Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

Update: Disappointment

Are you ready for me to be freed tomorrow from the nuthouse? Well, according to rumor, tomorrow will be my release date. The reason has nothing at all to do with my own sanity, since I am still certifiably insane, but rather, the reason is that the person caring for my birds is demanding that I pay her $2500 for the priviledge (nevermind that one of my expensive and rare parrots died while under her care) and she is demanding that I pay her immediately so she can use it to pay college tuition.

What’s the problem with this picture? When I first met my bird care taker, mere minutes before I was hauled away to the ER, I told her I am unemployed and lack any money and couldn’t pay her, so she assurred me that I would not have to pay her anything, that these costs were covered by some agency. What agency? Since I was hardly in a coherent state of mind at that time, I didn’t ask her who she worked for.

So she called me today, demanding immediate payment and asked things on the phone like “am I supposed to just pull this money out of my ass?” I barely resisted the nearly overwhelming urge to answer that particular question.

I deeply deeply resent the fact that she misrepresented this situation to me, that I owe a huge bill that I can’t pay (and I always pay all my bills, even when I have to go hungry) and worst, I deeply resent the fact that one of my beloved birds died while under her care. Besides, I think the agency should pay her as promised, not I!

Of course, I worry that she has taken the liberty of stealing my rather eclectic music CD collection to pay for the bill, or that she will hold my dead bird’s body as hostage for the bill, or will refuse to return my apt keys or that she has stolen or vandalized my property, especially my books.

But anyway, the hospital administrators are talking about letting me go tomorrow without any aftercare set up or any other social supports (psychologists, psychiatrists) in place. And what about the meds? Will I have to quit them all cold-turkey? This nearly immediate release is extremely unusual, although it will save me approximately $250 more than if they were to release me 10-14 days later as they had originally planned. But despite the fact that I will be probably be discharged tomorrow, I am deeply disappointed and very upset that the release didn’t go according to plan. I wanted this to be friendly, but it feels adversarial. I wanted something to work out the right way for a change, ya know? And this is not the right way.

I’ll let you know more as things happen.


What happened next?

How the heck did this nuthouse story get started in the first place?



  1. #1 Elf Eye
    December 6, 2006

    Hedwig, did you sign any contract in which you promised to pay her? If not, she may be bluffing and you should not necessarily feel obligated to pay someone who may in fact be attempting to take advantage of you. For starters, you can tell her you want to know the name of the agency she works for so that you can deal directly with her supervisor. That alone may get her to back off. I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but this whole thing sounds questionable. Weren’t there a couple of lawyers out there who were willing to give you a hand?

    By the way, if you are ever traveling through southwest Virginia, be sure to stop by and visit awhile. Our accomodations are modest (we call the guest room the ‘storage room’), but the scenery is great (Appalachian Mountains).

  2. #2 certhia
    December 6, 2006

    Bless you as you navigate this latest insulting hurdle…it is my hope that one of your friends can be riding shotgun with you as you emerge and try to sort this out… It is also my hope that one of your lawyerly pals can work on this bizzare claim with you (little things like written contracts, your mental state upon departure as a factor in contractual agreements–especially non-written, etc.) Last point–I’m hoping some advocate at the hospital insists on setting up the follow-up before you check out–especially as you’re checking out into such a stressful mess…
    yup, we care for you lots, and hope for something resembling smooth sailing…

  3. #3 doctorgoo
    December 6, 2006

    I can’t believe that she’s shaking you down for money like that! It’s unbelievable how low some people can seek.

    btw… even though you might not be leaving on the best of terms, I still am happy for you that you can now get back to your birds.

    good luck!!!

  4. #4 Sara
    December 6, 2006

    Is there someone who can meet you, or help you, your first day out? Generally everyone has some transitional difficulties and you might find yourself quickly overwhelmed, particularly if you compound in the issues with the hostilities with this woman and the uncertain state of your apartment. Can someone pick you up and stay with you for a few days? I’m worried about you.

  5. #5 Michele
    December 6, 2006

    I am worried that you are being released with no follow-up support in place and no information as to what you are supposed to do about meds. It feels like you are being sent back out into the world with no help.

    I hope you have someone who is nearby and can help you; stay with you for a few days and look out for you. The way you are being released is stressful enough but you also have to contend with the outrageous demands of the bird caretaker. It is alot to cope with all at once.

    Take care and be strong.

