Phoenix uses all of his clinical skills to assess his friend during a crisis...
|Sherri had walked out of statistics class early without a word. This was the second class in a row she had done this in. Something was wrong, and Phoenix knew it. He had to finish his assignment, though. It was due by the end of class. The professor was kind enough to allow Phoenix and five others to stay 20 minutes late after class to finish their ANOVAs and results. Phoenix was exhausted after working on statistics for over two hours, so he went home and slept for an hour. He woke to the sound of his cell phone indicating that he had a text message. It was from Sherri, and it said, "I need help. Can you guys help me?" Phoenix immediately called her. She sounded desperate and depressed. Phoenix went straight over to her house to check on her and see if he could help.
Once Phoenix was with Sherri, it was obvious that she was in crisis. Sherri had bipolar disorder and had been suffering from sleep difficulties and excessive stress levels for the last week and a half or so. This had all come together to produce the current situation, which looked to Phoenix like a mixed manic episode punctuated by acute loss of self-concept and motivation. Phoenix sat down on the couch and Sherri talked slowly and deliberately in a hopeless monotone voice. Psychomotor retardation was definitely present. Phoenix asked her if she thought she needed to be in the hospital, assessing as best he could for suicidal ideation. "No. I don't think so. I wouldn't do that to my daughter." At least she had someone tying her to this world and not the next, Phoenix thought. Now that the safety issue was resolved, Phoenix listened for ideas he could work with to try and help Sherri see that all was not lost. Sherri was aware that she had been beating herself up and justifying the negative in her life, but she could not pull herself out of it. "I'm just spiraling. Just spiraling down. I can't find myself." Phoenix wondered about the presence of psychotic features and asked some questions to test her sense of reasoning and reality. No thought disorder presented itself, but she was barely hanging on to sanity. Phoenix began by gently disputing her claims that everything was lost and that she could not do anything. He reminded her that she was a graduate student who was successfully passing her classes and who had people that cared about her. He reinforced the idea over and over again that not only could she do it, but that she was doing it. It was happening. Phoenix told a few personal stories about loss and wanting to give up, emphasizing that she could not allow one class that everyone was struggling with to crush her dream of studying psychology. She weakly made argument after argument against herself, her abilities, and her ambitions. Each time, Phoenix brought her back to the present and what she was accomplishing. After about an hour of this pattern, Phoenix suggested that they change her self talk - what she was telling herself - and that, when she had a negative thought, she had to stop it and replace it with a positive statement about herself. He also told her to write down on sticky notes, postcards, notebook pages, and anything else she had to some of these positive messages as a tool to remind herself to use her tools and what she knew how to do to keep herself focused and calm in the face of these crises. Phoenix told her that part of her crisis was also chemical. Of that, he was certain. Sherri mentioned that she had called her doctor and they were supposed to get back to her the next day. Phoenix was relieved, and used that to offer Sherri some additional hope in the face of this looming disaster that she was convinced was occurring. Finally, Sherri began to come into a calmer, more focused frame of mind that was recognizable as Sherri. Phoenix gave Sherri a few more ideas of tools she could use to manage this crisis and when she was feeling much better, Phoenix took his leave and told her to call him if she needed anything. Sherri gave him a big hug and promised she would.
The next day, Sherri texted Phoenix as he was leaving the college campus after having scheduled a participant for the MCMI-III. The text said that he had forgotten his hat at her apartment and that she was waiting for the nurse to call her regarding medication changes. A few minutes later, another text came, saying that she was having heavy anxiety. The next text said that she had called the nurse and left a message about the anxiety. Phoenix knew he needed to go and see her. She was glad for his company, and thanked him for "helping me find me again." Phoenix was always very humble about accepting thanks because he never felt like he was doing anyone a favor, merely flying by the seat of his pants to try to help a person in need and do the right thing. "Thank you. You helped me find myself again. I was lost. It was so dark. So dark. And getting darker. And you brought me that light." Phoenix was thankful that she was firmly planted in reality again. He did not feel that he had done anything special. He was simply grateful to God that He was watching over Sherri, even though she did not believe in Him necessarily. Phoenix thanked God for the skills to help Sherri. Louisa came by and the three of them talked for a while. Sherri laughed and smiled and had a good time, much to Phoenix's further relief. Louisa had texted Phoenix the night before and said she would call Sherri as well. She had, Sherri had told Phoenix, and she had also sent an e-mail to the professor about statistics and her situation, which Phoenix had suggested the night before. Now, if the nurse would simply call and tell Sherri that she had some prescriptions available, everything would be as well as it could be, Phoenix thought. As they waited for the nurse to call, they talked and planned to study statistics together over the weekend. Phoenix had a sense of peace about Sherri now. He no longer had to worry as much. He had her in mind, but he could go on with his day without worrying about her safety. Again, as he took his leave, she promised to call if she needed anything. Phoenix felt calm.