Author Archives: Jill

About Jill

Author of books and articles on support and experiences of living with a mentally ill family member. 'the blogging grandma.'

What life has taught me

juggling five balls 2I imagined juggling five balls in the air at the same time and to name each ball, and this is what I came up with:

WORK       FAMILY        FRIENDS        HEALTH       SPIRIT What I was trying to do with my life was to keep all of them up in the air at the same time and it took a while until I understood that my WORK was like a rubber ball and if I dropped it, it would bounce back. But the other four balls;  FAMILY, HEALTH, FRIENDS and SPIRIT were crafted from glass, and if I dropped one of them, it would be irrevocably marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. I knew that it would never be the same again. That applied to the last four on my list, I simply had to learn the importance of striving for a modicum of balance in my life, something I am still learning to do. The following points are what my experiences in life have taught me:- Although I have come a long way, I have yet to learn not to undermine my own worth by comparing myself to others. At last I have learned that it is precisely because of these differences that each of us is special. Having discovered what is best for me, I try not to set my goals by what others deem important. At a practical philosophy class I learned not to live in the past nor to agonize about the future. I understand now that It is far better to live out my days one day at a time for the rest of my life. Although it took time, I have learned not to take the things closest to my heart for granted, I cling to them, as without them, my life would be meaningless. A difficult lesson to learn was not to use words nor time carelessly as neither can be retrieved. Of course there are times when I mess up on this point, but being aware of it has helped. My life is no longer a race; rather a journey to be savored. I learned not to give up when I felt I had something to give, because nothing is really over until the moment I stop trying. I try to remember at all times that every person’s greatest emotional need is to feel appreciated and I would far rather be on the giving end. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure easily carried. Once, I was afraid to learn in case I would not succeed but I am afraid no longer. It wasn’t so long ago that I had neither the time nor the courage to do so. So  many of us strive to be perfect. I know that I am far from perfect and am the first to admit it. Taking risks no longer bothers me. By taking chances, I have learned to be brave and how to put on a brave front. I am convinced that it is not a good idea to shut love out of my life simply by using the lame excuse that I had no time for it. The fastest way to receive love, is to give it; the quickest way to lose love is to hold onto it too tightly. Last but not least, I know that it’s a good idea not to run so fast that I forget not only where I’ve been, but where I am going. I can truthfully say that I have succeeded in learning some, but not all of the above points. work, friends, health, family, spirit

Music therapy in a psychiatric hospital?

musicians 2I would  imagine that music, even background music in a psychiatric hospital could soothe agitation and alleviate sadness in patients – for a while anyhow. It could also help provide a calm environment amongst the pervading chaos felt by a patient in one of these hospitals.

I know of someone who recruited others to join her and later reported that being involved with music gave them all a great deal of pleasure as well as relaxation. They composed songs communally and felt that they had achieved something positive. After their first CD came out, with help of course, they felt so much more confident in their abilities to achieve something. Some of the subjects they chose to sing about included: understanding, removing stigma and living with a mental illness. They stressed that working together was preferable to doing the same thing alone.

Holidays are here again …


Time to change 2Easter and Passover come in April and as always, I think about people with mental illnesses who should not be ignored. Nor should the developmentally disabled. Imagine how they must feel while the rest of the world goes shopping and celebrating, seldom giving a thought to anyone less fortunate than themselves. I know how my son felt when he suffered from schizophrenia. Seeing the pain caused by holidays to someone so dear to me, left an indelible mark on my attitude to life.

It really is time to give time and thought to the less fortunate people amongst us and around us. Chances are that you might know someone who is disabled or suffers from a brain illness or a mental illness. Disorders such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, drug and/or alcohol abuse, dementia, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder can affect anyone from any walk of life and cause  more suffering than many physical health problems. Why? Because people understand physical illnesses and probably do not feel threatened by them.

So many individuals are feared and thus ignored. People often behave in a hostile and disapproving manner rather than show compassion, support and the minimum understanding. These reactions cause isolation and unhappiness. Imagine how terrible it must be to be confronted by stigma and discrimination especially when using public transport or even when out shopping.

Critical or derogatory attitudes are damaging to everyone, especially to a person with a brain illness. No matter how hard a person tries, being accepted is difficult. Because he/she is unable to shake off the stigma, that person loses confidence and in time, might come to believe that he/she is not even a worthy citizen unable to find a niche in the community.

