Anonymous Oral History, 2021/02/27

Title (Dublin Core)

Anonymous Oral History, 2021/02/27
One Bronx Mom, Two Young Adult Daughters, Two Mental Health Crises

Description (Dublin Core)

An anonymous Bronx mother tells the story of her two daughters’ mental health challenges during the pandemic. First, her 21 year old daughter had a Covid-related panic attack in May 2020 that required 4 weeks of hospitalization. This daughter was on the road to recovery when her 24 year old daughter fell into a severe depression in August. The mother describes how this situation affected her entire family and how both daughters returned to mental health even though the pandemic hasn’t ended yet.

Recording Date (Dublin Core)

February 27, 2021

Creator (Dublin Core)

Ellen Balleisen

Contributor (Dublin Core)

Ellen Balleisen

Partner (Dublin Core)

Bronx Community College

Type (Dublin Core)

oral history

Controlled Vocabulary (Dublin Core)

English Social Issues
English Emotion
English Home & Family Life

Curator's Tags (Omeka Classic)

health scare
oral history
real stories

Contributor's Tags (a true folksonomy) (Friend of a Friend)

mental health
panic attack
parenting during COVID

Collection (Dublin Core)

Mental Health

Linked Data (Dublin Core)

Curatorial Notes (Dublin Core)

Erin Craft
Added to Bronx College Item Set. Will let them contact contributor. EC 03/08/2021

Date Submitted (Dublin Core)


Date Modified (Dublin Core)


Date Created (Dublin Core)


Interviewer (Bibliographic Ontology)

Ellen Balleisen

Interviewee (Bibliographic Ontology)


Location (Omeka Classic)

The Bronx
New York City
New York
United States of America

Format (Dublin Core)


Language (Dublin Core)


Rights (Dublin Core)

CC-ND-NC 4.0

Duration (Omeka Classic)


abstract (Bibliographic Ontology)

An anonymous Bronx mother tells the story of her two daughters’ mental health challenges during the pandemic. First, her 21 year old daughter had a Covid-related panic attack in May 2020 that required 4 weeks of hospitalization. This daughter was on the road to recovery when her 24 year old daughter fell into a severe depression in August. The mother describes how this situation affected her entire family and how both daughters returned to mental health even though the pandemic hasn’t ended yet.

Transcription (Omeka Classic)

Ellen: Hello. I'm Ellen Balleisen and I'm talking with a Bronx mom who has chosen to remain anonymous in order to protect her family's privacy. She'll be describing the mental health challenges her young adult daughters faced during the pandemic.

I’d like to start by asking you, who are all the members of your immediate family, how old is each person, including yourself, and where does everyone live?

Bronx Mom: So in my household we are five. My oldest daughter is 24, my second daughter is 21, my son is 9, my husband is 43 and myself. My oldest daughter lives four blocks away from me. My youngest daughter lives in my house, still here. My son, who is nine, still lives in my house of course. Oh, I'm sorry, he’s 11, not 9. For some reason I don't see him growing! And my husband, who’s 44, and myself. So currently we’re four in the household.

Ellen: And how old are you?

Bronx Mom: I’m 41.

Ellen: Okay, great. So could you describe what your daughter's lives were like before the pandemic started?

Bronx Mom: Sure. My oldest daughter, who is 24, had a regular job, going in person, going to the gym, going to outings with friends, communicating with me at least once a day via text or call. Everything seemed, you know, normal, like someone who is living independently, doing normal things. My youngest daughter, who is 21, was going to college in person, part time job, going to the gym, you know, same, going to outings with friends. My son was going to school every single day. Right after school, he had taekwondo classes three times a week in person. My husband was working, of course commuting and myself too, like working and commuting every single day.

Ellen: So how have things changed during the pandemic and when did you realize that your daughters were having serious problems?

Bronx Mom: At the beginning, everything seemed to be normal, but I think they hit a point when they realized that you know, things were not getting back to normal soon enough. It started actually with my youngest daughter. It was about to be her 21st birthday and she was looking forward to go outside the country for an outing with her friends to celebrate her birthday and she had so many plans around and she was getting anxious with the days, thinking, is it going to be over, is this going to be over. That’s on her personal level.

In terms of school, it was hard for her to process the fact that she wasn't going to school anymore. She wasn't receiving instruction in person, which for her was the best thing. She’s not used to taking full online classes. It was a huge change. She was in denial, asking why do I have to sit on a computer today to take classes. She wasn’t having enough instructions from her professors to complete assignments, because at the beginning, it wasn't like it is now, you know, there is more structure now. At the beginning [of online classes] there wasn't a structure so that also threw her off a little bit and added more her anxiety.

