Archive for the ‘mental illness’ Category

Responding to Stress

red flowers on stems

While the tears poured,  I thought how I surely didn’t look like a green healing girl, nor did I feel like one.

Shingles had hit me fast and hard.  In the past, I’ve been able to recognize the virus before an outbreak.  Not this time.

I had been sickly for several weeks losing a precious nine pounds.  I even went to the doctor fearing I had a tick-borne disease, but my doctor said he didn’t think I have one and instead, blamed my symptoms on stress.

I get tired of my health problems always being blamed on stress, but I realize it’s a serious problem, particularly when it’s ongoing.

My mom and I were talking on the phone when I saw the outbreak.  I was relieved because I’d rather have shingles than a tick infection.

My son was a resident at a small farm, where I thought he might live for three months.  I had gone to visit him two days before getting sick and thought he was going to stay. 

He had said he was homesick and sometimes felt pretty down, but after spending more time with him, he said that most of the time he felt good being there.  Most of the time is a lot to me, so I encouraged him to stay.

He wasn’t sleeping well at the farm and as a result, was often so tired that he was a little late for the chores and classes.  He was trying really hard and the farm’s director informed me that he was improving.

I left the farm after that visit feeling more hopeful than I have in a decade.  For the first time since my son was diagnosed with a mental illness, he was at a place where people treated him like a full human being.  He wasn’t a ‘case’ to be managed.  He was treated the same as the other residents, which meant he was expected to arrive on time for classes.

During the few weeks he was away, even though I had to drive a lot, which was difficult, I had enough time to see what it was like being me.

I was not a full-time caregiver.  I was Michelle.  I was a single woman.  I saw parts of my personality that I hadn’t seen in a long time, such as my sense of humor.  I’d forgotten that I have a pretty good one.  I had fun.

It’s not my son that I need a break from, but instead is the caregiver role that I don’t have help with.

Two days after our weekend visit together, my son was an hour late for one of the farm’s classes.  He said he was so tired that he lied down for what he intended to be five minutes, but then fell asleep.

The man leading that particular class, which was a prayer time, asked him to do a writing assignment.  It was a long and arduous assignment.  He refused and as a result, had to leave the program.

I am not proud of myself for the way I responded to the situation.  I was angry and didn’t handle my emotions well.  I needed someone to talk with about the situation.  Someone with experience, empathy and a positive attitude.  I didn’t have anyone who could offer that.

I told the manager when I arrived that I was sick.  I also confided in him that I wasn’t sure how long I could keep going the way I have been.  He said they would pray for me and we parted ways.

The six months before my son went to the farm had become more and more difficult for us.  I didn’t get a break.  I deeply desired and needed help. 

My son needs peers and friends, something to do with his time and more activity than I alone can offer. 

A few months ago, he was rejected from membership in a clubhouse for people diagnosed with a mental illness.  The reason was because he’s doing well and doesn’t have a case manager.  They aren’t used to that.  I’m not sure their response is altogether a bad thing. 

My son talks about recovery and has a reputation in that particular community of not taking medication.  Sometimes this causes ripples in the water.

I had begged God for somebody to help me.  The director of the farm called to say they would accept my son as a resident the same day that I had nearly screamed at the sky.  I thought my break came and it was one that I believed could change my son’s life. 

Things simply didn’t work out the way we had wanted.  I wish I could go back and respond to this fact differently than I did, but of course I can’t.  I can only try to do better in the future.

I feel better now.  I don’t know exactly what to do or where to turn in life, but I’ll keep on keeping on.  I’ll keep on trying and hoping and praying that there is a way to help my son, that we both can heal and recover, and that perhaps one day our lives will look much brighter.

I learned from the farm experience that I need to work on myself.  I need to take time for me.  I need personal time, as well as time for healing my own wounds.  I want to  heal.  I want to respond to life in a way that doesn’t cause me illness or worsen existing health conditions.  I certainly don’t like responding in ways that bring harm to others, hurt feelings or make the situation worse.  All easier said than done I suppose, but giving up is not a good option.

I’d like to say thanks to my blogging friends for the awesome support and encouragement you have given me.  I’ve said it before, but I’m proud to be a part of this community!  Thank you so much!

Even though my mother will likely never read this, I must say here that I am truly grateful for her love.  She sure stands by me when I’m sick and for that I sure am grateful. 

I am proud of my son for trying the program the farm offered.  He’s a strong young man with a kind and good spirit.

Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog!

Red flowers in the garden, by Michelle and Son.

Green Healing ~ Heart and Soul

Image of pretty lilac woodland Phlox blooming

Woodland Phlox

I saw my son’s heart while we were working together in the gardens yesterday.  It was beautiful!  Some people have a green thumb, which I believe my son has, but he also has a green heart.

I saw it when he watered the beds where we planted tiny carrot and lettuce seeds last week.  And of course in the bed of Bok Choy.

in horticulture we thrive

BoK Choy coming along

I saw it when he pulled a few weeds from our special bed where the little lizard used to live.  (I guess my cute little friend went on to some greens without gardeners).

one spot so powerful!

Our Special Therapy Garden

I saw his spirit shining when I later looked at the photos I took during class, which included the potted Cacti he made during the first class.  That pot continues to show me his spirit.  It grows on it’s own.  It’s easy for him to have this potted plant, which isn’t the case for all of us.  Some of us have a hard time keeping them alive, much less seeing them thrive without effort.

in horticulture, we thrive

Easy does it...

The horticulture therapist and I had a chance to chat a bit after the earlier week’s class.  My son didn’t feel like going that day and I had gone alone.  “He has so much heart and soul,”  she remarked.

People often say that about my son.  I often forget to remember what is right, when sometimes it feels like a lot is wrong.  It’s easy, I guess, to focus on what I can help change or make better, than it is to spend time being grateful and enjoying all that is okay and good.

working in the beautiful Mother of the therapy gardens

Heart and Soul in the Garden

My son is a quiet person now.  He doesn’t engage in conversation the way he did growing up, which was enthusiastically with almost everyone he met.   This change has been very difficult for me to accept.

Psychiatry suggests that his frequent silence is a symptom and I must admit that ever since he was diagnosed with a mental illness, I believed this was true.  I’ve believed many things that today I am seriously questioning.

I believe my son has a lot to say.  I believe he has been silenced for a long time.  I believe in the right environment he could and would thrive.

Times are changing in the mental healthcare arena.   There is a new language used to talk about madness.  We are finally starting to acknowledge that matters of the heart matter.  The spirit and soul of a person matters.

I’m glad to be alive and a part of the conversation.  Honestly, I didn’t think I would be.

I dream of access to healing and rehabilitation centers, and organizations created to help people who live to a different beat have meaningful work and be able to make valuable contributions in community.

I don’t know if my dreams and hopes will be realized in my life, but a new conversation has begun!

Thanks for visiting Dogkisses’s blog.  Feel free to leave a comment and I hope you also have some ‘Green Healing’ days.

smiling at you

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!

Changing Seasons

on the journey, the path.

PHOTO CREDIT: Heart & Soul Photography

Several days ago I found a box of frozen juice bars that I bought not long before my most recent post in this blog.  It was mid-summer and as usual, hot and humid.  I’d accidentally left them at my son’s apartment.  They’re in my freezer as I write, but they don’t look nearly as tempting as they did in July.

The summer was like one long day.  One filled with near constant telephone calls, online research and intense email communications.

Having reached out and asked for help in the medical community led to my son’s lengthy and rather unfortunate stay in a psychiatric hospital.

My son is doing okay and maybe even quite well.  He’s out of the hospital, which is very good!  He’s in recovery and I’m processing the fear that those psychiatrists instilled in my mind.

The inpatient psychiatrist and her personal team of professionals claimed that my son was there for symptoms of mental illness, but technically and truthfully, he became their patient because of, “a note left on the (local) hospital’s computer,” written six months before the evening he arrived in the emergency room for help.

The note shaped the next months of his life, and mine.  It almost shaped a few years.

I’ve learned that time is different for me than it is to the psychiatrists we had to deal with.  In their time, a few years of my son’s life can be discussed and measured in days, as in, “up to thirty days,” or, “for one-hundred and fifty days…”

In my time, one hundred-and fifty days equals five full moons, three important family birthdays, one Thanksgiving, one Christmas, days and weeks of walking in the fresh air, one Autumn, thousands of shimmering and glowing leaves to see, two dogs’ lives worth of days to enjoy, two semesters, one Winter, several snowmen and at least, three bowls of snow cream.

In their time, one hundred and fifty days is long enough for them to mythologize, diminish or selectively forget about the United States Constitution, including the Bill of Rights.

