Wash – rinse – repeat. Three words I borrowed from my sister. Eventually, three words that will be the title of my book. It’s a work in progress.
Wash – rinse – repeat, describes perfectly the cycle of mental illness that has been our reality for the past 25 years of our lives, Stacy and I. After a walk down memory lane with Stacy this afternoon, we both realized the cycle has been going on far longer than 25 years. It’s a freaking miracle that either one of us has become a productive member of society.
Last week, my mom was transferred to a “long-term” behavioral hospital in Jacksonville. Long-term equates to fourteen days. After fourteen days, she will be released to go back home. Wash – rinse – repeat.
After gaining access to her “code” I was finally able to speak to her case worker today. My purpose for calling was two fold. One, to see how she was progressing. Two, to enlighten the professionals with some background information.
I didn’t want to come across as a complete butthole, so I first asked how she was doing. “Oh, she is doing great. She is participating in all of the group activities and is ready to go home.” ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME? Wash – rinse – repeat.
To this I replied, “she is manipulating all of you.” I explained that she has worked in the mental health field and knows exactly what to say. She knows what you want to hear. I went on to explain that she will get out, be ok for two weeks or so, maybe a month and the next thing you know, she will be in bed in the fetal position, refusing to eat and only answering “I’m OK” when asked how she is doing. This will go on for a while and then she will attempt to take her life again. It’s not a matter of IF but WHEN.
I’m having a hard time discerning what is mental illness and what is manipulation. Personally, I think there is a very fine line in this case.
“J” her caseworker was very sympathetic, although I wasn’t searching for it. She explained to me that “they” don’t have the authority to keep her against her will, especially if she is giving them all of the right answers. “No, I don’t feel suicidal. No, I don’t feel homicidal. Yes, I will follow up with group therapy and a psychiatrist. Yes, I will take my medication.” Wash – rinse – repeat.
What transpired next in our conversation validated some of what my sister and I have been feeling over the years. M A N I P U L A T I O N
“J” acknowledged that some of what I described to her was a manipulation tactic. She went on to defend it, however, and linked it to her diagnosis. “J” said based on the information I shared, she thinks that my mom needs to be evaluated for Bipolar Disorder. In all honesty, I thought she had been diagnosed in years past as having Bipolar Disorder. “J” explained that her only diagnosis going back as far as she could check was severe depression. In my opinion, she has never been diagnosed correctly. How is this possible being in and out of mental health facilities for 25 years?
Inner strength, and a desire to get better, are the characteristics “J” said she will have to have to get better even with the best doctors, correct diagnosis and right medication. She went on to say that at some point, she has to release the past and identify her triggers. “J” explained that she nor I or my sister can do any of that for her.
“J” has been working in the mental health field for five years. A rookie in any field based on years, that being said, she was very informative. She told me that she has heard the same “right answers” my mom is giving from others with them only to wind up back in the hospital time and time again. Wash – rinse – repeat.
“J” explained that the suicide attempts start to be habitual. That “they” know what they can do and how much they can get away with. She went on to say that eventually, her luck will run out. Wash – rinse – repeat.
I share this part of my life with you not to gain your sympathy. I share this chapter of my ongoing story with hopes that you will understand that it is ok for you to release yourself from any responsibility. I want you to understand that you can’t fix someone that doesn’t want to be fixed. Health care professionals can’t fix someone who doesn’t have a desire to be well.
That being said, it still hurts like hell. If you’re like me, you will question your worth to that individual. You will ask yourself over and over again, why am I not enough? Why can’t they find the inner strength? Why can’t they fight? You may even ask them those questions. In fact, I highly encourage you to do so. You need to hear what they have to say. You need to hear the “I just don’t know.” I needed to hear it. I heard it loud and clear last week. Sadly, those words were freeing. Doesn’t take the heartbreak away, free or not.
A few days ago, Stacy sent me a text that said, “what she has put us through should be considered abuse.” It’s so true.
Thankfully, we have decided that we are not going to R E P E A T the cycle of craziness. It would be very easy to blame every screw up and transgression in our lives on our shitty, for lack of a better word, childhood. As well as, at best, dismal relations with our mother during our adult lives. We could easily fall into the wash – rinse- repeat cycle. We have chosen otherwise.
We’ve all got things in our past that we could blame for our screw ups and unhappiness. I held on to anger for way too long all the while laying the blame at my mothers feet. It takes a lot of moxy to only wash and rinse.