The views expressed in this story are not necessarily shared or endorsed by PEERS or PEERS staff.
I was on the phone making a call to Dr. Brookman, when my daughter Shen was trying to get a hold of me.
May I speak to Dr. Brookman?”
I was a little surprised. Dr. Brookman is a man, how come I got this female voice answering the phone. Are there two Dr. Brookman? Or maybe this is Dr. Brookman’s wife?
“What can I do for you?” she asked.
“I would like to report about my daughter’s illness.”
“You really don’t recognize my voice?”
“I am old and a bit slow.” By this time, I knew it was Shen. I just try to pretend to see how far she would go to play me.
“Aw, you don’t even recognize your own daughter’s voice, “ she laughed, and I laughed too.
Tiger Le (my husband) stopped by my job for a visit so I told him about this funny incident, and at the same time trying to call Dr. Brookman again. When I told the doctor the story, and how I was not sure if he is Dr. Brookman, he confirmed that he is the real Dr. Brookman. We all laughed. This put everyone in a good mood.
Shen came to our home when she was barely a month old. Tiger and I treated her as our own.
Her insomnia started when she was in the second grade. Every year she would have an episode that lasted two weeks. When she went to 9th grade, sometimes she would not sleep all night and we had to take her to the hospital. We found out that there is something wrong with her brain.
Shen is smart and beautiful and very talented. She can sing, dance, play the piano, draw, and write and has received many awards over the years. The only thing she can’t handle is stress, like when she broke up with her current boyfriend. I thought to myself: can she handle all this stressful situations, one after another like waves rolling in from the ocean?.
Recently there has been a lot of rain and business is slow. Tiger said we should close up and go home for dinner. Right at this moment, the phone started to ring.
“SF Police…,” Tiger got this frightened look on his face. “Ok, I will go and pick her up now.” “Let me have the phone, “ I said and Tiger handed it over. “Hello, Mr. Policeman. What’s wrong? I am frightened.”
“It is your daughter, she’s walking in this pouring rain with a dog, she doesn’t have a raincoat or an umbrella. I stopped her and she said she is taking her meds. I don’t think it is safe for her…”
I wrote down the policeman’s phone number and where we should meet.
“We are in Berkeley, it will take us 45 minutes to an hour to get there. Can you please buy her something to eat? When we arrive, we will pay you back.”
Tiger and I hurried out and got on the road. Thank God no one has kidnapped my daughter and she is fine, I thought.
While we were driving we got a call from the policeman again. “We are taking her to St. Luke’s Emergency. You can meet her there.”
That’s wonderful. Being in the hospital is a lot safer and out of the rain too. We finally arrived at St. Luke’s and found Shen. She was sitting on a bed, and the sheets were soaked. The little dog was sitting next to her (this is the first time I saw a dog in the ER). She was in a room where they store medicine, nurses go in and out constantly. It’s good that the cabinets are locked, and patients cannot get into it.
“Shen, are you hungry?”
“I feel ok. Someone gave me a hamburger.” Her hands were shaking and they felt cold. I wondered if she was cold or if it was the side effects of her medicine.
At that moment, I noticed that her jeans were soaking wet, so the wet sheets were from the jeans. Her shoes were wet too. I took off her shoes. Her feet were all wrinkly and swollen and they looked puffy from the rain water in her shoes.
I asked the nurse for a top, pants, slippers and something for Shen to eat. She said ok but never responded back to me. I had to ask three different nurses and finally the hospital guard gave me a pair of hospital pants for Shen. She also tried to help me put on slippers thinking that I was the patient.
“Shen darling, do you want us to switch clothes so you can leave and I stay here? They won’t know the difference.” She laughed. I felt a little comfort with her laugh, it meant she was ok.
I went outside and saw a nurse eating her dinner at the nurses station.
I asked, “Is it ok if my husband goes and picks up some food for my daughter?”
“Sure.” It didn’t look like they would give Shen any more food, so I told Tiger to go get something.
He complained, “It is almost 10 pm. Where am I supposed to get food?”
