I didn’t know at the time how much John McCain’s thumbs-down to the ACA repeal bill in 2017 would affect me personally. I knew from listening to other people who depended on the ACA for coverage that this was a matter of life and death for them, and that his vote was the one that meant we wouldn’t lose healthcare for millions of people. I did my best to call my representatives, to answer the call when activists needed me, to share info on social media. I rejoiced when I watched his thumbs-down vote on C-SPAN.
But I didn’t know how personal the vote would become to my family and me.
Shortly after that vote, my then-18yo daughter began behaving very differently. She began behaving erratically, talking to herself, having angry outbursts, obsessing about religious and spiritual matters, seeing things that weren’t there, experiencing confusion about her surroundings, talking about killing herself. Sometimes it seemed like different people would take over her body and I didn’t even know the person rambling to me or yelling at me.
One night at 3 a.m. in the middle of winter, I was awakened to the sound of loud knocking on my door. When I answered the door, it was my daughter with a police officer. She looked bewildered. She had no shoes, no purse, and no phone. The police officer told me that she had been sitting in a yard about six houses down and thought she was at home. She didn’t recognize our home and asked me where we were. The next morning, she didn’t remember anything. I couldn’t stop thinking about how things could have gone tragically wrong if she weren’t a young white woman.
At first, I thought it was drugs. But she would eat a lot and sleep a lot, so I thought maybe it was a mental illness. I reached out to my close friends for help. I asked family members if they thought she had been behaving differently. Everyone confirmed my intuitive hunches that what was happening wasn’t normal. My younger daughter started taking videos of her older sister when she’d start ranting and becoming agitated. My daughter’s close friends started contacting me to tell me that they were worried about her and that they thought she needed professional help.
I didn’t know how to get help for her. There’s no manual for navigating the mental health system. She was an adult, and so I couldn’t make appointments for her. I would give her numbers to call, there would be waitlists and paperwork. She wasn’t capable of following through. I knew things were serious, but I was also trying to run my business, pay bills, homeschool my younger child. It was easy to just get through a day without any serious incidences and feel like it was a success, rather than another failed day at getting professional help.