She Overcame Her Challenges with All-Day Therapy and Nights At Home
Like many other people facing mental illness, Missy McNeil, a resident of Mt. Pleasant, spent many years struggling to stay afloat. On top of raising her two (now) teenage daughters and running a small business that she owns with her husband, she also has had to deal with severe bipolar disorder.
For a long time, McNeil swung back and forth between manic and depressive episodes. “I think I haven’t really managed the disorder before,” she says. “I was just dealing.” Eight years ago, she experienced an extreme manic episode, during which her husband had her committed to a psychiatric hospital. The doctors there started treating her for psychosis and she went on a medication to address her bipolar symptoms.
In the time since, McNeil has tried valiantly to handle the condition herself. She became a supporter of mental health awareness and a vocal advocate for removing the stigma attached to mental illness. Wishing to give and receive help from others in similar situations, she started joining support groups for people with bipolar disorder. One of her support group members was the first to suggest she look into an intensive outpatient program like MidMichigan Health’s Psychiatric Partial Hospitalization Program at MidMichigan Medical Center – Gratiot.
That suggestion lingered in the back of McNeil’s mind as she progressed into one of her roughest periods yet. “I’ve had a really rough year,” she says. Her depression had deepened so far that McNeil was struggling with suicidal thoughts. Fearing for her own wellbeing, she checked into the hospital. During the week she spent hospitalized, she was treated and began feeling a bit better. However, her therapy there didn’t go far enough. “It didn’t stick,” she says. “The medicine didn’t work quite right.”
Out of the suicidal depression but not back to a semblance of normal yet, McNeil still didn’t feel ready to return to work or face her regular daily grind. She knew she had to do something more to heal herself and get her life back on track. “I don’t have any choice left,” she remembers thinking to herself. That’s when McNeil decided to contact MidMichigan Health.
McNeil called the Psychiatric Partial Hospitalization Program at the Medical Center in Alma on a Friday afternoon and was screened over the phone. The program coordinator booked a place for her, and McNeil walked into the program to begin her treatment the following Monday morning. “I was scared and desperate,” she says. The care she received, however, was so profound, “Eight work days later I walked out with a spring in my step.”
Each day in the program, McNeil was at the program from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., with a lunch break provided. The rest of the time was spent in different types of intensive therapy. She worked closely one-on-one with a counseling intern who was wonderful and who McNeil says she “loved to death.”
The staff didn’t focus mainly on her specific illness, the bipolar disorder. Rather, they focused on self-care, self-compassion, self-love, and self-esteem. “They teach you to think differently,” she says. “It totally turned everything around. It was like lightbulb after lightbulb after lightbulb went off in my head.” They actively managed her medication as well, and monitored her for its effectiveness.
At 3 p.m. every day, McNeil was sent home with a homework assignment. Often it was to accomplish two to three modest goals, like taking a bath or taking out the trash. Other times it might be a thought exercise, like coming up with ten strengths she thought she possessed. She feels that being able to go home and spend the night in her own bed with her husband made a huge difference in the treatment. “It’s not as scary knowing you get to go home,” she says. “During my other hospitalizations, I just wanted to go home. Here there was no pressure; I could just focus on healing.”
Today, McNeil has completely turned her life around. “They gave me all the tools that I needed,” she says. “The intensity of the program helped me use it.” Her husband has noticed a great improvement in everything she does. Likewise, her daughters are happy that their mother can now take them shopping and do other fulfilling activities with them. She has returned to work and is healthier physically as well as mentally. “I feel mentally healthier than I have in years and years,” she says.
The Psychiatric Partial Hospitalization program accepts voluntary admissions via self, community or physician referral. Those interested in referral information may call (989) 466-3253 or (800) 392-7652. Those interested in insurance acceptance for the program may call (989) 466-3253.