“I didn’t want to give up. I had hope!” explained Marsha, a client at Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center. “But, there were times I would rather die than have to live the rest of my life like that.”
Marsha’s story is not an uncommon one. Millions of people struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues that drastically change their day-to-day lives. However, help is available.
In the latter part of September 2021, Marsha was diagnosed with general anxiety disorder. Before her diagnosis, Marsha was an outgoing and independent 69-year-old mother and grandmother. She regularly attended her grandsons’ sporting events and activities. She drove to Topeka to meet up with her sister frequently. She bought her own groceries. She paid her own bills. She worked in her yard. There was never a question of whether she needed help – she did it ALL!
But, in early fall 2021, something changed. “It’s like I was all of a sudden wired. I just felt wired,” said Marsha. “I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t sit still. My heart was beating too fast. I just didn’t feel like myself at all. I was worried about everything.”
That same day, Marsha drove herself to the local emergency room, looking for answers. “I couldn’t take it anymore, but I didn’t want anyone to know how I felt,” she commented. “I have never been like this and I didn’t want anyone to see me like that.” The ER staff helped her get an appointment with her doctor the next day. After trying some medication, Marsha disclosed she didn’t feel any better.
After a couple of weeks of this behavior, Marsha’s daughter Dawne knew it was time for someone else to step in. Upset and worried about her mother’s sudden change, she called Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center’s crisis services. Marsha started regular visits with outpatient therapist Dr. Antigone Means via Zoom meetings and her crisis case manager Kylie Cromer (currently serving as assertive community treatment team lead) with in-person appointments in her home. During this same time, Marsha underwent a physical medical examination (with CT and MRI scans), as well, to rule out any kind of physical health problems as the root cause. There were no obvious answers.
As they were looking for ways to help, Marsha’s condition continued. Two months went by with Marsha never leaving the house. “I was worried about having enough groceries and running out of things. I was worried about taking a shower – that I might pass out. I didn’t go out in my yard, in case something happened to me out there. I didn’t want to drive my car – I was afraid to! I’ve lit my own pilot light a hundred times – but, I was fearful of how to do that. Everything scared me. I didn’t have the confidence to do anything. I just sat there, worrying,” stated Marsha.
Dawne had never seen her mother this way, saying, “Mom looked 100 years old bent over sitting in her chair, wringing her hands.” She later confirmed that it was a very different image than the one from just a few months earlier. During the summer, Marsha traveled frequently and even rode the jet ski at the lake with her grandson.
“When I first met her, she was nearly catatonic,” explained Kylie. “But, the more we visited, the more she came around. Her grandsons were big motivators for her. She wanted to make it to their activities and see them more. So, we worked toward focusing on the positives and making relevant steps to get to those milestone moments, such as prom or graduation.”
At the beginning of Kylie and Marsha’s relationship, Marsha shared that she was always nervous before Kylie came over. “I don’t even really know why I was nervous, but I was,” pointed out Marsha. “Kylie was great at giving me advice and making me do ‘homework’ between our visits. I kept doing those things, getting more and more out of my comfort zone, because I didn’t want to have to tell her I hadn’t tried.”
During a recent visit, Kylie and Marsha caught up with a weekly chat about family, personal goals (for both of them), and random musings they both smiled and laughed about – just like two old friends. They built a relationship based on trust and compassion that led to Marsha’s gradual recovery.
“It’s taken me a whole year to get back out doing ‘normal’ things,” commented Marsha. “I still worry. But, I’m trying to just go and do things, instead of letting the anticipatory worry stop me.”
In early fall 2022, Marsha started to build enough confidence to get out and about, again. In late September, she surprised everyone by making a trip an hour away to go shopping.
“I about fell out of my chair when I found out,” exclaimed Kylie. “I’m so proud of her! During our sessions, we worked on a variety of different tasks such as going out to the car, driving around the block, driving out of the city limits, going to get something to eat…just everyday things, and building up to bigger activities. To see her smiling about doing something she used to love was exciting! She’s put in the work to be successful!”
While Marsha confesses she still has a ways to go before she’s completely back to her old self, she was happy to share that recently she’s been out to eat, got her driver’s license renewed, got a haircut and shopped for a new pair of shoes – all activities she had spent nearly a year avoiding.
“I guess I just needed to rewire my brain,” Marsha said. “Kylie and Antigone helped me do that along with my current therapist Amy White-Blakesly. They talked me through so many of my concerns and helped me see that anxiety may be a part of things, but it doesn’t have to stop me from enjoying life. It’s good to feel real joy, again. I’m so glad we contacted Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center for assistance! Their services were phenomenal and they never made me feel bad for how I felt. I hope others can get help like I did!”
No words on a page or computer screen can accurately reflect the progress Marsha has made through her treatment, but the smile on her face is enough to let everyone around her know just how far she’s come. “I wasn’t sure about telling my story,” she confided. “But, if it can help at least one person, it will be worth it!”
Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center Crisis Services
Anyone facing a mental health crisis or emergency situation can call for help through our toll-free number: 1-866-973-2241. Services are available 24 hours per day, 7 days a week. Crisis calls are directed to a Qualified Mental Health Professional who will consult, refer or schedule an assessment for needed follow-up services.
The mission of the Southeast Kansas Mental Health Center is to provide, advocate, and coordinate quality mental health care, services, and programs for people in its service area. Our vision is to improve the quality of life in southeast Kansas. We offer services and programs in the following counties: Allen, Anderson, Bourbon, Linn, Neosho, and Woodson. Our core services include outpatient psychiatry, therapy, consultation, chemical abuse counseling, case management, educational and skill-building groups, specialty training, physical healthcare coordination, and 24/7 crisis intervention services. For more information, visit www.sekmhc.org.