WHAT AN EFFING NIGHTMARE by Laurie Lethbridge Christmas

My son was in a locked ward psych unit involuntarily because he was a danger to himself (having schizophrenia and being off meds for eight months). He was psychotic and was losing weight because he'd not been cooking and eating. He didn't understand why he was there. He kept insisting that no one had the right to hospitalize him against his will. He asked to see a mental hygiene lawyer and, when she refused to get him out of the psych unit, he punched her.

My son was arrested and removed from the psych ward and taken to jail. He was charged with misdemeanor assault and sat in jail for a month. He was on no meds while in the hospital or the jail. I wrote a letter to the judge asking that he be re-hospitalized and he was then sent to an upstate hospital which was really a prison. He was in a section for pretrial detainees and his rights were more restricted than they were in the county jail. He sat there for eight months before they finally took him to the local mental health court down the street where an involuntary medication order was finally granted. All in all, he was 18 months without meds. Then, to add insult to injury, the charges against him for punching the attorney were upped to felony assault.  Why would the state charge a psychotic ill person with assault while in a locked psych ward? And why would a  lawyer, who is supposed to be an advocate, push the DA to raise the charges to a felony? And why did they let him sit so long without meds?  What an effing nightmare!

My son took his meds and was stable for 10 years before all hell broke loose. When it did, I started calling everyone I could find related to his issues — doctors, lawyers, and advocacy groups. Even NAMI (no help there). I was on the phone almost daily for a year. No one would help. I have a stack 5 inches thick of everyone I called. Then I had to stop for a minute. I was burned out. I even started a Facebook page for parents to no avail. This shit started in October 2012 and was not somewhat resolved until July 2014.

I still can't get over that my son sat in a psychiatric hospital for eight months without meds. My rage is often right under the surface and I have to take a break once in a while to keep my wits. After 2014 it was still a mess and it got bad again in 2015 even though my son was switched to monthly shots of abilify. He became psychotic again. The fight to get his meds changed took another year and a half. My son is somewhat stable now, but the 18-month psychotic breaks twice, caused some brain damage.

 Laurie and her son

Laurie and her son

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