Author Archives: Jill

About Jill

Author of books and articles on support and experiences of living with a mentally ill family member. My aim in blogging is to let others see how a loving family, with a father and husband who is able to give unconditional love, can help the family cope. Many call me the blogging grandma.'

Self Imposed Stigma

exquisite tree sceneIF you are not well, tell yourself that you must get help. Not next week or next month, but tomorrow. If you are suffering from an illness, the most difficult words to say are; I need help. And if you are dealing with a mental illness, it’s that much harder.

When your computer breaks down, you don’t hesitate to call a technician. And when your faucet leaks, you call a plumber, so, why is it so problematic to make an appointment to visit a therapist, a psychologist or a psychiatrist? Could it be due to the mistaken belief that asking for help is a sign of weakness? We are in the year 2014 and people from all walks of life seek therapy nowadays.

I think that much of the stigma lies in our own thoughts and beliefs about the issue at hand. If I think that I am weak due to the fact that I admit to needing therapy, then I will probably believe that others have the same view.

When my son need the help of therapists, I was aware of the stigma, but after attending two support groups, I no longer allowed those feelings to surface and do you know what? My life changed drastically for the better.

Try it.

‘Making Lemonade Out of This Shit’ Grandma Jill

1 lemonade out of this shitI decided to post this as it was heartwarming to find it on the Internet.

Grandma Jill,

MAKING LEMONADE OUT OF THIS SHIT

Grandma Jill

Thank you to my kind (virtual) friend and inspiration, Grandma Jill.  I started to read Jill’s blog during the depths of depression.  She blogs about mental illness, and her entries on schizophrenia started to resonate with me when I started having concerns about my brother.  After his suicide this past August, I reached out to Jill as a resource.  She has been an endless source of inspiration and knowledge.  “David’s Story” is a remarkable, yet heartbreaking, tribute to her late-son David.  She details her family’s journey as well as her frustrations — although she is not alone — with the mental health system.   She tragically lost her son to suicide just as we lost my brother last August.  I read most of  ‘David’s Story’ within days, but I must admit that I delayed reading the last few chapters for months.  I couldn’t bring myself to deal with the reality of suicide given the rawness of my brother’s death.  As I came close to the end of a train ride, I finally mustered up the courage to finish Jill’s book.  I spent the last hour sobbing — uncontrollably.  Her book hit at my core.  Jill’s persistence was and remains enviable.  Her courage is admirable.  Her compassion is incomparable.   If you have a chance, please read “David’s Story.”

“A person diagnosed with a mental illness is usually the very last one to speak out about it due to the stigma. Mental illness is far more common than diabetes, heart disease or cancer. It is NOT a character flaw. It doesn’t help to tell someone: get over it. But it does help to show compassion as they are struggling. Try and find ways to give support. Maybe it’s time to deal with it openly with the emphasis on kindness and acceptance.” — Jill Sadowsky.

Visit her blog (http://jillsmentalhealthresources.wordpress.com) or read “David’s Story.”

Reviews on “David’s Story

“Jill Sadowsky bravely and generously shares her experiences with her son’s schizophrenia. While her story is harrowing, her strength is inspiring. She has led the way to removing the stigma associated with mental illness. Despite the heart-ache I felt, I could not put it down. Well written and without a whisper of self-pity.”

My sincerest thank you for sharing your family’s story with us. Your book is a wonderful tribute to your late son, David. By having the courage to share this story, you ensure that the dialogue around mental illness will continue, which ultimately will lead to greater understanding and compassion. After reading through your blog, I purchased David’s Story trying to find some solace. Less than five months ago, my 24-year-old brother, Ben, died by suicide. Although he was never officially diagnosed, there were many similarities between Ben and David. I shared the book with my family with the hope that they too would find some solace. It has helped us all with the healing process and has made us feel a little less alone on this journey. Thank you again for your courage. You are a remarkable and strong woman.” My deepest gratitude, Holly Neiweem (http://bennyfund.org)

“Sadowsky has written a wrenching memoir of her son’s mental illness, which was eventually diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenia. The book is not as dark as I expected; there are many moments of joy and humor and family togetherness. But Sadowsky’s fear and worry for her son come through, as well as at times fear of him, what he might do in the grip of a delusion. I appreciate her honesty and openness. Through all the fear and anger and frustration, what is most apparent is the love, not just for this difficult and damaged boy, but between all members of the family.”

