By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
The next day, Kathy came to pick her daughter up at work and found her walking down the street yelling at traffic. She managed to drive her home, but in the driveway Elizabeth "ran off screaming." By the time she returned a few hours later, the police were waiting to take her away in handcuffs. It was a Friday afternoon. With the help of her neighbor and friend Phyllis Madathy, Mark and Kathy Faber had their daughter committed for the second time, to the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Baltimore.
Kathy Faber describes the treatment her daughter received at Sheppard Pratt as "exceptional." It was the first time a psychiatrist determined Elizabeth suffered manic-depressive disorder (coexistent with polysubstance abuse), and the first time she was treated with lithium. The drug stabilized her, but she didn't like it; she complained that she could feel the metal in her body. So she stopped taking it. But Elizabeth insists to this day that that was neither a willful nor a defiant decision: After her discharge from Sheppard Pratt, she says, the doctor at the outpatient clinic told her lithium wouldn't be necessary. "He told me if I'd just stay off street drugs I'd be fine." She did as instructed. But she wasn't fine.
Like so many of the solutions to Elizabeth Faber's illness, in retrospect the psychiatrist's emphasis on sobriety seems baffingly simplistic. According to Bert Pepper, M.D., of the New Yorkbased Information Exchange, "The most common cause of psychiatric relapse today is the use of alcohol, marijuana and cocaine [and] the most common cause of alcohol and other drug relapse today is untreated psychiatric conditions." Substance abuse and psychiatric disorders commonly coexist in a "dual diagnosis" (half of all schizophrenics have a substance-abuse disorder) and street drugs can also be an unscientific attempt to "self-medicate" psychiatric symptoms. It's perplexing, then, that in seven years of psychiatric treatment, no psychiatrist or social worker actively treated Elizabeth's substance abuse. Instead, they asked her to just say no.
IN THE WINTER OF 1995, JONATHAN CALLED HIS MOTHER TO say that if she wanted to see her daughter alive, she'd better come out to L.A. Elizabeth had left Baltimore for the last time after a brief marriage, which began "in the weirdest ceremony you've ever seen," says Jonathan-- "I could've gone out for a beer in the time it took her to get down the aisle" --and ended when her husband found her at a party, dancing on Ecstasy. Mark and Kathy had not invited their daughter to move home that time, but had referred her instead to a local homeless shelter for women in Baltimore. Furious, Elizabeth took the bus to L.A. and moved back in with Jonathan. But in a few weeks, Jonathan had kicked her out, too. "She just brought home too many vagrant men," he says.
When Kathy arrived in L.A., hoping to rescue her daughter, she found her living in an apartment she had not paid rent on for three months. The electricity and phone had been shut off. Kathy sat outside that apartment for three hours waiting for her daughter to emerge, but Elizabeth only shouted invective through the door, threatening to call the police. When Kathy returned the next day, Elizabeth had been evicted. At that point, she simply disappeared.
After that, she mostly stayed "off everyone's radar," Kathy says, but occasionally she would resurface. Jonathan managed to get her in to see a county psychiatric-evaluation team, which concluded inexplicably after a two-hour interview that Elizabeth was fine. Kathy negotiated her daughter into a session with a social worker at Santa Monica Clinic West (now Edelman Mental Health Clinic) who determined that Elizabeth was not in need of medication, although she did find it strange that Elizabeth remembered being fed cocaine and heroin by her parents when she was 2 or 3 months old. "I didn't know what to say to this woman," Kathy Faber said. "It was just unbelievable." She hates to say it now, but she gave up. "It felt like the die was cast, and I frankly began to think we were going to get no other response from the mental-health community. I didn't know what else we could do."
Elizabeth was assigned to a Salvation Army homeless shelter, but was evicted for bad behavior, and vanished again into life on the street. But in March 1996, she suddenly turned up on Jonathan's doorstep. She was pregnant. Jonathan promptly called home. "Guess what?" he said to his mother. "You're going to be a grandma."
PREGNANCY WAS GOOD FOR ELIZABETH. SHE SEEMED HAPpy, and regular drug screenings at the Los Angeles Free Clinic confirmed that she was staying sober. She found a place for herself in a program for homeless women at the Hollywood YMCA called "A Brighter Future." She began writing letters home. "Nice letters," Kathy remembers. "More like the old Lynn. It sounded like some of the women at the place she was living had given her a baby shower." She called home in August, a couple of days before Kathy's birthday, concerned that the birthday present she'd sent, a necklace and a CD, wouldn't arrive on time. "Lynn without the illness is a very, very thoughtful, giving person," Kathy says. "She always remembered everyone's birthday."