On the eve of my mother’s birthday, I am compelled to write. Some of you may know that I am a very strong advocate on the subject of “mental illness” and I believe it is a matter that needs to be expressed and shared from every mountain top, as all of us know how fragile the mind is. And if our minds are not healthy, how can our bodies be?
My mother is one of 6 siblings, where 4 have been plagued with a serious mental illness since their early twenties. She manages frequent episodes of paranoid schizophrenia, manic depression, who at this moment is suffering from voices that fill her head and hallucinations that occupy her sight, keeping her from going outside to enjoy the sunshine or from grabbing a simple cup of coffee at the local Pete’s. She sees scary faces sitting on her window sill that frighten her that tell her I am in harm. I am her world you see and she is mine.
Today, the day before her 66th birthday she is paranoid; afraid to change her clothes, afraid to look out the window and afraid that the “people” at the local grocery store won’t like the outfit she has picked out. We have talked more that six times on the phone and like many other days she is coping hour to hour and minute to minute. Her medications are all mixed up as on a daily basis she must manage with the kind help of her case manager, a barrage of drugs that leave her with debilitating side effects. I certainly don’t blame her for not wanting to take them.
Some days are more “clear’ and others a jumbled mess. She is amazing how she copes from day to day and helps so many others in her building that suffer too. How she can do what she does as she knows there’s something not right about the chemicals in her brain. She remembers when her life was different. How she is saddened that she has to battle the voices that paralyze her with fear.
The one amazing thing that people living with mental illness do know is that they cannot give up hope. The will to live and function and navigate a “healthy” life is the quest.
I imagine as you are reading this, you may be surprised or shocked I am so open to share this story but I must. I write this to help you or anyone you may know who may have a family member who is needing help right now. Mental illness is often shrugged off, stuffed in a closet or framed with denial. This can no longer continue. Your voice, “their voice” must be heard.