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We had just moved out of my Aunt’s house. I was making money because I turned 16 and could work full-time. But this was a completely new situation and change is always a bad stressor for the mentally ill.
I was completely alone and responsible for dealing with her psychosis. My dad could give a shit. And I alienated the only other family I had nearby, my Aunt and Uncle because we moved out of their house in secret.
They had started to become increasingly abusive, it was mostly verbal and emotional. But when my Uncle backhanded me one morning so hard that my ear rang, all because I forgot to replace his car keys on the hook. I knew I had to get out.
I’m familiar with the signs when she decompensates, but she spiraled much faster this time. I was working full-time, attempting night high school and not watching as close.
The typical spiral begins with mood swings and erratic behavior. When she stops eating meat and replaces her meals with a steady diet of coffee, soda, milk, water (mostly sugared) and cigarettes that’s the tipping point.
She had started to hear my dead grandmother’s voice and threw out all our black and leather clothing. I knew she had to be hospitalized. Convincing her to go is not an easy task. It always starts with me begging and pleading, then bullying threats.
She hates hospitals and getting in her in the car against her will is not only impossible, but dangerous. I had another option…one I always dreaded.
I can call the police.
She had stopped eating meals, was leaving the stove on and her cigarettes burning unattended around our apartment. I could prove she was a danger. I picked up the phone and when she realized I was calling the police she went at me. She is incredibly strong when she wants to be.
I can be ruthless. I know what needs to be done.
Two squad cars, an ambulance and a fire truck. Emergency vehicles are a familiar sound and sight me. And staring neighbors. I hate, hate, hate strangers watching your personal life unravel.
We convinced her to get in the ambulance. By the time we got to the ER she was calm. Sometimes she has an uncanny ability to hold herself together. This is when she’ll try to turn the tables. She explains to the ER doc that I am an evil daughter and that I’m lying to commit her so that I can bring men home to fuck.
She really said that.
We were escorted from the ER to the psych ward by an orderly. When she realized it was inevitable she started to beg me not to leave her there. It’s hard, because I know it’s a terrible and frightening place. I don’t want to leave her there, but this is the only place that can help.
When she realized I wasn’t going to budge she went for my neck and called me a fucking bitch. It took three orderlies and two nurses to strap her down. She was frothing at the mouth and screaming at the top of her lungs. She gave in to defeat and cried out to me, “Why do you always do this to Mommy?”
Even though I’ve witnessed her being dragged away countless times, when she says something like this it always fucks me up real bad. Because it’s always been me who was directly responsible for committing her into these terribly scary places.
One of the nurses must’ve seen my face crumple because she grabbed me into this protective hug. I remember she was older than my mother and she was a short, with wavy blond hair and big, billowy breasts. I remember her breasts because she held my face to them, the way a mother would comfort their child while protecting them.
I don’t recall ever being held like that in my life.
When I calmed down a bit this nurse asked me some questions and I can still remember them:
“How old are you?”
“Where’s your father?”
“He doesn’t live with you and your mother?”
“No, he has another family now”
“Do you have anyone we can call?”
“It’s just you and your mother completely alone?”
This nurse became my champion. After my interview with the social worker, this nurse insisted the psych doctor on call talk to me. She told him that I was completely alone dealing with this, that he needed to listen to me, and that he needed to help me learn how to manage my mother’s care.
She gave me a list of numbers to call for counseling. I never called.
I walked out of the hospital that night feeling hopeful and strong, because someone I’ve never met before cared enough to step up for me.