Monthly Archives: April 2013

Those Vacant Eyes

When my son, David’s psychiatrist decided that there was no more that he could do for him, they suggested that we check him into a sanitarium of sorts. I visited the place the following day and simply could not imagine my son there. I was not prepared to give up so easily. There had to be help for him somewhere out there. When I returned home, this is what flowed from my fingers onto my computer;

       VACANT EYES

Time weighs on them heavily

as they sit in the sun.

Their only sign of life, the occasional blink

of their vacant, staring eyes.

Do they still dream?

 Those shells of healthy youngsters

whose minds were snuffed out

in their prime by an illness,

apparent mostly to those it touched.

S c h i z o p h r e n i a.

For the first time in my life …

SERENADE 2 SENIORSimagesCA3WUPH5For the first time in my life, I think that I am the person I have always wanted to be. I sometimes despair over the different shape my body has taken on, about the wrinkles and bags under my eyes, and I am often taken aback by the old person who lives in my mirror, but I don’t look at her often if I can help it.

I love my friends and my interesting occupations. I have a loving family who accept my changes. As I’ve aged, I’ve become kinder to myself. If I feel like eating something unhealthy or don’t feel like changing my linen, I tell myself that I’m entitled to skip a week. I have seen too many friends leave this world too soon without grasping the freedom that comes with aging.

Whose business is it if I choose to read until late? I listen to opera and classical music on full volume as long as it does not disturb my neighbors.

If I go to the beach I don’t feel envious of the young set strutting about in their bikinis, because I know something that they can’t anticipate fully – that they will get old one day too. When I lost loved ones or watched my children or grandchildren suffer unnecessarily, my heart broke. But, a broken heart gave me strength, understanding and compassion. Yes, my heart broke a few times but that organ seems to be stronger than I realized.

I am blessed to have lived long enough to have my dark hair change to salt and pepper shades and to have laugh lines forever etched into grooves on my face. So many people have never laughed and others have died without knowing the joy of loud, carefree laughter. As one ages, one cares less about what others think. Being a senior has set me free.  I am not going to live forever and while I am here, I will not waste time lamenting on what should have or should not have been or even worry about what will be.

My youngest grandson often asks me why there is an empty space next to his Papa’s grave and my reply: “Papa wanted us to be buried next to one another, but don’t worry, I am not planning to die for some time.”

And I shall drink red wine every evening and eat chocolate every single day, if I feel like it as they are the two most decadent things I can think of doing.

Cheers to you all and have a good day.

The Driver

old lady 2SERENADE 2 SENIORS

Today’s blog is in a lighter vein.

A man was working in his garden when an old-model car came crashing through his hedge and landed on his front lawn. He rushed to help the elderly driver out of the car and then sat her down on a garden chair.

“My goodness,” he said. “Aren’t you rather old to be driving?”

“Well, yes,” she replied proudly. “I’ll be 97 next month and I am old enough to drive without a driver’s licence.”

“What on earth does that mean? he wanted to know. “Well, the last time I visited my doctor, he examined me and asked whether I had a driver’s license and I showed it to him. He took it, picked up a pair of scissors, cut my license into pieces, and then threw them into the trash can saying; ‘You won’t need this any longer.’

“I thanked him, and left.”

Surviving schizophrenia

Approximately 1% of the world’s population knows what it means to live with a relative suffering from schizophrenia. These families have to learn to live with a drastic change in their family dynamics. I know that I had to balance my other children’s needs against this thief of sanity, argued with my husband on how to meet those needs, and battled to keep myself on an even keel.

It was hard to share these hardships with friends at first so I wrote daily notes to get my feelings out into the open. It was (and still is)  important to me that other mothers and the fathers who have not chosen to walk out due to the stress of living with a mental illness at home realize that they are not alone.  Unfortunately husbands walk out quite often. The wife then has to struggle with both the illness itself and the stigma that is associated with it – as well as with the fact that she has to cope with their ill child and their other children who are equally affected and who need even more support than usual.

If you can survive …

As a parent of a son who suffered from schizophrenia, it wasn’t easy to come to terms with the impact of his diagnosis. I suffered as I watched his suffering. My husband suffered and so did our other children.

I think back to the many prescriptions I have had filled for David, only to have his psychiatrist tell me not long after that they were not working.

I had to learn to keep my head when those around me were losing theirs and blaming me. People fear what they do not understand and many do not know much about mental illness.

To all the parents out there who have a child suffering from a mental illness, Rudyard Kipling offers the following inspiration at the end of his poem …  If you can survive all this adversity, Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.

 

For those who are reading my blog for the first time

For many years, my husband and I attended a support group for parents who had children suffering from a mental illness. After some time, I started one in our town together with a friend and 22 people came regularly. My husband and I were the only two people from our town who attended – due to the stigma. The residents did not want to be seen entering a building carrying the sign of the Mental Health Association.

By talking about mental illness, many people out there email me or call to talk. Why? They all say that they need to speak to someone who has been there and who talks freely about the subject.

I tell my story in the hope that others might be more understanding of mental illness, which I prefer to call a brain illness.

I tell my story to make it  more difficult for others to close their eyes and their hearts to the mental illness around them.

I tell my story to gain empathy for the people out there who are suffering so much.

I tell my story in order to convince anyone suffering from a mental illness that with the correct treatment, they can improve their quality of life.

I tell my story to gain support for them. If they have the backing of the community, they have the chance of a life with purpose and love, something that we all strive for.

If we speak out freely and tell our stories, maybe some of the people out there will listen, believe in and even act on our behalf.

 

 

 

One in four of us …

One in four of us is likely to experience a mental health problem at some point in our lives. One in four means that mental health problems touch many people. It could be your Dad, your aunt, your sister, your child or your best friend. How would you react?

Mental health problems are nothing to be ashamed of as they are part of the ups and downs of life, but, many people who suffer from a mental illness are too afraid and embarrassed to tell friends, colleagues and even family for fear of the way they might react. And that is why a stigma reduction program is so important.

The stigma accorded mental illness acts as a barrier to individuals who need help. So, they delay seeking medical assistance for fear that someone might discover their secret.

People in the workplace who experience mental health problems should have the same rights as the other workers on the job, but, most employees interviewed admitted that they would not feel comfortable working with someone with a mental health problem.

The diagnoses such as psychosis, bipolar disorder, depression and schizophrenia, are seen as life-long labels which mark the person as being different from the rest of society. The stigma and resultant discrimination is almost as difficult to navigate as the illness itself.

Increased public understanding of mental health issues require action at every level of society. The first step in doing so is to reduce the stigma by using targeted public education activities that are designed to provide people with factual information about these illnesses and to suggest strategies for enhancing and enriching mental health in general.