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The Form That's Helping Me Take Control of My Care After My Psychotic Episode

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Two years ago I had a psychotic episode that shocked my friends and family. During the episode, I begged my mother not to put me in the hospital and she respected that wish. Instead of going to the hospital, my mom stayed with me in my apartment and watched me, corresponded with my psychiatrist, helped me with my medication and made sure I was safe. In the process we discovered a new way to deal with my episodes without hospitalization. It took two weeks, but I started to come out of it, went back to work and started over.

Before this episode, I attended meetings at the local chapter of the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. During a few meetings, the leader mentioned a mental health advance directive. This is a document that you fill out with information about doctors, medication, symptoms, representatives and wishes for when you are in crisis. After my episode, I knew it was something I needed to do. I needed to feel like I had some control in those times I felt I had none. It took me a year and a half, but I finished it and recently presented it to my family.

Something that was important to me was preparing people for my behavior during a crisis (since it is strange) and to give them the tools to take care of me. I wanted to help them not be afraid and feel confident they were doing the right thing for me. Because of the experience two years ago, which was so healing for me because I didn’t go to the hospital, I made my wishes known that if I am not a danger to myself or others, I would like to be cared for at home. So I told them the behavior to expect and what to do.

It took me so long to finish it because of the nature of my illness, in and out of depressions, in and out of insight or motivation. But I am so happy I did it. I sat down with my family, had them all read it and asked if there where any questions. My sister-in-law, who was listed as a representative after my mother, had many questions. She is a social worker herself. It was such a relief to be honest about my symptoms and know everyone knew what to expect.

So many families are caught off guard by mental illness. In the beginning, no one knew what to do. When we sat down to talk there were things some people knew and others didn’t about my symptoms. No one really had the whole picture until that day. I was surprised that it took all these years to sit down and really talk about what my illness meant for everyone in my family. My mother, who had dealt with my disease most directly, expressed relief that she didn’t feel alone in taking care of me anymore.

It was such a healing experience to be able to support each other, talk about my disease and to know I was not alone. That if this happened again, my wishes would be known and I would be taken care of in the way I wanted and in a way that didn’t put too much pressure on one person. Everybody now knew their roles and felt comfortable with their responsibilities.

I am so grateful I did the directive, that I had the foresight to see it through even when it was tough to think about my illness. It was hard and I was nervous to talk about it, but my family stood by me and showed me I was not alone, that I could have some control and dignity in times it feels like there is none. I would encourage anyone who lives with a mental illness to do it.

Each state has different paperwork for directives so you can search for your particular state. You can visit Mental Health America to learn more.

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Originally published: December 5, 2016
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