Rebecca Hamilton - Lake Isabella, MI
"They helped me so much and they gave me the tools I needed to manage anxiety and depression."
A Unique Outpatient Program Helped Her Regain a Healthy Mental Balance
Rebecca Hamilton of Lake Isabella was first prescribed antidepressants when she was a new mother. Depression ran in her family, so it was not a surprise when doctors diagnosed her with postpartum depression. She continued to take these medications for years afterward.
Fast forward to early 2017, and Hamilton’s life seemed to be ideal. She and her husband had been married for twenty-two years, her daughter was now sixteen years old, and she had an eleven-year-old golden retriever. She had also been working as the children’s director at the First Church of Christ in Mt. Pleasant, serving the local community.
Things were going well enough for Hamilton that she decided to try weaning herself off of her antidepressant medications. Over the course of three months she gradually reduced her dose.
Unfortunately, Hamilton’s condition began to worsen fairly soon after she began her discontinuation. She started feeling intense fear and had trouble sleeping, sometimes going for days without sleep.
“I never got relief from it,” Hamilton remembers. She suffered from frequent crying spells and panic attacks. Eventually, her husband wasn’t able to leave her side because of her uncontrollable fear. “I didn’t even know what I was scared of,” she says.
These episodes began interfering with Hamilton’s job and other everyday activities. While representing her church in the community, she explains, she needed to be mentally healthy. When they got bad enough, she ended up having to tell her coworkers when she was having a panic attack.
Thankfully, Hamilton’s workplace was supportive as she sought help for her condition. The problem was, she was having trouble finding a place that could adequately manage her symptoms. She tried going into the emergency room, where she was given antipsychotic drugs and many other different medications. Yet, her anxiety persisted.
At one point, Hamilton suffered a panic attack that lasted for an hour and a half. She says that she never felt suicidal but was scared that she might become so eventually. It was this time that she was admitted into MyMichigan Health’s inpatient psychiatric program at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma.
At MyMichigan, Hamilton finally met with trained Psychiatrist Sunil Rangwani, M.D. Dr. Rangwani worked closely with Hamilton and managed her medications so she was only on those that really helped. She learned that the reaction she had from discontinuing her antidepressants was rare, but it does happen to some people.
It was there that she learned to trust doctors, Hamilton says. “The brain is the most complex organ in your body,” Dr. Rangwani had explained to her – and he demonstrated that he knew the finer nuances of brain chemistry and its treatment very well.
After ten days in the inpatient program, Hamilton had improved enough to be discharged. Though the very worst was over, she still had a long journey to full recovery. Upon leaving, she was referred to a novel mental health service provided by MyMichigan Health – the Psychiatric Partial Hospitalization Program.
“The program is for people with mood disorders, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, or personality disorders,” explains Hamilton’s nurse Louise St. John, B.S., R.N. It is available for adults in any stage of life, and for any life circumstance, including drastic life changes or times of grief.
“We work on whatever are the presenting symptoms,” St. John says, such as feeling lost or without purpose, being unable to focus, or unable to get to work or to class. “We’re here to help people get through a critical time in their life when they’re just not functioning well.”
For Hamilton, this was exactly the type of care she had been looking for. “I knew the minute she picked up the phone,” she says of St. John. “She told me, ‘I can get you in tomorrow at 9 a.m.” The speed at which the program was able to bring her in was a surprise to Hamilton, as well as a relief.
The day after calling, Hamilton began a two-week intensive course of psychological healing. Every day for six hours she would attend the program located at MyMichigan Medical Center Alma. Most of the time there was spent in group therapy sessions, where all patients participate and work with the professional staff and each other to practice behavior management skills. At the end of the day, she would return home and work on her skills homework.
Upon admission and if requested, St. John explains, patients also receive shorter sessions of individual counseling. Hamilton says the care she received from her counselor, William Thomas, M.A., L.P.C., there was excellent. “I knew when I talked to him there wasn’t anything too big for him to handle,” she says fondly.
Hamilton recounts how great the service from the care providers was. “They’re a good team, they work really well together,” she says. “There were enough people on staff there; if I needed something I didn’t have to wait.” She was also grateful to know that they were continuing to work with Dr. Rangwani to manage her medications.
Ultimately, Hamilton needed to go back on her antidepressants. In the time it took for them to take effect again, however, she developed techniques to help her control her anxieties. “They helped me so much,” she says. “They give you the tools you need to manage anxiety and depression.”
It was a lot of work during her time in the program, Hamilton says, with hours of intensive therapy plus homework afterward. “If you are at all thinking you want to get better,” she advises, “you have to take that responsibility on yourself.” On top of teaching her to take care of herself, the staff also invited her husband for family meetings so that he could better understand what she was going through and how to provide the support she needs.
Toward the end of her therapy, Hamilton was even able to help other patients in the program. As a part of her own growth, she helped pass on the skills she had learned to other patients facing similar problems. “I was actually sad to be done,” she says, “But it was time to take care of myself.”
Following her successful completion of the program, Hamilton has been able to return fully to her life. “I feel like I can do my job again,” she says. While she initially had a couple of relapses in her anxiety, she was able to cope at the time and since then hasn’t had any major issues. She has been so thankful for the treatment St. John, Thomas, and the rest of the team gave her, she recently returned to the clinic to bring them some homemade gifts of appreciation. “It was a real blessing,” to be able to give back, she feels.
St. John encourages anyone who thinks they might want help for a mental health concern to call the program. Unique from other mental health programs, no referral is needed; anyone can call if they want help. A lot of people don’t know where to go when they are dealing with these sorts of issues, she says. Although there are some more serious disorders that the program doesn’t address, the Psychiatric Partial Hospitalization Program can direct people to the right place.
One final piece of advice Hamilton has for others going through mental or emotional challenges of their own: “Find something that you love to do, and do it!” As for her superb support team at MyMichigan: “I can’t say enough good things.”
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.