Three short letters by a bereaved father.
The first, he wrote to our son after he had done the worst thing a child could do and ended his life.
Of course we miss you terribly. But, we are relieved that you have found eternal peace. You bore your suffering bravely and you did all you could to continue living. But, when you realized that your suffering had to end, you took the only way out. I love you and want you to know that both your mother and I forgive you for taking our son away from us.״
“I thank you for all you tried to do for my son. Hopefully, in time, human knowledge will progress to a position where seriously ill psychiatric patients will be able to be helped. Unfortunately you failed to give me or my son the feeling that you were really trying. Such a feeling would have alleviated his suffering and may have helped the multiple medications you prescribed the possibility of doing what they were supposed to do.”
Doron’s bereaved father.
TO THE BURIAL SOCIETY.
“I fell that you could have fulfilled your duties with more compassion bearing in mind that you were dealing with a heartbroken, bereaved family. Sadly, we found that similar observations made by other bereaved families were justified.”
A bereaved parent.
D O R O N
I usually blog about mental illness and how our family coped with all the problems it caused both for us and for our son. I have often mentioned how my late husband used humor to get him to smile instead of becoming heated and talk about his demons. Well, the three of us were out one evening visiting friends and were pleasantly surprised to find that one of their grandchildren was present. After supper, the little boy approached my husband and asked a surprising question … surprising because it was the kind of question children usually ask their own parents or grandparents: “Do you know how I was born?” he asked.
Without hesitation my husband replied:- “Yes I think I can answer your question. I am sure that your mom and dad got together in a google chat room. Then, they set up a date in a cyber café on facebook, sneaked into a secluded room and googled one another. Once there, your mother probably agreed to download from your dad’s hard drive. When he was ready to upload, they discovered that neither of them had used a firewall, and since it was too late to hit the delete button, exactly nine months later, a little pop-up appeared that said in the most adorable voice, “You’ve got male! Congratulations.“
I often think back to the first 18 years of my son’s life when he was perceived as being the same as everybody else. Then, when things started to change, there were many people called him schizo, crazy, mad in his head. BUT, our family always called him by his name – Doron.
Our son wanted to get well. He wanted to love and be loved but most of all he needed the peace of mind that the rest of us take for granted. That peace of mind eluded him even though he took his medication religiously. He tried every new tablet until there were no new meds to take. So, his doctors gave him what we referred to as a ‘salad of meds’ where they mixed a few together. Later, he returned to the psychiatric hospital once a month to get a long lasting shot.
A person who has a mental illness can help care for others in the same condition. I read about one who abandoned his well-paid career, did a course and took on the position of a mental health counselor, working part time. What was so earth shattering about this? you might ask. Well, he gave the kind of care he wished he had received when he was taken to a psychiatric hospital. This ex-patient has recovered and is actually working as a peer specialist in a psychiatric company.
Peer care is encouraging mental health professionals to rethink treatment and actually inviting their patients to join in the process. They have been reminded that a mentally ill person is not all that different from them and somehow, it has changed their attitude and I find that rather encouraging, don’t you?
When my friend was in trouble, I spent a whole lot of time thinking and wondering how I could help her and her immediate family. I cooked for us and for her, but how could I tell her that that I wanted to help without offending her? So, I spent time trying to solve my problem and this is what I came up with. I prepared some questions to use when I next saw her and here are some I came up with.
Has your cleaner returned from her vacation yet? If not, allow me to send mine over just this once.
I have so much food left over from lunch today. I would like you to have it.
I have no idea how you are feeling but I want you to know that I will always be there for you when you feel like talking.
I am not busy today so if you need help folding your laundry, do let me know.
Tell me one day what it’s like to be ‘you’ for 24 hours. I want to know.
I bought flowers to cheer you up. Is it okay to bring them over and put them in a vase?
If my son had been run down by a vehicle, I would probably have spoken openly about it, confident of obtaining sympathy as well as empathy. But, psychosis defies empathy. Only those who have experienced mental illness close up, buy the idea that it is a behavioral disease. My son was deeply affected by the medications he took, which made him walk stiffly. Although I hated the expression, the hospital staff called it ‘a Parkinsonian shuffle.’ Much later, we learned that it was a side effect of the haloperidol medications, inducing indifference and to stop sequential thoughts. My son experienced intellectual paralysis. When he once tried to explain how he was feeling, he once asked; ‘Do you see and hear the swarm of helicopters hovering overhead?’ ‘Yes,’ we answered. ‘Well, that’s the kind of noise I hear in my head sometimes and it stops me from listening, hearing, thinking!’ Our family loved playing scrabble but he told us that he could barely build a three-lettered word any longer. I looked at my son with his tangled mass of hair – lying sprawled on his bed, and I hugged him saying; ‘I love you’ tears streaming down my face.
We can learn a whole lot from markers. Yes, the colored markers that we all use from a very young age. Some are thin, others are fat, some are dull, others are bright. Some are light, while others are dark, some work well while others don’t. There are colored markers that have unusual names like cerulean and ochre, yet … they all live peacefully together in the same pencil case.
When it comes to mental illness, let’s all take a tip from these markers and accept everyone even if they are different from the rest of us. Let’s behave toward a person with a mental illness the way we treat someone with a physical illness. Let’s be helpful to those who need help, and most of all, let’s drop the word STIGMA.