Who visited mona in the psychiatric clinic

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I had my father admitted to psychiatry

jolina gruber *

Jolina Gruber's father (name changed by the editorial team) is mentally ill: he has bipolar disorder. When he had a severe manic phase three years ago, Jolina had him forcibly admitted. She describes how she felt at the time - and why she never doubted her decision.

The telephone rang. At the other end of the line was someone from the mental hospital my father was in at the time.

"Ms. Gruber, your father keeps us on our toes here. He's doing money business with the other patients here," it said. Apparently, my father pretended to be a lawyer on his ward helping patients gain their rights. He let himself be paid for that.

My father's belief that he was someone he wasn't was one of the reasons I had him admitted. Another was his uncontrolled use of money. And another one was that he becomes aggressive when you try to control the way you handle money.

My father is mentally ill: he has bipolar disorder

The scene just described was three years ago. Calls like this kept coming back while my father was in the clinic. Sometimes he tried to cheat fellow patients out of money, sometimes something was stolen from him - something was always going on.

My father has bipolar disorder. This means that he alternates between manic phases, in which he is particularly excited, and depressive phases. He did not receive treatment for this until he was 70 years old, although he had been carrying the disease for a long time. And he only came into treatment because I was committed to it.

Although my father hated me for having him admitted, I knew it was the right decision. That was the only way I could still help him. I never doubted that for a moment.

As a kid, all I knew was that my father was somehow different. Every few years he had a period when he hardly slept. In which he claimed to be a diplomat and to meet with high profile figures. In which he was wasting tons of money and getting irritable when you tried to stop him.

It wasn't until I was a young adult that I understood that these behaviors were part of his illness - and not his personality. When my papa had one of his manic attacks, he became a different person.

When my father had a manic episode, I had to close his account

After many years I knew his illness well. My mother had died in the meantime, my father lived alone one floor below. So I could always have a look at him. I knew the typical patterns and warning signals and therefore understood straight away when it started again.

That was when he started spending a lot of money again. Sometimes he withdrew 1000 euros per day from his account, which he mostly spent on games of chance or nonsensical subscriptions. Once even 3000 euros disappeared at once. He tried to buy cars from Mercedes for his imaginary company - luckily that didn't work.

Since I had a power of attorney for my father's account, I was able to temporarily block his card. He didn't like the fact that he was financially dependent on me during this time: He always wanted more and more money, sometimes stood in front of my window at 6 a.m. and made a row, berated me, kicked me and threatened to set the house on fire . Once he called the police because I only wanted to give him 15 euros a day to go shopping. I then had to explain to the police what was wrong with my father - but they couldn't help me.

I did not know, what I should do. I could no longer sleep peacefully, could not constantly control and appease my father - after all, I also had my own life, my work, my partner.

Finally, I called the mental health service

A friend then gave me the tip to call the psychiatric emergency service. I described my father's symptoms over the phone. We finally agreed on an appointment where a doctor and an expert would come to our house in order to better assess the situation.

Since my father refused any medical help, I had to use a trick to make sure that he was actually home when the experts came. So I invited him to breakfast. When the two ladies stood in front of our door, he reacted anything but friendly: He asked who the women were, began to abuse them, and threatened his alleged contacts with politicians.

So the situation was clear: My father was seriously ill. Now we could start the procedure to have him instructed.

Anyone who thinks it is easy to have someone forcibly admitted to psychiatry has been thoroughly mistaken: this requires several medical and legal reports to ensure that this measure is really necessary. Such a procedure is of course also necessary so that no one is wrongly placed in a closed psychiatric ward.

At the same time, it was a nerve-wracking time for me because I always had to make sure that my father was there when an expert came along - and because I had to endure his hatred and aggression at the same time.

He kept reproaching me for what a bad daughter I was because I didn't want to give him any money or didn't care enough for him. When we were both summoned to the local court because my father was supposed to be provided with a legal guardian there, I was not allowed into the courtroom. My father no longer trusted me. Of course, that hurt too, because I didn't want to harm him, I wanted to help.

When they took my father to the mental hospital, I cried

The day my father was finally picked up, I invited him to breakfast again. A friend and my partner at the time were also there to support me. When my father's new supervisor and two men from the public order office stood in front of the door, my father did not defend himself: Accompanied by my friend, he went with the men and got into the car that took him to the clinic. He didn't want me there.

When my father finally left I cried. After all, it felt like I was locking him up. But on the other hand, I knew: I couldn't give my father the help he so badly needed.

Later, when I visited him, brought his things over and tried to talk to him, he was still angry with me. Once, when we were alone in his hospital room, he tried to kick me. I was offended and did not visit him for a few weeks. After all, I just wanted to help him - at some point you just can't do it anymore.

In total, my father spent two months in the mental hospital. He was in a day clinic for another two months, during which time he was allowed to live at home again. When he moved back to his apartment, we had to get closer again - that took a while after everything that had happened.

One should not confuse mental illness with humans

Now, three years later, my father is doing better. He takes medication to help keep his illness at bay. He has a domestic help and his supervisor, whom he now accepts and likes. And: We have a good relationship with each other again. He always raves in front of other people about what a great daughter he has.

Of course there are sometimes better and sometimes worse days. I also believe that my father still does not fully understand why he was in the clinic - he thinks he was burned out. The most important thing, however, is: my father can cope with his everyday life - and we are a family again.

I think the most important thing when you are in contact with people with severe mental illnesses is not to confuse the illness with the person behind it. The time my father suffered from his manic attacks was anything but pleasant. But I knew - no matter what my father did or threatened me during this time: That was the bipolar disorder that spoke. Not him.

Most of all, what makes me sad is that my father had to wait so long to get medical help. From his friends and family members, I know how many people turned away from him in the course of his life because he was so difficult. That his behavior could have something to do with an illness - that only occurred to me as his daughter.

Help your loved ones: You don't have to do this alone

Although we talk more about mental illness in general these days, we often don't realize when we're dealing with one. And of course it's difficult when someone you love hurts you with their behavior.

However, if you see that the family member or friend or colleague keeps attracting attention, keeps behaving strangely, is simply not doing well: Then you should be aware that the person concerned is probably suffering a lot more from their own situation than we are as relatives. And because we often cannot cope with the situation on our own, we shouldn't be afraid to ask for help. Before the person affected can cause serious harm to others or to themselves.

Hence my appeal: Please try to talk to the person if you notice that they are not doing well. Get help if necessary - because you can't and don't have to do it alone. Talk to someone about what you are observing, because sometimes the person in question can't themselves. You do not harm the person affected and you cannot just lock him or her away.

Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but strength. And you can use that to help those you love.

Protocol: Agatha Kremplewski

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