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"I felt scared out of my mind, which translated into more crazy behavior," Becker continues. "I'd take people's things. I'd answer the patients' phones, 'Good afternoon, Royale Country Club.' For doing that, I'd get dragged down the hall, four-pointed on the bed and shot with drugs."
After a few weeks, she was released. "I was such a handful that they said, 'Yup, this one's bipolar—moving on.' Although her boyfriend had called her at the hospital, he was afraid of her, and it didn't help that she pounded on his door and broke his flower pots. "By March, I'd run him out of the state," she says. "I scared the daylights out of him. I was so impossible; I was such a monster. I was broken and bald, and all I had was my mom and dad. Everyone else had left me."
Becker was prescribed the antipsychotic medication Haldol, which turned her into a zombie. "I'd go for a walk and look like an invalid," she recalls. "I spent a good year without any friends or interactions. I tried to drink every time I could, thinking it would change the way I was feeling."
Gradually, though, she started feeling better, grew some hair, got a job and a new boyfriend. She kept drinking, however. "Even with the drinking, I'd still get really angry or weepy or high-energy." Her friends and parents urged her to take her meds, but she refused. "You're not going to listen when it makes too much sense," she reasons.
Becker's second manic episode occurred in 2005. A friend was ill with colon cancer, so she went to see him. She found him dead. "It was disturbing, so I thought I'd sit until the people from the funeral home got there. When I finally left, I was overwhelmed," she recalls. "I pulled over to a bar. I sat there drinking a Greyhound, crying."
Perhaps precipitated by the shock of her friend's death, another manic episode began. (Doctors believe they can last three to four weeks.) "I started buying the newspaper at 3 a.m. and making calls at 4 a.m.," she says. "I'd reorganize my father's business office. One day, I got into an argument with my mom; the neighbors in the office complex called the police, and the policemen remembered me from 1999. I went to a Chamber of Commerce luncheon and yelled that they needed to send us business. Someone called my mom and said I needed help."
She met her current boyfriend, Curtis Waldschmidt, now 38, during this manic period. Driving by the soup kitchen, she saw him and said, "You're cute; get in my car."
A former professional ballet dancer, Waldschmidt shared Becker's alcohol issues. When she picked him up, Waldschmidt recalls, "She was cute; it was fun." Of course, he had no idea what he was getting himself into. "She was very spontaneous," he says. "I thought she was just a wild-and-crazy chick. She'd be having a blast one minute, in tears the next. I'm a lot more educated now as to what was happening."
Becker was convinced she would give jobs and money to the mentally ill homeless, a textbook case of the grandiose thinking that often accompanies manic episodes. "They weren't listening to me," she says. "So I started setting fires in Lions Park [in Costa Mesa] to get their attention. I snatched someone's blanket, set it on fire in a barbecue pit and dropped it in a field." (She later encountered her homeless victim in a 12-step program and apologized.)
During a brief moment of clarity, Becker ran up to a police officer and told him, "You better 5150 me." The police took her to the hospital but cited her for arson. She was released after two weeks in the hospital and moved into a homeless shelter.
On the night before her next court appearance, she and Waldschmidt walked all night to the courthouse; they arrived too late the next morning.
"They put me in jail for 10 days over Thanksgiving," she recalls. "I was crying my eyes out. After my parents reunited with me over the phone, they hired an attorney who understood mental illness." The judge let her go with a stern warning to take her medication and stay out of trouble.
"I don't know why the magic bell went off, but it did," says Becker. "Jail really got my attention. I started a drug regimen that worked; a little weight gain, a little hair loss. It makes me appreciate how good I have it, in terms of the illness. I haven't gained 80 pounds. I don't twitch; I don't mumble."
Becker also sees a therapist and goes to 12-step groups. She and Waldschmidt talked a little after her jailing and hospitalization but drifted apart. "She wasn't as together as she is today," he says. "She was much more in denial about being bipolar. She wasn't into therapy or taking her meds. I was drinking and struggling to find work."
They reconnected five years later at a meeting. "Now that we're sober, there's a lot more communication," he says. It's amazing how candid she can be; it's kind of magical." Both have now been in recovery for more than three years.
I am a paranoid schizophrenia. with major depression and I am a Kelly Thomas and I offended by those whom create dilution of all cops are bad...there are a few and being homeless for 12 years before MHSA act I was a true Kelly thomas and now I am his voice and saddened by this article use a true person such as myself or other whom are still out there...: :(
133.000 people unemployed in Orange County California
10.7 percent unemployment rate in Costa Mesa equals NO NEW JOB GROWTH.
