A Virginia Family’s Story Of Recovery: Sadness To Hope

Ray, Connie and Andrew Neil Maternick  (Family photo used with permission)

(3-11-19)

Dear Pete,

I’d like to tell you about how far our family has come since a hot July day in 2013 when our middle son, Andrew Neil, experienced a psychotic episode and thrust a kitchen paring knife into his younger brother, Kyle’s forearm.

Andrew was committed into Virginia’s state hospital system for three years. The long term and quality treatment that our son received made a positive and transformative difference in his life and in ours.

It has not been all roses. But in the end, consistent treatment and therapy worked for our son.

Our son’s recovery story is one that I want to share to give others hope and document what worked.

Three Weeks After A Car Accident, Andrew Had His First Episode

Andrew was a recruited athlete out of High School. He was an incredible athlete and ferocious competitor on the football and lacrosse fields in high school. He suffered a few concussions his junior and senior years as a quarterback for his High School football team. Looking back, these concussions may have had a role in what lie ahead.

As one of the best Lacrosse goalies in the State of Virginia, Andrew was Recruited by Army (US Military Academy West Point). He attended the US Military Academy prep School following high school and entered West Point with the class of 2012 in August 2008.

Following Cadet Basic Training also known as “Beast Barracks” the rigorous academic schedule began. Andrew began to have issues and was diagnosed with Adult ADHD and prescribed Adderall to help him concentrate. In December of his Plebe year, he had had enough and resigned from West Point.

In his mind, this was a disgrace, but he was determined to serve his country and decided to join the US Marine Corps. He was scheduled to report to Paris Island in May 2009. Before he could, he was involved in a car accident and sustained a bad head injury.

Three weeks later, he had his first psychotic episode and his first encounter with law enforcement.

Andrew stuck a first responder.

He was taken to a hospital to be stabilized and charged with three felony counts of Assault and Battery. After three days, Andrew was arrested. He was released on bond. We hired an attorney and fortunately the charges were null processed and eventually expunged.

As a family, we did not fully comprehend what had happened, and felt this was a one-time event caused by Andrew’s accident a few weeks prior. So, we went on with life.

Andrew seemed to become very “religious” after the accident and started to act somewhat strange. The term “mental Illness” was not even a part of our family’s vocabulary. We suggested he go back to school, since his military possibilities were eroding. Andrew applied and was accepted to Liberty University in the fall of 2009.

About three weeks into the fall semester, I received a call from Andrew saying that he had been arrested again. He had violated the school’s curfew policy and started going to the “Prayer Garden” after curfew and screaming the “Lord will fight my battles.”

After the 2nd or third night of this, the local police were called, and Andrew was charged with trespassing and disorderly conduct. Liberty University dropped the charges and Andrew was taken to Virginia Baptist Hospital where he was stabilized.  This was Andrew’s first “extended hospitalization. He was there for four weeks and was medically withdrawn from Liberty University.

Wow, I was really whacked out

To this day we still have the voice mail we received on 28 September 2009 at 10:39 AM from Andrew’s Doctor:

“Good Morning …The good news is the Andrew is coming back. He’s reality oriented this morning, He’s unnecessarily, I might say, apologizing for anything he might of said that was off-color. I told him he didn’t need to worry that he was a perfect gentleman. He says, “Wow, I was really whacked out there wasn’t I?’‘ I encouraged him to realize that he is coming out of it and he’s going to make a total recovery and sometime over the next few days we will have a good idea about how soon he’ll be able to leave the hospital. I can’t predict that accurately right now except to say the we will need to evaluate him over the next few days and any new developments I’ll give you a call”

The Doctor diagnosed Andrew with Bipolar type 1. This was the first time our family was confronted with the fact that Andrew was struggling with a serious mental illness. We didn’t want to believe our son had a serious mental illness. We didn’t really accept it. He spent four weeks in the hospital and was well on his road to recovery. We were confident that everything would fall back to a normal pace.

A Winding Road of Ups and Downs

Over the next couple of years (2010 -2013) Andrew struggled. He decided he was an artist, a musician and a songwriter, despite never really having any music training. He was in and out of hospitals.

During this time Andrew was hospitalized at least six times for two-four day stays. Treatment was inconsistent, the diagnosis changed, from Bipolar to depression to Schizoaffective back to bipolar to PTSD to bipolar.   Since he was diagnosed differently, his medications were changed numerous times. Follow-up care was negligible at best.

