My guest blogger today is Sheila Feeman. NOTE: This article has been posted with permission and copyrighted by Sheila Feeman of Beginning Anew Life Coaching. It may not be published or redistributed in whole or part without the express written permission of author Sheila Feeman.
Throughout the enormous weight of my sadness, guilt, and personal loss, I struggled to find moments of peace. Those moments came, interestingly enough, when I could conjure up my Mom’s voice or when I could imagine her big, toothy smile. There were some truly wonderful years. The year she spent planning my wedding was so busy, chaotic, and joyful that the project itself seemed to be a better diversion than any medication. The year following my son’s birth seemed to give Mom a passionate purpose and a fresh role in life: loving grandmother. There were dozens of beautiful moments of shared family time: Jason’s bris, Passover dinners, Sunday deli lunches, vacations in the Florida villa, birthday celebrations, my first Mother’s Day, the surprise party Mom planned for my fifth wedding anniversary, the bash my parents made for themselves to commemorate their own 35 years of marriage.
I often heard questions like: “she’s got so much to live for–why can’t she just enjoy her life?” Those queries, born of ignorance, don’t address the disease of mental illness. If the solution were that simple, suicides would be far less rampant. It’s like asking a woman who’s had a double mastectomy to wear a bikini. Such a thoughtless question doesn’t begin to take into consideration the trauma of the disease of cancer, just like the question about life’s enjoyment doesn’t account for bi-polar disease.
The difference between mental illness and other illnesses is two-fold. First, a lot of mental illness can’t be ‘seen.’ In my mom’s case, she appeared “normal”–elegantly dressed, coiffed, functioning. The problem was the workings of brain…not her body. Second, there has always been stigma around any kind of depression, anxiety, or mental/emotional issues. The stigma, again based on pure ignorance, is enough to depress the patient even further.
In my continued quest for inner peace, sitting quietly with her picture in hand is usually helpful. Seeing her beautiful smile, her perfectly designed outfit, her professionally styled hair brings a serenity that continues to increase with time. I’m also comforted by the knowledge that somewhere out there she knows and she’s proud…that her grandson is a Rabbi and her granddaughter is an LICSW. I am left to enjoy her legacy and continue to give thanks for the beautiful family she mentored during her brief time on earth.