There was a time in my life where I lived in the same city as my sister. For a period of about 7 years my sister invited me into her home and volunteered to help administer meds when I was in the midst of what I call a mini-break. I feel like this treatment time in her home was instrumental in the prognosis of my illness. I was able to hang out with family even when I was severely ill.
In more recent years, I have come to understand that in Europe home treatments for mental illness are more popular than here in the States. I don’t thoroughly know why that is. But I do know it takes a village.
The progression of my illness since about 2008 using clozapine has basically stopped the occurrence of these mini-breaks but there may be a time when I bump the meds up for a particularly rough day. This is generally in step with my doctor.
The relative stability on clozapine beginning in 2008, however, was preceded by a time of hospitalizations about twice a year after my daughter was born. This was about 2004 to 2008. Prior I had had a period of hospitalizations from 1986 to 1988.
Do you think those who have severe behavioral health concerns/break-through episodes should be treated in the hospital or by a family member who is educated about treatment protocols, medications and the general course of the illness? What do you think about hospitalization versus family care? What are the benefits of each? What are the drawbacks?
As an additional exception to the “normal life” rule, my stepmother and my father died respectively in 1988 and 1989 of cancer. I did not have the opportunity to work through the bipolar illness with them as their deaths were within a few years of my diagnosis. I remember feeling secure in the fact that I was able to survive my father’s illness and death without a major hospitalization or illness breakthrough.
On the other hand, my mother and step-dad were quite present in my life from 1985 forward. Over the next 30 years until my stepfather’s death in the spring of 2013, I would continue to develop relationships with each of them as individuals and with both of them together as parents. Granted, they did not always know what to do to help me through my bipolar episodes. Quite frankly, no one did. But they never stopped trying both as a couple and as individuals. In any case, I always felt loved if not understood.
My sister Jane in particular was a huge help during the early years of my illness and always provided an open door for me when I was ill. This was when I was in my mini-break period from about 1988 to 1995 and stayed with her and her family for 3 to 7 days at a time about twice a year. This time with care in a family environment gave me the confidence to begin to seize control of my illness outside of a hospital environment but still taking meds.
Later throughout the difficulties of the postpartum period and forward, my Mom and Step-Dad played an integral role in supporting me through my illness. After two years into my daughter’s birth, my parents moved back to Augusta to be present in her life. Weekly dinners together helped form bonds that were stronger than the bipolar illness itself. My relationship with my Mom grew and grew as she became more involved as a grandmother and I had the opportunity to witness the development of that relationship. Since the death of my step-father seven years ago, we continue to get together with my Mom on a weekly basis, sometimes more often. Covid-19 has changed this frequency some – so we talk by phone at least once a day.