“I am sure you can find something if you drive around.” This reminded me of Shen’s car. She probably had no recollection of it. So I called the nice policeman and asked if they could look around for it.
Shen said, “Mom, what a long day!”
“You are tired, ask the nurse for some medicine and have a good night’s rest.”
At that moment, one of the nurses came in and asked us to follow her to another room down the hall. She also handed us a pen and a piece paper and said the doctor wanted to talk to us on the phone.
The psychiatrist asked, “Do you think Shen needs to be checked into the hospital?”
“That would be wonderful. It will keep her safe. She started her illness in August. Have you had a chance to see her?”
“I saw her via the computer and chatted with her a little.”
“She is very tired. Can she have some meds to help her sleep?”
“I will make arrangements for that. Now this would be 51/50. This hospital does not have a Mental Health Services department. Wherever we find one, we will be sending her there.”
“Ok, that would be fine.”
After a short while, the nurse brought some medication in. Shen saw it and said no, she is not going to take this kind of meds, and asked for sleeping pills instead.
The nurse looked angry, “There is nothing else, only this one.”
“Can you please give her something to eat with this meds? This is too strong to take on an empty stomach.”
The nurse didn’t say anything.
“Shen, can I take the dog home?”
“No.” She doesn’t trust us. (This is part of her illness.)
The nurse interrupted, “How about a dog boarding place?” Shen agreed.
I asked, “How much do they charge per day?” The nurse looked at us disdainfully. If the nurse said to have us take the dog home, Shen would agree too.
“Ok, time’s up. You two should leave now.” said the nurse.
“Can we just wait till we find out where she is going before we leave?”
“No, we are waiting for a bed in any hospital and if she doesn’t like that hospital, she can go home.”
“But the doctor said this is 51/50.”
“Don’t let her leave by herself, she will get lost. You need to contact me, please!”
“I want you to leave, NOW.”
We left immediately so we won’t upset Shen any further.
At the doorway, in a last ditch attempt, I asked the nurse, “Can you please give her some food?”
“We will not starve her,” were her words.
That Shen did not have enough warm clothing, and was lying on a bed with wet sheets without a blanket saddened me, but there is nothing I could do since I was not allowed there.
Tiger and I spent 45 minutes looking for Shen’s car. We went back to the area where Shen was stopped by the policeman. The car was nowhere to be found. When the policeman initially called us, he had said that the car was parked outside a small cafe, but it wasn’t there either. People usually meet at restaurants or cafes, so from now on if I want to look for anyone, that’s the first place I would go. We also passed by a park, Shen could have taken the dog for a walk here too, but we had no luck. So we turned around and went home.
The next morning, Tiger went straight to SF Police Department to report Shen’s missing car. The policeman told him that since Shen lives in San Pablo, he should go to the San Pablo Police Department to report.
When we called them, they told us that wherever Shen is staying, we should report to that city’s department. So I decided I should check in with St. Louis Hospital. The operator told us that Shen was discharged and left the hospital.
“What? She already left? She is not supposed to leave,” I yelled into the phone.
“Let me check again. Oh, she was sent to Fremont Hospital – Adult Inpatient Program.”
“What time?” I asked.
“Early morning at 5:15 am.”
“You scared me. Next time you should check before you say anything.”
I don’t have a very good impression of St. Luke’s.
Since Shen is in Fremont now, I needed to check with the Police Department there. I had some doubts, but the line was already connected. So I gave them all the details.
“You mean I am to contact the SF Police Department?”
“Are you giving us the runaround?”
“No, we just don’t want the responsibility. If the car is in Fremont and a police officer found it and there’s a robber holding a gun in the car, he would be in danger.”
“Thank you for your explanation.” I decided right then and there to call the tow truck company everyday to check on Shen’s car. If it was there, I would spend a few hundred dollars to get it back home.
I called Fremont Hospital to check on Shen, but was unable to find out any details because of doctor-patient confidentiality. I was tired and disappointed, so I would not be able to go visit her for the next couple of days.
