WHY DID SHE JUMP? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disorder By Joan E. Childs, LCSW
A mother’s heart-wrenching story of her daughter’s suicide and the bittersweet healing experience.
Hollywood, FL, October 28, 2014 – Six million people in America suffer from bipolar disorder. Joan Child’s daughter, Pamela, suffered from bipolar, bouncing from doctor to doctor in search of treatment. Yet the demons grew louder, and on a summer day in July 1998, the same day that the Oprah Winfrey show aired a segment on Bipolar Disease, Joan Childs’ 34-year-old-daughter leaped to her death from the window of her father’s 15-story apartment. Why Did She Jump? My Daughter’s Battle with Bipolar Disease (HCI Books – June 2014 – $14.95) is Joan’s haunting story of grief and guilt, yet it is a beautiful story of love and the courage to find peace and purpose once again.
With brutal honesty and vivid detail, Joan recalls how the entire family became entangled with Pam’s illness as they watched her dive deeper into the darkness where no one could reach her. Ironically, Pam and Joan were both psychotherapists yet, with all their credentials and medical knowledge, Pam still could not be saved. Why Did She Jump? masterfully looks back even as it looks forward. Written with vivid memories of Pamela’s troubled yet loving life and the final days of her funeral and shiva (a 7-day mourning period in Judaism), the story will break your heart and then mend it again.
Joan E. Childs, LCSW, has been in private practice since 1978. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker specializing in couples therapy, known as Encounter-Centered Couples Therapy, trained in the first three year Master class with Hedy Schliefer, LMFC. Joan is an expert in Codependency, Inner Child Work, Original Pain Work, and Second Stage Recovery. She is certified in many modalities including a master practitioner in NLP, (neuro-linguistic programming), a master practitioner in EMDR, (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), Supervision, Hypnosis, PAIRS, (Practical Applications for Intimate Relationship Skills), and is a Certified Grief Counselor. She was the first affiliate of the John Bradshaw Center in the United States and has appeared on many national television shows including The Oprah Winfrey Show.
Joan provides lectures, workshops and seminars dedicated to her profession of mental health and women’s issues. She is a spokesperson for bipolar disorder and suicide.
She is the author of The Myth of the Maiden: On Being a Woman (1995), published by Health Communications, Inc. Joan had her own television series, Solutions, dedicated to the memory of her daughter Pamela, which offered information and resources for anyone suffering from mental and mood disorders. She is the founder of the Pamela Ann Glassman Educational Center, in cooperation with the Mental Health Association of South Florida.
Joan lives in Hollywood, Florida and practices in Ft. Lauderdale and Hallandale, Florida.
You can contact her on her website: www.joanechilds.com
Interview Questions from HCI Books, The Life Issues Publisher:
Q: Why Did You Write This Book?
A: I was compelled to write it. It was as if I had no choice. Grievers are nocturnal and the computer called to me each night and my muse drew me to write. I must have used it as a catharsis, a way of discharging the pain of losing my daughter. I sometimes thought it was my daughter who wrote the words I felt in my heart. In addition, I thought the book would be a legacy to leave to my other children as well as to help other families who have suffered similar struggles of mental illness and suicide in their families. The process of loss and grief is a topic that needs to be addressed.
Q: What have you learned from this tragic experience about loss and grief?
A: Everyone experiences loss and grief differently. Loss and grief depend on many factors. There are stages we all go through as time passes. No two people experience it the same. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grieving is the healing feeling and it is vital that we grieve our losses in order to move forward. It eventually becomes a personal choice: to be a victim or a survivor? However, we can’t make that choice until we feel the feelings. We can’t heal what we can’t feel.
Q: What were the issues coupled with this illness; bipolar disorder?
A: It is not an easy disorder to diagnose because it mimics other mental illnesses, not unlike Schizophrenia. To secure a differential diagnosis, it takes time. Our health system lacks so much to support and care for this illness. Quite often there is nowhere for patients to go to be effectively treated. The admission to a psych unit in a hospital often makes the outcome worse because the hospitalization is very short, not leaving adequate time to care properly for the patient. Patients with this disorder need long term treatment and our health care system does not support this need. Quite often addiction to drugs and alcohol are ways for patients to manage their feelings. So, if addicted, they have what is known as a dual diagnosis: addiction and bi-polar disorder. It is impossible to make a differential diagnosis without first dealing with the addiction.
Q: Do you think your daughter might have lived if the proper treatment had been provided?
A: One never knows the outcome of this insidious disease, but if she had been attended to properly, there might have been a chance that she could have been stabilized. Unfortunately, even today, too often psycho-tropic medications are still a hit and miss. They may work with some patients, and not with others, so it takes time to manipulate the medications to see which ones each patient responds to best. In a 2-4 day hospitalization, there is not enough time to allow for medical monitoring and change. This is why most of the homeless are really mentally ill with no place to be treated. If my daughter didn’t have a family, she would have been homeless as well.
Q: Did your daughter ever tell you she was suicidal?
A: No, not even when I finally asked her just two days before she jumped. She sounded lucid with responses that were very reassuring.
Q: Did she leave a note?
A: No. I don’t believe my daughter was in her right mind when she jumped; particularly based on the answers she gave me when I asked her if she was suicidal. I truly believe it was the disease that was her executioner; not her. My daughter loved life and would have never left a legacy of suicide to her parents and siblings. She was too caring and religious to do such an act if she were in her right mind. She was delusional and unable to maintain reality.
Q: Does bipolar disorder often preempt suicide?
A: It often does, but not always. Bipolar disorder is on a spectrum. In fact it has two separate diagnoses: Bipolar I and II. My daughter had Bipolar I, the type that is often related to delusions and hallucinations. As the disease progressed, the delusions, both auditory and visual hallucinations increased. Medication did not work, perhaps because she thought the medication was an agent of the devil. My daughter had a belief system that the devil was going to take her soul. It seemed that as time progressed, so did the disease. It was as if she had cancer of the brain. Her thinking was impaired and it was uncertain if she was even taking the meds prescribed. When she did, she often stayed in a stupor or slept the days away. Without the meds, she was manic and that is when the hallucinations were exacerbated. She was haunted by the thought that she had been chosen as a mediator between the God and the devil and as time passed, the devil was winning out.
Q: In your book you say that your daughter was a PhD and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. How did this impact her career?
A: It might have been said, “How did her career impact her illness?” Pam worked in a highly abbreactive treatment center that helped patients who had been either abused, neglected or abandoned as children. Some of the abuse was so severe that it was difficult for any clinician to go home unaffected from what they heard. Those wounds left scars that she had to release in order to help them in their recovery. In my book I explain in detail about this. She was only 24 years old when she began working at the center. Her personal boundaries had not yet been developed, so she took on unwittingly the toxic energy of those she treated, leaving her powerless and too open. Their pain unconsciously became hers. Instead of being able to separate herself from her clients, she often became enmeshed and this impacted her sense of well-being coupled with her pre-disposition to her illness. I am not sure which came first; the illness or the lack of maturity and boundaries to separate herself from her clients.
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