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.
We have all had our moments of sadness, anxiety or maybe a mild time of depression. I have feared all my life that I too would be plagued but I fight the fight for my mother and others. Mental illness now touches 1 in 4 and there are so many ways one can get help.
We have a saying in our family that has helped me stay strong without the heaviness of guilt and I hope it helps you or someone you have passed my story to and that is:
“The well must stay well.”
We are on the verge of a crisis today, this evening and it breaks my heart to know that on her birthday she may need to be hospitalized for she needs to be stabilized and get back to a better functioning state, as she has been more challenged for more than a week. I am sad, very sad. If I could take her suffering, especially on her birthday I would lay down the rest of my life and do so.
The next time you see a person who may look a little disheveled, may say a few strange things or may have chosen an outfit that may not quite match, before you judge or assume, imagine if that was your mother or father or someone dear to you? Or if you have a family member or friend who may be feeling blue, exhibiting PTSD, or having challenges coping with day to day dealings of life please reach out to them and give them the comfort and support they may need.
Mental illness is not a choice, it is a disease of the brain. For more information and to help reduce the stigma of mental illness, take the pledge as I have and thousands of others here at BringChange2Mind.org
I am hoping for my sweet mother tomorrow, a bright sunny day on her birthday and that the veil of fear lifts away and that the voices do not stay. There is more to this story but more importantly, I’d like to know yours.
Please use this space to share and express your experiences and knowledge to help us all have a healthier mind.
I sincerely appreciate your support and courage. Do not give up hope.
Suzie Cooney, CPT
Owner of Suzie Trains Maui, LLC
Ironically, I discovered this from my hometown newspaper, The Sacramento Bee: Direct Link: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/05/21/5435986/glenn-close-narrates-groundbreaking.html
Glenn Close Narrates Groundbreaking New Documentary That Shatters Misconceptions About Mental Illness”A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness” to premiere statewide May 30By California Mental Health Services Authority (CalMHSA)
LOS ANGELES, May 21, 2013 — /PRNewswire/ — Award-winning actress and mental health advocate Glenn Close will narrate “A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness,” an inspiring documentary that tells the stories of everyday people to shatter myths about mental illness, highlighting the struggles faced by those with mental health challenges, and their hope, resilience and recovery.
One in four American adults suffers from a diagnosable mental health illness in any given year, but many don’t seek help because of fear of judgment, isolation and discrimination.
Through the stories of real Californians, viewers of “A New State of Mind” will come to understand that mental health challenges are more common than they think, that they can be managed and that recovery is possible. Elyn Saks, professor of law at the USC Gould School of Law and author, former U.S. Congressman Patrick Kennedy and five-time Olympic medalist diver Greg Louganis are among the many subjects profiled in the hour-long documentary.