“I didn’t know what to say or do — How many of us have been caught up in a guilt-ridden conscience battle when considering contacting people whom we know are dealing with specific problems. Somehow it is easy when there is a physical situation that can be referred to in terms that we all know and understand. BUT it is the OTHER situations that cause us the most difficult of decision making. But beyond the decision there is the feeling of “not knowing what to say or do.” Many life situations have rituals that give us security to deal with a specific event – religious traditions are most helpful and are guidelines as to what is expected and we can lean on these rules to guide and give confidence as to what is to be done. But then there are the matters as “mental health” that is not so clear-cut or so obvious and do not have the ground rules to follow. We are lost, we feel guilty that we do not know what should be said or even if something should be done.  That is why “David’s Story” is going to be a bible to many who have watched from the sidelines not knowing if they should or how to get involved. So many social taboos are associated with mental illness that no guidelines are there or modes of behavior or social etiquettes to deal with these situations. There are many such cases where society has not given us the tools to cope, not only as the actual participants directly affected but also those of us who are on the periphery and who would want to help but are at a loss as to what is expected or what will not be offensive.  At last an open book, a true exposure by those most affected, is going to offer key codes of reaction that will be treasured guides to those many, many people who just were at a loss as to what they could do.
Jill Sadowsky not only has opened her heart and soul to relate such painful aspects of her life but she has opened the world of mental health to the better understanding by all of us, giving us vital information that can guide so many, to be able to reach to those in need of support – hopefully we shall know what is needed.  From a friend who was lost – I thank her for her courage to help us know better what to do whenever it is necessary.”

 

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‘Grandma, what happened to Papa’s brain?’

BRAIN image with Alzheimer'sI had a problem explaining Alzheimer’s disease to our young grandchildren. After agonizing about how to go about this, I sat them down, and came up with the following:

Your papa has an illness called Alzheimer’s disease that makes him act the way he does. It’s like having a broken bone, but with Papa, a little piece of his brain is broken and doesn’t work the way it should. Because of this, he can’t remember what you told him yesterday. Because of this, he forgets how to use the television remote. Because of this, he falls asleep sometimes when you are telling him something important. Because of this, he forgets things as well as people’s names. BUT, the part of papa’s brain that is for loving, is still working well, and I know that he loves you all very much.

I have reblogged this as I received so many requests to do so. Whenever I read it, I get tears in my eyes when I remember the looks on the children’s faces during the above explanation.

Forgive but not Forget

When I realized how very angry at the world I was, I knew that for the sake of my health, I HAD to do something. But what? I thought long and hard and decided to work on myself to release my anger. First, I had to stop blaming my son for daring to contract schizophrenia! Then I had to stop blaming psychiatrists for not being able to cure him. There is no known cure, but medications help so many people so why not our son? As I am a writer, I churned out short, murder stories, and in every single one, the unfortunate person who was murdered, was a psychiatrist. That was destructive too, so slowly, I turned elsewhere. Oh, I didn’t stop writing, but I wrote different kinds of stories. My family fought with me to banish schizophrenia from our son’s mind but it took 16 years for us to realize that our firstborn was medication resistant and that maybe, just maybe, he had stopped taking his pill. Eventually, he gave up his battle to fight his demons and jumped from a tall building. Life as we had known it, crashed.

When my late husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, once again my anger flared up. Another brain illness in the same family? How could this occur? And why? My late husband was a gentle soul, a man I’d met when I was 18 years old and lived with happily for 51 years. He was the one who’d kept us going while schizophrenia ran rampant through our lives. He was the one who had the ability to give unconditional love. Granted, the Alzheimer years put a strain on us all, but somehow, we got through that too. I continued to invite friends over, went out when I could and gave my late husband all the support I could muster – and so did our daughters. But, my anger was still there, simmering, waiting to ignite. I knew that I had to get rid of it – some of it at least, once and for all, and forgive.

What does forgiveness mean? It means letting go of and accepting what has occurred, because no matter what I did, the position wasn’t likely to change. Forgiveness meant dismissing blame. I didn’t choose to have those two illnesses in my family, illnesses that caused us all so much hurt. I could have chosen not to let my anger build up, but at that stage, I simply didn’t know how to do so.

To me, forgiveness meant looking at my pain and learning lessons from it.

To me, forgiveness meant starting over with the knowledge that I might have gained something after all.

To me, forgiveness meant letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of resentment and trying to erase all the bitterness I was feeling. As a parent, wasn’t I in the position to be a model for my daughters? Shouldn’t I have shown them that I could forgive as well as show them how to do so? If my daughters watched this process in me, wouldn’t they learn not to harbor resentment over the ways in which life might have disappointed them? I think that forgiveness is a valuable skill for everyone to practice.

