Dr. Whiskey is Grace’s treating psychiatrist at her inpatient psychiatric program. Why do I call him Dr. Whiskey? Because this man has a voice as smooth as Irish whiskey. He sounds like a late-night disc jockey for a Muzak station. I’m thoroughly crushing on his voice.
Dr. Whiskey rang me up for an introductory chat. That’s de rigueur at most of these inpatient, day treatment, and partial hospitalization programs. He was friendly and kind which put me at ease. He met Grace earlier that day and commented on what a doll she was. That’s actually how most people describe her–“She’s such a little dolly.” Well, it’s true. She’s a wee thing. She’s finally managed to break 80 pounds, and that’s all because of the medications. She’s a fair-haired, fair-skinned, blue-eyed Scandinavian girl just like the rest of us. With a very gentle disposition. She’s never been violent or aggressive. Ever. Just quirky. Now, she comes off as odd and melancholy. To put it bluntly, Grace was a sweet, smart, creative little girl who was run over by the Mental Illness Bus. I can handle this most of the time. Sometimes it’s very hard.
I was told that Grace laid out her goals for treatment during her first therapy session. She very specifically said, “I’d like my anxiety, depression, and psychosis addressed. Oh, and I’d like my meds to be stabilized, too. They aren’t working very well.” I asked the therapist who called and reported that to me what she thought about that. She shared that she was at a loss. “Oh, you mean that you aren’t sure where to start when a child lays out the entire DSM for you?” I explained that Grace needs her medications stabilized so that her psychosis is ameliorated. Her anxiety and depression are rooted in feelings of helplessness and fear. If you walk into your own kitchen and see your father and cat there only to see them disappear, you suddenly start to wonder what else might not be real in your world. Take care of the hallucinations and paranoia, and the anxiety and depression will follow.
After a long conversation with Dr. Whiskey, a few conclusions were reached.
- Grace will be tapered off the Lamictal. It ain’t workin’. That will take two weeks. In its place? Oh dear…Lithium or Depakote. The gold standards. These are The Big Boys, and they are nasty, nasty, nasty. They are, however, well-studied, and everyone and their bastard cousin know what to look for and what to do–even in pediatric populations. I’m nervous.
- Dr. Whiskey will be bringing in other psychiatrists to consult on Grace’s case. He has admitted that this is very complex. He will also be consulting with Dr. Awesome who runs the Psychosis Clinic at our local megaversity’s medical school. She will also be Grace’s future psychiatrist beginning in March. We are assembling a team, and I’m happy about that. Finally, we are not alone.
- I was told that Grace has maxed out her dosage on the antipsychotics. Aside from Lithium and Depakote, we may be looking at other med changes. I think we are in for a bumpy ride.
All this aside, I was told that I was doing a good job. Actually, I was told that I was doing a magnificent job as a mother. The therapist watched me interact with Grace during her intake. The psychiatrist listened to me on the phone. They both affirmed me. There are moments when I wonder, you know? So many of us endure the accusatory looks from nursing staff, other parents, teachers, and even certain clinicians. They might know something about our child so they assume that we’ve nurtured the illness. Created the monster as it were. Nothing could be further from the truth. Those shaming looks leave me feeling very alienated and alone. Those little pats on the back from people in the know are so welcome. I needed them.
We’ve even lost friends. People are scared of Grace’s diagnosis so they won’t let their kids near her now. They hear the word “schizophrenia”, “schizoaffective” or “bipolar type” and think something vile about her. Someone sent me an email the other day which read, “I haven’t seen you on Facebook lately. I assume that means that everything has resolved nicely for you and the girls and you’re all doing great! Give everyone my best!” I felt confused, sad, and…a little angry. She’s still this amazing girl, but she struggles. I want to shout out to everyone, “Do you know how kind she is? How empathetic she is? She would never judge anyone! Do you know what she’s been through? Do you know what an inpatient facility is like?”
But, I don’t. I…write it down here. I choose to think about other things, but a tiny part of me would like to post this to Facebook:
When a person disappears from social media, please don’t assume it’s because their life is fabulous particularly if you all know that one of their children struggles with a chronic illness.
What if I struggled with a chronic illness? Good grief! Would people just assume that I’d won the lottery and flown off to my newly purchased island? Sometimes I think that all the high-tech means we have for communicating have done us little good. There is no substitution for human contact and observation as in:
“Have you seen Mrs. Jones leave her house this week? Her car has been parked there all week. She has cancer. I wonder if she’s okay. I think we should go check on her and make sure she’s okay…see if she needs anything.”
I wonder if choosing to believe that someone is just fine even when the signs point to the opposite is really just one person’s attempt to justify self-centeredness. I call it the “heliocentric experience”. One orbits around oneself as if the self is both a planet and the sun at the same time, and it would be very easy for me to do that or rather for me to orbit around Grace. Alas, I refuse. I think that’s why I write this blog. It prevents me from orbiting around her. It helps me maintain a proper order in my mind. Keeps me sane. She is not the sun, and I won’t be pulled in by her dark gravity.
I’ll say this: We do live in interesting times.