(August 15, 2014) I am a member of our community who lives with anxiety, sadness, fear, exhaustion, frustration, grief and society blames me for not doing enough for my son. When I drive my son to the hospital there is no one there to answer my questions or offer emotional support and when I come home, there is no consoling or casseroles waiting from friends. There will be no fundraisers to help with hospital bills.
I grieve and reminisce for the son I once raised by love and support the new child before me now. If my son had a heart attack, cancer or was in a car accident, my life would be different. My name is Nina McDaniel and I am the proud mother and advocate to my 32-year-old son, Michael, who has schizoaffective disorder.
Michael was a hard worker from a young age. Even though Michael was awkward and enjoyed being alone, he always showed a huge heart and always helped others in need. His smile warms your heart and his affection is contagious.
His downward spiral began in July 2007. He began wearing sunglasses all the time, even to bed. He also became paranoid over secret messages on the radio, helicopters flying overhead and thought his sister and her husband were part of a conspiracy.
We filed our first petition for commitment also in July 2007. This commitment resulted in only three days in the psychiatric unit. We filed another petition for commitment in August that resulted in five days of treatment in a psychiatric unit. That time he was rapidly losing weight by starving himself. Even though we were trying to save Michael’s life, this began the endless cycling through the mental health system in order to attain help.
Things only got worse. In 2008, we rushed Michael to the emergency room after he tried to end his life by consuming a large amount of alcohol. The hospital just dismissed him as an alcoholic.
At one point we received a call from our daughter, who cried, “Michael swallowed a handful of my medicine, come quick!” We called the crisis unit, but nothing was done because Michael refused to voluntarily speak with them. Under the law, he still had the right to refuse treatment and remain psychotic.
After one terrifying episode that included verbal threats and a potential weapon, I was able to get Michael committed for 20 days. After the 20 days we decided as a family that we could not bring Michael home, he needed to remain in the mental health system. But that is not what happened. The hospital declined my request to have Michael placed in an intensive program. It ultimately became clear that if we did not take him home, the alternative would have been a homeless shelter and we were not going to leave him homeless.
My beautiful son deserves to receive help in his life and a chance for happiness. But instead, we feel like second class citizens, neglected by friends, neighbors and law makers who slash funding and block access to care.
Mother of Michael
Part II of Nina and Michael’s story will run next week.
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