Tag Archives: speak out

David’s Story

While my son was ill for 16 years, I kept scraps of paper where I jotted down all the crises we all experienced. Using all that information, I eventually wrote a book which I called ‘DAVID’S STORY’, even though his name was DORON. I have blogged for years about schizophrenia and the blame, shame, stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness.

Here is my last blog for this year.

DAVID’S STORY

This is the story of one family, the story of millions of families worldwide. My happy, busy, social son, changed. ‘A classic case of paranoid schizophrenia,’ the psychiatrist said. It took a long time before we learned that parents could not cause this illness; that we could not be blamed. We thought he would go into the hospital ill but exit healthy. Wrong. He tried psychotherapy, occupational therapy, dance therapy and group therapy yet he continued to be out of focus, angry, psychotic and paranoid and the army of psychiatric health workers and psychiatrists were unable to help him.

Our teenage daughters stopped bringing friends home. Fear crept in. We attended family therapy at the hospital, told them what transpired when he was home, yet, they sent him home for weekends. BUT, I noticed that in the hospital, the staff always walked behind him.

Meanwhile our daughters did without; without sufficient time from us, without vacations or extras as spare cash went into another prescription, another treatment, and for his psychiatrist’s fees. Our 13-year-old daughter summed it up. ‘IF David’s body were hurting, people would bring gifts and visit him in the hospital, but because it is his mind that is ill, they stayed away.

Our family remained together, took each day as it came, learned to find the positive things in life and even realized how lucky we were to have a father/husband who was so caring,  as well as parents who loved one another. Together, we forged new dreams.

 Our son could no longer bear the voices in his head and realized that he was never going to have peace of mind. All he had ever wanted was to hold down a decent job, have someone to love, and … peace of mind. So, he went to a place of beauty; a place suitable for the surfer he had been.

Our son’s name was Doron but when I wrote this book, I changed all our names and called him David.

In January 1996, three  months before his 34th birthday, we buried our son. On that dull winter’s day, the earth that had been dug out stood in a mound ready to be thrown back. For the last time I talked to my son, while in the cold, still air, I heard a thousand birds sing their songs of life.

All the people who loved my son said farewell, even those who had not coped with his schizophrenia but knew how to handle his death. So many friends, neighbors and acquaintances stood, shoulders touching, their breath mingling in the icy air into one great sigh for our loss. I whispered goodbye. So much left unsaid. I ached to see him on his surfboard There was a thud of earth, a marker – and he was gone. He didn’t even say goodbye. In a tumble of memories, I saw David’s superimposed on the painful image of his anguished expression.

I love you, David. Rest. 1962 – 1996.

David’s Story by Jill Sadowsky, can be bought as a kindle book on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

Teachers who are in a depression

 

This is the third and last in a series of three blogs on depression

teacherAs any teacher knows, students feast on any perceived weakness they can possibly find, especially in a new teacher. If a teacher is in a depression, it comes across to the students. Students might realize that the teacher in question is not really happy as a teacher or with the school or the education department itself. And, if that is the way a teacher appears to his/her students, they will not believe in that person as a teacher. Because teachers are only human, it makes them susceptible to depression the same as the rest of the population. They are in a catch 22 situation. Teaching requires a huge emotional input, so why shouldn’t teachers be depressed the way the rest of us can be? As a young boy in grade 5, I first held a knife and wondered what damage I could do to myself with it. I’ve had to deal with depression for a long time, and what I have learned is, that one can’t simply wish depression away. It doesn’t work that way at all.

I do believe that teaching might not be the right profession for some due to the extreme pressure and expectations involved. It is a rather rigid kind of life, particularly for a sensitive person who might overreact to pressure or to the unexpected failures which are bound to occur every day. As a result, there will be no shortage of small or large reasons to trigger a depression. I still teach although I took off a year to get myself back on track and I now love it and wouldn’t change my profession for anything.

 

1000 blogs posted to date

no more stigma 5I posted my 1,000th blog on May 23, 2014 and even I was amazed at the amount of material I have included on these pages.

