Category Archives: Invisible illnesses

This  blog ends with a four – letter – word

hope 1I have lived through a great deal of sadness, shock and grief and I managed to survive each time. My children did too. We all learned to move on and overcome adversity.

I even learned to dream a bit. Every single week I dream I’m going to win the lottery. I dream that cyclamens will bloom again in my lawn the way they did so mysteriously last year. I dreamed that my eight-year-old-car would pass the licensing test again this year – and it did!

More than anything else, I dream that my family will remain healthy. I also dream of a world without illness and senseless violence. I believe that  circumstances will change for the better in the future.

Nobody can live without hope. In fact, the four letter word I wrote about is    H    O    P    E.

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He’s at rest in God’s hands, but ………………

funeral flowers While attending a dear friend’s funeral, it  triggered memories of the grief I’d felt when our son died; after he ended his life. I remembered some of the things that well-meaning friends and relatives had said to me. One stood out more than the others. It occurred when he cupped my face with both hands and said; ‘He’s at rest in God’s hands.’ My reply? ‘But, it was in God’s hands that I watched him suffer.’ I’d sought out God when in desperate need, only to find his door slammed shut in my face. I’d bargained with him, believing that if I obeyed the rules, he’d protect me, but life does not work that way.

Here are some comments and questions we heard during the days after we’d buried our son.

‘You really should have consulted with a herbalist, you know.’

‘You were supposed to watch over him 24 hours a day.’ What happened? Who was supposed to be watching over him that day?’

‘Why didn’t you change his medication?’

‘Why didn’t you make an appointment to see another psychiatrist?’

‘You could have tried something else, couldn’t  you?

‘Were you and your husband very strict when your children were young?’

What I needed most was to cry. I needed to cry until I had no more tears to shed but was unable to do so. Maybe because I had cried so much over the years. Then, a group of my son’s friends from the Mental Health Society came to visit and told us that they’d held their own private memorial service. This touched me in the deepest crevices of my soul and finally, I managed to release the well of tears I didn’t even know I had left in me to shed – tears that started and would not stop flowing.

Not long after that, a grief therapist brought by a well-meaning acquaintance rang our front door bell. According to him, I had good memories to comfort me and I could look forward to the future with hope. What I was feeling at that moment, was the raw grief of a shocking tragedy and his response sounded like psycho-babble. He insisted that we needed his help and that was when my gentle husband walked him firmly out of the front door, assuring him that we would manage without him … thank you.

 

How to combat peer pressure …….

 

peer pressure 1Negative Peer Pressure  makes  a person feel unaccepted by their peers who bring strong pressure to bear no matter what does ,they do, whether they want to do so or not. More often than not this turns out not to be in one’s best interest. It feels as if people don’t like us for who we are and fail to respect us. Peer pressure occurs mostly to kids and teens, but can affect anyone of any age. Most of us have been victims of peer pressure at some point in our lives. Kids want to fit in with the crowd. Kids want to be cool. Sometimes what the cool kids are doing isn’t really that cool at all and can land them in trouble at an early age. Some of these habits could be sex, drinking, drugs or even violence. Kids and young adults who are usually well behaved can fall victim to peer pressure just as easily.

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The good news is we can always say “NO”. One of the easiest ways to get out of a peer induced situation is to simply say “NO” and walk away which may not feel as cool at the time, but a decision we will be thankful for at a later stage.

Take a stand for what you believe is right. Don’t go through life regretting that you let others make major decisions for you. Taking a stand is the right thing to do as it demonstrates self-respect to your peers and is one of the key components of breaking the peer pressure cycle.

We need to determine who our real friends are and which ones aren’t going to pressure us into doing stuff we don’t want to do. When we ask people who have fallen victim to peer pressure why he or she did so, one of the most common responses is: We never, ever thought that or friends would lead us down that path. We trusted them to help us make the right decision. We thought that real friends would never make us do something we didn’t feel comfortable with or involve us in something that would land us in trouble. So, be selective before making friends and careful about the people whom you choose to hang out with. If they are troublemakers you will probably end up making some of the same decisions as they do.

Another great way to combat peer pressure’s negative effects is to love yourself. If you have a high enough self-esteem you aren’t really going to feel the need to fit in as much. Studies show that people with high self-esteem almost never fall victim to bad peer pressure situations. Love yourself for who you are no matter what.

Parents can help their children combat peer pressure by teaching them at a young age why they should set limits and how to stand up for themselves. They need to make decisions based on what they want to do and not what anyone else wants them to do.

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What to say to someone who is grieving

What I would say to someone who has lost a child?

I’m so sorry. I don’t really know what to say, but I want you to know that I feel deeply for you and your family and I only wish I could do more. I will be thinking of you. It must be impossible to absorb the tragedy of losing a child this way.

Very few people spoke to me this way when my son took his life, and those who did, probably had no idea how good it made me feel to hear their honest and meaningful words. It was so good because they did not ignore all reference to my child. They opened the conversation for me to talk about him at my own pace which helped a great deal. Nothing that anybody said could alleviate my pain but there were things that eased my heartache somewhat.

Being in the company of others who have experienced the same pain and loss, really made a difference. My family stayed home for the seven days of mourning which is a Jewish custom when dealing with mourning and grief after a funeral but, when that week came to an end, I had to reacquaint myself with the world of the living – with ‘NORMAL LIFE’ … whatever normal life was, and that was a frightening prospect. I had to figure out how to live with a huge hole in my heart. I wasn’t really ready for that. I still had more grief to process. I was afraid to attempt normal living in my damaged condition. I needed more time, so this is what I did.

