My daughter, Alejandra Guadalupe Montiel, was born in February 1984. She was the middle child of 3. When she was a baby and a young girl she seemed happy. Then, in her early adolescence she became withdrawn and depressed. The first time that she was admitted into a mental health hospital for clinical depression was when she was 13 years old. After a year of therapy and antidepressant medication her moods improved.
Ally had her ups and downs during her teen years and ended up dropping out of high school and getting her GED. The way that she explained ‘dropping out’ was that she felt like she didn’t fit in. It appeared that she had friends and some of her friendships were romantic. She then attended Dental Assistant College and graduated with excellent grades. Immediately after her graduation she started working in a dental office.
After Ally started working in a dental office, she got an apartment with a friend. She did well at her job, handled her finances, and became increasingly independent. She adopted a small dog and named her “Piggy”. She took Piggy everywhere with her and it was obvious that she loved her very much. Ally did okay during this time in her life except for a few ‘episodes’ of depression which seemed triggered by alcohol. When these episodes happened, she became irrational and aggressive and ended up being admitted into hospital emergency rooms where she was evaluated and released. Usually, these episodes also triggered for Ally to go back to a therapist and get back on antidepressant medication.
In July 2005, Ally made a decision to move into her own apartment. She said she wanted to live alone because she wanted her own space and was tired of having roommates. She had found a better paying job that allowed her to do this. Ally worked hard everyday and seemed busy with her social life. She had several boyfriends during this time but these relationships didn’t last long. In February 2006, she met a boy that she fell in love with and he became the focus of her life.
In May 2006, Ally attempted suicide for the first time. She took an overdose of over-the-counter sleeping pills, aspirin, and she slit her wrists. She was admitted to Eden Medical Center where she spent 1 week in recovery. She was then transferred to John George Pavilion psychiatric facility where she was evaluated and released. She was placed on antidepressants and, since she had medical insurance, told to see a psychiatrist to continue therapy.
When Ally got out of the hospital, after her first suicide attempt, she wanted to go home even though I thought it was a bad idea. Since Ally was an adult, my hands were tied, and she could make her own choices. I have learned since then that I could have sued Ally for guardianship. Unfortunately, at that time, I never thought of doing that. She had her own apartment, car, job, friends, and was still seeing her boyfriend. She told me that she planned to continue her treatment and wanted to get better.
At this time in Ally’s life, I did not understand what was happening in her head. I thought that she was too focused on her relationship with her boyfriend. I wanted her to move on with her life and I tried to talk to her about dating other people and getting involved in other things in her life. I tried to get her to move in with me and my husband, coaxing her with the idea of going back to school and paying off all of her bills. She wasn’t interested in going back to school but she did agree to move in with us in order to pay off her bills. She was supposed to move in with us when her apartment lease ended at the end of August 2006. I was worried about Ally because my feeling was that she was having a problem with alcohol and was in a deep depression. I would call Ally and ask her how she was doing and she would always say, “I’m okay”, but she sounded depressed.
On July 6, 2006, I received a concerned phone call that Ally had not shown up for work. Later that day, I found Ally dead in her apartment. She committed suicide by hanging herself. She was dressed in a complete outfit that included makeup, clothes, stockings, and shoes. The last thing that Ally wrote was a note to her boyfriend saying that she could not live without him. I found out that Ally and her boyfriend had separated, due to problems, approximately 1 ½ weeks earlier.
Since that horrible day, I continue to ask myself a zillion questions. Two days before Ally committed suicide; she had been arrested for assaulting her boyfriend and had been admitted into an emergency room for evaluation. She threatened to kill herself as soon as she was released and was placed on a 5150 hold because she was considered a danger to herself or others. She was then transferred to John George Pavilion which was the same hospital where she was taken for her first suicide attempt in May 2006.
A psychiatrist at John George Pavilion authorized the release of Ally, not even 24 hours after she arrived. She was admitted to John George on a 5150 on Tuesday, July 4th, at 4:30 pm and released on Wednesday, July 5th at 10:30 am. Ally left John George Wednesday morning with bus money to get her car. She drove home, arriving there around 1:00 pm on Wednesday. Ally was found dead on Thursday July 6th in the afternoon.
I don’t understand how the hospital could have released Ally when she threatened to kill herself and was placed on a 5150 hold. How could they let her go without holding her the legal amount of time which is 72 hours? My husband and I went to the hospital and sat down to talk with the administrators and the psychiatrist that released her. They told us that Ally was so high functioning that they believed her when she told them she needed to get home to go to work. They said that they were really sorry.
I guess I’m sorry, too, and so is all of Ally’s family and friends that loved her but didn’t understand her pain and suffering. I didn’t know how sick Ally really was. I guess I was in denial because I thought that Ally had an alcohol problem and that if she didn’t drink she would be okay. Maybe Ally drank because her mental illness made her feel so horrible that it was the only way to cope with it.
Since Ally’s death, I have received most of her medical records. In the records I discovered that Ally had been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality traits when she was 20 years old. It appeared that the doctors had suspected Bipolar and Borderline disorders earlier in Ally’s life but were not certain. However, when Ally was 20 years old I believe that she was told that she might have these disorders. Ally never mentioned this to anyone except for one time at a dinner party she casually mentioned that she thought she had a personality disorder. At the time, I never really understood that she was serious about this. I got the impression that she had diagnosed herself from the internet. I understand now that Ally was trying to tell us, in the only way that she knew how, that she was ill. She was reaching out for help. I wished that I had listened and taken her seriously.
If I could change anything from the past, I think that when Ally turned 18 years old I would have asked her to sign the legal papers giving me the right to discuss her medical issues with her doctors. I would have tried to be actively involved in the mental health system and aggressively pursue treatment options for her. What I have learned the hard way is that mentally ill people can not advocate or properly care for themselves. They need help – they can not do it alone. Ally never should have lived alone or been left alone. If I could do anything at all to help anyone else to not make the same mistake that I did, it would be to encourage everyone to be involved as much as they can with their loved one and their medical treatments. This includes, suing for guardianship if your loved one will not allow you proxy to their doctors and medical records.