Monday, November 15, 2010

‘Don’t call me daughter.’ Monday, November 15, 2010.


For D.J.

“Schizophrenia cannot be understood without understanding despair.” –R.D. Laing


Chyna was halfway through her second try at college when “the Choir” came to visit.

The daughter of Laurie – a dear friend of mine that I’ve known literally since I was born – Chyna had dropped out of college a few years earlier after a nearly-fatal battle with lupus. All of Chyna’s organs had shut down. Laurie had stayed by Chyna’s bedside for weeks, caring for her and praying with her. Chyna’s survival was a medical miracle that literally cost the family everything they had. But Laurie adored her daughter. The sacrifice was more than worth it.

Now, things were slowly returning to normal. Laurie was back to work. She’d found an apartment she could afford, even if it wasn’t in the best neighborhood. And Chyna was very excited to be back at school. But she found it hard to concentrate. It seemed that “holes” were opening up inside her brain and swallowing memories – entire years were disappearing by the week. And then the Choir arrived.

At first, Chyna thought it was a little strange that no one else could hear the Choir. But she could hear them quite clearly, and she felt compelled to do whatever they told her to do. When they instructed her to prepare for a marriage with her (already married) pastor, she ordered a wedding dress with money she didn’t have. When they told her to rip up a Bible, or shave off her long, beautiful hair, she did as they said.

When the Choir told her to take off her clothes and walk around the neighborhood naked at midnight, Chyna did that, too. In fact, she started doing it a lot. Laurie’s warnings about nearby drug houses and gang territory went unheeded – only the Choir was worth listening to. Having dealt with the fear of losing her daughter due to a physical illness, Laurie was now even more terrified for her daughter’s mind.

You’d think that a concerned mother could bring her daughter to the doctor, explain the situation, and get some treatment for her daughter. But Chyna was 29, legally an adult, and many of the professionals refused to provide information to her mom even though Chyna was clearly psychotic. Laurie needed to become Chyna’s legal guardian, and so began the long and complicated process.

What Laurie did learn from the doctors was sketchy. Chyna tested negative for street drugs. That left several possibilities: the lupus, or possibly the chemotherapy used to combat it, could have created lesions on her brain. She could be developing schizophrenia. She might have Huntington’s disease or early-onset Alzheimer’s. Perhaps she had suffered a number of mini-strokes.

The more questions Laurie asked, the more questions were uncovered. Medication was prescribed for her Chyna’s hallucinations and anxiety. The mediation would ease symptoms for a time, and Chyna would have glorious spells of normalcy. But her father, who lived out-of-state and hadn’t seen his daughter for years, was enraged that she was taking psychiatric medication and told her the pills were “poison.” Of course, the Choir agreed.

Chyna went off her meds, and Laurie had no legal means to force her to take them. Now the Choir began to order Chyna to hurt herself with whatever was handy – a fork here, a glass trinket there. The apartment had to be made “Chyna proof” and trips to the emergency room became weekly occurrences.

Chyna receives some state aid for medical care, and gets bare-bones treatment that might disappear if certain politicians have their way. The kind of group home her plan would pay for would be worse than living in hell, Laurie thought. So Laurie would stay awake all night long to prevent Chyna from running naked into the night, and her sister would watch Chyna while Laurie was at work. Sleep-starved, Laurie found it hard to function, and lost her job. “But at least I can keep an eye on Chyna all the time now,” she told me.

Still, Chyna managed to wriggle out the window or run through the door if Laurie or her sister took a 10-minute cat-nap. Finally, in an act I’m sure Laurie would never have dreamed of three months before, she installed bars on her apartment windows and key-locks on the doors – not to keep the gang-bangers out, but to keep her beloved daughter in.

A few days ago, things took a turn for the even-worse. Chyna’s father came to town to see her; she believed he was her pastor, finally come to marry her. Nothing he could say or do would dislodge her delusion. Laurie began making dinner in the kitchen. Chyna stared at her, her huge brown eyes registering nothing. Finally, she said, “Who are you? What are you doing in my house? … I know who you are. You’re Satan.”

Laura sobbed in my arms as she recounted the story. The Choir had grown louder and it was now telling Chyna to commit suicide. Laurie had already lost her brother to suicide; she was not about to lose her daughter as well. She’d checked into it before, and had found out that a 72-hour hold in the psych ward would cost $43,000 – more than twice her annual income. Didn’t matter. That time, when Laurie and her sister drove Chyna to the hospital, they came home alone.

When I saw her yesterday, Laurie looked like she had aged 10 years. A beautiful woman, Laurie’s eyes were puffy, her hair was graying, she’d lost weight and hot tears were streaming down her cheeks. “I love her so much,” she sobbed into my chest. “I know you do, hon,” I said.