I donned a pair of sturdy rubber gloves and started spring cleaning, moved heavy furniture and waged chemical warfare against any living creature that dared enter our home. In short, I scrubbed my life down to its bones. I needed the physical workout, but even that was insufficient, so I went out into our large garden and dug and weeded till exhaustion left me unable to think straight.

Much later, when I collected the mail, I found flyers advertising tombstones – singles or doubles, black or white, decorative or plain. A friend who dropped in to see how I was, advised me to dump them in the garbage bin, saying: When you are ready to deal with tombstones, you will choose one, but now is not the time. How right she was.

That same friend took me food shopping and from time to time, persuaded me to visit a mutual friend but, we always found more than one guest present. What I needed to hear was; Meet my friend, Jill who lost her son recently, which would have freed me from replying to the dreaded question; How many children do you have?

That question preoccupied me as well as my late husband, as most people tend to ask that question at some stage. My heart raced when I sensed it was on the agenda and I wondered what I would say/could say. ‘ I lost a son but have two daughters, OR I have two daughters.’ But that felt as  though I were deleting my son’s existence. We never managed to resolve that issue.

 

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He traveled the backbone of the world in his imagination …

Map of South Africa….

 

Over a period of 16 years, my son, took his passport and even during times of extreme unrest, bought tickets to various destinations in the world, informing us at the last minute that he was not up to flying and leaving me to organize a refund. More often than not, all I’d managed was a partial refund … or nothing at all. He’d envisioned visiting North America and Thailand, Spain and Brazil, New Zealand and Australia. My son was convinced that leaving home where THE ESTABLISHMENT was against him, would be different. Convinced that his voices would not follow him, he decided to visit South Africa; destination, family in Johannesburg and Cape Town. I was amazed at the amount of medication my late husband had managed to obtain for him and equally surprised that a psychiatrist had written out that many prescriptions. I was also deeply touched that my family had agreed to host him in his present condition and will never forget their hospitality.

 My son organized a passport, threw a few belongings into a suitcase while  I contacted the family making sure that somebody would meet him at the Jan Smuts Airport, (today known as Tambo International Airport) a flight of about 9 hours. It proved to be uneventful. At first he was thrilled with the attention lavished on him by family as well as by the beauty of the country. He managed to travel a bit, but his excitement soon wore off and it wasn’t long before we heard: ‘THEY are against me. Nobody will allow me to get better. THEY have planted microphones in South Africa too, The VOICES are back.’ Even though he had bought an open ticket for a year, it wasn’t long before he was booked on a flight home. We were at the airport to meet him and the son who alighted from the plane was a far different person from the excited lad who had left home only three months previously.

Where had the money for this trip come from, you might ask? Before his diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia, he and an acquaintance had organized a newspaper delivery business. Later he managed to hold down a job as a Realtor and sold well. That was the money he’d used for these trips. He only informed us of upcoming bookings a few days before departure date.

Not long after his return home, his condition deteriorated and we started the long, uphill process of psychiatrists and rehabilitation once again. He must have been in his late 20’s at this stage.

 

More tips learned along the way …

Get involved

 

  • When living with a person who has a mental illness, keep your sense of humor as it’s of the utmost importance.
  • I had to revise my expectations and forget about seeing my son graduate from the university, or become a husband or a father.
  • I remember the time when I had to acknowledge the remarkable courage shown by my son when dealing with his mental illness. Of course there were times when he felt despondent and even desperate.
  • Even though I knew that it was not a good idea, there were times when I felt I had to shut down my emotional life.
  • Mental illness causes a family’s emotional relationships to fall into disarray.
  • Relatives closest to our son found themselves becoming emotionally enmeshed with him while those more distant, tended to become estranged.

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Tips learned along the way …

                  Tips learned along the way …

 

a peaceful scene

  • When my son was trying hard to get his life together again, my late husband and I were actually faced with a son suffering from a neurobiological disorder, more commonly known as mental illness.
  • It took us years to understand that there was no cure.
  •  It took us years to realize that despite all our efforts, his symptoms might get worse.
  • It took me years to realize that any feelings of resentment I felt might have meant that I was giving too much of myself.
  • It took less time to understand that it was as hard for my son to accept his disorder as it was for the rest of our family. It was equally difficult for his good friends.
  • Our family tried hard to reach the stage of acceptance of schizophrenia in our family but that took a long time. It helps so much if one is able to accept. I was angry and my anger was destructive. Only when I stopped being angry, was I able to start the healing process.
  • It took us a long time to understand that a delusion will not disappear no matter how much we reasoned with our son. We learned that it needed no discussion at all.
  • We tried hard to separate our son from his disorder and learned that we loved him even though we hated his paranoid schizophrenia.
  • We had to learn to understand which side effects were caused by medication.
  • It took me a long time to learn not to neglect myself and find interests that did not revolve around mental illness.
  • We knew in our heart of hearts that there is nothing to be ashamed of due to our son’s mental illness. It is after all, a physical illness in the brain. But, in reality, the apprehensive public discriminated against mental illness in many ways. And we felt their displeasure.
  • One of the most important things we learned is that no one is to blame.