In 2009-early 2010, I was deployed to Afghanistan. My wife, Connie was home with Andrew. In mid-January 2010, with a glazed look in his eyes, Andrew just walked out of the house and went missing for 10 days. It was bitterly cold, and we were very concerned. I was in contact from Afghanistan with Fairfax County Detectives. We filed a missing person’s report and Andrew was placed on the “endangered adult list.”

Andrew finally snapped out of his psychotic state and called Connie from a borrowed phone.

He had been eating discarded food he found in trashcans and sleeping in an abandoned house and some little league baseball dugouts in the area. He was about 10 miles from home.

He was picked up by the police and returned home.

After this incident, Andrew was briefly hospitalized and began seeing a psychiatrist, on a weekly basis. Initially, Andrew was prescribed an anti-psychotic medication. After couple of months, the visits began to turn into “life coaching” sessions and the psychiatrist began to wean Andrew off the medications. We were also convinced that maybe Andrew was in fact going to recover and medications would not be necessary. So we encouraged it.

It didn’t work.

Between 2011 and July 2013, Andrew was periodically hospitalized for short periods. It was during this time period that the chronic nature of Andrew’s illness finally set in. We knew that we were now in it for the long haul. The problem was how could we get Andrew consistent quality treatment. The problem was Andrew did not feel he needed treatment.

In the summer of 2013, things began to unravel quickly.

I was serving what would be my final deployment in Afghanistan. Connie was home with Andrew and our youngest son, Kyle. On 4 June 2013, Andrew was acting very erratically to the point where Connie did not feel safe. Somehow, she was able to get him to the UVA Medical Center Emergency Room. He was under observation for a day and, after finding a bed, he was transferred to Augusta Medical Center, where he was stabilized over a three-day period and prescribed an anti-psychotic medication. They only gave him three weeks’ worth of medication with no follow-up plan in place. Shortly before the medication ran out, Connie called Augusta Medical to get a refill, and was told that they could not refill the prescription because Andrew was no longer their patient.

They provided no referral. It was a catch 22.

At the end of June, Connie took Andrew to the local Community Service Board (CSB) because she knew Andrew was de-compensating. She and Andrew met with a counselor who completed filling out forms to get him into the CSB program. Connie could tell that Andrew needed an urgent appointment with a psychiatrist to get the prescription medication that he needed. At the visit Connie asked the counselor if Andrew could be seen be a psychiatrist immediately.

The counselor told her “no, it would be at least six weeks to see a psychiatrist.”

Connie and Andrew returned home frustrated.

Andrew was having difficulty sleeping and began to act erratically. On the weekend of 6 Jul 2013, Saturday night, Andrew wanted to go to Red Lobster. At the restaurant Andrew was on edge and paranoid.

Andrew said, “Mom, I feel uncomfortable, something bad is going to happen.”

About 5 minutes later, a waiter dropped a tray of dishes and silverware on the floor. Andrew looked up and said “See, something bad happened.” That night Andrew still did not sleep.

On Sunday, 7 July, Andrew’s condition worsened.

He began to scream and started punching holes in the wall. 

His brother heard the ruckus and ran downstairs to confront his brother. Connie was trying to call 911, but the landline was dead, and her cell phone was charging, and she could not get a dial tone.

Andrew had a glazed look in his eyes as he stood in the kitchen facing his younger brother. There was ceramic paring knife sitting on the kitchen counter. Andrew picked up the knife and thrust forward. Kyle raised his arm to block and the knife pierced his lower arm straight through. Andrew pulled the knife out of Kyle’s arm and appeared to be shocked to see blood oozing out. Andrew tossed the knife and began to run around the house. Connie finally was able to contact 911. Help was on its way.

Andrew later said all he remembered was that his brother was an imposter trapped in a fluffy armored suit and he had to cut him out.

The Louisa County Sheriff’s office responded to the call, along with the local fire department ambulance team. Thankfully, this incident was handled by the responding law enforcement with as much compassion and forbearance as possible. The Deputies used minimal force to subdue Andrew. Kyle was transported to the hospital via ambulance, while Andrew was shackled and taken to the hospital by the deputies. Fortunately, Kyle suffered no major physical damage from the knife wound. Miraculously, the blade missed the major arteries and nerves in his forearm.