  6. #6 Hypatia
    December 6, 2006

    Are you willing to give up your bird-folk? Temporarily or even permanently? A rescue organization might be the answer, at least until you have stabilized your life to the point you can give your dependents a home.
    I am in Florida, unable to judge your possibilities in the Metro area. I just know I had few choices, and got lucky, when searching for haven for my two greys when I die or can no longer care for them.
    On the other hand, if you have been loosed without recourse, then you MUST keep in close communication with us. We will strive with all our might to keep your oscillations within necessary limits. We will keep our positive thoughts and transcendatal meditations bated

  7. #7 parrotslave
    December 6, 2006


    Don’t give her a dime until she shows you a legally binding signed contract where you agreed to pay for the services.

    It sure sounds like a scam.

  8. #8 David Harmon
    December 6, 2006

    Quitting your meds all at once and suddenly would be a Bad Plan. Most of them need at least to be tapered, not to mention the illness they’re treating! At this point, you are presumably on Medicare with Part D, and the Part D insurer can help a lot with the meds.

    This smells iffy to me too, but in the meanwhile, I suggest that you hit the ground running — that is, now that you’re out, immediately start rebuilding your life. Reaquaint yourself with the birds, and vice versa, call up the people who’ve offered to help you out, and deal with back paper mail, catch up with whatever or whoever else you’ve missed, Write articles for sale. (Heck, you could write a book!)

    I’m with Elf Eye that this woman can say you owe her money, but demanding you pay $2500 up front without warning, is another story, especially in the circumstances. You can at least tell her that getting the money for college is not going to happen, at least not this semester. If she’s willing to negotiate, you can try to agree on both an appropriate amount to be paid when that’s realistic. If not… well, you’re basically “judgement-proof”, and vandalism or birdnapping would expose her not only to a civil suit, but to criminal charges.

  9. #9 Rob Knop
    December 7, 2006

    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune….

    Please DO NOT go cold turkey on your meds. See if you can get some tide-over samples from your docs there. (Many docs have a cache of those sorts of things, and can help you out.) Do you have any kind of health insurance at all? Are you eligible for medicare? Going cold turkey on some meds like this can cause all sorts of problems. Even if you go off of them, you’re supposed to taper them.

    And, of course, there’s the same question anybody else asks– do you have any friends there? Anybody you can lean on a bit? Anybody to talk to? Anybody to help you navigate the world, to be a reality check on negotiations with the bird-care person?


  10. #10 grigory
    December 7, 2006

    I only started reading scienceblogs recently. I’ve seen a few of your posts. I just read all about what you’ve been going through. I didn’t know about any of it until today. Congratulations on your release! Stay strong, and don’t let this person take advantage of your situation. Three years from now, you’ll probably be looking back on all of this as a closed chapter in your life. You can become happy! Good luck.

  11. #11 Bob O'H
    December 7, 2006

    The Fates have been thinking long and hard about this, haven’t they? They really are making a special effort.

    I agree with the others about the money: I don’t see how this lass can get you to pay her all that money now. But if she’s trying to get the money from you like this, then it prpobably means she’s stressed with financial problems as well (and, unlike you, she doesn’t have a certificate saying she can behave like this!). It may be that there’s been a huge breakdown in communication between her and The Agency. It might be that it’s best to find out about The Agency: they could be the people who can see the bigger picture, and sort something out.

    I don’t understand how all this affects your release date, but then I’m not an administrator. I’m sure the hospital will help you organise after-care even after they’ve let you out: they probably don’t want to see you back!

    Remember that you do have a large online support group, and from reading the comments here, there seem to be several people in NY you can turn to as well. We’re all cheering you on.


  12. #12 JF, scientist
    December 7, 2006

    What the heck all around.

    I second all the people who opine that abruptly stopping meds would be very bad. For one, untreated illness is BAD, and for two, I know that many psych meds have serious withdrawal effects.

    Is there anyone who can help you get a prescription? Do you qualify for disability? Is there anything we can do to help?

  13. #13 Diane in Ohio
    December 7, 2006

    What is wrong with your so called “wonderful doctors”? Your advocacy representative should have a transitional release plan which should have been part of your treatment plan. Meds. and follow-up,supportive network thru the health dept.(if no where else) to get you signed up for support(SSI).Your attorney needs to be contacted to make sure these things are followed thru with if indeed they are not doing these things.You should be released with meds.”to go” till your follow-up with the authorities on the outside. I don’t understand why you should be worring about this as it should all be in writing,explained to you,and with your aggreement of this plan.They MUST do their part or legalities will ensue. Please don’t let them throw you to the wind…call your attorney NOW!!

  14. #14 Tabor
    December 7, 2006

    It is like you are in some other dimension! First they capture you and tell you cannot be in society because you are very sick and then they dump you out the door with no planning or preparation for entry into society once again. There is something very, very wrong here. Hopefully any legal and medical counsel you rely on can help figure it out.