Please don’t talk to me about how only unloving families opt for forced treatment, or how all psychotropic medicines are evil, or how there is no such thing as mental illness, only creative and unusual people who are unfairly labeled. I don’t want to hear it today.

7 comments:

  1. sounds to me like because she survived "the choir" where hordes of demons that were attacking her. Thankyou for telling me I will be posting prayers everywhere for her recovery. May the Lord have mercy xx

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  2. Dear Sweet Sister! I Thought I Had Problems, But Now, I'm Sure Laurie would trade with Me in a Heartbeat! Father God We Lift Up This Precious Young Lady and Ask For Your Healing Touch To Come All Over Her, From Her Head To Her Toes And Everywhere in Between! We Rebuke The Devil From Her And we as For Mercy and Peace for this Mom that has already had to bear the pain of losing one child, We ask for Comfort In knowing That You Are In Control of this and NOTHING Is Too Much For You To Handle or to "Cure"! We as You For Healing in this Family and We Than You And We Give You ALL The Glory and Praise! Amen!

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  3. I know how you feel my sister in law has manic depression and schizophrenia and she has been in hospitals on and off so I know how hard it is on the family ..I will pray for your family and ask God for intervention for your daughter . God bless you and your sister for caring for your daughter it is all time comsuming when you deal with a mentally ill loved one and my heart breaks for you .as I read your story it felt like ours

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  4. Sounds similar to my experiences. people fail to consider how God is working in our world. How he uses us to make social commentaries on loveless relationships. I see this as a need for love, trying to be unique, crying out for attention, trying to be different, to unleash the passions hidden within our bodies for years. Why is love the last resource? Why does it take so long to connect and see the need for love?

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  5. OMG! I'm so sorry! I'm getting scare now, because my daughter (27) refuses med care for schizophrenia and legally I can't do nothing... she's getting worst every day. Friends and family ask me to kick her out, but my heart won't let me. She's home now and many times I'm even afraid of her... don't know where to go for help. I pray every day for some light...

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  6. The Colourful RainbowDecember 14, 2010 at 2:55 PM

    @Anonymous I think your a wonderful mother with a beautiful child. Your doing the best you can. You have such a beautiful heart to care for your daughter so much. I'm praying for you xx

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  7. Alizah, I've copied and pasted the information we were discussing onto this page (once I figured out how to make a post).

    =========================================

    One possible resource for your friend:

    Windhorse Community Services: http://www.windhorsecommunityservices.com/

    She could try contacting them. I don't know if they could help. An email costs nothing but the time it takes to compose it.

    ======================================

    This link may also be helpful:
    Recovery From Psychosis at Home: http://www.windhorsecommunityservices.com/publications/the-windhorse-project-recovering-from-psychosis-at-home/

    In the Windhorse approach, a care team is developed both to help the individual in crisis maintain social contacts and to help relieve caregiver burnout. Many families probably cannot make direct use of Windhorse's services but they may be able to adopt some of the approaches they have developed for their own use.

    The basis of the caregiver team is several individuals who take 1-2 three hours shifts a week. It's possible that people can create their own caregiver teams by drawing on local resources -- family and friends, other people who have recovered, members of spiritual organizations (in keeping with one's own faith/belief system) students in psychology or social work programs, retirees, etc. Probably one of the first things that needs to happen is for your friend to get some help. She's dry.

    As for her daughter...

    It's very difficult to know what impact or to what degree the Lupus had an effect. I do see some evidence of "archetypal content" so it's possible Jungian applications might be helpful but that's a time consuming process. If medications are identified as helpful, I think people should make use of them -- particularly in crisis situations. Later, they can try bringing in other supports and coping measures. These may allow the individual to reduce or possibly come off meds entirely. In crisis however, the crisis predominates and must be addressed one way or the other.

    If Chyna is willing to make use of online resources, she might be able to find some support within an online community setting. Peers can be extremely valuable in this regard as they may help to "normalize" an experience (thereby reducing stigma and shame), they can offer hope, they can offer encouragement.

    Something I cannot glean from your telling of events is how Chyna sees all this. If we're trying to connect to an individual in crisis, we need to find some common ground.

    Apparently, Chyna hears voices. There may be some information and support to be found from (free) online groups such as the Hearing Voices Network or Intervoice Online.

    - Intervoice Online: http://www.intervoiceonline.org/

    - Hearing Voices Network: http://www.hearing-voices.org/

    All things considered, it's a very difficult situation and it's very difficult to find cost-effective and treatment-effective approaches. My heart goes out to your friend.

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