Robin’s descent part 3
So Robin was back home after a week in the Mexico, MO hospital, and we were ready to make it work. She was assigned to a doctor in Hannibal who really didn’t seem to care much about her. He just doped her up and sent her along. It hindered her ability to work or do anything, so she stopped it all. Taking the advice of some folks, we tried the holistic approach where she took a cocktail of natural mood enhancers, etc.
That didn’t work because you can’t swallow a root vitamin and magically fix a severe chemical imbalance. That’s like saying you can cure cancer by drinking green tea. Some people will swear up and down that it worked for them, but it makes me wonder if there wasn’t a misdiagnosis. Many doctors do, after all, like to hand out those prescriptions like candy. The kickbacks must be nice.
And I was also having doubts. My mistrust for doctors was growing. See, I’d been diagnosed with everything she’s got back in 1992. I was on all sorts of pills. Three years later, it was discovered that my skull was shoved into the bipolar region of my brain and my spine was twisted. It hadn’t mattered that I told doctors my problems started shortly after a car accident. They preferred to keep the pills in me.
We went for months without too much trouble. She controlled her fits the best she could, we got a German Shepherd that really helped relieve any tension around the house, and we were happy. Then, at around Christmas time at the end of 2000, she began having the hallucinations.
It started off simple. She’d think she was seeing ghosts and I just thought it was cool. At work, they would have her at a station by herself, and she’d tell me people were talking to her that weren’t there. We both assumed the place was haunted or something. But one night, I walked by her to see if she wanted to go to break with me, and she screamed. The visuals and voices were getting bad enough that for a moment, she thought I was some demon that was about to attack her.
It goes without saying that I was beginning to worry about her. This was more than just an alcoholic on withdrawal or the rage of someone with an abusive past. She was reminding me more of what I’d gone through nearly a decade prior. I was starting to think the diagnosis was accurate, and she only had a crappy doctor.
Finally one night at work, the supervisor called me to his office on the loudspeaker. When I stepped in, Robin was sitting in front of his desk, and he had a frightened look on his face. Robin didn’t see me come in, so she continued what she was saying to him, “The demons are all over the place. They’re crawling into people and making them evil. There’s blood everywhere! I.. I.. must have hurt myself but I can’t see the cut. We have to clean up all the blood! … Where am I? Is this a police station? What did I do wrong?”
I placed a hand on her shoulder and she jumped until she saw me. Then I told the supervisor that I’ll take her to the hospital right away.
This time, she went to Quincy, IL. It was much closer and happened to be the hospital I was born in. They admitted her into the psychiatric ward for, I believe, two weeks. She had a great doctor this time who genuinely cared about her condition. In fact, even though we currently live farther away nearly ten years later, we stick with the same doctor. He’s just fantastic and she always gives him big hugs after each visit.
He gave her the minimal meds to keep her comfortable yet functional, and she was able to return to work.
Well, over time, other problems came from that. Remember how rotten some of the folks at the factory were? Now, anytime she had an issue at all, no matter how legit, it was shrugged off as, “Oh, Robin’s just having episodes.” No one would take her seriously. Eventually, she quit and started working at a nursing home.
She loved it there because she enjoyed taking care of all the old folks. She worked so well with them! It was amazing. She was always taking movies along to show them and had lots of fun stories to tell me when she was home… but her condition was getting worse. Her doctor was trying to stay on top of it but it’s so difficult when the imbalance shifts around so rapidly. When it was more noticeable at work so the other employees became aware of it, the same issues as with the factory began to arise. There were a few nurses in particular that seemed to have it out for her. If someone wasn’t cleaned properly and Robin reported it, she was singled out and bullied. If she objected to her treatment, it was written off as just having episodes. She wanted to quit again, but felt a strong obligation to the residents.
The stress started getting to her more, though, and coupled with her worsening condition, it wasn’t long before it was just her having episodes. I had witnessed some of the bad treatment and knew it wasn’t just paranoia, but as the real paranoia started kicking in, it got to where everyone was out to get her, regardless of what was really happening. The nursing home director suggested that she tried for disability because she was having more and more trouble functioning in a work environment. I was reluctant at first, pretty much lost with confusion, stress, and worry, but it made sense.
The first year of trying for it (mainly thoughout 2005, I believe) I was busy working a couple jobs trying to keep bills paid. I’d quit the factory in 2003 because I was tired of all the politics and my allergies were getting worse (plastic dust making me sick). I’d worked at hotels in Florida so I went back to that, plus I did janitorial work at a local school in an effort to make ends meet. After all, our income was suddenly cut in half and there were plenty of bills piling up fast.
The govt sent Robin to a doctor in Hannibal to see if she was disabled. She was having a particularly nice day with the meds working well, and he rejected her.
