The Secret Life of Melanie O.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The Mental Illness/Homeless campaign
Our Mental Illness Awareness campaign is winding down. The report is out and available to download, and so far, we've had about 200 people download it. There's discussion and dialogue out there about funding for programs for the mentally ill, but it just doesn't seem to be enough.

Part of the problem, I believe, is that there are so many differing opinions on how to treat the mentally ill. I recently listened to a program on NPR that tackled the many issues of poor funding and treatment available for the mentally ill. (This report should outrage anyone who has a family member who has a mental illness.) One mother, whose case was similar to my own, had to allow her son to become homeless and get arrested before he could get any help. One father was told that no one would prescribe medication for his adult son until his son tried to kill him or someone else. They took his son to jail, but wouldn't take him to a mental hospital. So the father had to lie to get his son into a hospital.

The percentage of inmates with mental illness (usually Bipolar or Schizophrenia) in our criminal justice system is mind-boggling. My son Andy is now in jail. He routinely commits misdemeanor crimes like trespassing and doing runners in restaurants. Being in jail gives him three meals a day, a bed to sleep in, and regular haircuts and dental care and a daily, supervised routine. His medication is given to him with his breakfast, every day. Why does he have to be in jail for this to occur? Why is our mental health system an all or nothing proposition? Why don't we have levels of care based on the needs of our mentally ill? Why do people have to get to crisis level before there is some kind of intervention? Nothing will make you feel more powerless as a parent, than having a mentally ill adult child who will not do anything to treat their illness.

Mental illness treatment should be available based on level of need. There are those who will not take their medication (like my son) - they need to be in structured, supervised housing. This isn't the same as forcing medication on someone. It's about providing care on a voluntary basis, to those who are unable to care for themselves. If there was such a place available, my son would voluntarily commit himself there, instead of jail. Why aren't we using 16% of the budget for housing criminals (roughly the number of mentally ill people in the criminal justice system) to create places like this?

There are others who know they need to be on medication and realise that life is better on medication than off it. I've known people like this who have managed to get their illness under control. But many mentally ill people are not capable of that kind of rational decision. They wind up in jail. Or homeless.

What bothers me the most, I think, is this notion in the community that treatment will somehow make a mentally ill person "well." You can not make a person with diabetes "well." You can not make a person with Alzheimer's "well." You can only hope to help manage the disease and help that person live as normal a life as possible. We don't allow physically sick people out of hospitals to wander the streets, go without food, and harm themselves or other people. But we do this to our mentally ill. It's a tragedy - not just for my son and myself - but for countless millions of others out there.

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posted by Melanie O. at 8:45 PM - 4 comments
Saturday, August 18, 2007
Dan at death's door
Here is a fact for anyone who is in a relationship. If you're the woman, and you're sick, 90% of the time, you're going to have to look after yourself. Of course, there are those rare and wonderful men who will take pleasure in playing nurse to you while you're down with the flu, but even the best men just can't seem to grasp the fact that if you're sick, in bed, it might be nice to be brought a cup of tea and a couple of aspirin.

If you're the man - or better yet - if you are the female partner to an ailing man, you can expect that he will suddenly become feeble and helpless when he has a cold. But only in your presence. He will go to work anyway to prove to the guys there how dedicated he is. This is not to put men down in any way. It's just how it is.

Dan's been sick with a cold for the past couple of weeks, and the world is ending. He can't do anything except watch DVDs on the couch. He can't find the Panadeine. He can't find the antihistamine. (All of our medications sit in one spot - the only spot they have ever sat in.) He doesn't have the foresight to buy cough drops and expects you will pick them up for him. He's not well enough to help with dinner, but he will browse eBay for a couple of hours while you scrub and disinfect the bathroom. He says it's too cold in the house - we need to crank up the heat. I offer to make dinner - he says he doesn't want to eat, but then he sits and snacks all night.

This has gone on for over two weeks. He got rid of one cold, and promptly picked up another. In the meantime, I'm using every natural supplement known to man to avoid catching his infections. He moans and groans about his cough, but avoids taking the medicated cough drops I paid a premium price for. He won't take the supplements that I'm taking, in order to avoid future colds. I think he likes having something to moan and groan about.

Today, he felt well enough to get out of the house to look for a miniature hobby ratchet set at the outdoor markets. He was insistent that he wanted to do this, despite my doubts that he should be out of the house. He lasted all of ten minutes while wandering around, and the cold air was irritating enough that he started to cough up a storm. A vendor in a stall who sold natural lemon myrtle and tea tree oil soaps took pity on him. I imagine he thought I was a horrible wife and dragged Dan out into the cold so that I could browse through the cheap garage sale items and factory seconds. He admonished me to "just take him home and take care of him."

I could have just screamed.

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posted by Melanie O. at 8:28 PM - 6 comments
Monday, August 06, 2007
Simpsonize Me!
Someone directed me to this site today:

I don't know if the sponsor, Burger King, was taking a good ol' poke at the competition or not, but I thought the name was amusing.

Being the good sport that I am, and always willing to make fun of myself for the general amusement of the public, I went ahead and uploaded a photo and Simpsonized myself. This is the result.

Duster jacket - check
Vintage pearl necklace and ring - check
Blonde mane that always flops into my eyes - check

I can't wait until I'm asked to be a guest on the show.
posted by Melanie O. at 5:06 PM - 0 comments

About Me
Name: Melanie O.
Home: Durham, North Carolina, United States
About Me: Female, American health and beauty-conscious professional who has rekindled a childhood love of dolls.
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