This morning when I woke up, I got a call from Datt, a friend of Shen who lives in Fremont. “Hello, Mrs. Le. How’s everything?”
Since I didn’t want to disclose anything concerning Shen, I didn’t know what to say. Both of us were silent on the phone for a little bit. Finally, I broke the silence and told her where Shen was. Datt replied that Shen had already contacted her and asked if she can stay at her house for a few days. Datt felt stuck in the middle because Shen is her friend but her husband would not let Shen come. She started crying on the phone.
“Datt, your husband is right not to let Shen stay at your house. What if Shen sneaks out in the middle of the night, where will you find her? Besides, she has us (her parents). She can always come home.” Datt wouldn’t stop crying.
“Well, I guess Shen doesn’t feel safe staying at her own place. If you are willing, and when she is discharged from the hospital, why don’t you go over to her house and stay with her for a few days?”
Datt, “I am going to the hospital tonight to visit her.”
“Good, let’s keep in touch.”
The next day, a car stopped in front of the store. A middle age man in sunglasses stepped out.
He asked, “Where is Shen? I would like to get in touch with her.”
“Are you Louie?” He nodded. Shen had mentioned him before.
“Please park your car over there and come in. We can chat.”
He had a weary look on his face. So I told him about Shen and said I would let her know that he had stopped by. If she wants to, she can get in touch with him. We exchanged phone numbers.
Louie told me he works close to Fremont and he will help look for Shen’s car.
“Thank you so much, but it is ok. Don’t worry. Safety first.”
“After Shen stopped taking her meds, she was ok for the first three days. But by the fourth day, she started acting up.”
“Do you know where her cell phone is?”
“Maybe in her car. When will she get discharged?”
“I am not sure. But if Shen asks you to pick her up from the hospital, please don’t. You need to let me know.”
We said goodbye and I knew that I now had another one of Shen’s friends to count on for support.
As expected, Beehn called. Beehn is Shen’s best friend. She said she misses Shen very much because they always see each other during the day. Love or friendship? I am not sure and this is not the time to find out, especially if it is a same-sex relationship.
“Beehn, my daughter is still in the hospital getting treatment. Don’t worry, I will make sure she knows you asked about her. I am sorry but I cannot go into other details.” I met Beehn once before. She is all alone, no mom, and her dad doesn’t support her. Her job is to help those people with mental health experiences that were just discharged from the hospital. She herself has some mental health experiences too.
After Shen has been in the hospital for four days, she called her dad and asked if he could bring the dog home. I was a little surprised because she usually asked me to take care of things of this nature. I contacted the dog boarding place and they told me that they would release the dog to us only with Shen’s permission.
This gave me a good excuse to call Shen and ask her about the dog Shen then told me the dog actually belongs to both Louie and her. I told Tiger that if the dog belongs to both of them, when Louie comes back from New York, then he can go bring the dog home.
“Louie doesn’t have any money.”
“I don’t care. This is like a bottomless well. Both of them need to learn to take some responsibility.”
“I want to go see Shen tomorrow.” Tiger was missing his daughter.
“Ok, can you ask Shen if she wants to see Beehn? If she is willing, then take Beehn with you since she doesn’t drive.”
I got off early on Sunday, and both Tiger and I went to pick up Beehn. She was waiting on the sidewalk smoking and holding a Diet Coke. I couldn’t help but think that it was a good thing we didn’t let her move and stay in Shen’s living room. The support group told us that Shen needs a roommate with healthy living habits.
The three of us arrived at Fremont Hospital. We had to wait until visiting hours since Fremont Hospital is a psychiatric hospital and they have very strict rules for visitors. Beehn went in first but came out less than 10 minutes after looking a little upset.
I told Tiger that we needed to look happy when we went in. I took a deep breath, hoping that the beautiful weather and a positive attitude would work wonders. I asked the staff there if we can have a mediator.
She said she will go in with us. I turned around and saw Shen standing there, doesn’t look like she slept much. “I want to go home.” Then she continued rapidly, “I have nothing to do here, I am afraid I am going crazy.”
