MENTAL HEALTH CARE – WHO NEEDS IT? – PART 3 of 3

Mental Health Care – Who Needs It? – Part 3 of 3
The Fourth House
By – Sheri de Grom

Tom’s hospital admission lingered into the Christmas holidays and I was devastated. Christmas had always been my favorite season. In 1997, I’d faced the holidays alone without the man I loved at my side.

We would not participate in activities we’d come to love since we’d started dating. My soul became separated from me and although I now knew I needed help, my trust issues kept me stuck in my path.

I’d always been an advocate for Tom. Now it was my turn to find the time to help myself. We had almost six years remaining in Monterey, California, before I transferred to DC.

I worked with ten therapists during those six years. I’d become convinced there was someone out there I could work with. My sessions addressed how I could maintain a balance within Tom’s and my marriage considering his illness, and my need to maintain the solid career I loved and now must protect for health insurance and financial support for our family.

Tom and I had several discussions about my desire to find a professional I could work with and trust.

Three years passed and Tom called me at work one day with the name of a psychologist he’d heard on talk radio while at his jeweler’s bench. We’d both laughed about the possibilities of meeting a true professional from talk radio but what did I have to lose?

Tom told me a little about the interview and gave me the psychologist’ phone number. I called and made an appointment for the following week. I’d decided what the heck. I wasn’t committed to a return visit.

After my first two appointments with Bill Falzett, PhD, I knew this was where my first of the four appointments Tom had requested would begin. I’d had almost three years of weekly therapy by this time but Bill possessed the combination of knowledge and skill to be in the top five of all the mental health professionals I’ve had the pleasure of meeting in the past twenty-five years.

Bill welcomed me home with empathy and understanding of my emotional being. (I’d learned to close myself down and throw away the key. I’d become so disconnected from my own body that I could have dental work without anesthesia). I was able to be myself with Bill almost immediately. He utilized tools from what I called his magical bag of tricks and established a therapeutic window wherein together we were able to reach places I’d never intended to go.

Bill Falzett, PhD, possessed the gifts that allowed me to find the key that opened my own world. It was then that I understood how much easier it was to live in the new world where bipolar disorder was a third party in my marriage.

I worked with Bill on a weekly basis for two years before my career moved us to DC and he reminded me, “I’ll always be just a phone call away.” He added, “You don’t have to wait for a crisis to call. I like to hear good news as well.”

After we moved to DC, I missed Bill and yes, we often talked late at night or into the wee hours of the morning.

Therapy has become a crucial part of my health care routine and continues to be so today, some twenty-five years later. My therapeutic relationship is much different today and when the time comes, I’ll include that part of the story within The Fourth House series.

I accepted working with Bill that I’d always be on first taking care of every aspect of Tom’s and my life together. I also recognize that my role as Tom’s wife is the most important purpose God will ever place at my feet. Additionally, Tom is the greatest gift I can ever imagine God will bestow upon me.

My unconditional love for Tom allows me to have memories of dancing in the dark on the night we met, November 11, 1983. I remember the restful composition as the surf rolled in and washed back out as we waltzed to Strangers In The Night. Every sound, though familiar, was a surprise. We were mesmerized, lost in the daze of being together. Those memories are as sweet today as they were that long ago night in Carmel, California.

INDEX TO PREVIOUS FOURTH HOUSE BLOGS:

