Tag Archives: understanding

What my mother taught me



My mother taught me some valuable lessons that I’ll never forget. Before I got married, she said; “Don’t ever let the sun go down on your wrath.” I often think of her words and how smart they were. I remember passing these words of wisdom on at one of the support groups for parents of  mentally ill children that I attended.

She gave me the following advice too; “Don’t ache to be someone’s whole life. Rather, aim to be the favorite part of it. Live without pretending, love without depending, listen without defending, speak without offending.”

On this note, have as good a day as you possibly can.

But you don’t look ill …

An invisible illness is defined as a chronic condition that is not easily observed by the general public. Some aren’t picked up readily by medical professionals even though they are debilitating and prevent the patient from performing regular activites. The problem? There is no obvious physical symptom to be observed. To gain the term chronic, an injury or an illness must have symptoms lasting longer than a year.

Someone with a chronic condition could be dealing with exhaustion, dizziness or cognitive impairments, chronic pain, nausea, diarrhea, yet, on the outside, appear to be completely healthy. The most difficult issue with having an invisible illness is explaining to others how you can look healthy and strong but actually feel so bad.

Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn’s Disease, Gaucher’s and mental illnesses are a few. The latter disrupt a person’s thinking, feelings, mood and ability to relate to others and prevent a person from functioning properly on a daily basis. A mental illness simply cannot be overcome by using will power, nor is it related to a person’s character nor intelligence.

I know of patients with invisible illnesses who visit several medical professionals before receiving the correct diagnosis only because their illnesses are not obvious at first glance, so there are doctors who dismiss initial symptoms as a patient’s overreaction, or decide that this person is suffering from hypochondria. Patients have been dismissed as being simply depressed when reporting chronic pain or fatigue.

When encountering a friend who might complain of any of the above, empathy is of the utmost importance. It is easier to tell this person to snap out of it.


When my life went askew

alzheimer's 1One night, when thoughts of Alzheimer’s stopped me from falling asleep, this is what I jotted down.

Your voice is stilled, your joy has, gone memories comfort and linger on. You managed to play a fair game of bridge then sometimes stacked crockery in the fridge.  I searched for signs of the man I once knew, so sad it was, as there were precious few. Living day by day with your dementia, felt like being married to you in absentia. I know that my life went askew, yet your warmth and your smile remained part of you.

Our daily sharing of active living soon evolved into lots of care-giving. The agenda you once had was long gone as hours of inactivity stretched on and on. There were many times when things were ‘normal’ – your behavior acceptable and often formal. It seemed to me that in some strange way, your mind was working like in the old days.

I used lots of patience and dedication, very often with some frustration. You knew that something was very wrong as you languished through days puzzling and long. There was heartbreak in your plaintive pleas when you asked repeatedly; ‘What’s happened to me?”

Oddly it seemed that in some strange way, you were working on projects from former days. Stamps, coins and books once occupied you for hours, you derived pleasure from music, plays and flowers. Having no agenda, there was no way, to project any interest for the following day. You didn’t deserve Alzheimer’s in your life – you, who helped others in times of strife. “Why our Dad?” the children asked, but, to reply to that was an impossible task.

Living with mental illness in a more positive manner

3 in a band #2Trying to lessen the stigma associated with mental illness requires a change of societal views through education and increased awareness. When we talk about people by naming their illness first, as in he is a mentally ill person, we actually dehumanize that individual and reinforce the stigma.

So, what should a person with a mental illness do? What can they do? How should they behave?

Well, they can try to walk away from all the situations that upset them and try to ignore all that is bad for them.

They can learn to fill their lives with something creative, constructive and positive.

If they are sufficiently brave, they can learn how to share information with others that they feel they can trust. But this is very difficult to do.

They can work very hard at forming happy, rewarding, symbiotic relationships, either people in the same position as they are which is easier, or in another circle.