I have written two books, my work has been included in two Anthologies and I have had many articles and stories published. So you might ask why I began blogging. Well, while my son was ill with schizophrenia, my husband and I belonged to a support group but if we’d had blogs to read in those days, we would have gained even more useful information that could have helped us enormously. So, I decided to blog about mental illness, other brain illnesses and Alzheimer’s disease and hoped that in these pages, by speaking out frankly, somehow, I would manage to give others some empathy and even hope sometimes, encourage people to join me, and together, we might be able to lessen the blame, shame, stigma and discrimination accorded the brain illnesses. What surprised me most was how many people in countries all over the world started following my blog. Probably due to the sensitivity of the subject of mental illness, few people actually left comments, but, what they did do, was send me emails. And, I replied to every single one of them even though it is time consuming.

When my blog was born in November 2011, I had no idea of how much work it would entail to write a blog and keep it going. and, I had to learn how to post a new blog, how to save a draft and worst of all, how to get an image not only onto the screen where my blog was, but, I had to learn how to make that image show up and remain where I wanted it to be on that particular page. The result was that instead of going to bed at a reasonable time at night, I found myself fighting with my laptop till the early hours of the morning; sometimes with good results, but very often, the computer won the battle and I gave up tearfully. After all who could a blogging grandma call at that hour? Believe me, I was often tempted to wake B., my computer guru, but I knew that he would not have been impressed.

I felt as if I were doing a fairly good job, but every time a journalist related yet another incident of violence committed by an unstable person – the latest occurred on May 24, 2014 when a young person suffering from Asperger’s Syndrome and living in the USA, went on a shooting spree.  In my humble opinion, unless the United States of America changes its gun laws, I cannot see a way out. I always thought that the safety of a country’s citizens was the priority of a government.   

 In America under the Brady Act, one cannot have a gun for personal or business use if a person:  

Has been convicted of a crime punishable by being in prison for more than one year.

Is a fugitive from justice;

Is addicted to, or illegally using any controlled substance;

Has been ruled mentally defective by a court or is committed to a psychiatric institution;

Is an illegal alien living in the United States;

Has received a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Armed Forces;

Has renounced his/her U.S. citizenship.

Is subject to a restraining court order that involves his/her ‘intimate partner,’ that partner’s child, or children; has been convicted of domestic violence in any court.

 In spite of the above, I shall continue to blog about accepting a person with a mental illness the way we accept people with other illnesses. Maybe I am naive, but I firmly believe that even one voice can make a small difference. Please join me.

Time for change 1

Will anyone ever love me?

Do I have to tell people about my mental illness?

Will anyone truly love me if they discover my

secret?

How will I meet a young woman?

My social worker  suggests that I go out rather than sit in front of my computer. She might be right but it’s not an easy thing to do.

Will people understand? How can they if they have not had experience of mental illness? 

If I meet the right girl, do I tell her right away or wait?

Unfortunately, my son never saw that day.

 

 

 

 

Breaking the Deafening Silence

Our firstborn son suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and for 16 years, my husband and I searched for the right medication, for a cure, any cure in our determination to find the  miracle that would quiet the voices he heard in his head. We wanted to share our problem with the school counsellor but our daughters begged us not to do so. They reminded us how very cruel high school students could be with their never-ending jokes about people who were mentally ill. So, after a great deal of deliberation, we decided to respect their feelings but were not happy with the decision.

If teachers are trained to recognise mental illness, so much heartache can be avoided. Children hear about AIDS, drug abuse, smoking and alcohol so why is mental illness left by the wayside?

The stigma associated with mental illness is terrible. Acquaintances crossed the street rather than ask me how my son was doing. I heard whispers like; ‘She’s the one with the mentally ill son,’ or ‘that’s the woman whose son is in a psychiatric hospital. Maybe she’s mentally ill too?’

Stigma is a harsh reality for someone suffering from any mental illness as well as for their families as it prevents them from enjoying happy and productive lives. I repeat what I have written so often:-

Stigma is about disrespect.

Stigma is about the negative use of labels.

Stigma is about discrimination.

Stigma is about social exclusion

My aim is for people to feel comfortable discussing mental health issues. I promised my son that I would work toward getting these people accepted in their communities.