Our Lives Disappeared With Bipolar Disorder

Electroconvulsive Shock Therapy – Barbaric Torture for the Patient and Family

The Aftermath of 55 Years of Memory Loss

Sheri's Garden

Sheri’s Garden

The Wrongs of Psychiatric Care – Part 1 of 2

The Wrongs of Psychiatric Care – Part 2 of 2

Medical Care Discrimination – Physical vs. Mental

Mental Health Care – Who Needs It? – Part 1 of 3

Mental Health Care – Who Needs It? – Part 2 of 3

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About Sheri de Grom

Retired Fed/JAG, 5 yrs. on Capitol Hill. Former book buyer for B and N. Concerned citizen of military drawdown. Currently involved in mental healthcare reform, health care strategist and actively pursuing legislative change wherein dual retirees are exempt from enrolling in Medicare at their own discretion without losing tertiary healthcare benefits. Monitor and comment on Federal Register proposed legislation involving Mental Health, Veterans Affairs, Health and Human Services, Medicare and rural libraries. Licensed OSHA Inspector to include Super Fund sites. Full time caregive to Vietnam era veteran. Conceptualized, investigated possible alternatives, authored, lobbied for, and successfully implemented Title X, Section 1095 (known as the Third Party Collection Program of Federal Insurance).
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52 Responses to MENTAL HEALTH CARE – WHO NEEDS IT? – PART 3 of 3

  1. cindy knoke says:

    Oh good for you!! I knew you would do this. Tom is an extraordinarily fortunate man to have you for a partner. Thank you for these wonderful, liberating, posts~

    • Cindy – Thank you for continuing to find me. You are a gem for doing so. I always so appreciate your comments both from a personal point-of-view but also as a therapist. This Fourth House series will continue but writing with intensity on such a personnal subject and still living with it on a daily basis, well let’s just say it takes a bit out of me as I reflect on what I’ve learned that doesn’t work and what doesn’t.

  2. Lignum Draco says:

    A very interesting series thus far. It must take a lot of courage to live this and now write about it. I hope you are well.

  3. findingmyinnercourage says:

    Sheri – I don’t understand why if I follow you none of your Blogs ever show up in Blogs I follow. Any ideas? I’ve ben spending some time on your Blog and you have answered many questions for me about my sister who is bipolar and was diagnose some 18 years ago. I live in a family that thinks there is nothing wrong with her and that she should got detox from ll her medications someplace and she would be fine. 18 years of this and they still think the same thing. You have given m some valuable information to pass along the next time all hell breaks out about this issue. I’m the only one who sticks up for her! Thank you for such valuable information! Hope all is well! Dawn

  4. It’s always great to see a new post from you, I hope tonight finds you well.

    • Thank you so much for stopping in to read with me. I discovered your blog had fallen out of both my reader and my e-mail and had to go in search for your wonderful blog to keep me informed about what is going on in the world of country music. You always guide me into at least a couple of new songs I love and even though I’ve never been a big follower of country music. I recorded the awards show as a result of songs you’ve made me aware of.

  5. Ajaytao2010 says:

    Sheri I will pray for your family and you dear

    god bless you

  6. Sheri, I have deep sympathy for these struggles since several friends of mine suffer from intense depression etc… I’m grateful your path crossed Dr. Falzett and understood your needs~ how rare a gift! I know you’ve overcome so much and, continue climbing the mountains life places before you, that says so much more about the blossoms within your soul! Are these yellow Sunshine blooms in the daffodil family ~My grandma had them. They’re glorious glimpses of heaven’s roads! Are you resting, how’s your therapy and Tom? You’re always in my thoughts and prayers dear friend ~ Debbie

    • Debbie – What a glorious way to wake up in the morning and see your comment first thing. I often feel the presence of your love and prayer embracing me when yet another road block is placed before me. At the present time, I’m reading in the book of Genesis and 30:25-43 reminds me that God always treats me in ways better than I deserve at times. However, He continues to bless us with healing even when we don’t really deserve it.
      I believe I was supposed to read those verses today, Debbie. You face such difficult challenges everyday and I think of you often. When I post photos of my gardens at the close of each blog, they are for you. We both love gardening and have limitations as to how much we are able to do and when. As to the yellow flower I posted this week, it is a bulb that belongs in the lilly family. It blooms for months at a time, requires little care and has a spicy but not offensive fragrance.
      My physical therapy is hard. We have moved on from the table exercises to having me on the machines and wow – I’ve come to calling that the torture chamber. However, I am so blessed that I have the top rated physical therapist for my needs and he is so kind and understanding. He also understands my needs in caretaking of Tom and has shown me many maneuvers that will help.
      Tom struggles each and every day. We’ve entered what I call his ‘November Phase.’ It’s always a difficult time for both of us, especially as we head into the holidays.
      Peace be with you my dear blogging friend. I love you dearly. Know my prayers are always coming your way.