Let’s open our hearts on holidays and if each of us befriends one person, we can change the world we live in.


                                                                                                                               Time for change 1

Smile, smiles, smiley


smileyIt was the picture of a smiley that first prompted me to write this jingle.

Smiling is infectious,

You catch it like the flu.

When someone smiled at me today,

I started smiling too;

I walked around the corner

And someone saw my grin

When he smiled I realized

I’d passed it on to him.

I thought about that smile

Then realized its worth.

A smile like mine could travel;

Right around the earth.                                                                           







Should judgments of others be based on a personal trait?

stop the stigma of mental illnessOur observations of other people are usually based on a personal trait and unfortunately, this is an all too common an experience for a person who has a mental illness. Stigma may be obvious and direct like making a negative remark about an individual’s mental illness or treatment, or it may be more subtle such as the assumption that the person concerned could be unstable, violent or dangerous because he/she has a mental health condition. Some individuals even judge themselves in a negative way.

The effects of stigma are harmful and take various forms. There can be a lack of understand by family, friends or colleagues. There is often discrimination at work or school. They have difficulty finding housing. They suffer bullying, physical violence or harassment. Health insurance in most countries does not adequately cover mental illness. Eventually the patient believes he/she will never be able to succeed or meet any challenges and that they won’t ever manage to improve their situations.

Will anyone ever love me?

Do I have to tell people about my mental illness?

Will anyone truly love me if they discover my


How will I meet a young woman?

My social worker  suggests that I go out rather than sit in front of my computer. She might be right but it’s not an easy thing to do.

Will people understand? How can they if they have not had experience of mental illness? 

If I meet the right girl, do I tell her right away or wait?

Unfortunately, my son never saw that day.





We fear what we fail to understand

People tend to fear what they do not understand. Very often, people with a mental illness as well as their families  experience self- stigma.

I would like to see a world without misinformation thrown out by a journalist, by a movie director, by someone speaking in anger, and maybe totally unaware of the impact of  a few words said in anger.

Stigma can lead to the avoidance of socializing; to finding employment, and can reduce a person’s access to housing, leads to low self-esteem, isolation and hopelessness. it can result in reduced insurance coverage for in-health services too. There are some general practitioners who are averse to treating a person with a mental illness. One of the most distressing issues is when a mental illnesses causes family and friends to turn their backs on the person who needs their support so badly.







I came across this true story entitled The Sandpiper by Robert Peterson and I need to share it with you.

She was six years old when I first met her on the beach near where I live. I drive to this beach, a distance of three or four miles, whenever the world begins to close in on me. She was building a sand castle or something and looked up, her eyes as blue as the sea. “Hello,” she said. I answered with a nod, not really in the mood to bother with a small child.

“I’m building,” she said.

“I see that. What is it?” I asked, not really caring.

“Oh, I don’t know. I just like the feel of sand.”

“That sounds good, I thought, and slipped off my shoes. A sandpiper glided by.

“That’s a joy,” the child said.

“It’s a what?”

“It’s a joy. My mama says sandpipers come to bring us joy.”

The bird went gliding down the beach. Goodbye joy, I muttered to myself, hello pain, and turned to walk on. I was depressed. My life seemed completely out of balance.

“What’s your name?” She wouldn’t give up.

“Robert,” I answered. “I’m Robert Peterson.”

“Mine’s Wendy. I’m six.”

“Hi Wendy.”

She giggled. “You’re funny,” she said.

In spite of my gloom, I laughed too and walked on. Her musical giggle followed me.

“Come again Mr. P,” she called. “We’ll have another happy day.”

The next few days consisted of a group of unruly Boy Scouts PTA meetings, and an ailing mother. The sun was shining one morning as I finished stacking my dishwasher. I need a sandpiper, I told myself, gathering up my jacket.

The ever-changing joy of the seashore awaited me. The breeze was chilly but I strode along, trying to recapture the serenity I needed.

“Hello Mr. P,” she said. “Do you want to play?”

“What did you have in mind?” I asked, with a twinge of annoyance.

“I don’t know. You say.”

“How about charades,” I suggested sarcastically.

The tinkling laughter burst forth again. “I don’t know what that is.”

“Then let’s just walk.”

I noticed the delicate fairness of her face. “Where do you live?” I asked.

“Over there.” She pointed toward a row of summer cottages.

Strange, I thought… in winter.

