Monthly Archives: November 2011

Why are flowers, sympathy and suport denied to people with a mental illness?

Mental illnesses are like any other; heart disease, diabetes, asthma. Yet the tradition of bring flowers, giving sympathy and support that is provided to those with a physical illness, is denied to those with a mental illness.

Are mental illnesses incurable and lifelong?

When treated appropriately and early, many people recover fully. A mental illness is like many physical illnesses that require ongoing treatment; like diabetes and heart disease, but which can be managed so that the individual can participate in everyday life.

Some people have only one episode and recover completely but for our son, it recurred throughout his life and required ongoing treatment.

Are people born with a mental illness?

We understood that the causes are unclear. Stress, bereavement, a breakdown of a relationship or unemployment, can be the trigger.

Many individuals would prefer to explain away a mental illness as a ‘nervous breakdown,’ than being branded as mentally ill.

I love the word wellness. I wish we could use the term ; mental wellness.

If a relationship has to be a secret, get out of it.

Celebrities can help bring mental illness out into the open. More of them are speaking out about their experiences, among them Nobel prizewinning economist John Forbes Nash, actress Patty Duke, Brooke Shields and Tipper Gore.

If you suffer from a mental illness, you can decide who to tell and how much to disclose. Being open about your condition may be a risk but besides gaining support, you will unburden yourself from carrying a heavy secret. But it  should not be a secret at all.  If a relationship or something that is bothering you has to be a secret, get out of the relationship and unburden yourself of the ‘secret’ and you will feel easier. It will also be one small step toward bringing mental illness out into the open.

Monitor the media, join a support group and you  might not be one of the typical relatives of a mentally ill person – whose families are usually in chaos. The parents are searching frantically for answers that can’t be found. Hope turns to  despair and there are many families that are destroyed no matter how hard they try to survive.

Our family was chaotic when our son was ill and I found little to laugh about, but once, in the middle of the night, I thought back to a trip to London my husband and I had taken and the following incident made me laugh till I cried.

I was crossing the Tower Bridge in London and failed to hear the warning signal as a plane or a helicopter flew overhead at that inopportune moment. The bridge started opening. while I was halfway across. I grabbed the railing and held on tightly as it went up into the air. As the bridge rose to its full height, shocked motorists got out of their cars and informed the bridge attendant what was happening. He lowered the span after several minutes and as I came down with it, I fell on my face and bruised my forehead and nose. I was released after treatment at the nearest hospital.

Whenever I thought of that incident, I laughed.

If you have cancer, do we call you cancerous?

If someone has cancer, we don’t refer to them as being cancerous. We say; “He is suffering from cancer.” So, when someone is diagnosed with schizophrenia, why say; “He is schizophrenic?” I say, “he has schizophrenia. “This way, the individual remains a person and not an illness.

At the hospital one day, I overheard one of the patients ask; “Do you know what a zoo is? A place for animals to study the habits of human beings.”

Someone asked me: “Do you know the definition of a psychiatrist? ”

“A specialist who knows everything about something and nothing about anything else.”

This same patient told my husband; “Never have more children than car windows.”

David’s tightrope was breaking …

Our family story is unique but universal as every tale of paranoid schizophrenia resonates with every other one.

At first, I was terrified to tell our story, our  nightmare ; to expose my family to public judgment and scrutiny. But, only when I started speaking out, did I begin to help start the process of demystifying mental illness, as well as trying to  break the terrible stigma.

I received e-mails; many mails; many said that our stories were similar, but they were unable to speak out. They kept all the fear and anxiety inside of them, causing even more upset. There were some  mails of compassion and consolation.

David’s tightrope was swaying. How could he stop it from breaking? The meds were not working. Medication resistant was what we heard. How come if there are so many different tablets?

David told us; “At night, I hear the strident sound of feet marching down the long corridor, then someone ordering the guy in the next bed to get up and go upstairs with him to begin his shock therapy session. I was terrified. Would I be next?”

My son often had the glazed look of someone in the midst of a nightmare.

When David was discharged from a psychiatric hospital, and he was in many, he was discharged to nowhere.

I often saw him lying in a fetal position on his bed. There were times when I felt that I was running a de facto private psychiatric clinic. I’d become an expert on the latest research on rehabilitation – no cures, but an individual can lead a regular life; can work too if his doctors find the right medication. We were still searching, searching, searching …

Schizophrenia had become like an addiction. I thought about it nearly all the time, rehashed it, and it was always in my mind. When I went out, I tried so hard to talk about anything but my son’s illness and about what transpired in our house. That didn’t work either.

Parents like these !

Medication without cause

Parents threw me out.

For a long time

I haven’t slept at home.

For three and a half years

I haven’t dated.

I haven’t been to a party.

My social life doesn’t exist.

I’m a good salesman.

                                                  Written by David

I can’t imagine what it’s like for you …

When my son, David suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, I seldom knew what to say to him. But, over a period of time, I developed a different kind of vocabulary from the one I usually used.

I told him: “I can’t imagine what it’s like for you. I simply cannot imagine how hard it must be.”

“I have empathy for what you are going through.”

“I am always here for you. I want you to know that.”

“You are  not alone in this. I care.”

“There is no way that I can fully understand what you are feeling, but I want you to know that I feel for you.”

“I’m sorry you are in so much pain. I feel for you.”

“Would you like to talk about it? Let me hug you.”

“Dad and I will never leave you. You know that.”

“You’re not along in this.”

“When it’s all over, I will still be here, and so will you.”

“I love you David.”