Saturday, October 11, 2008

Catching up

I’ve been absent from Blogger for a while, so thought I’d write a wrap up of the last few weeks.
After Gabriel’s trip to the ER, he did start taking his meds again, but it has taken a long time for him to reorganize after this major episode. Even now, he still has not regained his previous level of function. I fear that this is how it will be…that each episode will result in some degree of permanent deterioration. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I still hear him laughing for no reason. His short term memory is terrible; he forgets things after a day or, sometimes, after only a few hours. But at least he’s socializing with us again and joking a bit.

I often go online to research which states offer the best mental health services, with the hope of moving someday. But I had not really considered the possibility that there might be non-governmental programs that might meet his needs. I have now discovered the “Clubhouse” movement for folks with mental illness, which provides a center for vocational and social programs, structured around the “work ordered day.” There are such programs throughout the US and around the world, but the one that most interests me is the one in St Louis, which is one of four US training sites for the movement. I am really excited about the program and, if all goes well, I’d like to relocate to St Louis at some point so Gabriel would be able to participate.

After Gabriel stabilized, I returned to work. I’ve been working my butt off, catching up and evaluating new patients. It was pretty hard to get back into the work routine after such a long time off (I miss those long afternoon naps!), but I’m doing OK now that the evaluations are complete and I’m caught up on paperwork. My previous bitter feelings about work have receded…getting a nice profit sharing check and a raise did wonders for my attitude! Given the current economic crisis that grips us, I feel quite fortunate to have a career that is not really impacted by the economic downturn.

A situation this week has set me thinking about some of the values we hold. I’m thinking about those values that are relatively easy or clear cut in a general sense, but which are challenged when a personal situation throws them up in our face. For example, one might be opposed to the death penalty, until the murder of a family member challenges that long held position. One might be theoretically opposed to abortion…until a loved one becomes pregnant after a rape. And so this week my firm belief in the rights of the disabled met a challenge. I discovered that my daughter who is severely disabled is pregnant. This young woman cannot take care of any of her own personal needs. She is totally dependent on others to feed her, dress her, take her to the bathroom, get her in and out of bed, etc. As a parent and as a therapist, I have long advocated that people with disabilities be allowed and enabled to lead normal lives. But this situation has definitely challenged that ideal.

On a lighter note, we now have a porch kitty. I’ve never been much of a cat lover, but this pretty stray kitten had been wandering the neighborhood for a few weeks, digging in the garbage for food. So I put some food out for him, and that was that. His name is Mufasa. He’s what I call a “dog kitty,” ie, a cat that acts more like a dog than a cat.


Thom said...

I understand the Clubhouse concept since I work for one. Ours is not one that helps those with mental illness, but rather people whose lives are touched by cancer (including friends and family). It not about a structured work ordered day, but there are programs every day that range from watercolor instruction to yoga to workshops and lectures - all offered for free.

Thank you for remining me through my work burnout distress that I really work for a very good and worthy cause.

I am glad your research brough you to the location in St. Louis. Many of these organizations, like ours, are not great about (or have the budget for) advertising themselves, so keep looking - there are a lot of good organizations out here.

Galen said...

There are actually two clubhouses in Texas, but nowhere near us. All we have is a drop-in center, which is run by folks with mental illness themselves. When Gabriel goes there, he spends most of his time watching TV, eating snacks, and smoking...basically what he does at home, and not very constructive use of his time and mind. The center in St Louis has a greenhouse, a little store where the clients can work, classes, recreation opportunities, etc.

I was interested to hear that your organization offers all those programs. I had always thought it was more about support groups. Sounds like you guys are doing so much more, as you say, a very good and worthy cause.

Pirate Aggro said...

Glad to see you back on Blogger. My sister manages the clubhouse program in her county in Northern Colorado. I've visited the clubhouse here in Denver. They are wonderful and essentially the cutting edge for delivering mental health services. It’s so opposite to the traditional American model that they frequently meet resistance. Hopefully that is beginning to change. I'd say move here to Colorado but I’m pretty sure Colorado is 49th or 50th in the nation for mental heath services. In fact, the hospital run by CU just announced the week before last that they are cutting all their inpatient psych beds, meaning the situation for the acutely mentally ill in Denver will only become more nightmarish. This is what happens when our healthcare system is driven entirely by money, the insurance industry, and nothing else. Perhaps change is on the horizon in November?

Galen said...

Actually, Pirate, Colorado ranks 32nd in per capita mental health spending. 49th? That would be Texas. :>( I'm glad to hear your positive first hand experience with the Clubhouses. I'd love to move to Colorado, but real estate seems high there compared to STL. But, this is all in the future...I'll stay put as long as my mother needs me here. There are lots of factors to consider, especially since I've lived in TX my whole life!