“Where do you go to school?”

“I don’t go to school. Mommy says we’re on vacation..”

She chattered little girl talk as we strolled up the beach but my mind was on other things. When I left for home, Wendy said it had been a happy day. Feeling surprisingly better, I smiled at her and agreed.

Three weeks later, I rushed to my beach in a state of near panic. I was in no mood to greet Wendy. I thought I saw her mother on the porch and felt like demanding that she keep her child at home.

“Look, if you don’t mind,” I said crossly, when Wendy caught up with me. “I’d rather be alone today.”

She seemed unusually pale and out of breath.

“Why?” she asked. I turned to her and shouted; “Because my mother died!” then thought … my God, why was I saying this to a little child?

“Oh,” she said quietly. “Then this is a bad day.”

“Yes,” I said, “and yesterday and the day before and – oh go away.”

“Did it hurt?” she inquired.

“Did what hurt?” I was exasperated with her and myself.

“When she died?”

“Of course it hurt,” I snapped, misunderstanding, wrapped up in myself and I strode off.

A month or so after that, when I next went to the beach, she wasn’t there. Feeling guilty, ashamed and admitting that I missed her, I went up to the cottage and knocked at the door. A drawn looking young woman with honey colored hair opened the door.

“Hello. I’m Robert Peterson. I missed your little girl today and wondered whre she was.”

“Oh yes, Mr. Peterson, please come in. Wendy spoke of you so much. I’m afraid I allowed her to bother you. If she was a nuisance, please accept my apologies.”

“Not at all. She’s a delightful child,” I said, realizing that I meant what I had just said.

“Wendy died last week, Mr. Peterson. She had leukemia. Maybe she didn’t tell you.”

Struck dumb, I groped for a chair. I had to catch my breath.

Wendy’s mother carried on. “She loved this beach, so when she asked to come, we couldn’t say no. She seemed so much better here and had lots of what she called happy days. But the last few weeks, she declined rapidly”… her voice faltered. “She left something for you, if only I can find it. Could you wait a moment while I search for it?”

I nodded stupidly, my mind racing for something to say to this lovely young woman. She handed me a smeared envelope with “Mr. P” printed in bold, childish letters. Inside was a drawing in bright hues of a yellow beach, a blue sea and a brown bird. Underneath was carefully printed;


Tears welled up in my eyes and a heart that had almost forgotten to love, opened wide. I took Wendy’s mother in my arms.

“I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry,” I muttered over and over and we wept together.

The precious picture is framed now and hangs in my study. It speaks to me of harmony, courage and undemanding love … a gift from a child with sea blue eyes and hair the color of sand, who taught me the gift of love.

He felt as if he were drowning


swimming pool

During my final year at high school, I did a life-saving course and became a fully-fledged life-saver. The reason I was keen to do the course was because when I was younger, I saw a young child who did not know how to swim, struggling in a crowded swimming pool. I remember

jumping into the pool, gathering him up in my arms and asking someone else to call the life-saver immediately. All the while I wondered how strange it was that nobody else had noticed this child’s distress. The picture of this little boy struggling remained with me for many years to come.

I was reminded of this scene over and over again while my son was struggling with paranoid schizophrenia because not only was he drowning in this illness; we all were. Amongst other things, I realized that friends and acquaintances perceived him as a negative and unwanted person and chose to stay away from him. He was ill.  He felt as if he were drowning. He was depressed and most insecure as all he wanted was to be well and to be accepted by his friends and family.

If, if and more if’s ………………

If you are reluctant to admit that you have someone with a mental illness in your family who needs treatment, try not to let the fear of being labeled prevent you from seeking help. Stigma doesn’t always come from others. You may believe that your condition is a sign of weakness or that you should be able to manage your life. Receiving psychological counseling and connecting with others  with a mental illness, can help you gain self-esteem and overcome destructive self-judgment.

If you have a mental illness, you may be reluctant to share this knowledge but at least, share this knowledge with your partnerTurn to people you trust for compassion, support and understanding. I am a great believer in doing this.

If you have a mental illness, you must not equate yourself with your illness. You are not an illness so rather than say, ‘I’m bipolar,’ see how it sounds to say; ‘I have a bipolar disorder, or I am a person with schizophrenia’ rather than using the term schizophrenic. Rather than describe yourself as depressed, spit out the words; ‘I have a clinical depression.’


blog for 2014