Ten days into Risperdal my daughter woke up. Sort of. She realized she was in a locked psych unit and couldn’t escape of her own volition. The problem was, she was zombified on most of my visits. If she was talkative, she chattered incoherently.
“When can I go home mommy? I really want to go home. Did you tell the doctor I want to go home? I miss my house, I miss my family. I miss my dog [we have no pets], I miss my siblings, I miss my husband [she’s sixteen, no husband], I miss my children [same], I have twins. They live in basement and eat rats. They drink water from the washing machine. Are they going to get birthday cake?” [next day was her sister’s birthday]
Google education in hand I nodded my head with poker face. “They’ll get birthday cake. Don’t worry about that.”
Inexplicably the next day I was informed she would be discharged. A nurse guided me through the consent forms. I gathered up her prescriptions and we were buzzed out of the unit.
“Yippee!” cried my daughter. “I’m out of the mental hospital! Oh… wait…. I’m not wearing shoes.”
We both observed her stocking feet- shoes had been lost in the shuffle of dragging her to the psych unit two weeks ago.
The next day was outpatient appointment #1 with her “counselor.” Psychiatry has sure changed since I was kid. All the grunt work is farmed out to social workers, and this social worker looked barely older than my daughter. She kindly asked if she understood why she was there.
“My mother says I’m not combing my hair. No worries, no worries, nothing insurmountable.”
The social worker looked confused.
My heart sank when I realized she didn’t understand what “insurmountable” means.
I diplomatically explained that over the past six months my daughter paced, chattered to herself nonstop, and picked out half her hair. My gorgeous daughter pulled back what remained of her gorgeous hair to display a plucked scalp.
The therapist typed into data fields on her computer.
I expressed concern as to her functionality and ability to return to school. The therapist concurred with my observations, as my daughter chattered and rubbed the top of her thighs. We went into the “brain tumor” my daughter was convinced she suffered.
“So where does the brain tumor worry come from?” asked the therapist– in terribly kind voice.
“I knew I had a brain tumor or schizophrenia, I didn’t want to be crazy, so I picked brain tumor.”
“Well you do have symptoms of schizophrenia,” replied the therapist, even more kindly, reaching for her thick DSM. “Do you want to read about it here?”
“No… no… I already know. But I’ll function. I’ll function! You’ll all see I’LL FUNCTION!” She declared this like a political manifesto, and my heart sank even deeper.
The social worker gave me a “knowing” glance. Over the past few weeks I’ve learned this glance: yeah, I know, she’s nuts, but let’s try to deal with it.
That night my daughter asked if she could go outside for a walk. We have a large yard by NYC standards. And there she paced: up, down, across the grass with the determination of a soldier, talking to invisible people, and perhaps to her husband.