Lost my 25-year-old daughter Mandy 12 days before her b-day
her memorial website: www.mandyfullerton.com
My daughter Mandy was extraordinary. She was beautiful, brilliant, fearless, driven, determined, tireless, fierce, loyal, protective, candidly honest, loving, adventurous, creative, poetic, but sadly... she was quietly suffering the onset of bipolar disease. In her manic stage, she couldn't sleep for days. She would find herself physically exhausted but her mind could not disengage long enough for sleep to come. Her lack of sleep would make her quickly angered, impatient, and impulsive. Her friends saw this "impulsiveness" as spontaneity. It was fun... exciting... unpredictable, never a dull moment. With limited resources, she could chase boredom away like a frightened deer. As exhaustion set in, she would rage and curse at the world and the people in it.
She knew something was "not right" and was borrowing and buying self-help books. She was trying to understand what was causing these tremendous mood swings. She spoke to her doctor and was prescribed Xanax. Her doctor believed that the symptoms were related to anxiety. For a while, the Xanax helped her to sleep. Sleep yes, but it wasn't a truly restful sleep. Toward the end of her life, she experienced gaps in time, she became forgetful, and did things that she had no recollection of having done.
In the very early morning hours on October 29, 2011, she drove her car home from work and (from what we can piece together) hit a curb and took out both passenger-side tires. She was able to successfully get home and park safely in her driveway. She went to bed at about 2 or 3 am, and woke up about 7:30 am and returned to work to check on an email. She was afraid she had missed submitting some paperwork needed for the Saturday tech's. She borrowed a friend's car because, "Something is broke on mine. I can't get it to go any faster than 30 mph." One of the gals in the office said that Mandy had arrived at the office and was surprised to see her because it was supposed to be her day off. She had logged in, checked her email, looked at a couple of status reports, logged out, and went back home.
One of Mandy's roommates said she was back home about 8:45 am. She had phoned her boyfriend to tell him that something was wrong with her car and would like him to drop by and take a look at it. When he arrived, he found her car disabled and the tires were so damaged that they were wrapped around the front and rear passenger-side axles. Break fluid was seeping from the rear wheel and he knew the car was not driveable. At about 10:30 am, Mandy woke up and thought she had slept through the night and went to meet a friend, but only 2 hours had elapsed. She got behind the wheel of her disabled vehicle, the one with no passenger side tires, and no brakes!
She drove to her friend's house, but couldn't stop. She hit the neighbor's mailbox. Another motorist saw her driving, saw the sparks coming off the rims of her vehicle, and called the police. A few moments after she hit the neighbor's mailbox, a patrol officer pulled up and questioned her. The officer could tell she was imparied in some way. Mandy believed that the medicine prescribed by her doctor was supposed to help her. She told the officer that she was prescribed Xanax and had only taken what her doctor had prescribed. They took her into custody, charged her with DUI, and impounded her car.
Mandy's dad and I were thinking, "Hey, today is Mandy's day off, let's go meet her for lunch and see how her week has gone." When we called, we didn't get an answer so we tried her boyfriend. He informed us that she was at the police station and had wrecked her car. We were instantly alarmed and went to find out what on earth was going on. It was unlike her to have alcohol this early in the day. We didn't know about the prescription. When we arrived at the police station, and reunited with her, she was in a rage. She was angry, defiant, disrespectful, and completely under the influence of something. I had never seen her like this in the 25 years that she has been in this world. I was scared and worried. We took her home. She demanded that we take her to her home, and we refused. We steadfastly said, "You are in no condition to be at home by yourself. I'm afraid you will try to drive again, I am taking you to our house so we can keep an eye on you." This completely enraged her. She cursed us out, tried to jump out of our moving vehicle, demanded we take her home. As she tried to leap out of the car, her dad reached into the backseat, grabbed the front of her sweatshirt, and yanked her back into our moving truck.
