Did my family cope? Did we nearly cope? In actual fact, we were drowning. Not one of us had come in contact with a person suffering from a mental illness, so we did not know what had hit us. We were simply not prepared. We all wanted to help David as much as we could but did not have the tools.
Once, when visiting my son in a psychiatric hospital, he introduced me to a woman who was wearing a babushka on her head. Her worn, grief-stricken face was etched with deep lines. She pushed the tiny garment she was knitting into my hands. “It’s for my grandson but they won’t bring him here to visit me,” she said, swiping at her eyes with a grubby handkerchief. Then my son turned ot me; “Mom, maybe you’ll land up here one day too.” “You’re certainly working hard at it,” I told him and he smiled. Finally I’d managed to elicit a smile from David. My husband always used humor which worked well in these circumstances … all a proven part of the coping process. But the rest of the family had trouble with it.
Our daughters kept themselves busy and spent less and less time at home. There were times when i felt like running away too, but instead, I took up writing, which proved to be a very good coping tool. Tapping on the keyboard, helped me fill my mind with fantasy rather than psychiatric hospitals and other tragedies. While writing, I felt as if I were slipping into an ocean, a peaceful place where I was weightless and invisible. Watching the computer screen with its blinking cursor, helped me escape to places of my dreams.
Because mental illness is too tough a road to walk alone, on noticing the first signs of a problem, I can only suggest that parents consult a medical professional. The sooner it is treated, the more likelihood there is of any kind of success.