Seeing a lot of chairs and tables around, I said, “Why don’t we sit down and talk about it?” Then I realized that the mediator had somehow slipped away without me realizing it.
Shen said, “It was you that moved my things, moved my medicine and my clothes.” She saw her dad and started walking towards him.
“I know you may think it, but I didn’t take your things.” I gave Tiger a look/hint for him to go outside so Shen wouldn’t get more upset.
I continued calmly, “Now that there’s just the two of us, can you tell me why you want to go home?”
“I want to be with my friends. It’s too boring here. If you say ok, then they will let me leave.”
“Dear, I can only take you home if the doctor gives us permission.” I walked slowly towards the nurses’ station hoping that they had heard our conversation, but they didn’t. So I asked, “Can my daughter go home?”
The nurse looked through Shen’s report, “No, not until the 27th.”
“Is she cooperating with taking the meds?”
“Well, she only wants to take a certain kind and not the one that we are giving her.”
“What kind of meds are we talking about?”
“The one for psychosis.”
This was the most important one for her to take. Glancing over at Shen, I saw her holding several bags, standing by the dining room saying goodbye to the other patients.
I asked one of the nurses to open the door for me so I could leave right away. I didn’t even want to say goodbye to Shen, as I couldn’t bear her begging me to go home.
I remember when she was in kindergarten I did almost the same thing. I asked the teacher to hold her and I ran off. It seems to me that time is at a standstill or is it going backwards, with both of us stuck in that time zone, never grow up. I felt a sense of loss.
On the way back, Beehn commented that Shen ignored her, all she wanted was for us to take her home.
“I know, but remember she is not in good health and she is not thinking straight. Please forgive her for ignoring you.”
Beehn, “Well, it is up to you two to decide when she can come home. If she stays here longer, she will definitely go crazy.”
I thought to myself, will boredom make her feel worse? I am a little worried and also a little doubtful. All the way home, I kept thinking of ways to solve the problem of her uncooperativeness with her medication. All of a sudden, it dawned on me to check in with my friend Hwa, since her mom frequently stops taking her meds.
Hwa told me that with Mary’s referral, her mom moved into a convalescent home and had been monitored very carefully with medication. However, this convalescent home only accepts patients that are over the age of 65. I contacted Mary right away and she very enthusiastically suggested that I fill out Form AB1424 with info on Shen’s diagnosis and history of hospitalization to communicate more closely with the County’s providers.
After Tiger and I sent out Form AB1424, Shen called the next day and was very upset.
“You sent in paperwork to the doctors and now they are saying I am a dangerous person. I will go to court tomorrow, I am going to leave this place.”
“Dear, this is just a misunderstanding. All we did was to let the doctor know what we know and help you out.”
“I AM NOT DANGEROUS!!”
Now I understand, we had used the word dangerous on Form AB1424. Instead of using “dangerous” we should have said ‘not stable and not safe.’
I called Mary and she informed that she had forgotten to tell me to write “Confidential” on the form, that way the doctor would not have said anything to Shen.
On Tuesday, I went to see Shen, she looked rested.
I asked, “What did the judge say in court?” She replied, “This is between the judge, the doctor and myself.” The court is inside the hospital, when patients refuse to take meds, the judge will make a final decision.
While we were talking, Shen saw a male doctor, so she immediately walked over to him, “You said I can go home.” “Yes, I did. You are better, did you want to leave tonight?” It made Shen happy to hear that she can go home.
I stepped in and said to the doctor sternly, “No, Doctor. We are only here to visit, we are not planning to take her home. We are not ready for that at all.”
“How about tomorrow?”
“No, we are busy.”
“Ok, then the the day after tomorrow.”
“Doctor, before Shen can be discharged, we are supposed to meet with Shen’s primary doctor and social worker to work out all the details, the get well plan,” I said.
Shen insisted that she wanted to leave now.
