October 06, 2013

There but for the grace of God . . .

If you have always lived comfortably, I want to help you understand why people with mental illnesses need so much help. 

These people's brains don't work right.  They need our help to have a place to live, to have food to eat, to feed and clothe their children.  They need our help to get medical care to help their brains function correctly.

I am amazingly lucky.  I don't know how I landed in this place, but I'm so glad I did.  Yes, I have suffered from Major Depression since I was a teen.  But I had all the right supports:

  • My husband takes his marriage vows very seriously.  In sickness and in health, this wonderful man has stood by me. 
  • I had a home to return to when I got out of the hospital.
  • I had a daughter to live for.
  • My parents both had experiences with depression.  They were  kind and compassionate.
  • My in-laws were also kind and compassionate. 
  • My co-workers were mostly nice. 
  • I have seen the same psychiatrist for over 25 years. 
  • I had jobs with healthcare insurance, plus short- and long-term disability insurance. 
  • My job and benefits were still there for me when I came back from sick leaves, thanks to the Family and Medical Leave Act, signed into law by Bill Clinton.

When you are in the throes of a mental illness, your brain is not functioning correctly.  Now, consider the misery some people have to go through at the same time  that they can't think straight:

  • Her spouse decides he can't tolerate her lack of motivation/fatigue/crying/sleeping all the time.  He leaves and she has no income.  She has to move to a homeless shelter, where her belongings become infested with bed bugs.
  • His parents kick him out of the house because he is acting weird.  Now he is sick and homeless; he couch surfs until his friends cannot cope with his illness anymore.
  • She has to be admitted to the hospital.  She has no family supports, so OCY takes her children.
  • He takes medicine that helps his brain work correctly, but it has awful side effects -- it makes him drool.  He feels better but no one wants to hire him.
  • He is misdiagnosed.  Instead of helping his brain work right, medicine makes him worse.  He becomes lost in a maze of case managers, agencies, therapists, psychiatrists, disability hearings, and hospitalizations.
  • He is denied Social Security Disability Income.  He appeals, but they tell him it could take up to a year to get a decision.  A year!  In the meantime, he is homeless because he has no income.
  • He has been in and out of psychiatric treatment for years.  Every time he gets sick, he sees a different psychiatrist.  There is no continuity of care; no one knows what treatments have worked or not worked in the past.  Doctors don't trust his own story of his previous medical care.

These examples are all based on people I have met in my various hospitalizations and outpatient experiences.  Please try to imagine living with illness plus these various sad circumstances.  Try to imagine being homeless or losing your children while your brain can't correctly interpret reality.

Sure, they're part of Mitt Romney's 47%, but they are not freeloaders.  They are very sick and they cannot work because of their illnesses.  Or they try to work but can't keep a job because of their illnesses.  Or nobody wants to hire them because of their illnesses.

And there, but for the grace of God, go I.

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