      • I understand you well dear, today makes 6 yrs I lost to heavenly spheres my youngest sister and, holidays are very difficult for me as well ~ but, we do our best, and that’s our gold, frankincense and myrrh to the Savior. He asks for a daily offering of our best & he’ll put in full motions His grace on our behalf ~ye nothing to feel unworthy or undeserving of. We are always in his debt but, not the way we finite humans see it.
        I love you and your authenticity Sheri! That’s so rare in this world!
        I do pray for you & Tom every morning and night, you’re my friend ! I care very truthfully about you both! Don’t you ever question that sweet Sheri!

        Enjoy your day, minute by minute and keep up your exercising ~you find greater benefits than you see right now! See yourself as a glorious olive tree, which is dissidouous and as it is pruned, deepens it’s roots and can produce the anointing oil of healing! As did Jesus ! You can do it! God will answer your prayers ! Faithfully Debbie

  7. Patty B says:

    You bring hope and encouragement to a lot of people.

    • Thanks, Patty. My desire is that everyone knows mental illness isn’t something to walk away from. Instead, we must walk toward mental illness and embrace those who are suffering and offer them hope and understanding that marriages can remain intact and healthy. I’m especially concerned about our troops that have returned from war and those still on multiple rotations. The suicide rate is as high as ever and continues after the soldier leaves the military. Military families are falling apart due to PTSD, TBIs and other problems brought on by war time experiences. One of the largest growing populations seeking help for PTSD within the VA system are those that fought in Vietnam. Many returned from Vietnam and led succesful lives, had families and were devoted to their careers. Now they are turning 65, many are retiring and have large gaps of time where they aren’t sure what to do with themselves and they find themselves in the clutches of PTSD complete with flashbacks and all the other horrors that go with it.
      As always, thanks for reading with me.

  8. Ah Sheri – your blogs are always so timely. Many, many comments in social media over the past two weeks about mental health issues for veterans. I think a LOT of people are waking up to the mental health crises around the world. And you … keeping it real, as always. Thank you.

    • Mary – Hello my friend. I hear the winter winds howl and the sound is much like a soul in mental anguish as their world turns inside out and they don’t understand why or how. I’ve heard this sound so many times and it still makes my blood run cold. When it happens, I know there’s not a thing I can do except put my arms around Tom and hold him tight. I’ll use a soft voice and remind him of memories we’ve made together and of things we’d like to do in the future. It’s times like this when Tom is in the greatest pain for he fears he’ll lose his mind forever and not be able to find his way back to sanity.
      You are so right about the veteran crisis. Here in the United States we are loseing a veteran to suicide every hour and that number hasn’t changed for well over a year.

  9. Sheri I loved this article. I am in Sr. Mgt. for the mental health community and while the AAFP states that 83% of physical ailments a “stress” related, we all know that not one person wants to be told that hat would benefit them more than medicine is a therapist. Thank you again. Sheri

    • Yes, it’s so true. I’ve always believed stress is what leads to so many deaths simply because we don’t pay attention to ourselves the way we should. The issue that finally drove me to therapy and stay in therapy was that I knew I had to have someone I could talk with about the additional stress Tom’s disease placed on me. Others said to me, “Why don’t you put Tom in a facility and let them take care of him?” That is not an option for me. Tom does not belong in a facility. We have some truly marvelous carefree days together and I treasure every one. My staying with therapy, even with my career so demanding, it is the one thing that always kept me sane.
      My ‘Fourth House Series’ is a continuing blog and I hope you’ll have the time to read along as I carry our story forward. I well understand the demands of being in a Sr. Mgt. position, I was at the top for the last ten years of my career and it kept me on my toes and I look back now and realize how much juggling I did to both protect Tom and my career.

