The Thin LIne

A week ago a friend of mine tried to commit suicide. At four months pregnant, she downed a full bottle of her anti-depressants, a bottle of Tylenol and to finish it off, 10 codeine tablets. Her loser boyfriend, whom she had supported for a year, had left her and she just couldn’t take being alone anymore. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I live next door, and luckily she called several people as she was dying. As the paramedics wheeled her away, barely breathing, I realized the trauma had just begun. What followed was a peek down the rabbit hole of insanity and the precarious edge we all ride to stay sane. After pumping her stomach at Hollywood Presbyterian, she was transferred to BHC, a psychiatric hospital in Alhambra. After 72 hours to stabilize it was time to find a place she could face her demons and work her way back to what we call ‘normal’ living. She asked me for help to find a place for her where she could get care for a month or two…. not a hard task, I thought. She has insurance and a pretty healthy savings account. Ha! I was wrong. Finding a bed for someone with a thin grasp of reality, a history of drug addiction, and suicidal tendencies…. who is also pregnant…is nearly impossible in this town. After calling 6 places here in LA, I branched out to Arizona, Boston and Dallas in search of a place where she could get healthy…I hit dead ends everywhere. Finally, with the help of another friend of hers, we found a place called “Creative Care” out in Malibu. And believe me, it ain’t cheap. It’s a whopping $28,000 a month paid in advance, with no chance of refund should you bail. It isn’t easy or cheap getting healthy.

By wading into this messy world of insanity, the one thing I realized is that it’s a very thin, fluid line that keeps all of us going and on a track to keep keepin’ on. Delusion is common, and there aren’t many landing places for people when they jump off the edge.

9 Replies to “The Thin LIne”

  1. Thanks for sharing, Tamarra. Best of luck to yuor friend and her baby, and sending good thoughts your way as well for helping her out!

  2. Most of the homeless in L.A. come from a similar situation; without the ability to pay for proper care, they’re left to wander the streets. Society has no answer.

    Sad to hear about your friend, but you’re truly her angel to extend such help and care. Thanks for sharing such a personal story.

  3. While this story is sad and awful, I don’t quite get the point that we’re all one slip away from insanity and being in a mental hospital. All of us with a thin grasp of reality and a drug addiction, maybe yes. Others, not so much.
    Some people are fragile and some are resiliant. Trying to make this one instance into a universal lesson dilutes your real messge. It’s up to the stronger to take care of the weak–not that we could be in your friend’s situation in a flash of blue lightening.

  4. You’re a good person for looking out for your friend, Tammara.

    If you’re trying to put this in perspective, the problem that your friend had nowhere to go is not entirely caused by misplaced social values. There are some things that small social units do very well, that societies on a larger scale have never figured out how to handle. So, the burden gets placed on the few people who actually care about a person in crisis, if anyone does. It does make you wonder who would be there for you, if the circumstances required it.

    Rachel, it’s part of empathy to recognize yourself in people who suffer, and anyway I’ve known a lot of people who talked just like you do before they cracked up. I recommend putting down the Ayn Rand and finding something else to read.

  5. I guess my point is many fold….Knowing someone who lost the grasp on reality and tried to end her life, made me look at my own and all the people I care about, to realize we’re not all that different. She wasn’t so crazy …but went over the edge when a confluence of events came together and overwhelmed her.
    There isn’t ANYONE I know who hasn’t had a brush with addiction….be it in their family, their friends or themselves….that.. is pretty common. And yes, Jim, you are so right. our society isn’t set up to take care of people who become ill. It took several days of two people concentrating heavily, massive phone calls, etc..on finding care for her to put it together. So yes, we each have to take responsibility for people in our lives….and ourselves. It really is a thin line and one not easily walked to know sanity and then to jump into that world of mental health care and see how hard it is to navigate. It was my first time in dealing with this world and it was tough.

  6. The question I meant to raise was whether it is even possible for us to care for people like your friend using professionals. Clearly we need doctors to make the key decisions, but there is so much of a need for caregiving that we simply may not be able to support a system of professionals to do all that work. We know that it is possible for a community to do a lot of that caregiving informally, because this is a regular part of small town life, but we have not succeeded in introducing this culture to places like big cities.

    Anyway, your friend is lucky to have you.

  7. I went through a similar situtation TWICE in the last couple of years and was just astounded by how difficult it can be to get mental health care. I don’t know if it’s an LA thing or a CA thing or what.

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