They can try to find hobbies that will bring them joy and an interest in life once again. I know someone who starting playing a musical instrument and eventually met other musicians with whom he formed a close relationship. He also provided himself with a time-consuming hobby that helped him pass the long hours after work. He was only able to concentrate on his work for four hours at a time so his days stretched endlessly until he discovered music. From that day one, his life changed for the better.

But it is not easy to learn how to cope with each new hurt and loss. Not everybody is caring and tactful, but there are surprises en route. One of the most difficult things to cope in today’s world is to be different. No matter what that difference is and no matter how large or small it may be. People in general are either uncomfortable or afraid to be with someone who does not fit into society easily.

It isn’t easy for for anyone to cope with old memories that are continually being raked up by family and friends but this is something else that they have to accomplish.

They have to learn how to adapt, evolve and find peace within themselves.

They need to find laughter and remember how to enjoy themselves once again, slowly at first, step by step.

They have to learn how to think positively and try to erase all thoughts of desperation and of harming themselves. One can live on various levels and although they might not manage to live the way they did before the diagnosis of mental illness was dropped on them, they can live balanced, happy  lives once again.

Their families have to give them all the support that they can. This is not easy. My family noticed that many husbands leave home, finding mental illness too hard to bear. These men left their wives and childdren with an unfair burden. Marriage vows state, In sickness and in health, so this applies not only to one’s attitude towards a spouse, but to a sick child too. These young people have more than enough to put up with so the last thing they need is a splintered family.

We should all …

We should all advocate contact with people who have a mental illness.

We should all make sure that people with a mental illness have the same rights as the rest of us.

We should challenge organizations to make sure that they are not discriminating against these people.

We should all aim to educate and train others in order to change discriminatory attitudes and behavior.

We should do so on television and on the radio.

We should organize public speaking engagements by people with experience of mental illness.

We should report journalists for using discriminatory phrases.

We should make sure that new journalists are taught to follow the correct guidelines.

These could be some of the positive results from the above program.

People will be more aware of how common mental illness is.

People will be less judgmental and more interested than previously.

People will feel lower levels of stigma and discrimination from family, mental health services and the public.

A new infrastructure will slowly be built for educating and training people in this new way of thinking.

What do you see nurses? what do you think when you look at me?


What do you see nurses? What do you see?
What do you think when you look at me?
A crabby old man, not very wise,
Uncertain of habit, with faraway eyes?
Who dribbles his food and makes no reply
When you say in a loud voice, “I do wish you’d try.”
Who seems not to notice the things that you do,
And forever is losing a sock or a shoe.

Who resisting or not, let’s you do as you will
With bathing and feeding, the long day to fill.
Is that what you’re thinking, is that what you see?
Then open your eyes nurse, you’re not looking at me
I’ll tell you who I am as I sit so still,
As I do your bidding, as I eat at your will.
I’m a small child of 10,with a father and mother,
Brothers and sisters who love one another.

A young boy of 16, with wings on his feet,
Dreaming that soon a young lover he’ll meet.
A groom soon at 20, my heart gives a leap,
Thinking of vows that I promised to keep.
At 25 now, I have young of my own
Who need me to guide them, plus a secure home.
A man of 30, my young have grown fast,
Bound to each other with ties that should last.

At 40, my young sons have grown and are gone
But my wife is beside me to see I don’t mourn.
At 50, once more, babes play round my knees,
Again we know children, my loved one and me.
Dark days are upon me, my loved one is dead,
I look at the future and shudder with dread.
My young youngs are all earing young of their own,
And I think of the years and the love I have known.

I’m now an old man and nature is cruel,
It’s jest to make old age look like a fool.
The body, it crumbles, grace and vigor depart.
But inside this old carcass a young man still dwells,
And now and again my battered heart swells.
I remember the joys, I remember the pain
And I’m loving and living life over again.

I think of the years, all too few, gone too fast,
And accept the stark fact that nothing can last.
So open your eyes please, open and see,
Not a crabby old man. Look closer. See ME.


There is now a stone where I once had a heart.