“No, the day after tomorrow when you are better. You need to stay here, cooperate with the doctor and nurses and take your medication.”
Our original discharge date was the 27th and now was moved up to the 19th. I thought: Is Shen really better?
On the 19th, Tiger and I went to Fremont Hospital promptly and were led into a room. The doctor was not present, only the social worker. I felt deflated. The social worker went out and brought Shen in. She didn’t look like she had slept well at all.
“I hope that after discharge, Shen can join Dr. Brookman’s support group. His program is very structured, and I heard that the recovery rate is very high.” I had checked out all the info and was very well prepared before I came to this meeting.
A social worker interjected, “Shen belongs to Kaiser, she needs to join their support group.”
“She did belong to Kaiser, but the program didn’t work for her and it is not enough.”
After more lengthy discussions, Shen agreed to go to Dr. Brookman’s program. She also emphasized that she only needed sleeping pills to help her sleep, but not medication for psychosis.
I told Shen, “Unless you cooperate with the doctors here, I will not take you home.”
Shen replied, “Then I will sit on the floor and not get up. And you were the one that went in my room, took my medication even though my room was locked.”
I turned to the social worker, “Mister, look at her, do you think she can be discharged in this condition?” I was a little upset.
He looked at the clock on the wall, “It’s lunch time. Shen, why don’t you go get some food? And your parents can take a walk and come back at 1:30.”
Shen asked, “You will come back, won’t you?” She has this wishful look in her eyes. My heart softened. “Don’t worry!” I made the same mistake without insisting on her taking her medication.
I left the hospital and took BART back to work since I don’t want to wait around till 1:30pm. I left everything for Tiger to take care of. At around 3 pm, Tiger and Shen came home. They had gone to pick up the medication, but without getting in touch with the doctor, the pharmacy would not fill the prescription.
When we got to Shen’s apartment, we realized that Shen did not have the key to her room, just the key to the front door. I complained that I had asked her before many times to get a spare key for her room, but she never gave it to me.
Shen said, “I can sleep in the living room.” It was too cold to sleep in the living room. I called Beehn and asked if she could have dinner with Shen and watch her take her medication.
Beehn agreed immediately, but asked me to take her home after 9 pm.
On the way to Beehn’s house, Beehn said, “You should stay over at Shen’s apartment tonight.”
We had ordered take out and the delivery person had looked very much like David, Shen’s ex-boyfriend. Shen had gone outside and talked to him like was going to go away with him.
Beehn asked, “Did she take her meds?”
“Yes, she did.”
“Thank you, you are the best.”
“Shen only wanted to take 10 mg, but I told her the bottle said 20 mg. So she took it.”
“I get it, don’t say the doctor wants her to take 20 mg, but that the bottle said 20 mg.”
It had been a long day and I felt really tired. Back at Shen’s place, Shen offered me the sofa and said she would sleep on the floor. I felt warmth in my heart: my daughter loves me. We talked and finally agreed that she would sleep on the sofa with her doggie, and I would sleep on the floor next to the sofa.
When I woke up in the morning, Shen was gently pushing the blanket away from my face, worried that I might suffocate. I felt the inner love for her once again. I also felt a sense of guilt because I no longer had the patience I used to have.
On Friday, I’ve arranged for Louie to keep Shen company. In the afternoon, my phone rang and it was Louie. I was a little nervous picking up the phone.
“What’s the matter, Louie?”
“We found the car.”
“How did you do that?”
“Actually Shen led us to the car.”
“Can you share the story with me? But, no personal stuff…” Louie Laughed.
“Shen said she had parked her car at work, then took taken BART to San Francisco. But there was no BART station by her work place. So we went around to the closest stations. Then close to the second station, we saw a yogurt shop and Shen thought the place looked familiar. We circled around and saw the car.”
I thanked Louie immensely, then thought of Shen’s locked door and the missing key.
“Is Shen’s door key in the car?”
“Yes, it’s there, but not her cell phone.”
“Oh, no! That’s not good. No way to connect with friends and it is the weekend too.”