I did notice that for about two weeks prior to the breakdown she started to sound off, started to say things that were out of the ordinary. But I thought that, you know, because it was the first time I was seeing that it didn't ring a bell to me. I thought it was an out of the blue thing, I didn’t even think that it was an issue until May 16 at night. She couldn't go to sleep. I thought, because of her age, they don't go to sleep early. Of course they stay up until whatever time they want chatting with friends, or even wrapping up with classes, because it was towards time for finals.

May 17, like around one o'clock in the morning, she got up and she went to the bathroom. I noticed that the lights were on and I went outside my room and I asked her what was going on, because I heard pacing, you know when someone is walking but not like the regular the pacing back and forth, and when I went out she shared that she was having an episode and I was really shocked, I was like, “What do you mean like an episode?” This is when everything started to change and be different. She started screaming, you know, became a little bit aggressive. I didn't know what to do.

Her father got up and asked what's going on. It was the first time we were seeing an anxiety attack. .I immediately also called my other daughter and she advised to call 911, she said, “Mom, you have to call 911 because we all don't know what's happening.”

Then we did call and EMS arrived. They made an assessment and recommended for her to go to the hospital. Unfortunately she was then 21, and because of the pandemic we couldn't go with her. So it was really difficult, it was a difficult morning, it was a difficult day afterwards and it became a lot.

She was hospitalized for about four weeks and we had little contact with her because of the restrictions of the pandemic and because of the movement from hospital to hospital. Because of her age [she was 21 and considered an adult], the hospital personnel weren’t allowed to provide [my husband and me] with details. That’s because of HIPAA if I'm not mistaken.

You know it's a little bit frustrating, but when she regained consciousness, she started to tell the hospital personnel to get in touch with me. This is how little by little we started to learn how things were from her end.

Ellen: How long was it that she was out of contact with you, before she was able to tell the hospital personnel to contact you?

Bronx Mom: I would say more than a week.

Ellen: You must have been frantic.

Bronx Mom: Yes, it was us calling and calling. I had an army of family members, trying to get in touch. We knew that she was there but we didn't know, we know that you know she was getting treated, but we didn't know what type of treatment or medication.

When she was moved from the emergency room to a regular room from the emergency came from one hospital to another hospital. It was really hard, you know it's like dancing under the rain, it was really difficult.

Ellen: She was transferred to a different hospital?

Bronx Mom: Yes, yes, exactly, she was, she was. Where she was taken at first, of course, they had to make an assessment to see what was the issue. When she was taken to the emergency room they had to make an assessment. When they found out the issue was mental health, she had to be transferred to a facility that could provide help with what she had at the moment.

Ellen: So what happened after she got in contact with you?

Bronx Mom: Then she got desperate because she didn't understand why she was there and we had to start telling her what we knew at the moment and start telling her how to advocate for herself and who to talk to, and to be able to learn her status and how things were, any medical outcome. That was the first thing, and once she was aware, she signed a consent, where she appointed me to be the person to have information of where she was standing medically. That is when things started to move, because then, I had a press a lot from my end. They had limited personnel at the hospital and that made it so difficult. They had assigned most persons assigned to the Covid emergency.

So the lack of personnel at the facility didn't help. I think it made her stay longer than necessary. And we didn't even know what medication she was given. I wasn't given that information until she was released.

Ellen: You said it was four weeks that she was in the hospital?

Bronx Mom: Yes, about four weeks.

Ellen: And then, what happened after she was released?

Bronx Mom: She came home, and I was able to see, we had to go and pick up the prescription. I wasn’t familiarized with the medication she was taking. Apparently, she was given more than what she needed so when she came out she started to experience side effects of the medication she received at the hospital. It was really tough because it started with shakes and losing her motor skills.

She became like a baby and what I decided to do because we were scared, we didn't know what was happening, she wasn't able to hold a spoon, she wasn't able to feed herself, she wasn't able to change [her clothes], wasn't able to get on the bed.

I decided to take her to her primary doctor and I made an appointment. Of course I labeled it an emergency appointment. We were able to get in touch with the primary doctor, for us, via phone because we couldn't go in person and immediately I got in contact with a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist went and put in paperwork to get the documentation released from the hospital where she was at because he needed to know what was going on.

It took like a week for primary doctor and for the psychiatrist to see her in person. That made a huge difference because what they found out was the high dose of medication given to her while she was at the facility, especially before she left, made strong side effects on her body. She received a prescription to lower the side effects g and therapy. I was giving her physical therapy. I received instructions on what to do and little by little, she started to get back those motor skills that she lost but it took time. It took a whole army because we all had to help.

Little by little, and she was ready to take a summer class in July. By July, she was taking a class online.

Ellen: So during the time that you had to help her with motor skills, I guess an army meant your husband and your son and your older daughter. You and your husband were working at home and your other daughter was also working, right?

