I don’t feel like a complete failure.  Candy sure helped me.

Morgan horses are so sweet!  They are much like dogs.

Candy, a very sweet girl!

“Morgan horses are kind of like dogs,” the trainer had said when I first arrived at the farm.   I walked through the barn and met the other horses while she saddled up Candy for me.  One of the Morgans especially reminded me of dogs.   She kept nuzzling her big pretty head up against the bars appearing to desire a scratch behind the ears, just like a dog.  I gave her a scratch and she kissed my hand, just like a dog.

I had a great time!

Now I must go rest and dream of my meeting with one of the sweetest horses in the world!

Candy lives at a farm in North Carolina.  This farm does not offer or include in their lessons equine-assisted therapy.   Any therapy I received I captured on my own.

I’m not a doctor or a medical professional, nor am I offering advice on treatment for depression.   I simply want to share my experience and tell how riding a horse, along with the relationship that is created, is great therapy for me in my journey to fight chronic sadness, frustration, illness, grief, and often, a loss of interest in things I would otherwise enjoy.

Antidepressants don’t always come in a pill.

(update on Monday, March 22, 2010) —  Lots of stiffness and sore muscles since my ride, but today I’m doing better.   I stayed in bed most of the 24 hours after the ride.  I also had to take anti-inflammatory medication but to me, it was totally worth it.

Physical strength isn’t a requirement to ride on a gentle horse.    I didn’t have to lift the saddle, which was a good thing and I chose to trot, which I’m sure added to the aftermath of pain.

Compared to the side-effects I have from antidepressant medications, the short-lived flare of the sore muscles and fatigue is not a big deal to me.

The extra pain will go away and the gifts Candy and her trainer gave me will stay.

From Art to Antidepressants

The best part about the recovery center was that my mother was there, and alive, which was the only thing I could accept.  The next best part was that she was happy there.

The west side of the long one-story brick building was the arts and crafts room.  Big windows and wide glass doors offered patients a clear view of the pretty Pine trees that surrounded the hospital. 

I remember taking afternoon naps in my parents bedroom while my mother was away, which seemed like forever to me.  I cried when I looked out of her bedroom window where I could see my grandmother’s front porch.   I loved that porch, but without my mother, nothing was the same.

The few visits we made to see her were like gold to me.  Nothing was more valuable than my time with her, especially after that awful night when the ambulance came to our home.

The long wooden table where my mother’s spirit and creativity thrived appeared enormous… and a wonderful fantasy land for a child’s mind.

“This is what I’m making,” she told me as she showed me her end of the long wooden art table.  I could tell it was her work area.  Her art pieces and tools were colorful and organized.  Her first project included small figures, some not yet painted, which became my older brother’s Chess set.

My mother speaks fondly of her short time there.  She talks about how she was completely withdrawn until she finally expressed anger in a group therapy session.  She speaks of the kind counselors and how each of them had been through similar experiences as she had.  She talks about the art and crafts she made, the nurse whom she came to like and the good friend she made during her stay.  We don’t often talk about this time in our lives, but once in a while, the subject comes up.  Like the vitamin she remembers taking.

“You should ask your doctor about that vitamin,” she’ll tell me.  “It would make you eat and gain weight.  It was a big black pill,” she’ll say, but I’ve never met a doctor who knows what kind of vitamin it might have been.  I know it was not an antidepressant.  She said they didn’t give her medication.  Just that one vitamin a day.  Clearly, it was the people, Mother’s art and time for herself that helped her heal.

My very favorite of the crafts she created while there was a village of elves.   An odd formation of drift wood served as the foundation, as Earth is for us humans. 

Elf reading and relaxing in the wood

Elfin Oak

She had crafted and painted each elf into a unique character.  They lived in a magical fantasy land, but it was easy for me to pretend their world was as real as mine.

The elves had everything they needed.  Families, food, stores and friends, all of which my mother had meticulously created.   Their faces were full of joy.  The village was surely a happy place.  One elf carried a bucket of water and another a bundle of sticks.  The child elves played with toys.  Life seemed to work in the village of elves.   I dreamed of living there.

For some reason, even though I’ve asked several times throughout my life how it happened and have been told, the details of how the village was destroyed have never stuck in my mind.

One day after school, I discovered the village on the ground beside our front porch steps in more pieces than my eight year old mind could process.  I don’t like to think about that.

On my bookshelf, as I write, there are two emerald-green ceramic praying hands that she made during her recovery.  I cherish the hands, even though I usually keep them behind other objects and books because they still, sometimes, remind me of what happened that night she had to go away. 

My mother finally came home, but our lives were never the same afterward.  My parents eventually divorced and I went to live with Mother.