I have been applying for jobs for the past 4 years and have not heard nearly a thing from any employers and they are still laying people off in order to cut costs.
70 more people just lost thier jobs in Costa Mesa California yesterday when the City handed them their firing slips before Christmas, after they elected Republinut Jim Righeimer to the Mayorship position, I voted against him for his lost initiative Measure V that lost by a 10 to one margin at the polls so why is that fatso in the mayorship when no one likes him, to outsource the jobs that have cost the county millions.that they could have invested but instead squandered away on useless projects.
We the citizens will not work with Jim Righeimer in the Mayorship. I am one of those citizens and I will not work with Jim Righeimer, I do not care if he is the mayor. Take him out of the mayors chair.
Who is the dumba** that put the concrete pylons up in the middle of Broadway Street in Costa Mesa and ruined the bicycle lanes?
"80 percent of all cops are criminals and they violate the laws while they are on duty" And they are getting paid to be the criminals against the citizenry - So the cops are themselves the criminals but they look at you the citizen as more of one than they are then why are you giving them the pass for committing crimes that they do not understand. They are using violence against the citizenry, and this is allowable in extreme circumstances because they have guns strapped to thier sides and they use them sometimes not all that effectively, even the tazers that they carry have inflicted death upon people that did not deserve it because of the extreme electricity that they mete out,so what is the real answer and sometimes thier isn't one after they have deceased a person even with the tazer.
A high functioning patient with bipolar disorder such as Lisa's does not compare to a person suffering the neurological developmental brain disease of schizophrenia. She could understand the pros and cons of treatment and the risks of refusing medical treatment. She appears to be spared the frontal lobe damage most with schizophrenia develop. So until there is a cure for schizophrenia, and we have the political will to use the millions of dollars in MHSA money this county receives annually meant to supervise, monitor and treat these high risk, unengaged patients-such as Kelly Thomas-they will continue to become homeless, commit suicide, compromise community safety, and be left for law enforcement to manage the "gap in care" our county behavioral health department has been allowed to ignore.
This is Jennifer Hoff,
You have used our story as footing for your own.....Lauras Law is not meant for folks as well as Ms. Becker....it is for the sickest of the sick....those like my son Matthew Hoff (story by Michelle Woo) you referenced in your article.
My heart is breaking and I will share why.
You are helping the MI reduce stigma by writing about this inspiring woman's journey to recovery yet by linking her quotes "if my mom had a bad hair day...." to OUR STORY you have created a false sense of FEAR like most media outlets do....Fear that we will somehow start running around and "locking everyone up" against their will.
Let me break it down for you a bit:
1. The OCHCA does not care about our SERIOUSLY mentally ill...those without insight who think they are from the sky are left to die in the gutter (KELLY THOMAS)
2. Without Lauras Law folks as sick as MY SON will continue to got to JAIL instead of a hospital....in other words his behavior is dangerous but our county does NOT have to offer any treatment because we have not adopted mandated outpatient treatment.
3. Families like ours are DESPERATE to educate the public about the small but very sick population of individuals like my son...we want to keep the COMMUNITY safe and our loved ones safe but are being PREVENTED from doing so because our county does not want to spend the $$$$ on treatment for this population.
4. The bleed to lead media descends on stories about violence with MI then claims GUN CONTROL as the culprit not a nation wide mental health crisis or the need for Reforming our Civil Commitment Laws so families like ours can keep our loved ones and you alive.
Please consider contacting us next time when you point to our story as a validation for assumptions your are drawing through the treads of your writing....the take away from this article is to be afraid of mandated outpatient treatment.
I urge your readers to believe the opposite...that WITHOUT mandated treatment no one is protected.
Too often law enforcement officers have no option to deal with mentally ill other than taking people to Royale....where they are often released within 24 hours, or Royale cannot take them because they are at capacity.
The key is finding the right combination of medications that work, and more importantly, for the patients to take their medications on a regular basis. The most common complaint I hear is that patients do not like the way the medication makes them feel, even though it helps them. Also, some patients enjoy the extreme highs they get, the memories of which seem to outweigh the extreme lows they also hit.
While I certainly respect patient rights and understand both sides of the forced medication argument, law enforcement, the courts and mental health professionals need to have greater leeway in making this happen.
