I think back to over a decade ago – to a time when I was in high school and learning to drive. I remember looking over to the passenger seat to see my father with his hands holding his head up as he sobbed uncontrollably. He was supposed to be teaching me to drive, but instead his depression was winning without contest. This was not what he wanted to do. He is an amazing dad, a former physician, and a loving human being. He wanted to be there for me, just as the day he taught me to ride a bike. This was the illness – this wasn’t my father.
I think back to such memories with great pain and sadness. I hear stories from mom about how others abandoned my father as a friend and a colleague following his diagnosis. That is stigma. This stigma gave me anger for so long, as I knew my father deserved to be understood and loved. Today, I have come to a place far away from anger and to a place of acceptance. I’ve come to understand the lessons that his illness has brought me and chosen to share those moments with others. I hope one day that this ugly stigma won’t hurt families loving those with mental illness… And I want to be a part of that change.