I think about the wonderful crafts my mother has made since then.  I have a framed picture of a little girl wearing a hat and holding a kitten (a cross-stitching pattern from a cover of the Saturday Evening Post) that took Mother an entire year to complete and nearly that long to save the money for the frame.  I adore and love my gift.  She made each of her children, after we grew up, a different picture.  I like mine the most.

My mother is a talented creative person.  I still have a red velvet evening gown she made for my Barbie doll.  She made our childhood clothes.  She made my cheerleading uniform.  It was the early ’70’s and short skirts were popular, so she shortened mine a little to make it more stylish.  I loved telling everyone that she made it.

She also made two of the most beautiful prom dresses for my sisters that I’ve ever seen since, but my sisters say they were the only girls at the prom who were not wearing spaghetti straps.  I was too young to understand how this made any difference, since they were the most beautiful dresses I’d ever seen in my life.

Mother worked every day hand-stitching pearls and sequins on the dresses.  One was a light pink and the other a shimmering pale green.  My sisters were beautiful and in those dresses, they were prettier than any of my dolls.

I watched and anticipated with great excitement the day I would see my pretty sisters in those dresses.   Unfortunately, my daddy had a shotgun waiting for their dates when they pulled into our driveway.   My sisters had to run in those elegant dresses out our back door through the cow pasture to meet their dates at the other end of our road.

So, you see, my mother had a hard life, which is how she ended up at the treatment center.  She was almost lost to us that night, before the men in the white coats came to save her life.  One of them bent down,  looked into my eyes and said, “Your mother is going to live.  You saved her life.”

I wish there were still places like the recovery center under the Pines where people could go when they are in great despair.  Nowadays, when you go to a hospital for a mental or emotional problem, unless you can afford a private place, you are treated more like a prisoner than a patient.

Your rights that have been taken away will be put in your face if you dare stray from compliance or attempt to have a say in the matter of your treatment; a say that somehow rubs a doctor or nurse in the wrong way.

It’s all about which drug they can get you on as quickly as possible.   Things have changed, that’s for sure.

I think there are definitely good changes — yet many are to change what should never occur in the first place, such as the patient abuse going on within the confines of our modern-day psychiatric institutions/hospitals.

Other outdated approaches need to be reinstated, such as personal exploration through art and friends, which I believe can be as beneficial as any type of treatment and without bad side-effects.   Science has told us they have seen that friendship changes brain chemistry. 

The ‘staff’ who worked at the mental health treatment centers were true counselors in the sense that they were recovered alcoholics or had survived a breakdown.  They had been where their patients were, so they understood.

Today, the former oasis under the Pines is remodeled.  They don’t have the big arts and crafts room anymore.   And vitamins?  I don’t hardly think so, as my mother would say.


Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.

PHOTO IMAGE of Elfin Oak via Flickr by StarrGazr

About the image, from Wikipedia:

The Elfin Oak is a 900-year-old tree stump in Kensington Gardens in London, carved and painted to look as though elves, gnomes and small animals are living in its bark.

Schizophrenia and forced treatment.

A Beautiful Free Spirit, A and B Larsen orchids, Wiki Commons

  PHOTO CREDIT:  Arne and Bent Larsen via Wiki Commons

I was hopeful when my son began receiving services with an Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, even though the way their relationship came about was not the perfect situation.

My son was in the hospital, having been admitted to the wrong floor.  The inpatient attending physician wasn’t happy to learn that he’d been admitted to her unit over the weekend when she wasn’t working.  The unit was for treating “disorders” such as depression and perhaps bipolar.  The other unit is where a patient went if he or she made reference to or exhibited signs of hearing voices, having hallucinations and/or signs of a cognitive thinking process deemed abnormal or delusional.  

The treating psychiatrist had a poor attitude.  She admitted to me that she had told my son that if he said anything she didn’t like, she would send him to another hospital that was not as desirable as the one he was in.

During a meeting she told my son the only way he could get discharged right away was to agree to sign on with an ACT team, which is what he did.

Before entering the hospital he’d been working with another team of mental healthcare providers that we both liked, but he was rebelling and not conforming to rules, after having been transported from the place we had called home for about six years. 

I felt that the earlier team gave up on him when symptoms of the illness they were treating him for flared, but they said the ACT team could serve him better.

Several years have passed since then.  I can’t be sure the good outweighs the bad in our personal experience of having ACT services.  There were good social workers who my son was very fond of, but they didn’t have much time.

Communication with this ACT team has been frustrating so much of the time.  For extended periods they’ve neglected my son.  They call this being, “engaged observers,” and always have either an excuse, such as too much paper work to get to him, or they blame him for not being easy to find on the downtown streets, which is how they often catch up with their clients.

I communicated with them once that my son needed help.  They agreed.  He was not doing well.  Their approach that time was to suggest that I leave him alone, at least for a couple of weeks or, “however long it takes for him to deteriorate,” his social worker suggested.  I liked the social worker, but I didn’t like the suggestion.