  10. Gede Prama says:

    Amazing and Thank you so much for sharing

  11. Sheri, it’s wonderful that you have shared this issue here. Too often, people do believe that if they don’t feel comfortable with a therapist that it’s because something is wrong with them. Not so. Each of us needs to find the right fit in mental health as we would with any other health issue.

    Your love for Tom has transcended all obstacles and has brought us the richness of your stories. For there are indeed two stories that compliment and complete each other … and in that you and Tom have made that journey together 🙂

  12. Thankfully, you found Bill. Such a wonderfully written piece, Sheri. Thank you. Paulette

  13. Mae Clair says:

    What a beautiful closing at the end of this blog post. It gave me chills.

  14. Uzoma says:

    Glad you could connect with this extraordinary man, Bill. People like him make life and living more meaningful and purposeful for patients. I am also glad he wants you to stay in touch and relay good news, as well, (of course, there will always be!)

    Tom is blessed to have you.

  15. I know someone who went through five professionals before she found the one she was a perfect fit with. What a stressful life you have had. I too agree you are a courageous and amazing woman.

    • Hello, Tess. My theory is bad therapy is worse than no therapy. A bad therapist can do real damage to an individual. Additionally a therapist that’s not right for me might be the perfect match for someone else. I don’t really consider I’ve had a stressful life, I believe I’ve had many challanges. My profession was extrememly challenging and yes even filled with adrenaline. However, I believe that’s what drove me to my career. I loved the adrenaline rush that came with victory.

  16. I had to go through a bunch of therapists before I found one who clicked for me. It’s such an intimate relationship and you can’t force trust where it doesn’t exist. I love that you love Tom so much that you were able to overcome everything to keep looking for the right help. I need to hear more about that kind of love.

    • Rachel – The unconditional love Tom and I share for each other is the greatest gift. I had no idea what it was like until it finally happened. I didn’t believe unconditional love between two people was really possible. We were a blind date and agreed to go along to get a mutual friend to stop pestering us. Once Tom and I met, we knew we belonged together. Of course neither of us would admit that but over a course of months we had to confess. We dated exclusively for several years before we married. I was a career woman and 80+ hours a week with alot of travel was my regular schedule. Tom had custody of two young daughters (ages 4 and 8) and I didn’t meet the children until we had been dating two years. By the time we wed, we knew each other well and had been totally committed to the other person from the day we met.

  17. ksbeth says:

    i’m so happy that you were able to connect with doctor bill and that he led you to find yourself again. what wonderful memories of tom and i am in awe of your gratitude even in the face of extreme challenges. )

  18. Sheri, Thank you for sharing your own pain with the rest of us. I love what you write and now that I have found this site, I will be following and finish reading the preceeding chapters to this post. It takes a woman of courage to write what you have written here. By doing this you are helpin so many others who are experiencing similar kinds of things.

    Be blessed!
    SandyO

  19. atempleton says:

    So glad you were able to find your way back home to yourself.

  20. Yes, you are so right. Many times when I would tell a therapist or psychologist they weren’t the right fit for me and I wouldn’t be making another appointment they would try to turn the table on me and make it all about what was wrong with me. I never bothered to discuss the issue with them, recognizing they probably needed help just as much as I did. Later in the Fourth House series I’ll talk about some of the mental health professionals I fired on Tom’s behalf.
    Due to my career moving us so often after we moved to DC, it was difficult finding care for both of us. I’ll also discuss how I shortened the process of finding mental health care I trusted in another blog. Thank you for stopping in and taking the time to read with me.

  21. Gallivanta says:

    It’s actually encouraging to know how hard it was to find the right therapist. Too often a patient is made to feel there is even more wrong with him/her if he/she doesn’t connect immediately with a recommended therapist.

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