On the home front, there was naturally a lot of tension. I was working all the time so she was by herself with her problems. And I also wasn’t around to see her getting worse. I suggested keeping a journal of everything as a means of therapy, and I promised not to read it so she could be as honest as she wanted. I’m allowed to read it (and share it) now, and it’s heartbreaking for me to see all the pain she was going through while I was working.
We’d also started buying the seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since the first was released in, I think, 2002 – somewhere around there. The moment another season came out of that or Angel, we were on it. In the meantime, she spent her days either sleeping or watching episodes repeatedly. Buffy fighting her demons helped Robin fight hers. Also, The relationship between Dru and Spike reminded her of us. I was off doing what was necessary while she stayed home and dealt with her mental illness. When I was home, I tried my best to console her and take care of her, but I was worn out and often spoke bluntly. Think of that scene in Buffy where Dru goes on that the bird won’t sing for her, and Spike rolls his eyes, saying something like, “Well, that’s what happens when you don’t feed it. They die.” You get the gist.
Here’s some random bits from one of her journals:
I feel like I’m fading in & out of reality. I keep hearing voices that are not there. I just need to sleep. Today, I was asked to watch a pot on the stove. I swear I almost set the house on fire. I yelled for my husband and it was a big hallucination. Thank God. I thought my husband was eating paint and it was apple sauce. I found out after an anxiety attack.
I can’t remember anything. I feel lost and disoriented. I went to sleep and had horrible nightmares this night. I was watching someone being mutilated with chains and a power drill on full speed being stuffed in his mouth. I also had a bad dream about people having to cross a rickety old bridge with alligators trying, and succeeding, at tearing them apart.
Today, I went with my husband to get pizza. I was very disoriented and lost in a small place by the desk. I could not breathe. The voices all screamed in different directions. I could not move and felt my chest caving in. I had a bad manic attack. I am better off staying home.
We went to our friend’s daughter’s sweet 16 party. I was only there for an hour and I had a panic attack. All the people and voices and awful music kids listen to today. I did not understand where I was and was so embarrassed. I almost got in a fight with the blonde. She was evil and possessed by demons. I told my friend and she laughed. It was her sister and agreed she is an evil bitch.
For our second try at disability, we got a lawyer and she was great. Robin was sent to the same doctor to accept/reject her, and this worried us. I hated doing it, but I took her off her meds for a few days prior and sent her in that way. She had the doctor backed up against the wall as she screamed, “You’re not going to hurt me! I won’t let you! You have snakes crawling up your legs and they’re possessing you!”
At least with the disability check, I could work less and take better care of her at home. And when I was working, my mother was watching her more. As Robin continued to get worse, however, I had to go to part time while my mother watched her on weekends.
In October of ’06, a local pharmacy poisoned Robin. The pill bottle read the right information, but the pills inside were double the milligrams (the pills just had a code on it, not the mgs, and they looked the same). She got so sick that she couldn’t stand up or stop shaking, and reality was long gone. When I put her in the hospital, she was dangerously close to permanent liver damage and/or kidney failure. When she got out, not only did the pharmacy not apologize, but they charged us again for the correct dosage. Her hands still shake. Her hands still get the shakes. I guess it’s permanent.
A year later, we got a settlement from them that paid off enough bills that I could stay with her 24/7. We’re not the sue-happy type, but I was royally pissed and they needed punished in some way for it, especially since they didn’t appear to give a damn.
These days, all of the knives are locked up or she’ll cut herself in an episode. I don’t have to clean up many puddles of blood off the kitchen floor to put a stop to that. Also, she used to be responsible with her meds, but after she overdosed once (voices told her they’d go away if she took the entire bottle), they were all locked in a tackle box. And since she’s tried to drink bleach, all cleaning products are locked under the sink. The keys to everything are hanging around my neck at all times, attached to a key ring Dark Horse had sent along with her prizes for winning the essay contest.
We’re both very happy, living a life that may seem odd but it’s all we know. It was a difficult time getting to where we are, but I think we’ve adapted well. I don’t know what I’d do without her loving smile each day, and I’ll damn sure do whatever it takes to keep her comfortable. I don’t seek out any pats on the back. In fact, I was quiet about this on the Internet until I won the contest. But after I received messages from people on how her struggles inspire them, I thought it would be beneficial to keep it up. Plus, it’s some rather nice therapy for me.
And the contest wasn’t an attempt to get attention, either. I stumbled across the Dark Horse MySpace page and saw the entry. I was just about to go to bed, but thought, “What the hell? Buffy certainly had a huge impact on Robin’s life.” I was floored that it won, but it’s done worlds of good for her. Thanks again to Joss Whedon, Scott Allie, and all others involved.
And so ends this part of our lives in a nutshell. A big nutshell, but it covered a lot of years. I’m sure I’ll come up with interesting stories later that add more detail, but there you have it.