I am going to write a short post in my A Day in the Life Series today. As hard as it is for me to think about those memories, I don’t want to forget them because society still has a long way to go regarding the treatment of people with illnesses like schizophrenia and we still have a long way to go in finding adequate treatment.
The last time my mom was committed to the hospital, I was living in another state when my sister called me up to tell me. It had been a number of years since her last hospitalization, although she continued to have symptoms of paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations during those years. My dad’s philosophy was to allow her to make her own choice about medication and to leave her be unless she became dangerous to herself or others.
At the time he made the difficult decision to have her involuntarily committed she was becoming increasingly agitated with a few of their neighbors and making some relatively strong threats against them, although she had never been known to act on them. He became especially concerned when she came home one night and appeared to have been attacked. She wandered around the neighborhood a lot at night, and one night after dark she came crawling into the house with her broken umbrella, covered in dirt and scratches, saying someone had attacked her in the park. Unfortunately we didn’t always believe her when she told us something happened, but in this case, it was clear she had been attacked. The police came to the house and took a report and comforted her, but never found out who did it.
I flew home a few days after my mom was hospitalized to visit her. She was at the state hospital, and it had a large forensic population (criminals who were awaiting determination of their sanity or who had been declared insane) and other patients who didn’t have anywhere else to go or who were awaiting housing etc. I remember going through several locked doors to visit with her, accompanied by my aunt and my sisters. My aunt was like an angel during that time, visiting my mom on a daily basis, and taking her things to eat or read. My mom’s brother tried to come and visit her, but when he realized he would be locked in with her, he panicked and said he couldn’t go in.
It was so sad to see my mom sitting at the long cafeteria table, amongst so many others who looked lost, angry, worn out, and disoriented. She held her head high and tried to maintain her dignity and distance, never doubting that she was better than the rest. I will never forget a large woman coming up to her, trembling from head to toe, trying to ask for my mom’s help and crying, saying she couldn’t do it any more. My mom had become the person other patients came to for comfort, and she gently reassured the woman everything would be okay.
I held it together during the visit, but on the way home I sat in the back seat and sobbed. The thought of my mom in that environment, seeing the others who seemed so forlorn, lost and forgotten, and thinking about her being so alone was unbearable. All I wanted was for her to be healthy, and to be able to live in peace in her own home and spend time with her children and grandchildren.
Eventually mom was released, only after agreeing to take medicine. She held out for a long time, but finally they told her she wouldn’t be able to return to her home again if she didn’t, so she complied.
To see the previous post click here.