“Shen is better now. Yesterday she was saying that she has nothing, no car, no cell phone, no key to get in her room, nothing at all. Then she laughed out loud and now she has a lot of things.”
“Tonight Beehn and I will stay with Shen.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful. I can rest easy now,” I said.
Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day, with the sun shining. I felt it symbolized a new beginning and I was ready to support my daughter going through this recovery period and especially with the help of her two friends, Louie and Beehn. Shen likes driving and and listening to music. Sometimes she would hum along and since none of her friends could drive, she felt proud to own a car and drive them around.
One night, Tiger came to the store to help me. The phone started to ring and Tiger picked it up,
“Yes, I am her father. Ok, I will go and pick her up.”
Tiger told me that Shen was walking alone with her little doggie in Bodega Bay. Someone saw her and called the police. After talking to her for a little bit, the police felt she didn’t sound right, so they called Tiger to go pick her up.
“Are you going to go pick her up?”
“Yes, the police asked me to.”
“No, don’t go. What if she wants to get out in the middle of the way home, and you don’t know the area. What are you going to do?”
“Yes, I do remember something similar happened in the past.”
I called the police and told him the situation. He put me on hold and checked with his superior. He came back on line and said they decided to take Shen to the Crisis Center in the city.
I asked him why not take her back to Fremont Hospital since she was just discharged last Thursday. The Policeman replied that he didn’t have that authority.
I persisted and asked if he knew where Shen’s car is. He said no. I asked if he can get her something to eat, it’s possible that she had not had any food all day.
Tiger and I quickly closed up the shop to leave for the Crisis Center. I called ahead and learned that she is there, but they cannot give out any other information because it is confidential. So we decided to go home instead. Before we even got there, Shen’s best friend called and said Shen already drove herself home. I got really upset because Crisis Center should not have let her leave and let alone drove herself home. It is dangerous and they were being irresponsible.
I called them angrily, but they said that we should check to see how Shen got home first.
We got to Shen’s house, she informed us that the police drove her home. She said, “It should be ok if I sit in the back seat , right?” I told her that usually people that commit crimes sit in the back, but she is not, so she is actually a guest of honor . I laughed.
“Where is your car now?”
Shen didn’t respond.
“Was it towed?”
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Tomorrow after work, let’s go find the car. It would be nice if Beehn comes with us.” I thought if Beehn came with us, then Shen would not ask to get out somewhere on the way back. Beehn agreed to help out.
“What were you doing at Bodega Bay?”
“Looking for true love.”
I told Shen calmly, “Shen, you are such a good writer. Why don’t you write a story called “Looking for True Love” and illustrate it with a picture of a young woman with long hair, standing in the midst of a scenic area with her dog, looking through wildflowers. I don’t want to say more, you are very creative, I know you can write a good story.” She smiled. I was happy that I was able to make her smile.
Before going to bed, I told Tiger that we should look for Shen’s car tomorrow but not let her have it back until she was well.
The next day we picked up Beehn and went over to Shen’s apartment and went out looking for the car. I overheard Beehn ask Shen why she went to Bodega Bay. Shen said she just followed the car in front and her intuition.
“Well, lately your intuition had not been quite on point.” Everyone laughed.
Shen then continued and said she thought she went into someone’s car also — something that’s very dangerous. Beehn and I didn’t say a word because we were shocked.
I remembered what Louie had said about the last time we lost her car, so we started in the direction of what Shen last remembered. Shen said she remembered a 7-11 around. We drove around and then I spotted Shen’s car near a 7-11. What luck! And Shen did not insist on driving the car back.
I said to her in front of Beehn, “Shen, both your friend and the police thought that it would be best for you not to drive temporarily. When you get better, you can.” She didn’t argue.
Since Beehn agreed to stay with Shen that night, I suggested getting some groceries for them. They both wanted to stay in the car, so I had to get out and pick up the food. I thought to myself, when will this ever end? I told both of them to make dinner, and then I headed home.
I am not as young as I used to be and I am exhausted physically and mentally.