Bronx Mom: That is correct, no actually my husband wasn't working from home. He works for the hotel industry, so he was home. I was working and I actually only took two days off during the whole period of time.

Ellen: So that must have been complicated, trying to work from home and deal with your daughter at the same time.

Bronx Mom: Exactly. It was really difficult. It was, it was, it was! I have to say that, wow you know, looking back, I don't even how I did it but I did it.

Ellen: Well that's very impressive for you and for your family. What happened with the older daughter?.

Bronx Mom: So: with the time, I think around August, I think with the witnessing what happened with her sister and the pressure from working from home and the back and forth, coming here and staying at her place, made her depressed. She entered in some very deep and dark place, to the point that she had to resign from her job, she couldn't hold onto it. She lost a lot of weight, she would cry for hours and hours and hours and started to withdraw herself from her friends. I became very worried. I had to ask her to move back for a couple of days, because it was hard for me to be in two places at the same time.

So she came home, and I would say, for about a week, until I secured therapy. Thankfully she did not need medication based on the psychiatrist's recommendation because the assessment was that it wasn't a deep depression, over time, but based on the assessment that she received there was something temporary, a buildup of stress and I would say, by the end of September, she resigned from her job and started to build a different routine and took therapy.

So both [daughters] experienced, if you look at it from another perspective, kind of the spectrum. One had anxiety, the other a quick depression time. For my older daughter, I believe it was it was way different because she wasn't home. Even though I would go into [her apartment and do] kind of like welfare checks and I had strong communication with her roommates, it wasn't the same because I knew that she wasn't eating as usual. And that worried me a lot, so I did a lot of cooking, I dropped off food a lot. And, little by little, I think the stress of what she experienced with her sister and from work and not having the ability to go out, be herself and connect with friends, also contributed to her emotional state. But therapy was the key, and I would say, a strong communication. It was mostly myself that was checking.

Of course I decided not to have my son involved so young, to see a lot, and he also had summer homework to do. I had to send him to New Jersey, with his godparents for two weeks, to help me to deal with what I had.

Ellen: Was the therapy online or in person?

Bronx Mom: Online.

Ellen: And for your other daughter also?

Bronx Mom: Yes, yes.

Ellen: And they both felt that that worked pretty well?

Bronx Mom: You know what happened was that they had to change two or three times their therapists because they felt that they couldn't connect online with the first one they found. I think that one on one personal connection when you see someone in person, that’s lost in that new reality that we have now. But they both found one that they they clicked with. Now it’s just like a routine checkups and [the therapy sessions are] not as lengthy as before.

Ellen: So how are they doing now?

Bronx Mom: They’re doing really great. So we went outside of the country during the the Christmas holidays. It helped a lot to move to a different environment and do some planning for the upcoming year. I found that that lifted their spirits a lot.

Upon our arrival to New York, my youngest daughter decided to move in with my oldest daughter for two weeks to get into the mood of exercising, applying for jobs, completing online applications, cooking together -- reconnecting again. The oldest one is working now, she's commuting, she's happy, she's very disciplined and the youngest one found a job as well. And she's really happy, going back to the gym and now she’s gotten used to taking classes online. The outlook obviously is very different and very optimistic.

Ellen: That's great. The older one got a different job than the one that she left, right?

Bronx Mom: Yes, actually she is not working on her field, she decided to take a break from that and I’m really happy for her for doing that. While she finds exactly what she really wants in life, now she knows what she likes and she knows what she doesn't like, which I think is the key to starting to find her career path and her passion, you know, knowing what you like and what you don't like is the first thing so I'm really proud of that.

Ellen: And how did this whole situation affect your son? I know you said you sent to him to New Jersey but he must have been aware of what was going on and affected by it some way.

Bronx Mom: You know, he stopped interacting as he used to be, you know, being a little bit more quiet and being more to himself. And so what we did was, aside from his taekwondo classes, we had something kind of like dating, a day with me and a date with his dad, when we used to go out, of course following all the recommendations to protect ourselves and protect others, going to parks and trying to have talks and and see where he was at. I'm scared mostly. You can see now that he asks when one of his sisters hasn't gotten home, he gets worried, he asks. If his dad goes out and [his dad] has taken forever, [my son] asks what time they’re coming, when they’re coming. I think it’s because he saw the absence of one of his family members for quite a long time and when that person [his sister] came back she wasn't herself anymore until she got better. So you can see that [the son’s anxiety] today.

But of course we try not to give him details. He didn't need that. Everything according to his age and level of understanding. We didn't want to overwhelm him with what was going on exactly and precisely. So we did everything that we could, and of course I know that he needs therapy as well. It’s just really hard to have everybody taking therapy. I am a true believer that one side will have to be closed before we open another one. That would be really overwhelming.