I once arrested a guy who had assumed a completely new persona and identity. Fingerprints revealed his true identity. I tracked down his family in another state, contacted them, and they said their schizophrenic son had walked out on his wife and three kids (also in another state) two years earlier and they had not heard from him since. They said their son does very well when medicated. I confronted the son about his true identity, which he completely denied. He had no warrants and had no reason to be lying. I put him on the phone with his father, and the son got very angry that the stranger on the phone was claiming to be his father. It was not an act. I called out the CAT team in an attempt to 5150 him, but they denied my request, because the guy was taking pretty good care of himself physically (bathing, eating, seeking shelter, etc.). Yet he was so mentally ill he literally did not know his own name.
This was a guy who, after a few days of forced medication, would have awakened from his illness, realized that he had abandoned his loving family and children, and had wasted two years of his life on the street. As it was, because I had verified his true identity, I had no choice but to release him from jail with a citation for a minor violation.
Very frustrating. There is also a stunning lack of available drug and mental health services for indigents who would like to seek treatment.
Also....while I sympathize with any parent of a schizophrenic, please stop identifying Ron Thomas as a former OCSD deputy until a reporter actually has questioned him about it and verified the details of his alleged employment.
Well written, great topic. Now we just have to hope society at large starts to understand that mental health is just as important as physical health.
@MommyDissident I'm sorry for your situation sister, and though I enjoyed this article for a variety of reasons, I agree with you, and I am not an expert of any kind, other than having a neighbor for several years with schizophrenia and multiple personality disorder who would not take his medication because he didn't like the way it made him feel. Those were some of the worst years of my life, it was absolute hell listening to him all hours of the day, and no one can comprehend the things we heard. He was violent against himself, threatened himself and others, we called the police multiple times, they said it's not against the law to be crazy. He was finally kicked out and had to move somewhere else, but I feel sorry for his new neighbors. His parents and friends basically have left him to rot, and they don't seem to really care about him, or anyone else around him, because they have not forced/pushed him into treatment or hospitalization. I truly think one day I will hear that he blew his brains out, hopefully not setting the building on fire wherever he is first.
Schizophrenia is a brain disease. Its a neurological developmental brain disorder. Its not "mental" its not "behavioral" its "physical" its a biological organic brain disease-period. We do have diseases that occur in the organ of the brain-the brain is not magically exempt. Society just lacks real education on brain diseases and its signs and symtoms.
@fastgurrrl @MommyDissident That you very much for the kind words. It sounds like you experienced first hand what is like to be a neighbor of someone who is very sick....and the sad thing is even if his family wanted to help our laws actually prevent parents from intervening after age 18 despite everyone "knowing" they simply have NO rights under the law to help their loved one get help....the Health Care Agency is our gate keeper to care in the OC....and they only help....well actually not sure if they help anyone who is not 100% voluntary. If we lost Kelly Thomas (homeless, beaten) to their system then the system is set up to help absolutely no-one.
@opinion11 She doesn't have schizophrenia, she is bipolar. While I'm sure, ultimately, we'll learn that all "mental illness" has a physiological basis I suspect that we are years away from that. Besides that, nothing you state changes what I said, society turns a blind eye to any disorder that lacks "empirical" evidence.
thats the problem>>the term "mental health" includes everything from stress at work to the disease of schizophrenia. You can measure everyones level of mental health-same as measuring everyones cardiac health-it ranges from great>poor.. No wonder society is confused-the disease is one side of the coin and the persons ability to recover is the level of their mental health/wellness. Its also confusing to have a diagnosis that is also a symptom-ie: anxiety/depression. Many of these disorders need to be renamed to represent the true underlying medical condition.
@opinion11 I've represented a variety of clients with mental health issues. One of the most difficult is severe depression. I almost had to pull on the tongue of the "Medical Expert" at an SSI hearing to get him to admit that depression can have physical symptoms including pain.
No she doesnt have schizophrenia..she clearly states she has bipolar disorder. The two are vastly different. She helps educate officers about mental illness-which includes the brain disease of schizophrenia. Im concerned society will look at her and believe all patients with "mental illness" can recover to her level. Society is vastly confused about brain disease and mental health. They get the two mixed up. There is heart disease and then cardiac rehab/recovery. Rehab depends on the severity of the underlying disease process. People who need more "emperical evidence" probably dont believe Alzheimers exists either. None of the neurological diseases have a specific blood test. They are all diagnosed by a neurological exam and brain scans. Brain damage clearly shows up on a MRI for patients with schizophrenia-while there is none with bipolar disorder.