I knew somehow, that I had to acknowledge my inner pain and express my emotions in a non-belligerent manner. It was my way of protecting myself from my feelings of victimization. Was I blaming myself for the fact that our son had developed schizophrenia? On the conscious level, I don’t think so but go figure. Even after my son left us in a way that no parent should ever have to experience, I didn’t think that I blamed myself. He simply could no longer bear to hear the voices. He could no longer bear having no peace of mind. Stigma also played a large part here. The harsh stigma surrounding schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s played a part in the way I behaved. At first, I was unable to talk about the fact that my son, MY SON was in a psychiatric hospital. What would people say about him, about my family, about me? Of course they must have known, as bad news travels fast and I heard later that news of his illness had traveled fasted than sound. I doubt that anybody who knew and loved us thought badly of us, but it was news, after all. If by any chance, anyone felt the need to say anything nasty about my family, I know now that it was not worth bothering with them or continuing our friendship, but then, I was unable to think clearly.

After our son’s death, a Realtor who lived in the next street came to ask whether we wanted to sell our house. ‘Surely you need a smaller house now?’ she asked. ‘Surely you won’t be able to live here where all your memories lie?’ Did I have to forgive her for the bad taste shown for the sake of her business? Did I have to forgive the family whose children were at preschool with my son yet crossed the road whenever they saw me?  they probably didn’ know what to say. But, when he died, they all came to his funeral.

I had to let go of all my negative thoughts. I had to banish my resentment and bitterness and the usual question, ‘why my family?’ So I acknowledged my pain. I realized that forgiveness did not mean pretending that everything was okay. Forgiveness was a difficult challenge for me but so was letting go. Make no mistake. This took a very long time; years, in fact. To me it meant that I had to be able to meet a psychiatrist without my stomach starting to ache, without wanting to punch him/her in the face, without blaming him for the fact that I’d lost my son due to the incompetence or inability of psychiatry to help our family. I had to reconcile with that profession and realize that people die every day from all kinds of illnesses due to the fact that the medical profession is not a ‘cure-all’ one.

For me, writing is cathartic and over the years, I have written and continue to write about mental illness and Alzheimer’s. Grief and grieving is also a part of this process. I have given talks in various countries and at home; attended, and run support groups, and now, I blog three times a week, knowing that many people gain some support by reading what I have been through and I tell people not to pretend that a tragedy or other upsetting incident did not happen.

Yes, the fact that I can still smile and have the ability to enjoy the good things that come my way, enable me to say that I have managed to cope.

daughters. But, my anger was still there, simmering, waiting to ignite. I knew that I had to get rid of it once and for all and forgive.

 

What does forgiveness mean? It means letting go of and accepting what has occurred, because no matter what I did, the position wasn’t likely to change. Forgiveness meant dismissing blame. I didn’t choose to have those two illnesses in my family, illnesses that caused us all so much hurt. I could have chosen not to let my anger build up, but at that stage, I simply didn’t know how to do so.

To me, forgiveness meant looking at my pain and learning lessons from it. To me, forgiveness meant starting over with the knowledge that I might have gained something after all.

To me, forgiveness meant letting go of the need for revenge and releasing negative thoughts of resentment and trying to erase all the bitterness I was feeling. As a parent, wasn’t I in the position to be a model for my daughters? Shouldn’t I have shown them that I could forgive when possible as well as show them how to do so? If my daughters watched this process in me, wouldn’t they not to harbor resentment over the ways in which life might have disappointed them? I think that forgiveness is a valuable skill for everyone to practice.

I knew somehow, that I had to acknowledge my inner pain and express my emotions in a non-belligerent manner. It was my way of protecting myself from my feelings of victimization. Was I blaming myself for the fact that our son had developed schizophrenia? On the conscious level, I don’t think so but go figure. Even after my son left us in a way that no parent should ever have to experience, I didn’t think that I blamed myself. He simply could no longer bear to hear the voices. He could no longer bear having no peace of mind. Stigma also played a large part here. The harsh stigma surrounding schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s played a large part in the way I behaved. At first, I was unable to talk about the fact that my son, MY SON was in a psychiatric hospital. What would people say about him, about my family, about me? Of course they must have known, as bad news travels fast and I heard later that news of his illness traveled fasted than sound. I doubt that anybody who knew and loved us thought badly of us, but it was news, after all. If by any chance, anyone felt the need to say anything nasty about my family, I know now that it was not worth bothering with them or continuing our friendship, but then, I was unable to think clearly.

After our son’s death, a Realtor who lived in the next street came to ask whether we wanted to sell our house. ‘Surely you need a smaller house now,’ she said. ‘Surely you won’t be able to live here where all your memories are?’ Did I have to forgive her for the bad taste shown for the sake of her business? Did I have to forgive the family whose children were at preschool with my son yet crossed the road whenever they saw me? After all, when he died, they all came to his funeral.

I had to let go of all my negative thoughts. I had to banish my resentment and bitterness and the usual question, ‘why my family?’

