|A Family in Crisis|
by Kimberly Bailey
"Good morning, Mrs. Jones," the nurse smiled cheerfully, returning Missy's arm to the bed having finished taking her pulse. "The doctor will be here is just a minute."
"Doctor?" Missy asked looking around the room trying to focus and clear her thoughts.
"Doctor Flanders," the nurse supplied as she jotted a couple of quick notes and then left the room.
Left alone, Missy curled on her side, tears trailing down her cheek as the events of the previous day began to replay in her dazed mind. "What have I done?" she whispered to herself. She closed her eyes her thoughts scurrying off in multiple directions.
Oh dear God, what have I done? What have I done? Mike must hate me. Why am I alive? I cant even do this right. Where is Mike? How long have I been here? I cant even kill myself. I just want all of this to stop. I need to do some laundry. I am so tired, so tired of everything. Im sorry. Im so sorry. Where is Mike? Where is Mike? I want to go home. I want to go home. I want to go ...
Dr. Flanders called her name a third time: "Mrs. Jones?"
Missy started and jerked her eyes open quickly dashing away the tears with the back of her hand. "Who are you?" she demanded anger tingeing her words. "Where is my husband?"
The white-coated woman smiled. "Im Dr. Flanders. Im sure your husband will be along soon. He went home late last night to grab a couple of hours sleep. How are you feeling this morning?"
Missy pushed herself up against her pillow into a sitting position and nodded refusing to meet Dr. Flanders' eyes for a brief second, but then her eyes quickly flashed back to the doctors face. "Hey Doc! Im fine. Feel great so I want to go ahead and go home today, OK?"
"I dont think going home is a good idea just yet." Dr. Flanders pulled Missys chart from the hook at the bottom of the bed giving it a quick look. "We need to run a few tests this morning to make sure there is no permanent damage to your heart," she continued, returning the chart to its hook. "Later this afternoon we would like to move you over to Harborside ..."
"Harborside?" Missy interjected. "No! Thats the nut house! No!"
"Harborside is our psychiatric unit. It ..."
"I said NO!" Missy shouted, jerking upright in the bed.
Dr. Flanders perched on the foot of the bed and continued in a conversational tone, "If there is another hospital you would prefer ..."
"I dont prefer any hospital. I want to go home," Missy interrupted yet again.
"That is just not an option at this point."
"I am going home and you cant stop me!"
"Mrs. Jones, let me be frank," replied Dr. Flanders. "Yesterday you attempted suicide."
"I did not," Missy all but hissed as she fisted her hands into the sheets.
"You didnt? May I ask why you took excessive quantities of three different medications?"
Missy shrugged, "I must have accidentally doubled my doses."
"I see." The doctor looked Missy right in the eyes.
"You dont believe me? Well I dont care what you believe. Im going home."
"Melissa - may I call you Melissa?"
"Everyone calls me Missy," Missy supplied, eyeing the doctor warily.
"Missy, here are the facts. Yesterday you made several frantic phone calls to your husband in which you led him to believe you were trying to commit suicide." Missy slumped back against her pillow. The doctor continued, "You took excessive amounts of medication in quantities enough to stop your heart. Based on these facts, I have determined that hospitalization is necessary for your own safety."
Missy looked away and mumbled, "I dont care. You cant keep me here."
Dr. Flanders added a touch of steel to her voice, "Missy, you will not be permitted to leave the hospital."
Missy clenched her hands into fists. "You cant do that!" she exclaimed as she repeatedly slammed her fists into the mattress, venting frustration and helplessness.
"I understand that you are upset. This has been a very traumatic 24 hours for you. Lets work together to make a plan of action so that your stay in the hospital can be as short as possible."
"But I dont want to be here at all," she replied in a weak voice as the tears formed in the corners of her eyes and spilled down her face.
Dr. Flanders smiled and gently patted Missys hand. "I would venture to guess that very few people want to be in the hospital, but sometimes it is the best option."
"Best option? I thought you said I didnt have an option?"
"Well you do have a decision to make. You can commit yourself to getting back on your feet and sign self-admission paperwork."
Missy worried her bottom lip with her teeth as she considered the doctors statement. "And if I dont?"
"If you do not, we can hold you for 24 hours in order to secure an evaluation by a second psychiatrist. If this psychiatrist concurs with my evaluation, we can then hold you for 72 hours in order to secure a court order for hospitalization and treatment."
"If I sign myself in, can I decided when I want to go home?" Missy asked.
"I can see your wheels turning," Dr. Flanders laughed gently. "OK. This is how it works if you are self admitted. When you sign the forms, you agree to allow us 24 hours in which to re-evaluate your case from the point you request to be discharged. If we agree you are ready, you are discharged. If we do not believe it is in your best interest at that point, we will ask you to remain a bit longer."
"And if I dont want to remain a bit longer?"
"We have the right to submit the decision to the courts."
Missy frowned and huffed, "Damned if I do. Damned if I dont."
"Im sorry you feel that way. We really do have your best interests in mind. You have a husband and two little children who love you very much. You have your entire life ahead of you. Do you really want to throw all of that away?" Missy shook her head. "Then fight for the life you deserve by using every tool available to you," the doctor continued. "Right now the best choice is staying in the hospital. Here we can provide you with a safe place to work through these difficult emotions and we can readily make the necessary adjustments to your medications. What do you say?"
Missy wiped away more tears. "Im just so confused. Nothing makes sense anymore."
"I understand. Lets just take this one step, one day at a time." Missy nodded, swiping away a few more tears. "Will you sign the self admission paperwork?" Missy nodded again. "Good!" Dr. Flanders smiled and extended her hand, "Welcome to the team."
There are many tools available to you as you fight to regain or maintain your stability. Hospitalization is one such tool. I am a firm believer in the Boy Scout Motto "Be Prepared" and so I would like to suggest that you prepare now so that this tool is handy if the need should arise instead of thinking of a stay in the hospital as a last resort.
A good first step is to address the question, "Is Hospitalization Necessary?" This article from Ten Broeck Hospital offers a set of questions to ask before considering the hospital. It also lists questions about various aspects of hospitalization you should consider, such as financial concerns and family issues.
I also believe you should clearly know the law as it pertains to this issue. You are your own best advocate, so learn your rights now. As I stated in part II of this series, there is a great deal of variance in law relating to involuntary commitment as you move from state to state and country to country. In writing this segment of the story, I used the Florida Mental Health Act. For a broader perspective you may want to look at the laws for several other states:
Watch for new links relating to this topic on our Involuntary Commitment Links Library.