Ellen: It must have been quite difficult for you and your husband as well.

Bronx Mom: Yeah, yeah. Not an easy situation. Never before.

Ellen: When you were out of the country during the holidays, did you go to your home country and see relatives?

Bronx Mom: Yes, yes.

Ellen: How did that help?

Bronx Mom: A lot, a lot! We were able to see my mom, so the kids were able to see grandma. All the other relatives that live here in New York traveled too. You know, having our family together living under the same roof helped a lot, the noise, the back and forth, prepping things together, it helped a lot. We did a lot of sightseeing of course.

Ellen: Did Covid change the way you got together with your family in any way?

Bronx Mom: Back home, I would say, sort of because we couldn't invite a lot of friends over that we know. So it was basically us that were tested, and so we had to stay close to each other and not being exposed that lunch. And whenever we went out, it's very different when you have more friend and you are restricted even to see your friends and just talk over the phone and to say hi from like a far distance. I would say, somehow, yes, of course, it had an impact matter what it was really great because here, although I have a lot of family members, we don't live close by, and of course [while we were all visiting my mother outside the country] we had the same roof so having everybody under same roof was a good thing.

Ellen: So is there anything else you'd like to say about what your daughter's experience?

Bronx Mom: Yes, of course. I think we we see things now from a different perspective. Not to have long term plans and to be vigilant, in terms of, if not if I'm not feeling okay, I have to communicate where I am. Because we cannot forget what happened and we don't know if another episode might come. We have to learn to acknowledge what happened and to live with it and also to not to be afraid of continuing life as normal as possible because we can also hold on too tight and just stay on that stage. We have to be able to jump that hoop.

Yes, you it changed a lot. For me personally I'm at a very different stage. [I have]a lot of respect for mental health professionals. Seeing others going through that, it hits home. Yeah, it’s different, absolutely it’s different.

Ellen: Well I'm really glad that your daughters are doing better now and that they were able to get the help that they needed and still need.

Bronx Mom: Yeah, I'm also happy that they were open because of the type of communication that we have, the type of family ties that we have, I was able to see, I was able to be there. I'm really happy because there's so many things happening out there and we are experiencing that more and more now you know after being home for such a long time. We see more [mental health] incidents outside and whenever I see that, I go back and check, you know kind of like get afraid. [I ask my daughters] are you okay? Is everything okay? Because we see it more frequently, we have to deal with it more. It's more exposed, I would say.

Ellen: You mean people other than your daughters, you see with mental health challenges.

Bronx Mom: Yes, absolutely, absolutely.

Ellen: It sounds as though you really knew how to work the system to make things better for your daughters. Could I ask a question about the kind of health insurance you have that enables you to get that help for them. What kind of health insurance do you have?

Bronx Mom: I actually have two insurances. My primary comes from my husband, which is Aetna, which is the one that I use the most. And my secondary, whichI don't use it that often, is Emblem Health.

Ellen: Ss both you and your husband have been health insurance, through your jobs.

Bronx Mom: Yes, absolutely.

Ellen: I'm asking because I know that for many people getting adequate mental health care is a problem because they either lack health insurance or their health insurance doesn’t provide mental health coverage.

Bronx Mom: I agree, I think we were privileged to have both. I noticed that what one didn't cover the other one did. Of course there there's the regular co-pays, which is nothing compared to actually what the insurance covered. So I didn't have to worry about insurance. I am really grateful for that. I didn't have to go out there with nothing. We have a primary and we have a secondary and that really helped us a lot financially. We didn’t have to pay a lot out of pocket. We had to pay, but it wasn't significant compared to the bill.

Ellen: So, again I'm really glad that your daughters are doing better. Anything else that you want to add that you haven't said thus far?

Bronx Mom: You know I, I have to say that working from home, it has advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that I could see them [my daughters] every day, and I could be there right away if something happens or even if something doesn't happen, just to be there and I don’t have to run. It gives me a good sense of relief.

But. for me, I miss the commute, I miss the interaction with coworkers. It sounds crazy but I miss the rush and the separation from work and home. I miss that. And i'm looking forward go back, I'm looking forward to really going back into our lives prior to Covid.

Ellen: Yeah, we all are. Thank you so much, it's been a fascinating conversation, and I hope that other people who are either having mental health challenges themselves or have relatives with mental health challenges will be able to take something from your experience here. So thanks again.

Bronx Mom: No, thank you, thank you and I really hope that with the transcript and the presentation of my little input into the project can bring light to others. We just have to be strong and live one day at a time.

Ellen: Alright, well thanks again.

Bronx Mom: Thank you Ellen.

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This item was submitted on February 28, 2021 by Ellen Balleisen using the form “Share Your Story” on the site “A Journal of the Plague Year”:

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