by Elaine Miller
I was working the Al-Anon program, but things were steadily getting worse with Mary. She had an old beat up Maverick for a car. Mary was wild in that car. One day she came home, got mad at me and ran the car around in the yard where my three-year-old grandson was playing. I called ERS (Emergency Response, a mental health system). They came out and she was still raging. She made threats and wild statements regarding her siblings and me. They hauled her away to Zeller ( the state mental hospital in Peoria). I had to go over there and give them a history of her. They called in the Dr. and he said she was manic-depressive. He put her on strong psychotropic drugs. I went back the next day and she could hardly walk, was drooling and could barely feed herself. I knew the diagnosis was wrong. The drugs were all wrong. By the second day she was breaking out in hives around her neck. They refused to believe it was a drug reaction. Our family are all highly allergic people, we react differently to some drugs and are very drug sensitive to dosage. They kept her for five days and then sent her home all doped up. I took the bottle of pills and dumped them down the toilet. She recovered. She had to use a chunk of her money to pay for her stay.
While Mary was in the mental ward she met a boy named Todd. They decided to run together. He decided they should go down to Georgia, get a job and live together. I had no control or say in the matter. She was an adult. They left. She called me in Georgia, Alabama and finally in Texas. They were going to stay there for awhile. They were living off the settlement money. It was getting really low by now.
One day she called sobbing from Texas. Todd had beaten her unmercifully. The police told her to leave because the room had been put in his name. She was at some kind of religious shelter. They came on the phone and talked to me. They said part of the time she didnít make sense. They thought something was wrong with her mentally. They said they would work with her for awhile.
Several days went by and I didnít hear from her. One night at nine p.m. she called and told me she was at a truck stop in Divernin, Ill., coming up the state and coming home. She was around an hour and a half from home. I waited and waited and finally she pulled in around one a.m. She said she had had to stay there for a little while and sleep as she was so tired from driving. She had driven almost non-stop.
I asked her about Todd. She told me she had left him there in Texas. She had not seen him since she left the motel room. She was a sight! Both of her eyes were blacked. She had terrible big bruises all over her arms, back and chest. It took her at least two weeks to heal. I never dreamed that she could drive alone all the way from Texas and come back home.
Off and on for the past two years she had moved in and out of apartments with other girls she had picked up. She had been paying the bills. Finally she moved in with her friend Lea. Lea had a baby boy. She would call me and tell me desperately the behaviors Mary was displaying, with her flares of temper. Mary was terribly hard to live with.
When Mary got on a roll or got mad, she would break things, even kick out windows There was no reasoning with her. We found out years later that outburst and violence was common with head injuries. It was as if it she was a snowball at the top of an incline. It would start rolling down the hill, and once it got started it could not stop getting bigger and bigger on the way down the slope. No one could live with her for any length of time. At least she was not drinking much at that time.
One day Mary was in a rage at Leaís and she put straight pins in with the baby in the crib. He was eight or nine months old. Lea called me and I suggested ERS. I didnít know what to else to do. They came and hauled her off to Zeller again. By this time she was out of money. They signed her up for public aide and SSDI. She started receiving social security. They hooked her up to the mental health outpatient system.
While she was at Zeller this time she was diagnosed not as being manic-depressive but schizophrenic. I was devastated. I warned them not to give her a certain family of psychotropic drugs. They did it anyway. They gave her a shot that lasted a month this time. They kept her a few days and then they let her out.
Right after she got out of the hospital, she and a friend were going some place in the car and Mary said she couldnít see. She started swelling all over. She was wheezing. Her friend, Jo Ann grabbed the wheel, kicked her feet out of the way, pulled the car over to the curb, got out, pushed her over and drove her to the hospital as fast as she could. The hospital had to give her cortisone, benedryl and sent her home with prescriptions of the cortisone to last until the effects of the shot sheíd had at Zeller had worn off. That shot had been in the family of drugs that she was allergic to. The Dr. had told me it wasnít in that family, but he was wrong. I was enraged. That episode could have killed her. Destiny had it that Jo Ann was there to prevent a terrible accident and to get her help in time.
Mary had a thing about the Peoria newspaper. She would write letters to the editor. If they didnít publish them, she would go out there and stomp and rage. She would threaten to sue them. She was adamant that they should hire her to work there and be a writer or reporter. She was obsessed. I pleaded with her to stop. Her counselor pleaded with her to stop. Nothing would work. She harassed them every day. They were tolerant for several weeks.
Finally one day she called hysterically and told me "they" were there and taking her away. I didnít understand what she was talking about. She was screaming and crying. Her baby was crying. This was after she had had a baby. He was eighteen months old. I had to run over there and get him. It was ERS and the police had called them and told them to go get her because otherwise the newspaper was pressing charges and they would have to put her in jail for harassment. They hauled her off to Zeller.
This time she got a Dr. who said that she was neither manic-depressive nor schizophrenic. He said that she was organic brain damage from the head injury. That was when he told me that all the bad traits a person had before the accident were magnified after the accident.
I marched around there and told them if they gave her any medications in that family of drugs, I would personally sue them, I would write the state and all hell would break loose. I told them to just try me! I told them they did not listen to me either time but they had better now. I found it necessary to throw my title around, I am an RN. I was not playing games. This time they were extremely cautious.
Mary got out and did leave the newspaper alone. She continued to go to counselors. She had first one and then the other. Each thought they were going to be the one to change her and modify her behavior. Sheíd sit there and agree with them, play head games with them and continue on with her same annoying behaviors. They would get tired of her and pass her along to someone else who thought they were going to be the one. This has gone on for years and years. She had a psychiatrist that listened to me and was able to help her. He took my suggestion in a minute dose of a medication that had helped older people Iíd cared for, with Alzheimerís. It worked. It kept her from having such violent rages, and the episodes were not as long.
Mary fell through the cracks of the system. She didnít get any kind of help unless she really pressed the norms of society. She finally got subsidized housing with the little apartment alone. No one had tried to help her find some kind of a job. None of the medications until this last Dr. stepped in helped her. They didnít help her because she was life after head injury. They only made it so that she could hardly function. It was frustrating and pitiful. I was full of rage and anger. The only good from Zeller was that she met a friend that she has kept for years now who is mentally ill, goes to counseling too, had head trauma as a child, and was odd and alone most of the time as Mary. This girl was normal acting much of the time if she took her medicine. She was intelligent and witty. I really liked seeing her. She was creative and liked to do sewing and crafts. Mary had been extremely creative with writing and composing poetry. Her father wrote poetry too. (He wrote me the most romantic poetry before we were married.) Her friend went to the same place for counseling. She and Mary discussed how they played head games with their counselors and laughed about it. Mary told me once that she only went to counseling because she didnít want to lose her social security. Mary had two or three friends now .