"What the hell is wrong with you! Are you crazy? You are clearly a hot mess and I am not going to let you go home by yourself. I don't know what you have taken today, but you are altered by something and if you have it at home, I am not putting you back in that environment where you can get any more!" I said.
Her reply was, "I have a PRESCRIPTION, MOM! I am taking what my doctor has told me to take. If you don't believe me, have me drug tested. Go ahead! DRUG TEST ME!!"
I said, "Let's go." As we got into the car, she fought us. She kicked and scratched, and punched us as if she were being kidnapped by a stranger. We knew in that moment, we were in way, waaaaay over our heads and we needed to get some professional intervention. There is a treatment center and that was where we decided we needed to take her. Her dad got in the back seat with her, and she continued to fight him, tried unsuccessfully to jump out of the truck, and he took a beating for the entire 20 minute ride. We convinced the center to place her on a 72 hour mental health hold. We sat in the waiting room of the hospital while they checked her out. There were marks all over her body from the melee that happened in the truck. Her dad was scratched, beaten, bruised, and battered... but she was safely at the hospital. She was going to get some help. The treatment center has been in business for a long time. Surely, they were going to help her. They were wise to the stories and manipulations of someone who was out of their right mind... right?
Wrong, the 72 hour hold was less than 22 hours. They released her after about 19 hours. On October 30, 2011, Within 2 hours of being home, she rigged up a nylon strap, secured it to the rafters in her garage, stood on a 5 gallon bucket, and hung herself.
In the moment of her body being discovered, her dad and I were taking the counselor's advice... "Don't enable her." We were told. "She needs to understand there are 'natural consequences' to being addicted to meds. She's going to make sure things are worse before they get better. She's going to bully you guys and manipulate you until she wears you down. Look into a NARC-anon group for some support. You will meet people who can guide you through the process." These were the things the psychologist told us to do. We were on our way to a group meeting when her roommate arrived home and found her.
"Oh my God, Oh my God! Why did she do this!!!!????" I cried. The police came, the coroner, the medics,... they placed her on the gurney and the victim's advocate kept telling me to not watch. I said, "I am NOT leaving. You have to let me tell her goodbye. I wasn't here with her when she needed me the most, I cannot leave here tonite without saying goodbye. They finally conceeded and I walked into the front door of the house she had lived in since she was 7 years old. I looked at her face, I put her hand in mine, I knelt beside this bed-on-wheels, I placed my head on her chest,,, hoping agains all odds that I would hear her heart still beating... that maybe, just maybe her hand was cold because it was chilly.... "I love you baby, I am so sorry I wasn't here for you. I hope your pain is all gone. I love you so much.... goodbye."
It was 8 months ago yesterday. She was our only child. We'll never have grandkids, we'll never have another Halloween, Thanksgivin, Christmas, July 4th, vacation, Mother's Day, Father's Day, or birthday with her again. She was 12 days from her 26th birthday. We have adopted her dog, Klohe. There are days when Klohe is the only living creature that can snap me out of this emotional hole I fall into. I am a substitute teacher and some of the children I meet make me miss her all the more, other times it is a wonderful distraction from the grief. After 8 months, I cry less frequently. I have longer periods of time in between "the bad days." I can talk about her without weeping, and I feel times when I sense her energy is with me. I know she is with others who have gone before her, beloved grand parents, aunts, uncles, friends, and cousins. I know the pain of mental illness is just as real as any injury that requires stitches or surgery. I also know that leaving this world to be with her would be incredibly selfish of me. My husband of nearly 28 years would be ruined. My sister would be devastated. My mom was shaken to her very core by Mandy's death, and to lose her daughter would almost destroy her. In short, I have people who count on me. I am and have always been the reliable one. It is difficlut to make sense of something that is senseless and impossible to turn back time hoping for a "do-over." I've heard it said, "That which doesn't kill us only makes us stronger..." I sincerely hope that God doesn't challenge me in this way ever again. I just don't think I'll have the intestinal fortitude to take it on.