My Sister's Keeper
My Sister's Keeper posted by: Midnight Sunshine
Below you will find a blog entry posted by: Midnight Sunshine. Midnight Sunshine; you ARE your sister's keeper! Thank you for sharing!
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My sister's keeper
Last March I had to fly my sister her to Colorado from Florida for mental health care. She was manic and didn't know what to do. When she is manic, she displays it in a way most have never seen seen or heard of. She is the type that becomes overly aggressive, but on the surface looks as calm as a yogi in meditation. She still has the rapid thoughts and the compulsive desires such as shopping and eating. At times she can be euphoric, but that is usually at a hypo manic state. She had had a fight with her boyfriend, cut her wrist and left the house. She was not willing to go to the hospital just yet. I talked her into calling the police department and getting a ride to a homeless shelter for the night. We would talk about hospitals the next day. At least there would be people to keep an eye on her.
The next morning she walked to Jackson mental health hospital. She told the triage nurse she was unstable, scared and needed help. They would not see her and sent her away. I talked her into going back and signing a release so they could talk to me as well as telling them she felt somewhat suicidal, something she was afraid to mention the first time. While she walked back I called their crisis line and explained to them what was going on. My sister has a hard time explaining her thoughts and feelings, but as her sister I knew she needed help. They told me there was nothing they could do. She got there and AGAIN told them she needed help, that they could call me and I would help her explain her situation. Once again they refused to see her but told her she could sit in the waiting room and they would "keep an eye on her". They failed to do this as she was very angry and frustrated at this point and had left the hospital. I had a hard time calming her down and getting her to cooperate, her thoughts were swimming, she was hot, hungry and pissed off. I talked her into going in again, to refuse to leave until she was seen again. They finally saw her. The doctor told her he did not believe she was really Bipolar, a diagnosis she has carried since she was six. He believed she was simply depressed, gave her some Paxil and released her. Keep in mind, this is a MENTAL HEALTH HOSPITAL! How can these supposed "specialists" fail to believe a person who knows their diagnosis, especially a diagnosis that has been documented by a psychiatric hospital for children and adolescents many times over? I panicked, obviously, begging her not to take the Paxil, it would only make the mania worse. The last thing Miami needs is a 250lb. aggressively manic woman on the loose!
I had to think quickly, she was not safe and the people who were supposed to help were not doing there job. I was unable to get a flight until the next day. Her boyfriend's aunt was willing to stay with her in a hotel that night and take her to the airport. She missed check in time for the flight and almost assaulted the woman at the counter. after calming her down, I got her on another flight. She would be in my care soon, I was finally able to breathe.
I picked her up that night around midnight and took her to eat. she had not eaten since the day before and hadn't slept in days. Sitting across from her I could silently assess her without her knowledge. She looked healthy, but her eyes were wild. The cut on her wrist was not deep, just enough to "release the tension".
The next morning I took her to Boulder community hospital. Denver Health and Boulder were the only ones in the area with a decent Psychiatric unit, and without health insurance we could not go to a private mental health facility without a very healthy down payment, something neither of us had. We checked in at the ER and were brought back into a room. They gave her an assessment sheet to fill out. I had to help her understand the questions and answer truthfully. I do not approve of these written assessments. Just because you are having mental health issues does not mean you are an idiot. Unless going voluntarily, one would not check yes to thoughts of suicide or hearing voices. I believe these questions should be asked by the assessor, so that the body language of the individual can be viewed. The social worker came in and introduced herself. She asked me to step out so she could speak to my sister alone, then she would speak to us together. After about 15minutes, she brought me back in. My sister looked agitated and upset. The social worker explained that she would give us numbers to clinics around town, but did not feel my sister was a threat to herself or others and did not fit the criteria to call in the psychologist. Since she didn't have insurance, they had no other options to offer. In a condescending voice, she looked at my sister and said "And we discussed that she can't hurt anyone or you will have to call the police, right?" My sister gave me a "please make her understand look". I asked the social worker to call the psychologist anyway, and let me speak to him. She refused. It was "against the rules". At this point my sister was fed up and stormed out of the room. The social worker looked insulted. With her out of the room, I turned to the social worker in a calm, stern voice, I warned her, "Now, do you see what just happened? She is pissed. I now have to go chase her down and pray she doesn't hurt herself or anyone else, including me. She may LOOK fine, but she isn't. She is special, and will look perfectly calm and collected while she grabs a knife to stab you. If you don't know what to look for, you do not see the warning signs. I am telling you as her family, she needs help. She needs her medication. If we leave here and she hurts herself or anyone else, I will be holding this facility responsible, since you are refusing to listen and are turning her away." Giving me a wide eyed look, she now decided she could at least call the psychologist and get his suggestions. I was able to coax my sister back into the room. I was determined to get her help. I was ready to cause a scene and take the risk of being arrested or admitted my self.
Five minutes later, a nurse and the social worker came swooping in. The psychologist had admitted my sister on a 72hr hold. The nurse started an IV and administered Ativan. I gave the social worker a "don't you feel foolish" look. She just stared at the floor as she explained my sister would be admitted, but it had to be considered involuntary since she did not have insurance. As the Ativan kicked in the tension in my sister's face melted and she was relieved that the racing thoughts were starting to slow down. She could concentrate for more that a few seconds and the irritability had lessened. She gave me a relieved look and thanked me.
They released my sister into my care on the third day with a prescription for Depakote in hand. This medication has been the most helpful of the many medication cocktails my sister has endured. Like many people with bipolar, she does not like taking her medication because it makes her tired or feel "flat". The intensity of emotions is relieved and can seem dull. She was only allowed to stay with me if she took her medication.
Now came the hard work: recovery. For weeks we worked on getting her life back in order. She was responsible for getting a job, scheduling her own doctor's appointments and arranging for transportation, whether it be asking for a ride or public transportation. She was responsible for taking her medication. She was unable to afford therapy, so we worked on self education and awareness. I helped her learn how to eat healthy and exercise to keep herself healthy and clear her mind. She was learning how to become independent, she just needed a little guidance.
I am happy to say she is doing great now. She got herself into job core where she is studying for her CNA license and plans to go to nursing school. They are helping her with medication. We keep in touch and she calls when she needs to take a time out and think clearly.
Our experience left me with a lot of questions. What if my sister didn't have anyone to help her? Where would she have gone after her discharge, who would help her recover and become independent again? Who would help her find the resources to help herself?
My sister, and many others, did not need an emergency room or a hospital bed. She needed a place to get her medication, stabilize and help guide her to become independent. She needed someone to talk to, to help her learn her own triggers and how to help herself.
Unless you have a large bank account, there are very few places for this. There are rehabilitation centers for substance abuse and halfway homes for those leaving prison, but no place to go during a manic/depressive episode that is severe enough to need help but not enough for hospitalization. There should be somewhere you could go to get help, see a therapist, have access to resources to find housing, a job or whatever is needed to help you become independent again. I am not one to have questions or encounter a problem and let it go unsolved. So, I have a solution. I want to build a transitional facility for mood disorders, starting with Bipolar disorder. This is no small thing and I need help. I need funding and those who know where to start. I need to find a place for a facility and staff, everything!
If you or someone you know can help me or has any ideas, please let me know!! I am open to any suggestions and anyone who wants to work with me. I want to see this become available nationally, even internationally! You can e-mail me at email@example.com
Please help me help those like my sister, and those who have no one. I do look forward to hearing from you, thank you.
Posted by Midnight sunshine at 11:44 PM