Archive for December 21st, 2007

Uncomfortable Memories of Dealing with Severe Mental Illness

Friday, December 21st, 2007

This post continues the Recollections of summer 2007. This is covering the period of time between DS’s first hospitalization in June 2007 and his second hospitalization in July 2007 for schizoaffective disorder.

 As I was saying in Psychiatrists Assume Medication Noncompliance, Dr. DB wanted to wait be sure my son DS was on the Abilify medication before making a change. I believe he did add Clonazepam at this time. After a few more days and a couple telephone calls from me, he agreed a medication switch was appropriate. He prescribed Zyprexa to be gradually phased in while the Abilify was phased out over a course of five days.

One good thing I have to say about Dr. DB is that he would take my telephone calls. I learned later that his specialty was adolescent and child psychiatry, so he is accustomed to dealing with patients’ parents, I assume. I don’t know how DS ever started seeing him in his early twenties. I think we picked his name out of a telephone book because he was in a psychiatry group close to home, that accepted Medicaid insurance.

Here are some things about DS from my notes from this time. DS insisted he heard a muffled scream from his sister’s room in the early morning and wanted to wake her up to investigate it. He told another sister’s friend to leave the house because it was dangerous here. He was very rude and insistent about it. He said he did not want to take the medicine: it was all in my head that he needs it. When I suggested calling the doctor the next day to discuss it, he took his medicine.

DS told me there was a dumpster at the county recycling facility that was a trap. That’s where he got drugs on the bottom of his shoes, and it’s a good thing the police did not know. He called his grandparents at 7 am to warn them about a researcher. He told me he had a hallucination about a ninja man in his room. (At least he knew it was a hallucination, but it still sounded very scary.) He said his sister had microphones in her ear for listening to him. He thought there were listening devices in his eyeglass frames. He was worried about the police coming in the middle of the night to arrest him because of the illicit drugs at the hospital. He said he felt unsafe and unwelcome at home.

Meanwhile every day all day long he was walking back and forth in the house checking windows and doors to be sure they were locked. If one was unlocked it was usually his own fault because he would make checks outdoors then come back in and forget to lock behind himself. Then he would blame me. He was critical towards me for not doing more cleaning of the house or not keeping the bad guys or pranksters out. He was washing all his bedding and all his clothes every day. (I got so tired of hearing that machine running. I thought for sure he was going to wear it out.) He was washing the inside and outside of his clothes hamper and garbage can frequently. He was cleaning his room, and throwing away alot of things, and filled three large garbage bags. Sometimes I would go through what he had thrown away and save things I thought he might regret tossing when he was feeling better.

One day he left a plastic bag with his Bible and some other things outdoors on the back deck. I did not notice them until after it rained. I managed to salvage the books, but I am still keeping them hidden for him, for when he is less delusional about them being contaminated. I figured he thought they were contaminated because they had been at the hospital with him.  He was scrubbing the bottoms of his shoes frequently with new toothbrushes then throwing the toothbrushes away. We were going through paper towels so fast sometimes I think that was the only thing in the garbage can.  It seemed to be hard to keep shampoo in the house, too.

The day before he entered the hospital, DS hurt his five-year old sister’s wrist when he yanked her blanket away from her. He was upset because she had been dragging it across the floor. I remember sternly warning him to not touch his little brother or sister or I would be calling the police. He said, “go ahead.” His attitude was very bad this whole time. His fear and anxiety were intense and the verbalizations about them constant. The five-year was beginning to believe the things he was saying about bad guys coming in the house. I remember thinking, “Oh, great. Now I am going to get her into therapy, too.”

Someone said to me that he seemed to be very driven. I said, “yes, ‘driven’ is a good word for it.”

I am sad to have brought up all these memories from last summer. Looking at my notes brought it back fresh. We were suffering, and he was suffering. I felt we were totally failed by the hospital, the doctors and society. It seemed to me he needed more frequent therapy and more follow-ups with the doctor. (He only had one hour of therapy and one doctor’s visit in this three week period.) He needed some place to live other than at home. I am glad DS is doing much better now, although I still would not say he is well. When I spoke to him this week, he had no complaints of feeling unsafe.