So I acknowledged my pain. I realized that forgiveness did not mean pretending that everything was okay. Forgiveness was a difficult challenge for me but so was letting go. Make no mistake. This took a very long time; years, in fact. To me it meant that I had to be able to meet a psychiatrist without my stomach starting to ache, without wanting to punch him/her in the face, without blaming him for the fact that I’d lost my son due to the incompetence or inability of psychiatry to help our family. I had to reconcile with that profession and realize that people die every day from all kinds of illnesses due to the fact that the medical profession is not a ‘cure-all’ one.

For me, writing is cathartic and over the years, I have written and continue to write about mental illness and Alzheimer’s. Grief and grieving is also a part of this process. I have given talks in various countries and at home; attended, and run support groups, and now, I blog three times a week, knowing that many people gain some support by reading what I have been through and I tell people not to pretend that a tragedy or other upsetting incident did not happen.

Yes, the fact that I can still smile and have the ability to enjoy the good things that come my way, enable me to say that I have managed to cope.

My wish? A world with effective treatment for schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease

hospital 2MY WISH? A WORLD WITH EFFECTIVE TREATMENT FOR THE MEDICATION RESISTANT AMONGST US ….

When my son was ill and diagnosed as suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, my husband and I searched for medication that would silence the voices in his head that allowed him no peace of mind. Nothing worked. First we searched for some treatment. Then we tried to find alternative treatment and then in desperation, would have taken anything at all, even a miracle cure from a witch doctor but even that was not forthcoming. David seemed to be medication resistant and I often wondered whether sufficient money and time were being invested in research of the human brain.

Then, when my late husband received the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease, the same subject came up again. Two brain illnesses in one family? Does that occur often? How? Why? And once again I wondered whether sufficient research was being carried out on the human brain.

Someone asked me whether I had a specific wish for the future. My reply: ‘I wish to see a world with cures for schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s.

 

 doctor 2I wonder whether research scientists have explored the connection between these two brain illnesses. Both patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s can suffer from delusions and hallucinations.

Delusions are fixed false beliefs and hallucinations are false, sensory perceptions which are not real.

David’s Story and author bio

David's Story cover kindle

BUY David’s Story by Jill Sadowky from Amazon’s Kindle Store or from Smashwords.

When we talk to G-d, it’s called prayer, but when G-d talks to us, it’s called schizophrenia – is Lily Tomlin’s quote that I chose to use in my book.

Dvora Waysman, author of 11 books, wrote: ‘David’s Story is a heartbreaking study of the progress of schizophrenia, destroying not only one life, but making tragic inroads into the lives of every family member. This story gripped me from the first page and I grieved along with the author. I highly recommend it. Jill Sadowsky’s honest recording of her son’s little-understood mental illness is written with sensitivity and compassion, born out of love and pain.’

AUTHOR BIO: Jill is an English Teacher and a volunteer for the local Mental health Association. In January 2012, she received a prestigious award for her voluntary work in the field of mental health, during the time her son was ill, something she still continues to do.

Her first book, Weep for Them, was written under a pen-name and David’s Story, was her second.

Personal Account, a long essay, was published in the US Health & Human Resources Publication.

An Account of Their Lives with Schizophrenia was one of two articles published in the Israeli Psychiatric Journal.

She has been published in three anthologies as well as in Kaleidoscope in the USA.

She won first place in two international short story competitions recently, including her story, A Grave Surprise in Dream Quest One, and several of her short stories have been accepted for publication in North America and England.

The picture below appeared in the Jewish Telegraph, Manchester, UK on April 5, 2012 under the following heading.

PROFILE

THEY CALL JILL ‘MESSIAH’ BECAUSE SHE BREAKS TABOO OF MENTAL ILLNESS and the story appeared underneath the picture below  (too long to publish here)

                         jill photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve discovered that love…

 SERENADE TO SENIORS 

BRAIN

Our brain is the  most outstanding organ in our body. It works 24 hours, 365 days from the time we are born until ………………………. we fall in love.

For a change, this blog will be on a lighter note, quite out of character from my usual blogs.

The most beautiful line one can hear is “But, I love you.”

The most painful one is “I love you, but,” …………….. 

                                                                                                red heart 1332305007T6R93I

Rather than choose the one who is beautiful to the world; choose the one who makes your world beautiful.

True love isn’t about being inseparable. It’s about two people being true to each other even when they are apart.

Falling in love is not a choice. Staying in love is.

While you’re searching for the perfect person, you might miss the imperfect individual who could have made you perfectly happy.

Love is about spending time with a person who makes you happy in a way that nobody else does.

If you love life, don’t waste time;  for time is what life is made up of.

Music is what feelings sound like.