Sunday, May 20, 2007

Hating the In-Between

Are there systems set up to help those of us who are in the beginning stages of a crisis? We have emergency rooms for full-blown crises, and Monday-thru-Friday help for maintenance or prevention, but what happens when you know you're on a path to trouble and it's Saturday evening? You're not critical enough to go to the ER, but if you don't get some help in the next 24 hours, you will be. What happens in that next 24 hours? Waiting. For most of us, that kind of waiting is terrifying. For those of us who can hear that train whistle and feel the vibrations on the tracks, but know we have no way to contact the conductor, we are stuck waiting for the train. You can't un-ring that bell, even if the sound waves haven't reached you yet.

Now imagine this scenario when you aren't the one in crisis, but you are in charge of caring for someone you can see sitting on the tracks. They can't (or won't) hear the warning sounds and have decided to park it there and have a nice leisurely picnic lunch despite your pleas. The trouble with mental illness is that it tricks us into believing that our reality is the ultimate reality. People who suffer from depression can only see through sh*t-colored glasses. Others who start hearing voices inside their heads can't be convinced they're not real.

The fear that comes from being in this position - the 'sane' one, the Chicken Little frantically squawking that the sky really is falling - is self-perpetuating. You are sitting on a brick wall with a two-ton piano dangling over your head. Eventually the dental floss holding it up will fail and the piano will fall - you know that, but you can't move and you can't control its descent. Your loved one will crash and burn and the shock waves will envelop you and anyone else in the vicinity, but you can't stop it. You are in-between. The awful certainty that things will fall apart, and the dreadful inability to predict or prevent the first domino from tipping causes a time warp. You are stuck. Impotent. A spectator unless you choose to turn your back on this person you care for and want to help.

I don't know about your community, but in mine there are no services for the in-betweens. Especially on the weekends. Therapist appointments can be scheduled for the following week, a crisis line can be called, but unless there's a threat of suicide or imminent harm to others, you can wait at home or go to the ER (and wait some more). Worse, if you're uninsured but in a financial position to pay for some services (meaning you have some assets, even if they're not liquid), you don't qualify for most of the help provided by your county or state. At this point, you've got to feel lucky if you have a network of friends and family that can support you while you are supporting the other person until things completely fall apart. It sucks being able to hear that train a-coming and knowing you can't do a damn thing about it.


Suzy said...

I wish there were something I could do to help. Please let me know if there is.
You're in a tough position. And you're right about the ripple affect. They won't be the only ones "hit by the train."
It's like watching a movie in slow motion with an ending you already know, and there's nothing you can do.
I am so sorry about your situation.
Love and prayers always.

Mother Jones RN said...

You have aptly described out country’s mental health system. It’s in shambles, and it’s getting worse. And you’re right, there is nothing that friends and family can do for someone unless they are in imminent danger of harming themselves or someone else. I don’t know what else to say other than just be there for the person you’re concerned about when the dental floss breaks.

I sorry that you're going through this.


Scott from Oregon said...

I think it is harder to watch someone else get ready to fall than to fall.

Ziji Wangmo said...

This sounds intense. It's hard to watch and feel the anxiety as someone is just about to crash and burn.
Good Luck and many belssings.

Anonymous said...

What a perfect intro for health care policy reform, not to mention your personal journey to heal your special Self. Makes me wonder how you (or any of us) have "normal" lives with demons like these rattling around in our consciousness. No wonder people choose deep denial over slaying (or learning to co-exist with) our personal dragons.

Much love,

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