Mental Health Care – Who Needs It?
The Fourth House
By – Sheri de Grom
I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. It couldn’t be possible. Yet when I looked up and saw the determined look on my husband’s face, I knew he was serious.
Tom calmly stated, “You need to attend four therapy sessions before I can come home.”
December 7, 1987, was my husband, Tom’s, first mental health hospitalization. I was having a difficult time wrapping my head around his even being in the hospital.
What the … he couldn’t be talking to me but he was. We were the only two people in his hospital room and we’d walked to the private garden outside. The night air was cold but I always loved the crisp aroma of pine mixed with the dampness of the fog drifting up from the bay. His small balcony overlooked Monterey Bay. Here we were, enjoying Tom’s hospital room with a million-dollar view. My mind raced; shouldn’t we be sharing a cocktail and not discussing who’s going to see a shrink?
Returning to his room, I smoothed my skirt and walked to the end of his hospital bed. “Tom, why are you so insistent that I get therapy? You know I can’t risk my top secret clearance.
“Whose idea is this therapy business? Is your doctor putting you up to this?
“I don’t understand the logic here.”
How naïve I was. Those were the days when it was easier for me to believe every house had a white picket fence and was covered in pink roses all year round. In reality, I knew nothing was further from the truth. I saw so many ugly things in my world of work. I liked my fantasy of white picket fences.
“Sheri, the idea is mine. We have a difficult road ahead of us and I believe you’d benefit from talking to someone.”
I hadn’t told anyone, other than my best friend, Catherine, that Tom was in the hospital, and I certainly hadn’t told anyone the details of his admission. Our friends and my colleagues knew Tom had been ill for over a year but I’d been vague about the facts. I couldn’t give in to Tom’s request.
“What makes you think you’ll be here long enough for me to have four appointments with a shrink, even if I agree to such a thing? Besides what makes you think I need to see someone? I have to think about this. It’s a lot that you’re asking.”
Fussing about Tom’s room, with the pretense of tidying up, my mind rambled along as if on buckled railroad tracks. I couldn’t pretend to pick up things forever. The patient in a mental health lock-down unit isn’t allowed to have much in their room. How many different places could I move a Styrofoam cup, water pitcher and a few magazines?
“Tom, I just have to have space to think about therapy. I’ve twenty-seven cases to review before tomorrow for the state’s attorney general and it’s late. If it’s okay with you, I think I’ll go home.”
I reached across his bed for a goodnight kiss. I’d often wondered how we managed to live through what we already had and still kissed goodnight with our love and passion for each other intact.
Lightning crackled as I left the hospital. A storm had blown in over the last forty-five minutes. Another December rain was upon us and the force of the wind matched my state of mind. I wanted to scream, to rage at the weather gods. I needed the thunder to roll, and then it did.
Stigma regarding mental illness was prevalent in our Monterey, California, community and I couldn’t afford to lose my top-secret clearance with the federal government.
I was the one on first. Everything was now up to me. I was in charge of our family and my rapidly advancing career.
Each blog within ‘The Fourth House’ series is a true and accurate representation of twenty-seven years within the confines of what represented the best mental health care available in the United States.
Please join me next time when I discuss how to survive the elusive question number twenty-one if you’re faced with acquiring a top secret security clearance or updating your present status.
INDEX TO PREVIOUS FOURTH HOUSE BLOGS:
Our Lives Disappeared Late Blooming Roses My Garden