But, in the year 1966, my son, the boy I’d nurtured, supported and loved so much, could no longer bear to hear the voices in his head. He wanted peace of mind. Nobody can live without peace of mind and so, in desperation, he took the onerous decision to give up. He no longer had any hope and every single person needs some hope. My firstborn took his life by suicide,  leaving the rest of us to cope with this impossibly heartbreaking situation.

Unfortunately, no politician has ever gained votes for championing the rights of mentally ill people. In the first book I wrote on the subject, I quoted one of Lily Tomlin on the back cover:

When we talk to G-d, it’s called prayer.

 But, when G-d talks to us, it’s called s c h i z o p h r e n i a.

I knew nothing about schizophrenia. I had never met not heard of a person who suffered from a mental illness during my childhood, but that was not surprising because my parents whispered about cancer in those days.

When my son became ill, I didn’t know that there were other people with the same problem in their families. It took years to come to terms with it. I must have been in denial. I went into the bargaining stage and even though I am not a religious person, I even found myself bargaining with God. I would be the best mother in the world if you cure my son – that kind of thing. Eventually, I had to reach the coping stage because my anger was destroying me and with the aid of two support groups, I managed to do just that.

Mental illness is a long term illness and some psychiatrists even blamed me for causing it which we now know is not so at all.

We consider ourselves to be civilized people so why are mentally ill people still hidden away? Why are they unable to obtain medical insurance? Why are they still not treated as equals? Why do journalists speak about them in derogatory terms? And why don’t heads of state make mental illness research a priority?

time to change lets talk about 2

Tips we received over the years

riding bikes 2The way most parents behave when there is mental illness in their family is to shut down their emotional life. I know that because I did it – but was told to resist it.

My inability to talk about my feelings at that time left me stuck and frozen. Then I learned how to speak out and it helped so much. Now, nobody can say much behind my back because it has all been said. Family relationships are cast in disarray due to the confusion around the ill relative. Our other children suffered  as they were emotionally enmeshed with their older sibling. Most other relatives did not know how to react. I believe that this is not unusual.

My children felt grief for what they had lost. They had been close to their brother, shared secrets, done things together and built a close relationship. It was hard for them to learn that mental illness, like other diseases, is a part of the varied fabric of life. They had to learn that mental illness was a biological brain disease and this took a long time to absorb. Invisible illnesses are always more difficult to handle than physical ones that everyone can see. There were people who asked them why ‘the psychologist or psychiatrist’ didn’t fix their brother’s problem. I

Strange behavior is a symptom of the disorder that can be embarrassing for a teenager to deal with. The needs of the mentally ill person do not necessarily come first and it is so important to set boundaries and explain that there are limits. This is not easy to do as parents often want to compensate by being extra good to their mentally ill child.

Mental health professionals have varied degrees of competence the same as any other doctor or surgeon, so it is acceptable to change doctors.

I remember feeling a whole lot of emotions like fear, guilt, anger, grief, sadness and confusion. Attending a support group for parents with children with various mental illnessness was most helpful. They became our extended family and gave the much needed support  and advice.

Why do you tell your story?

 

After being asked the above question, I decided to blog it. That person also asked why I don’t give more information from the medical point of view. My reply, “I am neither a doctor nor a psychiatrist so any information I give can only be presented from a mother’s point of view. There is no straight answer as life is neither black nor white.

  • I tell my story in the hope to help others understand.
  • I tell my story to make it more difficult for people to close their eyes and their hearts to all the mental illness around them.
  • I tell my story to gain empathy for all those people out there who are suffering from one kind of mental illness or another and to show them that they are not alone.
  • I tell my story to try and convince people suffering from a mental illness that with early intervention and the correct treatment, their conditions can be improved.
  • I tell my story to gain support for them. If they have the backing of their community and family, they have the chance of life with a purpose surrounded by love.
  • If we all tell our stories, maybe some of the people out there will listen, believe, and even act on our behalf.
  • No politician truly believes that he/she will gain extra votes by devoting more time to the issue of mental illness, but maybe … that time is now.
  • I tell my story, the story of one family, but it is also the story of millions of families living with a mentally ill relative anywhere from Africa to Alaska.
  • I tell my story in the hope that one day, there will be far less stigma associated with mental illness.