Andrew was initially stabilized at UVA Hospital Emergency Room, in Charlottesville, VA. There were no beds available, so he was then transported to Poplar Springs Hospital in Petersburg, VA, where he remained for three weeks. He was then arrested and officially charged with three felonies; malicious wounding, resisting arrest, and assault on a police officer (the officers claimed Andrew clenched his fist).

This incident catapulted our family into experiences and situation that we never dreamed of.

After spending a month at the Forensics Unit at Central State Hospital in Petersburg, VA and seven months in an isolation cell at the Central Virginia Regional Jail, Orange, Virginia, Andrew was found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) and committed to the State Mental Hospital System in Virginia. The “Justice System” finally realized that Andrew truly needed help and not jail.

Andrew was an “NGRI client” at Western State Hospital for three years before he was conditionally released in May 2017.

The three years Andrew was hospitalized were not all roses and an upward glide-slope of recovery. Even in the hospital there were significant bumps, relapses and uncertainties along the way. But, in the end, I will state unequivocally that the help and treatment Andrew received at Western State Hospital was essential in helping Andrew to recognize and understand his illness and to successfully learn how to manage it.

Because of treatment, Andrew was given a second chance on life.

I asked Andrew if he would briefly write down why long-term treatment was important to his recovery. Here is what he wrote:

“Ultimately the most valuable aspect of treatment was getting a second chance. Before that second chance was possible however, treatment helped me reverse negative and paranoid thinking patterns. Treatment made me fall in love with life again. It helped me to trust other people….it helped me smile. It helped me rise from the ashes and love myself. With the right medication, combined with a very positive inner theme I am thriving despite my mental illness.” (Andrew Neil)

Since Andrew’s conditional release, he continues to do extremely well. He receives great follow-up support from the local CSB. He lives in a CSB funded group home in Charlottesville and has held part time jobs, first at Krispy Kreme Donuts and was then offered a good part time job at UVA Medical Labs, which he has held for well over a year now.

Andrew recently wrote a song called “Hope”, which will be included on his upcoming album. The Lyrics are incredible poignant and uplifting and a good way to end this blog post:

“Hope” by: Andrew Neil

So delicate so free

Face of an angel

A little bit of she

Makes smiles hard to strangle

She makes me high off life

Her lips are my dope

She threw away my knife

Her name is hope

 

It’s way more than emotion

Much more than a vibe

Where teardrops meet the ocean

Where stars and us collide

It’s much more than a feeling

it’s something that you breath

goes hand in hand with healing

you are what you believe

Thanks for sharing our family story.

Sincerely,

Ray Maternick

ANDREW’S MUSIC

As a songwriter, “Andrew Neil” has released two record albums. The first Album “Code Purple-Andrew Neil” contains 11 of the seventy songs Andrew wrote and recorded while a patient at Western State Hospital. The album has been recognized as the only album ever produced in which all the songs were written and recorded in a state mental institution. This was notable enough for Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Neil_Maternick.

In 2018, Andrew recorded his first studio album called “Merry Go Round” which was released on 1 September 2018. Produced by well-known regional music producer, Andy Waldeck, the album made it to #59 on the College Radio Charts. Andrew has a strong desire to reach out and try to help others through his music. He has said numerous times: “If my music helps only a few to know they are not alone, then everything I went through was worth it.” Andrew is currently recording a third album, which will be called “Freak”, which is scheduled to be released around September 2019.

On 2 February, Andrew gave an interview for Hysteria Radio, with host Joseph Fusaro. In the interview, Andrew talks about how important his long-term treatment was in his own words. Please take 30 minutes of your time to listen to this interview with Andrew. As his parents, this interview has touched us beyond measure. We hope it has the same effect on you.   https://www.spreaker.com/user/mhnrnetwork/hysteria-radio-season-2-andrew-neil-edit.

You can learn more about Andrew’s story and music at: http://www.andrewneilmusic.com/

The official Music video of the title track to his Album “Merry Go Round” can be viewed here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JjOxUfpER0k

Please feel free to contact us directly via email ([email protected]) if you would like more information, would like to obtain a Vinyl or CD copy of Andrew’s albums, or just want to talk.

 

About the author:

Pete Earley is the bestselling author of such books as The Hot House and Crazy. When he is not spending time with his family, he tours the globe advocating for mental health reform.

Learn more about Pete.