I called her China. She was fragile as a teacup.
As high school besties, we both were quite sensitive to the world and the comments made by others. I remember talking to her in the school cafeteria, with her pale blue eyes welled up with tears about our mutual friend who was so very intelligent, smart but not about the impact her words might have on her friends. She had said something to China that hurt her to the core. I don’t remember what was said but I do remember saying this, ” You are like a teacup, delicate, fragile and beautiful, Heather is on the other hand like a tin cup, useful, durable, and plain. We teacups have to stick together” From then on she was China to me. My most favorite memory of this woman was one summer day, when I looked out my front window and saw her on the handle bars of her then boyfriend riding up the street to my house. She was laughing with her hair blowing in the wind. She had on jeans and a white tapered button down shirt. Such a classic look. That was the China that I knew and loved. Carefree, joyful, with her own unique style, unafraid to be herself. When they arrived at my house and I gave her a hug, I noticed how strong her body odor was. I just thought, hot summer day, riding bike, sweat is ok. It never occurred to me how often this was the case with China as I accepted her for who she was. It wasn’t until I was a mother and had a daughter of my own who began not to care for her own hygiene that I remembered my friend China.
unconcern regarding ones own hygiene is often a warning sign of mental illness.
China met a wonderful man after we graduated who seemed to “get her” We all loved him, he was wonderful to her. The day of her wedding I dressed in tourquoise with a silk flowered tapered jacket. I went solo. When I arrived to China ran out to me and said you have to be in my wedding. She threw a bouquet in my hands and the next thing I new I was getting my picture taken with the wedding party. She dressed like a hippie girl with a wreath of flowers in her hair. Then she moved to California.
One year later she returned for the “visit” My friend and I hosted a dinner for her and I picked her up at her mom’s house. The dinner was bizarre, as China talked nonstop for 5 hours, until her voice began to get hoarse. I drove her home and watched her walked to her mom’s doorstep. Then I went home.
A Change in Personality. If someone is acting like a very different person, or not acting or feeling like themself, this is a warning sign.
She did not go in to the house, but began walking from her home to downtown, which was approximately 6 miles. She ended up on one of the bridges over a raging river, and was going to jump. Two boys saw her that night and talked her down. The next morning I received a call from the hospital psych ward telling me that she had requested to see me.
I was 19 years old. I had never known anyone with a mental illness and had no clue what to expect.
I was directed into a room that was locked and was let in. There I found my delicate teacup, wrapped in a straight jacket sitting in a padded room. I sat down and I can only remember saying, “what the hell China?”
Straitjacket use was discontinued long ago in psychiatric facilities in the US. …
I cannot remember what happened after that. Now as a mother of a daughter who has gone through the mental health system. I have a good idea what happened to China. She was probably prescribed meds, sent back to her husband but he was not able to manage her care. She then probably had one break after the next each one more severe until she was finally stabilized with Lithium. Which was one of the causes of her recent death. Her kidneys had been severely damaged from the effects of long term lithium.
I last saw her when I was working at a state psychiatric facility as a Pyschiatric Nurse. When I saw her name on the census, I called one of the nurses on that floor to see if it was indeed my friend. The nurse said, “well you know she probably could be a model” I knew then that it was China. Later after she was stabilized she was moved to my floor. Our initial encounter was not good as once she recognized me she began to profusely apologize and then she said something I will never forget,
“at least you had a life”
I transferred to another floor to reduce the chances of upsetting her again. But one day when she was “well” and out in the day room. We bumped into each other again and had a short but nice visit.
I learned of her death yesterday.
She died of kidney failure related to the long term use of lithium. Side affects of this and other psychotropic drugs make them unattractive to the person with mental illness to take.So many people with mental illness do not take their meds for this reason.
It is similar to taking chemo. Chemo drugs, are actually like a poison that kills not only cancer cells but all cells. It is a decision one must make to determine if quality of life is more important than quantity. It is not a fair choice for anyone to have to make.
My own daughter at the age of 17 was diagnosed with bipolar. She began taking meds and although her mind was more stable, she gained so much weight and after 3-4 years began having tardive dyskinesia, which are involuntary movements of different muscles of the body. Her’s were very mild and not noticeable. But she had become aware of the many people downtown with these grossly exaggerated facial and body movements and refuses now to take any meds.She will be 30 years old this year and lives with me. She is fit and tries hard to do all the natural things to keep balance. I remain her primary person and she suffers with ptsd and paranoid thoughts.
“Over 80 percent of people with serious mental illnesses are overweight or obese, which contributes to them dying at three times the rate of the overall population.”
The guidelines and regulations have grossly changed since China was committed to her first institutionalized setting. The idea now is of attempting to integrate those with this type of illness back into society. It is a good idea, but the way it is done in our state was simply to close down wards and take away funding for most help agencies.
That leaves the mentally ill out on the street living under bridges or in their mom’s basement.
It is a crisis, in that there is no where to turn when your daughter, or best friend disappears right before your eyes (into another world inside of their own minds) and there is nothing you can do to make her come back.
I am on suicide watch today. In my own home. My daughter feels she has suffered long enough with this mental anguish and wishes to not live anymore. “Get some help for her” people tell me. Okay.
That is easy to say but how can you help someone who will not accept it.
Today the sun is shining, so I think I will see if she wants to go outside with me.
Sunshine is the natural vitamin D source which is one of the natural mood enhancers. That is one reason why people suffer from SAD seasonal affective disorder.
I also believe that doing some physical activity creates a new brain pathway that even if for only a few minutes gives her relief will perhaps become a habit for her and eventually create a new life of joy.
Today we will dance. We will share the sun and we will remember China.
This is just one of many stories of the pain of mental illness that because of the stigma still associated with it are left untold and unresolved.
I have found several organizations that are working hard to be the voice of those with mental illness.
This organization promotes exercise as one of the foundations to achieving mental health. They go on to say that
The key thing to remember about starting an exercise program is that something is always better than nothing.