  15. #15 Jeff Knapp
    December 7, 2006

    This sounds very wrong to me. First, it sure does sound like the woman is trying to shake you down. Follow the advice of the others here, don’t pay her until you have a clear picture of what the situation is.

    As for your release, as much as anybody here, I sure am rooting for your release but, under the proper circumstances. Suddenly throwing you out there without any outpatient care arrangements sounds wrong. That the reason would be because of this demand of money from your bird caregiver also sounds wrong. And, yes, going cold turkey off of many psychotropic drugs do have serious risks of rebound – in particular, SSRI anti-depresants. You could find yourself right back down in that pit of suicidal despair very quickly. Not good.

    Please, if this is the case, reach out to your friends here that are in the NY area for some help. Reach out to someone, anyone if you need the help.

  16. #16 Marianne
    December 7, 2006

    I’m glad you are getting out but concerned about the circumstances. I’m pretty sure there are free meds programs directly handled by the pharm companies – I’ll see what I can dig up if you have not already tried this – feel free to email me – I’m guessing you can see my email.

  17. #17 Joshua
    December 7, 2006

    I once spent eight hours on suicide watch at a local hospital due to a false alarm from some online friends I barely know who hadn’t spoken to me in months and just happened to read the wrong drunken LJ missive. I wasn’t even suicidal. Everybody at the hospital was very nice to me, but nonetheless it was one of the most hellish experiences in my life, knowing that I could be taken away, restrained, and drugged against my will with little recourse based on almost no evidence.

    I can only imagine how awful it has been for you to stretch out that horror for so long. But, even if your ordeal isn’t ending as well as you hoped, at least it’s ending now. Yeah, I’m a stranger (not even a regular commenter!), so my words mean little, but nonetheless I wish you luck and a safe return to a normal life.

  18. #18 been there, done that (but no birds)
    December 9, 2006

    This caught my eye in your Nov. 17 post:

    How did I manage to get so far without coming to the attention of the mental health system? They asked again and again. Was I aware that I had something wrong with me?

    They shouldn’t be all that surprised. After all, they are supposed to know something about how “mental” illnesses work! It usually takes years to figure out what’s up, and for a lot of us that doesn’t happen until we have a bad episode of one kind or another.

    OTOH, I know from personal experience that they certainly can be clueless. One “professional” I know is prone to come out with lines like, “I know all about that. I have a Master’s degree in psychology.” Bull****. Her Master’s degree and $5 may get her a double cappucino, but she’ll never know half of what we know. We have Ph.D.s from the University of Hard Knocks.

    I’ve suffered from depression since I was about 8, back in the days when they didn’t think kids got depressed; we had our moods, but that was considered a normal part of growing up. I’ve always been subject to “going on a tear” in hectic situations, something I can now chalk up to hypomania, but depression is my prevailing mental state. My depression wasn’t officially diagnosed until I was 42 and did a slow crumble after losing my last job, and the bipolar element wasn’t recognized until about 5 years ago when I came the closest to actual mania that I ever have (mixed, at that, and scary as hell).

    A good friend of mine is 56, and his bipolar wasn’t diagnosed until 4 or 5 years ago. Before that, he’d been a retail store manager and his manias coincided with the holiday shopping season, so he never thought anything of it. He just figured he’d be running on chaos and adrenaline for a few months, and expected to crash and burn exhausted in February after inventory.

    His diagnosis didn’t come until he found himself in the kitchen one day, wondering if he ought to stick that big old knife in his stomach. Luckily he thought better of it and decided to go to the ER instead!

    You shouldn’t have much trouble getting your meds. I’ve been on mine for almost 11 years, and for most of that time I got by on freebies from my doc. I’m now on public assistance waiting for my Social Security appeal, and in the mean time I get free medical care courtesy of the state, so I don’t have to worry about the med supply. If you’re not working, be sure to apply for Social Security right away, and find out what public assistance is available in the mean time. I don’t care what anyone says; there’s no shame in it at all if you need it. It’s been a lifesaver for me! Someone else already mentioned various free and low-cost plans from the pharma companies.

    Good luck with that bitch who’s trying to fleece you. It sounds to me as if she’s trying to pull something on you because she figures you for a “nut case.” It’s amazing, not to mention infuriating, how many people hear “mental illness” and think, “schizo off their rocker” as in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. As my friend and I are fond of saying, “We’re not crazy. We’re not stupid. We’re not incompetent. We’re just depressed!”

    If I had money, I’d be willing to bet that her case would get thrown out in nothing flat if she decided to sue you. That kind of money, and no contract? Fugeddaboutit! On top of that, you could countersue for your parrot’s death. Let her know in no uncertain terms that if she tries to take you to court, you’ll do just that.

    Hang in there. I’m thinking about you a lot.

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