Something inside of me changed as the days turned into weeks, and finally months.  Faith is more present in my heart and I like that.  Both my son and I are on a different, yet comfortably familiar path of holistic healthcare.  We are working with a Taoist Alchemist and have better access to an open-minded, progressive thinking neuro-medical practitioner.

I’m more cautious than I was before about our modern-day Western approach in the treatment for mental illness.  It doesn’t work the same for everyone.  Personally, accepting what psychiatry offers, requires a separation of my heart and mind.  I’ve never been good at that.  As long as my heart is still there, I’ll be listening to what it has to say.

Dealing with the mental healthcare system has been a rather political process and, one which I don’t want to repeat.  I’m sure my son feels the same way.  I hope and pray that he doesn’t have to deal with those people again.

Mental illness is as physical as any other illness is.  There can be a hundred different reasons the brain malfunctions and a hundred different causes for each reason.  Treating a person’s brain is complicated medicine.  The field of psychiatry needs a revolution.

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!

Michelle.

“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.


A Prayer Request…

loving from the whole heart

He hugs "Bo" for taking him on a ride...

I have an important request.

People say prayer works.

I am asking for prayers and healing energy.

Please pray for my son.  He is a young man who is sadly, very lost and having a most difficult time.

Please see him receiving kindness and good care from the nurses and doctors.

Please ask that he be Well.

And, Please ask that I can carry on.

Thank you from all of my heart.

A Mother who loves her son, Michelle.


note: update on 8/27/11, Re: Defining Sick.

Mental illness, it could be you

shadows of the past may come alive to help us be better people

“Hi,” the woman said shyly.  “I’m calling about a butterfly garden.  I saw your ad in the paper.”

More than a decade has gone by since I received that phone call.  I still remember how I felt.

“I live on a fixed income due to a disability,” the woman added.  “I was wondering if I could get a small butterfly garden and how much that would cost.”

I remember how I felt then, but the way I feel now is much more powerful.  I feel terrible about the way I handled that call.

The woman told me where she lived.  I had heard of the place, but didn’t know much about it.  I knew only that the people who lived there had some type of mental problems.

I talked with my gardening mentor who encouraged me to go see the woman.  I wish I had taken his advice.  I can’t remember who else I consulted with, but I was most certainly influenced in the other direction.

The woman called several times telling me how much she loved butterflies.  I told her the price for a small garden.  She explained that she received her check each month and asked if she could make monthly payments.

People said things like, “those people who live there are crazy,” and I vaguely recall one person telling me that I would be making a mistake to get involved with someone like that.  I concluded that the woman wouldn’t be able to pay like she said she would.  I assumed several things that today I am not proud of.   I chose not to meet with her.

As I write, I really can’t believe that was me.

I wasn’t going to write about this memory when I began this post, which is one of my many challenges in writing.  I’ll start a story or some type of tale and the next thing I know, I’ll be back in time, ten or twenty years into my past.

I wanted to tell you about my dream of creating a healing garden for people fighting and living with mental illness.  A place for healing and community to happen.

I wanted to tell you about an outdoor bed of hay framed with sunflowers and chocolate cosmos laced around the pillow shams.

Sometimes the past meets the present and I get lost somewhere in the middle.

The apartments where the woman lived is a thriving community today, as it was when she called me all those years ago, back when life was much easier for me.  Back when I thought the problems those people had would never be ones I would face.  Oh no!  Not me or my family.

I was terribly wrong and completely ignorant.

Mental illness doesn’t discriminate.  It can strike any person, any family and in any place.

Ten years after I turned down the woman’s beautiful and brave request, I found myself at the same apartment building where she had wanted her little butterfly garden.

I was there applying for my adult son to get an apartment in that community.

I had forgotten about that phone call until one day when I went to visit my son there.  Several of his neighbors came outside.  We walked around the building together finding many places where we could plant, of all things, a butterfly garden.  The memory slapped me in the face.

I realized that my son was one of those people.

My bright intelligent son who had superior verbal skills by age three, was a good student other than talking too much from being bored, was in a grand way always enthusiastic about life, winning school awards in science and later in kayaking, was struck with a mental illness.

Today, I am a woman who must sometimes say, “I live on a fixed income due to a disability.”  

Today, I realize, I am one of those people too.

Turns out we are all the same and always were.  The differences I imagined came from cultured misconceptions of immunity derived from ignorance and stigma.

Thank you for visiting my blog,

dogkisses.