My son was living alone and certainly needed help.  I needed help helping him.  He was not, “sick” enough to be committed to a hospital psychiatric unit at that time.  The idea was to get him some help if he was an inpatient, they said.  I’ve since learned that this means forced medication.

The social worker told me they (his ACT team) believed that me inviting my son to my home, where we would have dinner and spend time with the dogs, one of whom is his, was helping him to stay well or rather, not letting him deteriorate to the point where they could have him involuntarily committed.  They suggested that I stop visiting him or inviting him to my house. 

“Just don’t answer the phone if he calls,”  a social worker told me.

I think this social worker had good intentions, I guess, but he just didn’t get it.  He didn’t have children yet.  None of the social workers on the team had any and many of them are younger than my son is.  We need some elders in these jobs.

ACT teams strive to keep people (consumers or clients) out of hospitals and in the community, but involuntarily commitment remains a common practice for social workers and ACT teams.

We were all in agreement that one of my son’s assets and at that time, probably his only asset was family involvement.  I am his family.  And our two dogs.

Their evidence-based treatment submits that patients who have family support fare better than those who don’t have it.

The ACT team have suggested several actions they believed would help my son since they became my son’s treatment team, a few of which made sense and some of which, I felt that I had no alternative but to agree with. 

I couldn’t go along with what felt to me like abandoning my son so he would get sick enough for a commitment.  I tried it for about a day and a half.  I decided not to go against my gut and my mother’s instinct.  I would not take away the only connection my son had to the outside world so that he would get worse.  Nothing about it makes good sense to me.

“You won’t always be around,” I was also told.

“Well, I’m not dead yet!”  I told the young social worker.  I’m not even a senior citizen yet.  I still have time to help see a difference in the healthcare my son receives, I hope, along with a change in American cultural perceptions about people whose brains work differently than “normal” brains.

The ACT team and I have also had disagreements about whether my son should have had antipsychotics forced on him.  I do not support this treatment for my son.  I think it is against his human and civil rights.

One time he went to the hospital for symptoms of depression.  The ACT team wanted him to be committed for a long-term stay, even though the hospital’s rehabilitation unit was closed at that time.  The hospital said if he stayed he would spend all his time in the day room watching television.  They said he would not receive therapy, but that they could force injections of medication on him.

I prayed.

creative mindsThe inpatient psychiatrist assigned to my son the next day was awesome.  He did not force antipsychotic treatment on his patient.  He said it would be like breaking his spirit. 

He spoke candidly with me about his opinions, which I agreed with and was truly grateful to hear.  He said he could not in his good heart force drugs on my son after having met and talked with him several times.

The doctor said something like… Your son has a free spirit.  He also has a strong adverse opinion about this medication.  He talked about the fact that my son was not a danger to himself or others, that he had not committed a crime or even bothered anyone.  Forcing a medication/drug on him didn’t feel right to the doctor nor myself.

The doctor was kind to speak to me while my son was there.  The only reason my son had to stay more than a few days was because I was trying to get the ACT team to come up and join us in an outpatient treatment planning meeting.  Everyone agreed that we needed a different plan.  The ACT team never showed for a meeting, and the doctor wished me well in pursuing other avenues of healthcare for my son after discharge.

He may not live the life you had expected, the doctor had told me, which I realized, but he has the potential to have a good life, without antipsychotics.  We discussed the fact that sometimes the side-effects of those drugs are worse than the illness, which in my opinion is a rare conversation to have with a psychiatrist.

The ACT team did not like that medication wasn’t forced on my son after he’d stated he did not want it.  They said it was most unfortunate that my son had this particular doctor.  I was aghast.  They said it only enforced my son’s belief that he does not need an antipsychotic drug.  I totally disagree.

I told them that I welcomed the doctor’s honest conversations with me.  I appreciated that he saw my son instead of a number or rather, a diagnosis waiting for a pill or an injection.

The ACT team’s psychiatrist told me this scenario (my son having access to a listening and caring psychiatrist) wouldn’t happen again.  She said she had many contacts at that hospital.   She said the next time my son needed medical attention that she could make sure he would be assigned to a psychiatrist whom she was acquainted with.  I didn’t think this was a good thing, and I would discover, eventually, that I had been correct.

“The next chance I have, I want you to know that I will advocate for a long-term commitment with forced medication for your son,” the psychiatrist told me in an angry tone.

I told her she should not act out of anger or frustration when it came to my son’s care.  He should not be committed because she was/is angry that things didn’t go her way or that the inpatient psychiatrist did not agree with what she wanted.  And most certainly, a commitment should not be planned for an indefinite time, before one is even needed.  That’s like a threat.  No, actually, it was a threat.

I’ve never had the same amount of trust in ACT services as I had before that conversation with their psychiatrist.

Thank you for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.  Please see link above for photo credit and copyright information for the beautiful orchid via Wiki Commons.